“Risky Business” Climate Report: Paulson, Bloomberg, Rubin, Schultz Late to Combat the Denialists

Those who have been involved in trying to raise awareness of the risks of global warming might have to repress a “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” response to a new, accessible, and well written report on the probable impact of climate change on the US. The effort, called “Risky Business” has Hank Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, and Thomas Steyer, retired chairman of Farallon Capital, as co-chairs, with its other committee members including Bob Rubin, George Schultz, Henry Cisneros, Gregory Page (the executive chairman of Cargill), Donna Shalala, and Olympia Snowe. In other words, when Hank Paulson looks like the best of a bunch, there’s reason to be cautious.

Chart showing carbon emission levels from 1775 to 2100 under various scenariosYet there is a lot to welcome about this development. This is a well-funded, hugely connected and respected bi-partisan group that intends to galvanize efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions. It represents a long-overdue split in the elites. The Kochs and other denialists have succeeded in stymieing action by raising doubts about the origins and dynamics of climate change. The report is meant to demonstrate that the US is long past having the luxury of debating whether global warming is happening, and that a sober look at the seriousness of the outcomes says we need to do something, pronto.

Even though the document focuses on economic impacts, its novel and clever feature is to give readers a tangible sense of how bad things will get by showing how many 95° average temperature days there will be in various location in the future (emphasis original):

US Map of 95 Degree Days, 1981-2010 versus versus 2020-2039
US Map of 95 Degree Days, 2040-2059 v. 2080- 2099

Extreme heat across the nation—especially in the Southwest, Southeast, and Upper Midwest—threatening labor productivity, human health, and energy systems

» By the middle of this century, the average American will likely see 27 to 50 days over 95°F each year—two to more than three times the average annual number of 95°F days we’ve seen over the past 30 years. By the end of this century, this number will likely reach 45 to 96 days over 95°F each year on average.

» As with sea level rise, these national averages mask regional extremes, especially in the Southwest, Southeast, and upper Midwest, which will likely see several months of 95°F days each year.

» Labor productivity of outdoor workers, such as those working in construction, utility maintenance, landscaping, and agriculture, could be reduced by as much as 3%, particularly in the Southeast. For context, labor productivity across the entire U.S. labor force declined about 1.5% during the famous “productivity slowdown” in the 1970s.

» Over the longer term, during portions of the year, extreme heat could surpass the threshold at which the human body can no longer maintain a normal core temperature without air conditioning, which we measure using a “Humid Heat Stroke Index” (HHSI). During these periods, anyone whose job requires them to work outdoors, as well as anyone lacking access to air conditioning, will face severe health risks and potential death.

» Demand for electricity for air conditioning will surge in those parts of the country facing the most extreme temperature increases, straining regional generation and transmission capacity and driving up costs for consumers.

The most impressive feature of the presentation is its estimates of local climate impact, in some cases down to the county level (click to enlarge).

Impact of hotter temperatures and rising sea level on various parts of the Northeast in 2100

The report is full of cheery tidbits like this:

Rising seas and greater coastal storm damage already threaten the financial value and viability of many properties and infrastructure along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast. If we stay on our current climate path, some homes and commercial properties with 30-year mortgages in places in Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana and elsewhere could quite literally be underwater before the note is paid off.

The report then works through what the effect will be on agriculture, energy use, heat and cold related deaths, and sea level rise/flood/extreme weather damage to property. For example:

As Risk Committee member Dr. Alfred Sommer has pointed out, extreme heat will have a major impact on the capacity of local hospitals: “We just don’t have the surge capacity left in the medical system anymore. . . If these [impacts] occur in rural areas you’re particularly in trouble.” He goes on to note that in Chicago during the 1995 heat wave, local officials “didn’t even have a place to properly store [bodies from] the 700 deaths . . .that occurred over a small number of days.”

While the study does try to estimate how much more extremely hot days will lower productivity, it does not estimate other secondary effects, like the potential for higher levels of infectious diseases.

Some of the projected effects start setting in sooner than many Americans might expect. For instance, Risky Business anticipates that the annual cost of flooding, along with hurricanes and other storms will increase by $7.3 billion in the next 15 years, which is a bit more than 25%. The production of staples is also in jeopardy. From the executive summary:

Without adaptation, some Midwestern and Southern counties could see a decline in yields of more than 10% over the next 5 to 25 years should they continue to sow corn, wheat, soy and cotton, with a 1-in-20 chance of yield losses of these crops of more than 20%.

Given the professed aim of this august group to stir more serious action, the caution and conservatism of the document is perplexing. On the one hand, the 95° day analysis may be sufficiently novel and tangible as to reach both businessmen and the broader public in a way past presentations have failed, particularly since it includes commentary like this:

But the real story in this region [the Midwest] is the combined impact of heat and humidity, which we measure using the Humid Heat Stroke Index, or HHSI. The human body’s capacity to cool down in the hottest weather depends on our ability to sweat, and to have that sweat evaporate on our skin. Sweat keeps the skin temperature below 95°F, which is required for our core temperature to stay around 98.6°F. But if the outside temperature is a combination of very hot and very humid—if it reaches a HHSI of about 95°F—our sweat cannot evaporate, and our core body temperature can rise until we actually collapse from heat stroke. Even at an HHSI of 92°F, core body temperatures can get close to 104°F, which is the body’s absolute limit.

