Gaius Publius: ​IPCC Accidentally Proves that “International Cooperation” on Climate Change is Dead​ ​​

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Originally published at AmericaBlog

As you’ve been reading lately, there’s a new IPCC climate report out, the second of three. This report is from Working Group 2, responsible for studying “impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities.” In other words, what effect is climate change (“global warming”) having now, what impact will it have if we make certain choices, and where are we vulnerable?

The 48-page “executive summary” (called the Summary for Policymakers or “SPM”) is available here (scribd) or here (pdf), and a number of us are studying it carefully, along with the full report. The full AR5 report from Working Group 2 is 2500 pages and available online here.

But there’s a story behind the story of this document’s release, and it illustrates perfectly why we will never (never, ever) solve the climate crisis by working toward “international cooperation.”

The Story Behind the Story — The U.S. Threw Poor Nations Under the Climate Bus

A great deal of the impact of global warming will be felt by the poorest nations on earth, for example, low-lying Bangladesh. Keep in mind that the poorest nations on earth never caused the crisis. The perps are rich Western nations, like the U.S. and Europe, with our high-consumption, high-waste lifestyles, and the emerging nations, like India and China, who are burning carbon as fast as they can, to catch up to us.

The poor nations are just along for the ride in most cases. With that in mind, here’s all you need to know:

1. Poor nations are innocent victims of climate change now, and will be even more victimized in the future.

2. To fix their vulnerabilities, it will require a transfer of money from rich nations in the neighborhood of $100 billion per year, according to the World Bank.

3. According to the large IPCC report (the 2500-page report), the first two statements above are included as part of the data for consideration.

4. Those statements (1 and 2) also appeared in the SPM, the executive summary, up until the very last draft, which was discussed for final approval in Yokohama.

5. At that meeting, the need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the 48-page Summary, the only document that will be read outside the scientific community.

6. The U.S. led the push to remove the statement.

Why? I can guess. Can you?

Here’s that story, according to the New York Times. This Times piece is a general report of the document’s release, so it covers a lot of ground. The information on U.S. action is buried at the bottom. That part reads (my emphasis):

“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”
The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.
The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.
The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private.
The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.
Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

If you think it through, the reason for burying the information is simple. The rich nations, led by the U.S. (don’t kid yourself; we lead, others follow), are captured by their own rich. The key sentence is this, and it contains a “tell”:

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home.

The tell is “at a time of economic distress at home.”

We can’t have taxes on the wealthy because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have infrastructure spending because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have better schools because of “economic stress at home.” We have to cut Social Security because of “economic stress at home.” We need to reduce Medicare payments because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t reimburse stolen public union pension funds because of “economic stress at home.”

We can’t do anything because of “economic stress at home.” The rich want to keep their money, and we’re not going to get one thin dime of it. Ever. If we need David Koch’s permission to solve the climate crisis, we’ll never solve the climate crisis.

International Cooperation Will Never Exist; The Rich Will Never Pay Even U.S. Costs

Your three take-aways from this material should be:

1. There will never be international cooperation, because the rich will never pay a dime to offset anyone’s cost to deal with this crisis. Believe it. Anyone who goes down that path — bless their heart — is chasing a dream that human souls live inside the monsters who are keeping this crisis going.

If the rich wanted to fix this, it would be fixed years ago. They will never want to fix this.

2. Any nation can embark on a Zero Carbon energy economy the minute it wants to. It doesn’t need permission (or help) from any other uncooperating nation. Denmark can do it alone. France can do it alone. The U.S. can do it — yes, alone. Abandoning the hunt for the unicorn of international cooperation is freedom from the veto of other nation’s rich people.

In fact, any nation that does embark on a radical Zero Carbon economy — carbon-free in five years or less, with energy rationing and wealth confiscation — will be hailed as a hero among nations, and held as a light and a beacon. That’s true leadership in (and by) action.

3. The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully. They will never surrender, never meet us halfway. They will only delay us while they cash their next checks and sell more carbon.

As I wrote elsewhere regarding the current fetish for “carbon neutral” solutions — Carbon-neutral is the same as “Keep Koch in walking change” and will lead to the worst outcome. It hands us the nightmare, since the hard and constant pushback against any restriction always comes from Money — people who own trillions in unmonetized carbon assets, plus all of their enablers.

These people don’t do “incremental” or surrender. They do victory dances on the graves of their enemies.

Barring some kind of general panic, the only “incremental solution” we’re going to get will have the paper-thin illusory force of a politician’s (or carbon industry’s) PR campaign. We’re seeing that now, in the “carbon-neutral” admin dithering around Keystone, and in the industry’s current messaging from the woman I’ve been calling “lying pantsuit lady.”

It Will Take Some Kind of Force to Fix This

From point 3 above, it follows that some kind of force will be needed to solve the climate crisis in the U.S. In a perfect world, we get a real panicky crisis, a Better FDR, and s/he puts the wood to the wealthy the way the New Deal government did. Only worse. Because even street action may not be enough. We need the force of big-footed government to confiscate the wealth of the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers — and put it to use in a command-and-control way. Or we’re likely done.

There are a lot of ways to use force, by the way, including divestment pressure. I’ll be listing them in future pieces.

The good news — a real holy-MF-christ–type panic (yes, a “come to Jesus” moment) may very well put that government in office. Even Tea Party voters will be begging for government to “make them whole” when climate starts to tear their lives apart. If so, we need that crisis soon enough to matter.

At least as I see it. If you see it that way as well, use your own “reach” to tell as many others as you can. Because if we get that panic, we need to start on that solution immediately. (For more detail on that plan, see here and also here. It’s not rocket science, and we’ve done it before.)

Stay tuned. There’s more in the news along these lines. Me and you, we’re not alone in thinking this.

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  1. Phil Perspective

    and in the industry’s current messaging from the woman I’ve been calling “lying pantsuit lady.”

    You mean the lady shilling for API in the commercial that runs every night during the news?

      1. Gaius Publius

        Thanks, Larry. I’ve been hunting for this. Her API ads are truly a tell. “Like your TV lifestyle? Then get used to carbon as ‘part of the mix’.” They get that any meaningful conversion off of carbon means energy discontinuity, rationing.

        As I’ve said a bunch of places, including here, we need to be messaging this point as well. After all, if API is “preparing the battlefield,” that’s a good sign we should be doing the same.

        I’m going to use those links, Larry, to do a little exegesis on those ads. Thanks!


  2. JGordon

    Well you all, look on the brightside: the financial system may very well collapse in the near future, which would pretty much put all these incredibly complex and expensive resource-stripping endeavors out of business.

    Since you all are now tacitly admitting that nothing is going to change until a crisis, an immediate financial collapse and consequential industrial collapse to the complete environmental collapse that will happen if we keep trying to shore up the financial system with wacky monetary theories indefinitely. Therefore the desire for a resilient and expanding economic/monetary system is directly at odds with desire to avoid an environmental holocaust. And if that’s doubtful, a cursory look at history will bear out that human beings never pass up the opportunity to squander finite resources even well past the point of ecological collapse when given even the slightest opportunity to do so, as our current situation is proving par excellence. Therefore an efficient and well ordered financial/economic system that allows for the large scale organization of resource exploitation = collective suicide. Or at least until we can internalize a different cultural paradigm. Which will not happen until some fantastically horrible crisis forces us into that anyway.

    1. paul

      The financial system did collapse and, literally, superhuman efforts were made to make it even stronger than ever.
      Those waiting for collapse had better find a themselves a cushion to sit on.
      We are led by decadents and hence we should only expect protracted decay.

  3. Lexington

    We need the force of big-footed government to confiscate the wealth of the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers — and put it to use in a command-and-control way. Or we’re likely done.

    We’re done.

    “Big-footed government” isn’t an entity distinct from the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers, it IS the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers.

    And for all the brave talk about “taking back government”, what is the outrage of a few million nobodies against the combined might of the surveillance state, the paramilitarized law enforcement community, and an armed forces that consumes 50% of the world’s entire military spending?

    In comparison tilting at windmills looks like a productive and worthwhile endeavor.

      1. Lexington

        Yeah…not really getting your point.

        Did I say a command economy can’t work (ok, the USSR’s didn’t get a lot of accolades…but that’s a different topic)? Did I say anything about command economies at all, or anything that could be even remotely construed as alluding to command economies?

        Did you even read my post or did you just really, really want to get that off your chest?

      2. hunkerdown

        And? As you can see in the following years, the wealthy made sure they got paid handsomely for it. That anyone else did was mostly a happy accident.

    1. TimR

      Yes, this Gaius Publius seems to be writing from some other world, that he feels no need to address such obvious objections to his ideas… the problem of a business-govt nexus is endlessly bandied about on sites like this one, and yet to Gaius it’s not an issue? Without addressing that, to me it seems that Gaius’ prescription would just lead to the .01% using govt to confiscate more of the wealth of maybe the top 10%, or top 5%; to put a steeper grade on the inequality curve at the top of the pyramid.. to make the “most useful servants” more tenuous in their social position, more like the serfs and peons in the bottom 80%.

      Anyway, I thought that “taxes don’t fund govt” (MMT), so why does Gaius think subtracting money from the private sector, even if only from the wealthy, is a practical necessity for his programs?

      1. James Levy

        I’d check out the Confederate States of America to see what happens when you try to fund a government on money printing and not taxes.

        1. Rick

          Where do you think our money supply is coming from right now? Except for coins, all of our money originates from a computer entry at the Federal Reserve (FR). Even Bernanke admitted this. A simple computer entry can create trillions to be loaned out at interest. Where do you think the money originates from that we receive as wages and make purchases and pay taxes?

          Where do you think our income tax money really goes?
          Please note that the federal income tax and the FR were created by law almost simultaneously in 1913.

          Almost all of our money gets into circulation as a form of debt…a debt owed mostly to the FR, a very private company not subject to any federal budget or funding nor even a federal pension plan.
          They risk nothing and put up nothing.

          And the debt is mostly repaid with the same IOU’s to the FR that created the debt, thus insuring that the debt will always spiral upwards no matter what the budget policy may be. It’s an insane monetary system designed to create insurmountable debt…debt which can be used very effectively to control public policy and rule a country.

      2. Oregoncharles

        The purpose of taking it out of the rich is to depower them. And maybe he doesn’t support MMT theory, though it seems to me an obvious corollary of fiat money. Taxes serve not only to regulate the money supply, but also to regulate behavior.

        The point of the ” real holy-MF-christ–type panic (yes, a “come to Jesus” moment)” is to break the alliance you’re describing. For instance, the military, and even the police, are drawn almost entirely from the lower half of the population; what happens when their families are screaming crisis?

        Truth is, the kind of crisis he’s describing is something we’d really rather not experience; the outcome is completely unpredictable, aside from a lot of destruction, so depending on it is a measure of deep desperation.

        I wish I didn’t agree with him, but I’ve been asking “what does it take?” for a while now and I don’t see any other answers. Not that these things are actually predictable.