To date, the U.S. has never experienced heat-plus-humidity at this scale. The closest this country has come was in 1995 in Appleton, Wisconsin, when the HHSI hit 92°F. (At the time, the outside temperature was 101°F and the dew point was 90°F.) The only place in the world that has ever reached the unbearable HHSI of 95°F was Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 (outside temperature of 108°F, dew point of 95°F). Our research shows that if we continue on our current path, the average Midwesterner could see an HHSI at the dangerous level of 95°F two days every year by late century, and that by the middle of the next
century, she or he can expect to experience 20 full days in a typical year of HHSI over 95°F, during which it will be functionally impossible to be outdoors.

So if that proves compelling, the authors’ and committee members’ instincts to let that information speak for itself will be proven correct.

But otherwise, the report has looked hard and well at critical first-order climate change effects: energy use, flooding/extreme weather risks, loss of agricultural production, and other extreme heat effects (loss of productivity and extreme temperature-related deaths). But as much as the facts might seem sobering to a businessman, there’s no focus on broader social effects. Once a certain level of adverse change has been breached, negative outcomes are likely to become self-reinforcing.

The Department of Defense has been studying this topic (admittedly with more focus on areas deemed to be geopolitically unstable) and the recognize how enough change in living conditions and costs generates social instability. The Arab Spring was the direct result of increases in the cost of foodstuffs and cooking fuel that pushed those who were just barely getting by into desperate straits. The DoD has modeled the impact of mass migrations when low-lying, densely populated areas like Sri Lanka become increasingly uninhabitable. What happens in the US when areas that were once vibrant Sunbelt communities start looking too costly and unpleasant to live, and they start depopulating rapidly? Where do those former residents go? And what happens to those who lack the resources to decamp? Is the US future a series of sun-blasted Detroits? The East Coast will have similar issues with cities that are vulnerable to storms and sea level rises. That level of change in where people live has to have tremendous knock-on effects in terms of damage to communities, the loss of local businesses and jobs. And Bloomberg, the US leader in militarization of local policing, is certainly aware of these risks to the 1%, as are his colleagues in this effort; that (and profiteering) are the justifications for cops suddenly tricked out like cast members of a dystopian summer action movie.

So I am genuinely not certain of what to make of this document. Is it an effort (aside from Hank Paulson, who is a long standing conservationist) to assuage their consciences? Where were they when the IPCC made its report in 2007 and a push from such top-level businessmen could have had a real impact? Or is this sort of public presentation a sign of disfunction among the business elite? In the old days, as Lambert reminds me, there was a cadre of recognized wise men who had the stature that when they pulled one of their peers aside to urge then to change course, they’d get a serious hearing. Perhaps some members of this cabal (one can imagine Gregory Page of Cargill, who has a commercial interest as well as an organization famed for its ability to gather information) might have tried private suasion and been frustrated at their difficulty in getting traction. This document might reflect the reality of our modern era, that to shift the narrative on the elite level, it needs to be reflected in mass media as well.

The perplexing bit, in addition to underselling the seriousness of the climate change issue issue by steering clear of societal impacts, is the fact that the report pointedly steers clear of making any policy recommendations. It’s hard to know what to make of a document that stresses the need for urgent action yet fails to say much about what actions would have the biggest impact. It does, in its thin “Next Steps” section, call on farmers to adapt and make anticipatory investment, and suggests that the Federal government should help. And it makes an apple-pie-and-motherhood general call for a “Public Sector Response: Instituting policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

Despite the high quality and astute focus of the analysis, the fact that the committee lacked the guts to call for concerted efforts to reduce energy use (and a lot can be done by simply better planning and changes of habits with minimal lifestyle impact, although clearly more severe energy “diets” would be better). For instance, as we pointed out, BP (yes that BP) decided in 1997 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to its 1990 level. It thought it would take 13 years. It took three years and cost $20 million…and yielded savings of $650 million. Yet most companies are loath to put in the effort and too short-term focused to incur expenses.

But the reality is that a Marshall Plan level effort to tackle global warming would need to look hard at undoing many extended supply chains and at reducing air travel. And it goes without saying that the global elite and business executives and managers who oversee multinational operations make a lot of environmentally costly long-haul flights. As the New York Times pointed out:

For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.

So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create. “For many people in New York City, who don’t drive much and live in apartments, this is probably going to be by far the largest part of their carbon footprint,” says Anja Kollmuss, a Zurich-based environmental consultant.

It is for me. And for people like Al Gore or Richard Branson who crisscross the world, often by private jet, proclaiming their devotion to the environment.

Though air travel emissions now account for only about 5 percent of warming, that fraction is projected to rise significantly, since the volume of air travel is increasing much faster than gains in flight fuel efficiency. (Also, emissions from most other sectors are falling.)