        The irony: it’s obvious that our “betters” understand this logic and fully expect a torches-and-pitchforks moment; that’s why they, via Obama, are cracking down on civil liberties and militarizing the police.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Our “betters” are acting out of fear, greed and a lifetime of corruption, not any coherent master plan. Yes, they are aware that catastrophic events are on the way, but it is this awareness against their continued destructive behavior that convinces me of their fear and total lack of coherent vision. A police state is the ultimate “gut” reaction and will be absurd when nature starts to really have it’s way.

          1. hunkerdown

            Of course there is no master plan. Just a goal, a class identity, hundreds of years of strategic and tactical wisdom, and plenty more resources than us.

            That they would see fit to continue business as usual after they’ve won the game is a claim that completely lacks evidence. What good is money when liberty is one again alienable and THEY OWN EVERYONE? Stop projecting middle-class values onto people. USians love to do that instead of getting results.

  4. trish

    The rich nations, led by the U.S., are captured by their rich.
    And some of those rich are the biggest polluters of all, the global warming emissions champions. Chevron, Exxon, BP, globally, then US electric companies (Duke, American Electric etc) nationally…
    And their combined total in profits, in executive compensation? Anyone have a guess?

  5. Larry Headlund

    To put that $100 billion, which is just too much, in perspective:
    The Federal spending last year was 3800 billion
    All US foreign aid was under 12 billion, about .3% of spending. (a little over a third of that total was Israel and Eygypt, a little less than half the total was military aid)
    The whole $100 billion would be 2.5% of the US spending.

    Yeah, totally undoable.

    Interestingly, estate and gift tax revenues are a bit more than all foreign aid.

  6. mark

    “The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people ”

    any names?


    “Stahl: “We have heard that a half a million children have died [because of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And–you know, is the price worth it?”

    Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

    Last saturday was world water day. Right now around one billion people are trying to live without clean water. This is almost unnoticed.

    Why would a billion more starving to death be worth worrying about to such people as are running things?

    They wouldn’t think about it for a minute.

    Thanks, this is a fantastic article. I am looking forward to the next one.

  7. der

    I agree with the comment that the world’s financial system, now built on ponzi scheming derivative gambling, will take us down a path that may lead to a solution, but that solution will be at most ephemeral unless we first tackle the problem of over-population. Our voracious consumption of nature’s limited resources is because there are too many mouths to fed and pockets to fill.

    1. James Levy

      OK, here’s the scam: austerity and taking all but survival wages away from the majority and giving all the money to people with an extremely high marginal propensity to save/invest in paper, not production, slows global warming, but not enough to avoid a serious die-off which further suppresses consumption. The rich sit out the disaster and then re-adopt Fordism when workers become scarce but with new, low or no carbon technologies (most of which exist already). The global economy and ecology are reset to circa 1950 population and GDP and the game begins again. Effectively, a planned repeat of the years 1300-1450.

      Far-fetched? Likely? Conscious? Unconscious? I don’t know. But if things keep going the way they are, it is the rosiest scenario I can come up with. The alternative is global fascism or Kunstler’s return to “a world made by hand.”

      1. reslez

        That may be their plan, but that’s not how it works. According to the NASA study that came out last week, when the masses collapse the rich follow. There is no riding it out. And the elites that rise afterward have little to no relation to the ones who ruled before — just consider the different skillsets involved in rustling Excel spreadsheets vs. slaying bandits. They’re doomed.

        1. hunkerdown

          You see rustling Excel spreadsheets, I see IBM, the Zetas and guard labor that identifies with the aristocracy.

      2. Fiver

        Well, the notion certainly applies vis a vis most of the Arab/Muslim world, which, after relentless US (Israeli/Saudi) efforts to destroy or completely degrade any viable States from North and Saharan Africa through Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan/Pakistan, preventing even oil-rich States from developing, will be the worst hit in terms of water shortages. There is no doubt US policymakers know all these countries are doomed absent drastic cuts in global fossil fuels consumption or formidable investments in water projects. They also know that India and China, already with critical fresh water problems, will be turned into dust bowls as the Himalayan glaciers melt. Now, much of the US will also be wasteland, but, hey, no worse than a couple dozen nukes West and Southwest, or ‘getting our hair mussed’ as per Strangelove.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Nature will tackle our overpopulation problem, her way.
      Anyone who thinks we’ll reach 9 billion is delusional.

      1. TheCatSaid

        Very true. That’s why I use Perelandra’s Microbial Balancing Program.

        We may eventually transform the warfare mentality that pervades much of our “civilized” society, including our relationship with nature.

        1. hunkerdown

          Funny, isn’t it, that the word “civilized” is today a content-free grunt of in-group identification.

      2. Fiver


        Could not agree more re 9 billion – yet there are people paid big bucks who project 14 billion by 2100. Stupidity of that sort ought to be a firing offense.

  8. Samuel Conner

    An amusing thought occurs to me that people who are strongly opposed to public spending financed either by new long-maturity “money” creation (Treasury debt issuance) or new zero-maturity money creation (Treasury currency issuance) may embrace these when the alternative is to “finance” climate change mitigation and zero-carbon transformation through wealth confiscation. We may end up doing the right thing, after exhausting every alternative.

  9. Banger

    The reason there is no hope is not because there is not hope for change in our focus. One of the great insights that neoconservative writers in the 90s had was that the U.S. needed a sense of mission to unite our diverse tribes–they claimed that we would sink into hedonism and fragmentation without a “new Pearl Harbor.” They believed that war is indeed a force that gives us meaning and without meaning we will psychologically and morally collapse.

    Now we have a perfect cause or mission where the U.S. can prove it is exceptional but instead we look for new Hitlers to conquer re-fighting WWII every few years (a war we won all by ourselves, LOL). This fact has enable our power-elites to stay in power without having to actually “do” anything. They don’t win any wars they just know, through their complete control of the main propaganda organs, that people will forget about any disturbing truth very quickly through the use of fake news and entertainment designed to indulge our whims, prejudices and profound ignorance of the world, science and history.

    Our leadership class are the only ones that can decide anything at this point in history. Will enough of them be able to steer our environmental policies to sanity? Do enough of them have some minimal sense of decency? That is the question we have to face. Sadly those of us who believe that our grandchildren should have a life are a small fraction of the population that despite our alleged intelligence will not and cannot, it a appears, organize a resistance to this obvious movement towards a Götterdämmerung situation.

    I suggest all of us consider carefully Chris Hedges’ call to resist and rebel. Somehow we need to get our of our own heads and start acting and using our resources not to pad our butts but to form action groups and support brave young people willing to put their asses on the line on the streets while such things are still possible. Why aren’t we acting if we feel, not only that our societies are dominated by a muscular oligarchy, but they are heading us towards a possible disaster? Why? Why?

    1. Banger

      I forgot to answer my question. Why are we so unable to act? Because we each have bought into the culture of narcissism–and I am no exception. We believe our own-self realization is the supreme object of life–unfortunately what we mean by “self” is the ego–there is a greater Self that exists that does not evaluate everything in light of our “story” and our attachments to our attributes. That is what traps us–the ego and living in a culture that regards ego as supreme and we judge egos according to material wealth if not in a conscious way then unconsciously. When we get to the point where we at least realize this then we can act. No other society has ever been this selfish in ideology–many societies have been selfish in practice.

    2. EricT

      If mother nature can get an F3 or better tornado to strike Wall Street, then maybe something will happen.

    3. James Levy

      The only thing that can scare enough of the elite into doing something is the threat of incurable diseases being spread via climate change. If they can’t just safely withdraw from the chaos of an imploding environment and stumbling economy to their “ranches” in Montana, Idaho, and Colorado, then they might in their own self-interests act. If every round of golf or trip to the beach risks a nasty variant of Dengue Fever or Ebola then you’ll see all the billions you could want poured into dealing with climate change.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        You’re right about the degree and perhaps even the particular event that would make the elite take notice, but I suspect the reaction(s) will be of terror and ‘sauve qui peut’. These people are not leaders, not particularly intelligent, and the opposite of brave. They specialize, if at all, in gaming the system, not protecting it and the two are functionally opposite.

    4. TheCatSaid

      re: “Our leadership class are the only ones that can decide anything at this point in history.”

      I strongly disagree.
      Each of us can do things in our own sphere of influence.

      For example, if you know someone with land–even a little–you can tell them about Allan Savory’s work (TED talk, Savory Institute and much more) for ways that Holistic Management can be used for more productive agriculture that costs less and reduces climate change.

      In my case I can also tell folks about my experiences using the tools developed by the Perelandra Nature Research Center, including ways of more effectively doing anything (anything!) in an active 2-way partnership with Nature and its balance.

      Or I can share what I’ve learned from about Integral Accounting.

      I can start setting aside money to expand the renewable energy at our home.

      We need to each take action–no matter how small–and NOT WAIT for anyone else.

      Sure we can do what we can to influence government bodies, local organizations, etc. to make better decisions. But simultaneously our personal actions can make a difference.

      1. Gaius Publius

        Agree with everything you wrote, especially your conclusion:

        We need to each take action–no matter how small–and NOT WAIT for anyone else.

        Stuff happens suddenly, especially in crisis situations, and doors sometimes swing wide open. Auburn did beat Alabama, and they did it by not quitting.

        Thanks for adding this. I’m really optimistic. I think we’ll have many opportunities coming in a “things fall apart” world. The trick is to prepare for them. Right now, teaching what’s needed to the TV-somnolent ahead of their wanting a fix is critical. IMO at least.


        1. TheCatSaid

          I’m optimistic, too.

          A few weeks ago Yves had a post about pollyanna-ish folks believing they can accomplish things by “positive thinking”. I understood what she meant (and I think “The Secret” folks don’t understand balance or non-manipulation), but I couldn’t find the words at that time to express that there were also limitations in the point of view she expressed as I understood it.

          I feel we make a big error by limiting ourselves to conventional “realistic expectations”. So many things have occurred leading to consequences which the principle actors never imagined to be possible. We can’t ever see around the corner, or understand the potential outcomes of our actions.

      2. Banger

        There are things we can each do but tho change the direction this society is taking in reference to climate change will take major social change and a great deal of time if we are realistic. As Hedges says, even if the situation appears hopeless we must still take action no matter what the odds are.

        1. John Mc

          But there are many different actions, true? Small-big, systemic-individual, societal-local etc. I think the major question involves leverage. When are we really going to act? Maybe we find different levers (employment is a poor one considering austerity programs; consumption is also poor as many of our companies rely upon global markets for the bulk of profit). Something to think about.

          However, since crony capitalism is a major driving force behind climate change, we might put our resources towards an “all-in” approach versus the status quo of one toe in the climate change pool saying it is getting warmer, we should all get in now.

          1. TheCatSaid

            Something I learned from M-CAM / David E. Martin is that if one finds the right setup (i.e., doing one’s homework, understanding the perspectives of all stakeholders), big change can occur in a constructive way with little effort. He used the example of a spinning top–all it takes is a shift of 1 degree to change the top’s direction or to topple it. But this can only be done from the “inside” (i.e., from an understanding of priorities of those within). They’ve been using this and related principles for over 20 years, with success, all over the world. I’ve started to apply this, too. I see the results even though I am just a beginner.