We used to have leaders who were at least willing to make a credible show of leading by example. JP Morgan, for all of his many faults, insisted that the members of the House of Morgan had to be models of probity to make manifest the stability and trustworthiness of his firm. While this report is a step in the right direction, Paulson, Bloomberg, Page et al would have an even bigger impact on opinion if they took some concrete steps themselves to reduce their and their organizations’ carbon use, most important by making personal changes like cutting back significantly on airplane use and naming and shaming colleagues who didn’t. But people who become members of the most exclusive clubs are the least likely to break the unwritten rules and criticize powerful peers.

When I was briefly in Caracas, I was taught a local saying, “They have changed their minds, but they haven’t changed their hearts.” This report at best might change some minds, but it will take much more to find the emotional and practical triggers to shift behavior on a widespread basis. And the runway to do that is awfully short.

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  1. John

    Thanks…. I will read it. After taking a quick skim, their report makes no mention of China nor India. While it is true Americans produce more C02 per capita than them, without international cooperation from China or India there will not be much chance of an impact — no matter what the US does to reduce emissions. C02 does not stop at a political boundary. What must be considered is China and India (Asia) will have growing energy needs, outstripping the US and EU consumption for the coming decades. That means more extraction of coal, petroleum and natural gas and therefore more game changing, long lasting green house gas emissions.

    The US is not an island onto itself and must take a global leadership role in coordinating C02 reductions. No Drama ‘Bama’s speech the other day on taking action on green house gases was welcome, it is not the kind of bold leadership the world is looking for.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Their argument is (basically) unless the US shows some leadership, there is no way we can expect other countries to do squat.

      1. sherparick

        This false argument essentially misses the point, unless the point is defeat any measure that might slow the increase of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 and Methane, in the atmosphere. Essentially saying because not everything necessary will be done by everyone else all at once, we should do nothing. That is why I applaud the President for at least putting out these rules. And frankly, if I am going to get mad with someone, I prefer to get mad at the Republicans, Rupert Murdoch, Steven Harper, and Tony Abbott. http://www.salon.com/2014/06/22/how_rupert_murdoch_created_the_worlds_newest_climate_change_villain/

    2. MikeNY

      Perhaps the best way for the US “to lead” would be by setting a good example. Which we should do regardless of whether anyone follows, because it is right.

      And what Ben said below about Mammon.

      1. susan the other

        The best example to set, as pointed out by Yves, is conservation and efficiency a la BP in their CO2 reduction efforts making them a tidy profit. Nothing entices people like the lure of profit.

    3. lolcar

      The per capita emissions of countries in the west are vastly higher and they have been emitting for far longer than China or India. Surely the only fair way to proceed is to first bring Western per capita levels down as China’s and India’s rise, meeting somewhere in the middle. Then, assuming further reductions are necessary, everyone reduces their per capita emissions together. Even then, Western countries are getting the best end of the deal. China might be emitting more in total than the USA right now. But China’s total emissions in the last 100 years are still less than half of US emissions over the same time-frame.

      1. craazyboy

        Except that nearly half the world’s population are in China and India and they all want to drive cars. I’d like to reduce my current misery $60 electric bill and 200 miles a month transport in my 20/30 mpg car, but that won’t stop global warming, even if everyone in the US could retire and meet my high standard.

        The other thing that gets overlooked is CO2 is just one GW source. China, and probably India, has a huge fly ash emissions problem from a huge number of coal power plants that don’t have fly ash emission controls. Also, if they are pouring out sulfur emissions, that leads to ocean acidification.

        So the idea that it is “fair” that they be given a 100 year credit for emissions so they can “enjoy” the benefits of industrialization, while the West gets penalized for 100 years of destroying the world with the mistake of industrializing, is an idea no doubt cooked up in the Peoples’ Ministry of New Speak.

        But it too won’t do anything about mitigating climate change.

        1. MtnLife

          Not only is it a pollution issue with the fly ash but they are wasting a valuable resource. Fly ash is a great pozzolan for cementious materials, allowing for partial replacement of energy intensive cement and less water use (great for everybody!), entombing the pollutant while making a higher grade finished product. I would think two large countries that are heavily expanding infrastructure would be heavily in favor of capturing the fly ash. Much harder to see a selfish motivation for capturing the sulfur.

        2. lolcar

          I don’t really see what the aspiration of a billion Indians to burn fossil fuels like a Westerner has to do with anything. Their actual existing, here-and-now per capita usage is still 10% of an American’s as far as India is concerned maybe 40% for China. Nor has anyone ever suggested as far as I’m aware that China or India should get a 100 year credit for past emissions. However, many do say something like: “China in total emits more than the US now. So if the US cuts emissions by 1,000,000 kg, China should have to cut by 1,000,000 kg. It’s only fair.” I bring up the history of industrial emissons and the per capita emissions only to highlight that it is by no means unfair for Western countries to start cutting hard now even as developing countries’ emissions rise. When our per capita usages meet in the middle then I’ll be happy to say to China “No further action on our part, unless you’re willing to match it.”