            1. TheCatSaid

              To further clarify–the implication is that all situations have their momentum. We can get this momentum to work for us (instead of the concept of “fighting against” which will only create more opposition.

              He described this as a build-up of static electricity which can be discharged in a way that is either destructive or constructive. If we can set up the elements, we can be sure that the discharge will be constructive.

        2. TheCatSaid

          Advocating for “realism” means denying the infinite possibilities of things we can never predict.

          We can never predict the impact of something we or someone else does.

        3. TheCatSaid

          re: “a great deal of time”
          not necessarily.

          That could be accurate, but after reading about chaos theory and from my personal experience in conscious 2-way relationship with nature, things can happen much faster than one would believe possible.

          Berlin Wall, anyone? Who thought that was “possible”?

          Same for nature’s ability to heal itself. Under the right circumstances–which might be different from what we usually think of–fast change is possible.

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    We can’t have taxes on the wealthy because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have infrastructure spending because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have better schools because of “economic stress at home.” We have to cut Social Security because of “economic stress at home.” We need to reduce Medicare payments because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t reimburse stolen public union pension funds because of “economic stress at home.”

    The above is awfully well put and awful indeed. No matter how much it fits cause and effect, this is the wrong time to be having an existential environmental crisis. We do not have an FDR, we don’t even have a representative government, never mind one that can in any way measure up to an international plutocracy gone mad with greed and corruption, and counting on one or the other simply because we got lucky twice in the past would have similar odds to betting the farm on a few spins of a one armed bandit. And counting on an initial disaster to spark an almost choreographed revolution where we did all the right things in just the right sequence is a tad optimistic.

    As always, a great post, and the recognition that there will not -and can not- be any help from the corporate elite is a valuable truth that many are going to learn the hard way. If there was any hope at all, it would be in the form of capturing a part of the MSM and having an informed public. As stated in the last post on this, the environmental degradation is going on too slowly and too regularly to be of much help penetrating a society clinging desperately to peripheral vision and self imposed ignorance.

    1. TheCatSaid

      re: “this is the wrong time to be having an existential environmental crisis”

      I am changing my thinking about this. See my comments above about what I’ve been learning from M-CAM & David Martin, about how we can develop our understanding deeply enough to be able to use the existing energy build-up in a situation to “do the work” to create constructive change without having to apply force or significant effort. Applying these principles, and other tools (e.g. things I’ve learned from Perelandra Nature Research Center), and seeing the results, gives me great hope.

  11. Yancey Ward

    Well, the one good thing I can say about this essay is that the mask of a totalitarian was ripped off the author by himself.

    The world will simply have to adapt to a warmer world if that is what is in store. The rich world may or may not supply $100 billion/year plus to the countries suffering the more detrimental effects, but I wouldn’t count on it ever happening, big-footed government or not.

  12. Mel

    “Since you all are now tacitly admitting that nothing is going to change until a crisis”

    What the Archdruid is decrying as “apocalyptic thinking”. It’s a weird variant of consumerism.
    Y’all are expecting The Brand to come to you bearing The Product which will solve all your problems at a stroke, and make your lives beautiful. You know, that happens in the little stories told in TV commercials, and it happens nowhere else. You’ll be waiting a long time waiting for that. Unless, of course, The Brand does turn out to be an Apocalypse.

    1. hunkerdown

      Isn’t that just the same Augustine-Karpman drama that’s been a prominent component of Western culture for centuries?

  13. hemeantwell

    Contrary to what Banger claims, the political problem is hardly that “we are narcissists.” This kind of Carteresque psychomoralizing is in some ways incredibly optimistic, because it implies that successful political action will be brought about by attitudinal change and it ignores the real problems of conflicting class and organizational interests (though the article, by raising the idea of environmental catastrophe, can set up an argument that catastrophe will bring us together). It ignores the fact that there have been repeated attempts to get what I’ll call countersystemic politics going, only to have them be co-opted or crushed. Many people might seem to be self-occupied only because they know, or sense, that to not be self-occupied seems to get you nowhere, and worse. If you are going to try to talk to people, talking with them about the fear of failure and their anxiety regarding social exclusion is a lot more useful than challenging their supposed narcissism, with the corollary that you go through the motions of tarring yourself with the same brush.

    1. Banger

      Class struggle ideology simply won’t work in the U.S. context at this time. The criminal bankers are free and there is little pressure on the Justice Department to do anything; in fact for all the obvious criminal activity on the part of the oligarchs the real left gets very little traction–so what do you make of that?

      1. TheCatSaid

        To take effective action it can be profoundly helpful to understand out deepest motivations and influences that brought us to this point in time. This can involve reconnecting with “impulses” or early experiences or dreams that we’d almost forgotten. Understanding this–and what drives us personally at the deepest levels–can be an essential part of getting the elements in a situation “lined up” so that we can use the built-up energy in a constructive way. Things have to first be aligned with myself, personally–I can’t leave out that step. While this step may involve introspection that could appear “narcisstic”, self-knowledge is critical and in our individualism-centered society at least there are tools available to do this constructively.

  14. Mel

    “You failed to make any sense.”

    Well, keep waiting. As a brand we can write off Michael Lewis, but maybe RJR Nabisco will save the world for you. Or The Green Party, or The Republican Party.

    The Archdruid this week is studying thoughtstoppers that H.L.Mencken called “credos”. “[T]hey’ll think of something” is one he mentions specifically.

  15. John Mc

    “The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully. They will never surrender, never meet us halfway. They will only delay us while they cash their next checks and sell more carbon.”