          1. Eeyores enigma

            It doesn’t matter who cuts or where those cuts are it all means no more growth. From the supply end to the waste stream end…no more growth.

            There is no scenario where substitutions fuel growth…NONE! No green economy.

            No growth means no more debt based money, no paying off existing debt, no working your way out of debt/poverty, NO HOPE!

            We have structured ourselves in such a way that what needs to be done represents massive hardship and pain for 90% of the population therefore it is not doable. The only way to address the big issues threatening humanity’s existence would be to implement a global social support system providing all of the basic needs for everyone with an emphasis of free and unlimited access to education and vilify the concept of living like gods on earth while the majority struggle to simply live.

            1. James Levy

              I think we have the money and resources to give every person here today a decent life, but the ingrained habits of competition and hierarchy mitigate against it.
              Something that is really bothering me is the turn to the Right over at James Howard Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation and other places where these issues have been aired for several years. I see a growing “let the losers who don’t get it die while we in the know prep for the inevitable end of the happy motoring oil-based world.” Hostility to blacks, women, gays, and immigrants over there has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two years. Those most ready to endure the hardships to come are adopting a bunker/lifeboat mentality that only tough manly-men with a gun in one hand and a subservient wife at their feet are going to make it through the coming catastrophe. And if our base need for hierarchy and competition wins out, they’ll unfortunately very likely be right. I’m the product of a certain kind of civilization. When the shit hits the fan, I’m not prepared to shoot my neighbors and steal their stuff. But a growing cadre of people are ready, willing, and able to do just that. They will be the hunters, and I the prey (or, one of their favorite terms, a sheeple, although this sheeple owns a Lee-Enfield and knows how to use it).

              1. Mark P.

                J. Levy wrote: ‘something that is really bothering me is the turn to the Right over at James Howard Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation and other places where these issues have been aired for several years.’

                It’s always been there. The anti-technology stance, the smug know-nothing-ism — and Kunstler is a classic Dunning-Kruger case — and the conservatism all go hand in hand.

              2. Bobbo

                When you say “over there” are you referring to Kunstler’s essays? Or the comments section? I have not noticed any change in Kunstler’s message, but perhaps he is attracting a different following?

            2. lolcar

              Even if you don’t believe that you can get to a green economy that segues into and supports economic growth much like the fossil fuel economy did you’re still heading for the least worst world possible. And it doesn’t change the fact that the fairest way to go about getting there and the way most likely to gain international cooperation is to get the rich countries with the highest per capita usage cutting hard now and gradually bringing developing countries on board as per capita usages converge.

            3. Carla

              “No growth means no more debt based money, no paying off existing debt, no working your way out of debt/poverty,” … in other words, HOPE!

              It’s the growth imperative that is killing us. http://www.steadystate.org

        3. susan the other

          Interesting thing about the recent abrupt trade policy of the Russians. They were mobilized at blitzkrieg speed to trade natgas to China, and China funded the pipeline. The Russians put out a Putin PR statement that Russia is selling gas to China to help the Chinese economy and provide a cleaner fuel than coal. And then India joined the coalition by advocating a new trading block, etc.

        4. The Heretic

          If the nation can acknowledge that certain types of air pollution have a global impact (like ocean acidification) and must be minimized(such as Sulfur dioxide, fly ash) then we should be also be able realize that minimizing those emmissions anywhere on the earth will benefit us all. So rich nations like the G7 should be able to subsidize, manufacture , and retrofit any facility on the earth; providing these products at cheap prices such as that poorer nations would want to retrofit their polluting facilities. There is a secondary benefit to rich nations, in that they can create employment and the opportunity for underemployed citizens to learn new skills, and produce much more real value than working at Walmart of MacDonalds.

          How can Rich nations afford to do this? I see two good options. Either they can cut excessive military procurement programs and any research on marginal value military development programs (like the F-35, which will be a flying disgrace). Or, if we use the power of MMT, government ( in conjunction with the central bank ) to create the money to pay for the expansion of the industries and the new products.

  2. Ben Johannson

    I’m more concerned that many people who spent decades slandering and jeering at scientists will now take this seriously. If our society only listens to those who have successfully hoarded large quantities of government-issued currency while ignoring those with actual expertise, then there is no chance whatsoever for us whether we address global warming or not. Mammon worship will destroy us no matter what we do.

  3. lolcar

    Looks like Texas is set to become uninhabitable. Either that or the greenest state in the Union as massive solar farms sprout up to keep going the vast apparatus of air conditioning machinery needed to stay alive there.

      1. lolcar

        Mexico has plenty of territory at altitude. The climate in Mexico City should remain lovely.

        1. HotFlash

          That might be nice for the 400 Families and the other people who live there, but farmers and ranchers in the rest of the country will suffer. Don’t know about you, but a whole lot of my grocery store’s produce comes from Mexico. More than 85% of Mexico is already hot, dry or both.

          1. lolcar

            True enough, but I do think that nowhere in the Americas, North, Central, or South will suffer more from climate change or become more inhospitable to human life than the American south-west.

          2. Carolinian

            Mexico City has, like, 10 million people.

            And a ton of pollution. Or at least it used to many years ago when I was there.

            1. ambrit

              Mexico City proper, about 8 million. The Valley of Mexico conurbation population as of 2012 is 22.5 million. That is roughly 19% of the total population of Mexico. Look at the dynamics of Mexico’s population growth. In 1961, Mexico had less than 40 millions. Today Mexico has 118 million people. A tripling of population in just over 50 years. There’s your trigger.
              America? in 1960, U.S. population was 179 million. By 2014, it had grown to 318 million. Somewhat less than a doubling. Also consider that the U.S. fertility rate is below the replacement level, and most of the slack has been taken up by immigration. America really is in the vanguard of the One World Movement.

  4. ambrit

    As someone who has lived in the American Deep South for most of my life, those 95 degree day charts are the shape of things to come. Before mechanical air conditioning, houses and other buildings were built to enable passive cooling. That’s where all those ‘quaint’ twelve foot ceilings and floor to ceiling double hung windows came from. Having lived in several of those ‘old fashioned’ dwellings and been too poor to afford much in the way of mechanical air conditioning, Phyl and I can attest to the efficiency of those older homes in climate ‘control.’ Short version; there is going to be a lot of behavior modification going on over the next decades. My real worry is agriculture. As time goes on, and the Midwest heats up, commercial crops are going to demand ever increasing amounts of irrigation water. The aquifers underlying the Midwest are already being over exploited. At some point, the productive capacity of the source of a large chunk of the worlds cereal grains is simply going to collapse. Then, starvation for all those peoples around the world who now rely on American grain. A smaller, but instructive lesson in that dynamic is to go to the green grocers and mentally compare the prices of vegetables from California today to their prices from as little as two years ago. My mother remembers growing a Victory Garden in the back yard of their home in London during WW2. It wasn’t patriotism alone that drove them. It was also lack of supply. She also remembers getting that one orange a week, she being a little girl at the time. (Children got the scarce oranges for the vitamin content.) Mum still loves oranges. I wonder how far north we will be able to grow oranges in 2100.

  5. dweightman

    What the man said about irrigation. There just isn’t enough snowpack in the Sierra Pacific to generate the spring runoff to support water for both (heavily subsidized) irrigation for California Central Valley Project agriculture; and Southern California cities. The conflict over water is going to get ugly soon.

    And another worrying thought: as cereal grains become less plentiful and more expensive, the price of bread will be going up.

    1. MtnLife

      People in those areas probably need to be less attached to large green lawns, living room sized showers with multiple heads, and make efficiency efforts like low flow toilets and faucets. We will also probably see a switch to less water intensive, drought resistant grains like amaranth and millet.

      1. Banger

        Yes, sure but that isn’t going to happen. The elites both political and in the entertainment/”news” media need to focus on this first–we have engineered a populace of children addicted to trivial pursuits and narcissistic values through over a century of advertising and propaganda.

        1. MtnLife

          If we are lucky, the rich/famous will adopt positive changes first and the rest of the “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” will follow along out of envy.

      2. ambrit

        That would be true if logic and community wide effects were the driving forces behind water use. They are not. Todays agriculture is largely industrialized and short term profit driven. This system requires water for farming measured in acre-feet. (One acre area one foot deep in water.) It has been asserted time and time again here and elsewhere that the people making the decisions for industrial agriculture are at best profiteers, at worst murderers. This kind of person will extract maximum ‘shareholder equity’ from the earth until the earth itself shuts the conveyors down. Then the vultures will fly off to seek other prey.
        Ever wonder why amaranth isn’t a major crop today? It all goes back to the Conquest of the Americas by the Spanish. Prior to then, amaranth was a staple crop of the Americas. It was intimately tied into the Aztec culture particularly. To crush the indigenous culture and promote assimilation of the peones, the Spanish overlords banned the cultivation of amaranth. It is slowly returning to use today.

  6. grayslady

    Until the US government, and the US people, are willing to confront the biggest user of fossil fuels–the military–and reduce its bloated size, there will be no serious impact on climate.

    1. ambrit

      Confronting the military mindset can lead to unfortunate results. The people to confront would be the elites who set the militaries tasks. That, or, subvert the military. (Which task the Militant Evangelical Movement is attempting in the U.S. Where oh where is Elmer Gantry when we need him?)

    1. Eeyores enigma

      Technocopian clap trap.

      Never has a civilization transitioned to a vastly more expensive and lower eroi energy source. Not to mention that the transition that the Rocky Mountain Institute advocated would require using massive amounts of fossil fuel to fabricate and build out and maintain the infrastructure.

      There is no “alternative energy” source that produces enough surplus required to produce itself yet alone produce enough surplus to generate profits enough for a thriving economy.

      The RMI proposal would require a 110% subsidy for ever in order to function.

      1. James Levy

        You’re correct, but only at or near current levels of energy use. What we need is to reduce energy use, which is much less difficult than putting the carbon genie back in the bottle. What we can’t afford any more is driving-at-will, airplane flight for the masses, and long-haul trucking. Of course yachts and private airplanes would have to go. But since we define freedom not as the right to say what you think and protest that which you believe to be wrong, but as license to spend money in any way you see fit, such changes will come, if they come, in too small increments too late to have any effect.