    Any suggestions on how to excise the rich from their perch with force (the planet’s benefit, eh)?

    Are you suggesting a french revolution on billionaires? Tete d’argent fera rouler?

    First, I see where you are coming from Gaius, as we need progress now (pronto) on climate change, migration effects, and sophisticated ecological responses. However, I am not sure how force is going to help the earth, as it will be damaged during this process. The very wealthy will not go quietly or quickly. This means drone tantrums and nuclear vengence instead of champaign wishes and caviar dreams.

    Second, the very rich are experts at dividing/pitting/manipulating cultures against one another. They have it down to art. Any resistance needs to get its house in order (us/them meme) or risk becoming exactly like the father oppressor. What is the cutoff for being wealthy? Is family farm wealth different from Hedge fund lackey wealth? Maybe this is not essential for changing the trajectory climate policy, but if the elites are neutered, this question will arise.

    Third, it is not just the very rich we need to be concerned about. The powerful are able to mask their wealth inside relationships, trade deals, and network connections. We need to be able to access future wealth of plutocrats. This is just as important and problematic of a factor to consider, as power, especially in a nouveau-riche globalized aristocracy is mobile and agile with respect to their alignment and interests.

    Lastly, I think the most effective strategy is using their own strategies against them. Creating fear of a forceful takeover or being taxed more will bring out the false narratives (nazi comparisons – CEO victimization memes; the social darwinists; end of days zealots etc)
    Simultaenously, I think we need to amplify this topic above all others. If it is really as serious as EVERYONE says it is, then academics, writers, advocates, scientists should go CODE MCKIBBEN. Urgency and force feeding the public this kind of information already has its message problems. Maybe emphasize Exxon as a target. Put them out of business. This is something most non-shareholders of energy companies can identify with. —- Payback for Alaska, (fill in your curseword here). Gaius you have sparked a salient, but dangerous conversation; two characteristics which captured my immediate attention. Good luck.

    1. Banger

      My answer to all those who want to seriously f–k-up the oligarchs is “you and with what army.” Still, we must pressure all people on the semi-left to do as you say–drop everything and bang a gong on this issue because it unlocks all the others and attacks both greed, criminality, and narcissism.

    2. TheCatSaid

      Trying to go “against” someone or a group of people won’t get us there. (And maybe this was where Marx was wrong, that he could only conceptualize evolution through a “struggle”.)

      I think the potential resides in the place where we can line up our interests.

      I’ve seen & experienced this enough to know that it is possible. It means doing one’s homework (personally and getting to know and truly understand other perspectives). But then unexpected outcomes become possible.

      1. hunkerdown

        And if their non-negotiable interests happen to include elitism and essentialism, then what? Why would they want to understand something if that understanding reduces their power over others? Why would they come to the table if they can get what they want more forcefully because they’ve been doing so for thousands of years and have selected for the talents and knowledge necessary to do so? Of course we’re not dealing with monsters. We’re dealing with people who have received the tangible and social rewards of faithful and ardent service to the status quo order, one of which is the belief that authority is just (they gave me stuff!) and that the proles deserve most of what they get and no more.

        All this humanist psychology stuff is interesting, but completely inapplicable to a hostile counterparty whose non-negotiable goal is power over you, as we’ve seen in the past 40 years or so, especially in the labor movement. You may as well yell at a grenade. For negotiation to even happen, incumbent power must be willing and ready to negotiate rather than keep taking just as they are. For incumbent power to be willing and ready to negotiate on terms that are durably favorable to the out-of-power, power’s cost of not reaching an agreement must be made sufficiently high by the out-of-power. For power’s cost of noncooperation to rise, credible threats against their future and present interests must be made and followed through on.

        Next, observe that the tools and resources with which the out-of-power can do so are, as we converse, systematically being withdrawn, broken, or made risky or expensive for out-of-power, and that this is coming to pass at the calm, tranquil direction of power.

        So how do we give them a reason to not do exactly what they’ve been doing? How do we align their interests such that they are willing to negotiate on terms newly unfavorable to them, and if we can’t, why are we even talking about negotiating?

        1. TheCatSaid

          David E. Martin has been doing this for over 20 years. One of the tools he uses is an Integral Accounting audit that you can use on yourself and on any project or situation. It’s interesting stuff.

          He’s been able to obtain remarkable working relationships with positive outcomes when even he thought it couldn’t be possible. He talks about one of these situations in a Q & A at the end of a talk to U Va students.

          (I can’t remember which one has the specific question about a recent experience with warlords and the extractive industry in Papua New Guinea–but both talks are amazing)

          Warfare & Economics [and “Development”]
          (morning lecture to U.of Va students)
          1 hour 17 min.

          Designing for Social Change
          (afternoon talk to U of Va students)
          1 hour 25 min.

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    The good news — a real holy-MF-christ–type panic (yes, a “come to Jesus” moment) may very well put that government in office. Even Tea Party voters will be begging for government to “make them whole” when climate starts to tear their lives apart. If so, we need that crisis soon enough to matter.

    Thinking about it, Gaius’ notion is as plausible, and perhaps more so, than some of the others suggested in this thread, James Levy’s elite spared by their resources to start anew being a particularly convincing one, but they are all subject to a lot of conditionals. It is highly unlikely that we do anything -ANYTHING, significant – until the first major wake-up that burns us specifically and that is unlikely to occur for the next ten years or more which at least some scientists are saying is all the time we have left to avoid significant global deterioration of our particular species friendly environment. So basically, we are dangling by a thread.