      2. lolcar

        Seems pretty reasonable to me. Energy efficiency is hardly technotopian. It requires no new miracle technology and gets you 20-30% savings without really having to make any behavioural changes.

        1. Eeyores enigma

          How in the REAL world do you get negative energy and positive growth?

          You are either a shill or you are full of $h!#.

          1. lolcar

            I don’t know what to do with a comment like that. I thought we were talking about practical solutions to practical problems. Home and business heating and cooling is one such problem. Maybe 1/5 of total emissions come from this sector. The practical problem being how to get through through winter without freezing while cutting emissions at the same time. Constructing energy efficient buildings and retrofitting existing ones gets you a long way toward that goal without any miracle technology or any need to substantially reduce people’s standard of living. How is this impractical in the REAL world ? I don’t see any need to bring up abstract concepts like GDP growth and the debt money system to justify the practical benefits of the installation of double-glazed windows.

      3. twonine

        I use this tool at times to help clients decide which technological clap trap might provide them with reasonable ROI. http://www.retscreen.net/ang/home.php

        The 20% savings lolcar mentions below is low hanging fruit. A recent municipal building project saved 20+% on the oil bill using technology advertised in Solar Age magazine in 1984.

  7. Ed

    These sorts of reports unfortunately understate the seriousness of the issue. Climate change could well cause human extinction, either by reaching the point where positive feedback is triggered and ratchets up the effects to the point where humans can’t survive them, or we get to the world pictured in the report (really uncomfortable, but some semblance of industrial civiliation continues), and people still continue carbon-emissing activities.

    The stakes are much higher than flooded cities and the spread of Persian Gulf like conditions to other areas. People after all live in the Persian Gulf. I think the core of the denialist attitude is really “so what if some cities get flooded, I still want my cars and cheap goods from China”. Pointing to flooded cities and more 95 degree farenheit days doesn’t really combat this. Plus there is the argument that it is impossible to feed seven billion people without industrialized agriculture and transportation.

    1. Banger

      Well put and more to the point than my rambling comment below. This is the issue–are we willing to face the full extent of where the facts lead us and use risk-assessment procedures to really look at what we’re facing? First we must do something about our culture of denial–it is that culture that has given the oligarchs such vast power and turned to populace into virtual children.

  8. DJG

    Well, if Olympia Snowe signed on, it must be a serious report. After all, how much of his first administration did Obama waste trying to get a date with her to go up to the White House and be all bipartisan? In some respects, though, Olympia Snowe’s prominence, and Obama’s undeniable feeble statement about research into colony-collapse disorder, issued last Friday, typify the archaic mindset of our elites. I’m older than Obama, yet he seems like a corporate fogey to me, flailing around for a pliable committee to find out that bees can’t tolerate pesticides (and recommend more research). The biggest difficulty here is that forty years of planned income inequality in the USA, as well as hundreds of years of inequality created by American delusions about race, mean that most Americans believe that they will be screwed over during the economic dislocations needed to address climate change. {China and India should not enter discussions of American behavior–the USA is the biggest polluter by far.] As of now, I will guarantee you that needless suffering will be visited on the populace by the elites. And that’s where we are–but Hillary will bring change, right? Hillary? Oh, hell, let me melt here in the heat.

  9. Ed

    According to the EPA, China accounts for 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the US accounting for another 13%. But the federal government could have a substantial impact on Chinese environmental policy, either by means of a bilateral Sino-American agreement, or by restricting via tariffs or other means the import of goods manufactured in China until the Chinese adopt and enforce environmental regulatiosn in line with what is in place with Europe and the US. The entire reason for the offshoring of manufacturing to China in the first place was essentially for companies to evade environmental and labor regulations.

  10. Gil Gamesh

    Touching. If our Plutocrats are genuinely interested in combating Global Warming, they should jump off a high cliff.

    1. Banger

      They could all jump off a cliff and someone would just grab their power and money–and could be even worse.

  11. Ishmael

    If you have ever visited Chaco Canyon or Mesa Verde, you really have to wonder what is the source of long term temperature increases. It is obvious in America’s southwest that temperatures have been rising and the amount of water has been decreasing for a 1,000 years. Areas which were once inhabited are now sitting in the middle of deserts.

    Okay, so we know that man has an impact upon the environment. Are we ready to make the next most logical leap such as human population is can not keep escalating (projecting 20 billion people in not too far off). Are we ready to enforce our immigration laws – the US already has double what it can sustain as population.

    Until we are ready to do the above, we are just making minor adjustments.

    1. HotFlash

      Indeed? By that ‘reasoning’, why should Michiganders or Minnesotans let Californians ‘immigrate’ to our lovely Great Lakes? How about Canada? Would it be OK for you to move to escape death by heat, thirst, starvation, but not someone else? If so, please explain why.