    1. John Mc

      Maybe I am missing something? How is Gaius’ notion plausible? I am trying to understand how we force the elite to do something they do not want to do.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Banger, I assume you are talking about change from the top down when you say it’s, utterly impossible barring a major change in social morality. Perhaps you are not giving enough credit to the effect of large scale panic or disruption. When we had the financial meltdown in 2007/8, many argued it was a perfect moment for someone like Obama (ha,ha,ha,ha,ha -in hindsight) to come in with a real “reset button” effect due to exactly that, panic.

          A weather event of catastrophic proportions -a whole city disappears overnight- such that global warming was brought into sharp undeniable relief would have a similar, perhaps even more galvanizing effect (unfortunately at the cost of great human suffering). People can turn on a dime when they have to as is proven by alcoholics who have reached their bottom or patients who have had grave medical “brushes” with disaster and have suddenly “got religion” in terms of taking care of themselves.

          I’m being vague about top down or bottom up because I imagine, if such an event were to result in some positive political change at all, it would be some combination of the two. I also don’t see “force”, even against the well entrenched rich with all their gadgets and overwhelming force as being so absurd under the special conditions that such an event would impose. There would be a period where everyone was off balance. So some force would be feasible, (I’m not sure what one would do with it), simply not a full scale revolution by any stretch, but I very much doubt that is what Gaius is getting at.

          1. Banger

            The disaster, in my view would have to be much bigger than Katrina and perhaps hit several cities–even then, I’m not sure it would mobilize the public; if it did, the government has the power today to put dissidents in camps or execute leaders. There is no action that these people would not do including mass murder to keep in power. We have to remember that we are no longer protected by the Constitution.

            If the disaster was much larger than even the one I described and much of our infrastructure was destroyed I believe there would be a sudden rise in millennial cults as Chris Hedges has discussed in the past. There is no guarantee that the masses would suddenly become rational though the could be more who are rational than are irrational but remember which types are armed.

          2. Banger

            If we are talking of death in the millions the public will turn but which way? Will they as, Chris Hedges has said, turn to millennial cults or towards something more rational? We have to remember that the millions who have little arsenals buried in sheds and in underground bunkers will be the rulers if the government collapses–and if it doesn’t then the government will be putting many of us in camps and other dangerous subversives will be executed in secret. Fear, can sometimes make people very ugly.

        2. Chook

          Or, alternatively, a major change in the tools of democracy which permits indicative preferences of citizen majorities on each issue to be calculated on a public and open source database in real time, with mandated tabling of results in Congress.

          Sounds hard, but waiting for or trying to engineer a ‘major change in social morality’ among a herd led by people like Jamie Dimon sounds harder.

          Our strength is our number, but we cannot access our advantage.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        You may or may not be missing something, but I think Gaius is talking about a catastrophic event such as the destruction of an entire city in one storm that acts as a wake up call to enough people so that action is taken largely in spite of the rich. The catastrophic event idea strikes me as perfectly plausible. The resulting action, particularly coherent political action such as the formation of an effective government, is another mater and depends on a lot of conditionals but self preservation is a strong instinct and there will certainly be efforts in that direction.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          mater was a typo for “matter” but bothers me enough to mention it. I was not referring to “another mother”.

        2. James Levy

          A double drought in Australia and, say, Ukraine that last 3 or 4 years and jacks food prices through the roof and is in such disparate areas that climate change seems the only plausible explanation might do the trick, if it happens in the next decade. It is a possibility. Rush and the Koch motherfuckers will rant and scream that it has nothing to do with climate change, but after 3 years of no rain and mounting global grain prices so a loaf of bread or a box of Wheaties costs 10 bucks people will tune them out.

          Disasters can be dealt with so long as a sizeable area is spared and can act as a launching pad for rescue/recovery. The longer it takes for the dominoes to start falling, the fewer places will be left to help the failing ones. And at a certain point it really will be every region (not nation–nations are not ecological zones) for itself. The much pissed-upon belt from Chicago to Boston is going to look pretty solid when Atlanta, Dallas, and Las Vegas become uninhabitable.

    2. Gaius Publius

      I read this subthread, and yes, Brooklin Bridge has it, especially here:

      I keep using Miami because it’s a poster child for vulnerable. I’ve got a piece in draft discussing the major Rolling Stone article on Miami. (1) All of the big-money development is on the water, on the beach. (2) Prices seem to be very high thanks to this influx of developer money. (3) Insurance costs are reasonable-ish. (4) The fresh water table is almost at the same height is the brine. (5) The fresh-water system is a hodge-podge of patches to keep the salt out of the drinking water, and has been for over a generation.

      So what happens if the Big One sweeps through, kills no one (we hope), but wipes out both the water system and all beach property? Let’s say it takes $20 billion or more to remake the city. Will America spend that to restore Miami? New York captures our imagination; we’d rebuild it. But Miami? Once people realize they’ll never get property values back, developer money back, affordable insurance back … fresh water back … people will flee the state.

      A study done recently put the mean cost of climate impacts under a no-adaptation version of the IPCC A2 scenario at over $1000 trillion (table adapted; source, p. 105):

      Table 8.1 Net present value of climate change impacts and adaptation costs, A2 scenario
      Units: Trillion US$ (2000)

      5% — Impacts (with adaptation) $170 / Impacts (no adaptation) $270
      Mean — Impacts (with adaptation) $890 / Impacts (no adaptation) $1240
      95% — Impacts (with adaptation) $270 / Impacts (no adaptation) $3290

      Source: 10000 PAGE2002 model runs with ‘Stern Review’ assumptions

      And the A2 scenario isn’t the big one. A1FI is the killer.

      In other words, the mean value according to this study of the impact under the no-adaptation version of the A2 scenario is more money than anyone will ever spend to fix things.