      1. James Levy

        Yes, James Howard Kunstler’s essay Monday morning was basically a call to “let them die.” The answer people in the Prepper community have to the questions of “why you?” is, “because they are too stupid to prepare for the inevitable, they DESERVE to die.” We are arguing from a position of Enlightenment universalism and common decency. They see themselves as huddling with their family on a lifeboat and it’s us or them.

      2. ambrit

        Dear HotFlash;
        Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” tells of just that sort of situation. It isn’t pretty.

        1. susan the other

          I’ve been wondering about Steinbeck’s politix since I read some stuff about the Dust Bowl. We were led to believe thru propaganda and realistic photography (just becoming all the rage during the depression) that the Dust Bowl covered almost the entire midwest. But in fact it was only severe in western Oklahoma and those people emigrated to California. The Joads, et.al. In fact, western Oklahoma has a long history of extreme drought recurring at regular intervals. It was nothing new. It happened, coincidentally, that FDR and his administration was looking at big Agriculture at that time and there was a push on to get small farmers off their land and into the cities. And leave farming to the pros who would preserve the topsoil. As if to imply that small farmers couldn’t be conservationists. Which of course is nonsense. It was probably profit driven, with an eye toward WW2. I realize this comment makes Hank and his pals look like mercenaries. It is unintended, because we do need to change our ways – but don’t tell me they aren’t out for themselves.

          1. James

            Actually, eastern NM, the panhandle of TX, southwestern KS, and parts of southeast CO. Ground zero was the TX panhandle. And the only way to “preserve topsoil” in that region is not to break it in the first place. It’s a natural tall grass prairie, suitable only for light grazing. Emphasize light. Never should have been farmed in the first place.

          2. James Levy

            It’s more complex than that and the phenomenon was more widespread than you portray. The big problem had been World War I, and the collapse of European agriculture from 1915-1919 and longer if you count the loss of Russian grain to the world market. This created a huge incentive for American farmers to plant. But after 1920 prices fell. Farmers responded by putting more, and more marginal, land into production in order to maintain incomes, but this only exacerbated the problem. As the decade progressed they found themselves running in place or losing ground. And under such circumstances, land management went out the window. Too many acres planted plus drought equaled catastrophe.

      3. Ishmael

        Hotflash – spoken like a true libertard! Until liberals can fix their retarded thinking where they can support two totally opposite viewpoints at the same time for instance (1) save the environment and (2) unlimited immigration into the US then there is no hope for this country.

        By the way, attached is an article which I circulated among libertards I know and I labeled it – an answer to a question which is so obvious even a liberal sees it.

          1. James Levy

            Note to the editors: does calling people libertards get you on the moderated list, or is that just for people who point out why Bernie Madoff was thrown to the wolves?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              We took you off the moderation list a LONG time ago but you are still being put in moderation. I’m sorry about that and appreciate your patience. I approve your comments as soon as I see them.

              We regularly have comments that violate no rules (short, so we can check all the words, as well as the e-mail address, IP address, and user name) and they still wind up in moderation. I have repeatedly told Lambert that like it or not, I am incubating Skynet. He’s seen enough of these comments that get filtered to moderation for no reason to agree.

              1. James Levy

                Thank you for a more reasoned and polite answer than my question probably deserved.

        1. HotFlash

          Ish, it’s not *my* country, it’s *your* country. But my point is , why do you feel it is ‘right’ to keep out people from the next country, but not the next county? If you have the misfortune to be in a place that will dry up, and I have a lovely Great Lake next to me, why should IO let you come her? By your own logic, you should die where you are. Esp when *your* industries have made the drought.

  12. Pwelder

    I can well understand the impulse to take your allies where you can find them, and have often said that progressives would do better on issues related to financialization if they could bring themselves to work with the Andrew Jackson wing of the Republicans.

    All the same this strikes me as problematic, for two reasons.

    Rubin, Paulson and to a lesser degree Bloomberg have made their place in recent history as truly lousy stewards of the US financial system, which is where they grew up and made their careers. If they were this inadequate on their home turf, why would they have any credibility as newbie advocates in an unrelated field where others have been working for decades?

    And you can count on it that Goldman Sachs (formerly chaired by Rubin and Paulson, and a major customer of Bloomberg), will be on deck with clever schemes to extract rents from whatever climate mitigation measures are finally adopted.

    The term “Greenwashing” was invented to describe this sort of behavior: improve the personal self-image and public favorability of the principals, while having a neutral to negative effect on the cause they loudly profess to care about.

    1. Banger

      Ok, so we have a noxious ruling class–but who else is going to deal with this? The people don’t care about this issue unless the rulers tell them to care–everything in our culture is top-down. Change can only come from the top–the bottom is too stupified and autistic to act in any sensible way since they are misinformed and in denial about every significant public issue.

      1. James Levy

        This would be my IRA/PLO rule. I was always struck with the stupidity of people refusing to negotiate with people they were at war with. Unless the British or the Israelis were under the delusion that they would exterminate every member of the opposition and the children (well, maybe the Israelis in the darkest recesses of their brains) then they were eventually going to have to go to the table with these groups and make some kind of a deal. We’ve got to parlay with at least a faction of the Power Elite because they still have all the levers of power in their hands.