      Now break that into pieces. How much will “America” pay to fix New York? Miami? The already under drought, already low-lying CA Central Valley? According to the Hayhoe study, the Central Valley of CA gets 4 months of >100°F heat at 1000 ppm. Go one-tenth of the way down that road and (a) the cost is already huge, and (b) people can see the future.

      We don’t have to go far down that road — not far at all in fact — for even the Fox viewer to get it. If that starts dawning on people in the next 3 years (ish), that’s an opportunity. That’s my point. So thanks, Brooklin, for clarifying it.

      And yes, there are lots of ways to use force without resorting to violence. Papantonio, for example, sees a huge legal opportunity if Hobby Lobby wins. Divestment campaigns can be very successful.
      Bottom line, I want to use that 5+ year window we seem to have. Thanks all, for the read and for your concern about this story.


  17. washunate

    This sounds like a mindset trying to be more sensationalist than identifying the problem:

    “…our high-consumption, high-waste lifestyles, and the emerging nations, like India and China, who are burning carbon as fast as they can, to catch up to us…”


    This is quite simply targeting the wrong problem. The issue is not that people want to live wastefully. Quite the contrary, Americans are generally profoundly disturbed by how things work, much more concerned about the state of the country and the world than our Fearless Leaders and their enablers in the educated upper middle class technocratic elite.

    The inability to change a leadership class that doesn’t represent the public is a completely different problem from the public wanting to live a lifestyle that destroys the planet. What ‘we’ confront is a political issue, not an environmental one.

    “Even Tea Party voters will be begging for government to “make them whole” when climate starts to tear their lives apart.”

    This in particular had me chuckling. Blue-Team Approved Enemy and unexplained fearmongering in the same sentence.

    1. Fiver

      But the simple fact is that particularly Americans and Canadians are incredible resource consumptive hogs relative even to other developed nations, let alone the world for current billions already living on the edge. Every aspect of corporate-led consumer capitalism and state-led social/commercial infrastructure building to date has been premised on unlimited resources and a future arcing skyward before us on an imaginary accelerating curve of progress – a legacy, to some extent, of the sheer physical size and immense wealth of this Continent we appropriated. Don’t get me wrong, as I don’t believe anyone is worth 2x let alone 100x someone else, and could not agree more that some righteous redistributive justice is long overdue. However, there is this matter of the rest of the world’s need to also attain an equitable share of those same, shrinking resources – especially if they own them – and that is the context in which to view the overarching priority of halting global environmental destruction of all types. There is very little time left.

  18. Banger

    Why should the oligarchs fear taxes or threats to their persons? The result would be an even more draconian police state situation including internment camps, secret executions and so on. The alternative is to embolden resistance and strengthen ourselves and each other. In the end the oligarchs will tend to compromise if they see we who oppose them are strong rather than desperate.

  19. different clue

    This post is another way of saying that the Overclasses consider us to be the problem and they consider global warming to be part of the solution to their “us” problem.

    1. hunkerdown

      @TheCatSaid, a penny for your thoughts on how to negotiate under these conditions…

      1. TheCatSaid

        Each situation is different, like cooking with a unique set of ingredients.

        Elsewhere on this thread I just posted a couple links in which David E. Martin describes situations in which he thought a positive outcome was utterly impossible (e.g., extractive industry in Papua New Guinea and the warlords who were in charge of running things, and how a positive outcome was negotiated that involved turning control over to the local community against all the odds, as a result of understanding what really mattered to the warlord thugs who held the power).

  20. BondsOfSteel

    The $100 Billion figure is just a distraction. If we spend it to fix (really mitigate) the vulnerabilities of poorer countries… it wouldn’t cause us to pump any less carbon into the atmosphere. It doesn’t fix anything.

    Further, it assumes that runaway climate change won’t occur; we’ll be able to limit change to 2C… not a likely outcome.

  21. different clue

    Different people think different things and approaches “will work”. Perhaps people who want to “do something” should break up into different theory/action groups “doing” their separate group-specific “somethings”. After a while the different groups can compare notes on what seems to be working and how. People who think certain theory/action groups appear more effective than certain others can join those more effective groups.
    Arch Druid has made one useful point. People who think carbon skydumping is a problem will have to adjust their personal behavior to dump least carbon individually feasible. That way they will
    have personal credibility when they tell others that others/everyone must accept a deconsumption/austerity lifestyle to get to zero carbon.

    It might also be useful to think about zero NET carbon . . . as in, sucking down as much skycarbon and fixing it into plant-soil systems as the burncarbon we skydump. If suckdown equalled skydump, we would achieve zero NET carbon. If suckdown exCEEded skydump, we could achieve skycarbon reduction down to where we want the skycarbon level to be. That broadens policy toolkits to include ways to enhance net plantgrowth, re-green manmade deserts, unfarm and reflood wetlands to build back up the peat deposits, etc. All of which would achieve carbon suckdown.

    1. Fiver

      We’ve mowed down well over half of the world’s great forests, and most of that in the last 30 years. The oceans are dying. We are going to be in a world impoverished of wild mammals, fish, birds as critical system links are broken by impacts throughout the fossil fuel usage cycle. Every living thing on earth now faces an environment that has never before existed – one of a vanishing habitat brimming with tens of thousands of toxic compounds, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and explosive change. The human species simply has no right to place in jeopardy this entire biosphere and all the myriad forms it holds. I rather expect that life here on Earth is not disposed to like us much, and will take the appropriate action.

  22. different clue

    Life might like us more if we begin killing less life and fostering more life. Life might already like those of us who already do that. Will life seek revenge against permaculturists?

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