    2. Ishmael

      Reading the above, I thought the same thing. Here comes the revived cap and trade plan which is just another way to transfer money from the have nots to the elites. One night I was up in Flagstaff (passing through) and ran into this big party going on. Since I am a finance person they thought I was one of them and got brought into what the big meeting was all about. A bunch of big name traders were there putting on the finishing touches to a new cap and trade plan they were going to roll out. All they could talk about was all of the money they were going to make.

  13. Banger

    I think we should welcome this report with love because the ONLY way that anything can be done about climate-change is if American elites warm up to the subject and realize that, as leaders, it’s up to them because they have deliberately engineered a public that is utterly supine through a horrible educational system (I’m quite serious here and be glad to expand on that) and a top-down controlled mainstream media that spouts a distorted and deliberately incoherent narrative about the world (the incoherence is also engineered). For some reason, momentum has grown for taking some kind of stance, even though no action is suggested, on the issue of our common home, the Earth. Nothing but good can come of this no matter how cynical the motivations. The people at the top of the political economy are not all monsters they are, like all of us, a mixture of impulses, obsessions, lusts, and so on but sometimes things get to a point where there is no escape from an obvious collective threat and people change when disaster is immanent and it is right now. This is the issue of the day. Not Iraq, Ukraine, the World Cup or the vast sea of trivia infecting our civilization that keeps us drunk and stoned out of our minds.

    A glance at the report shows me that it does not really deal with the main problem of climate change, i.e., the risk of catatrophe. We need to understand that living systems aren’t linear and therein lies the tragedy–the fact that elementary ideas about science and, particularly, how systems work is virtually unknown both among the general population and the professional and intellectual class. Once a tipping point is reached in any system there is some kind of a phase change or catastrophe which, in turn, effects other systems. We can deal with higher sea levels, we can deal with higher temperatures but we cannot deal with systems whether ecological or physical (ocean currents etc.). We are facing the threat that some meta-homeostatic device will come into play–one idea is that perhaps there will be an anoxic event that results from oxygen depletion at the bottom of the ocean that will result in a growth of bacteria that will secrete poison gas and kill most of us–and there are several other scenarios that, it seems few people want to contemplate–which is no surprise since if our culture can be described it could be described as one where massive denial of inconvenient truths is of paramount importance thus the obsession we have with triviality (one sees this in families that have a history of sexual abuse). Also, our cultural values (real one not the rhetorical ones we pretend to honor) feature as the highest good being radical selfishness (narcissism) tending, at this point through systematic denial over many decades to autism.

    The fact is we are facing some fucking disasters on a major level and all we can do is fiddle while the Earth is burning although, actually the better term is jerking off I think. Since a lot of our neo-autistic culture has been engineered from the top the average person is merely weak and compliant and always deserve a share of the blame–but, at this point, it’s to late to expect much positive change to come from the bottom other than destructive change–which may be good, ultimately. The ball is in the court of the elites–they have all the power and it is up to them to lead us to wherever we have to go to deal with this situation. Democracy is virtually dead because people are swimming in a sea of information that is mainly false so they have no way of knowing what is going on and furthermore they are programmed not to care. That is why we should give this inadequate and weak report our love–the assholes at the top are realizing, maybe, that change can only come from their community.

    1. susan the other

      Banger. Indeed. We should have a new motto reflecting the hapless elites coming to see the light. To simply quote you above, “…nothing but good can come of this.” So. It has finally come to this.

    2. Jackrabbit

      Welcome this report with love?
      It is likely that they will seek to continue to enrich themselves on the disaster. A disaster that, in the end, they are collectively responsible for. Their ‘solution’ is likely to amount to too little, too late half measures that allow energy companies to continue to make gobs of money while other big companies get lucrative government contracts that seek to ameliorate or reduce the damage.

      Your outlook is always too optimistic. If we have learned any lesson from recent history, we can not look to anyone to “save us” except ourselves. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

      “The people at the top of the political economy are not all monsters they are, like all of us . . .”
      No. The interests and motivations of people with money and power differ in important ways from ordinary people. The fact that TPTB have resisted addressing climate change in any realistic way for so long its, itself, proof of this. So we are RIGHT to be wary of any effort to direct/impose a ‘solution’.

      H O P

      1. Banger

        Certainly interests and motivations and pressures are different among the elites–their backgrounds are very different and so on. But they are still people with good and bad sides who can change grow and are not immune to feelings of compassion–they might be in a minority but they exist and can have a lot of influence and should be encouraged. Julius Caesar was, in reality, a great champion of the ordinary Roman and was killed for that reason and he was an aristocrat.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Its a truism to say that Oligarchs and other wealthy/powerful elites “are people too”. Sure, I’d like to encourage good behavior in those that are receptive to it, but every indication is that as a group they are insular, self-centered, egotistical, and close-minded. The one’s with any initiative are generally looking for angles to make MORE, not help out their fellow man. They generally WANT to conform and fit-in and enjoy good relations with other elites, not buck ‘the system’.

          And I doubt very much that there are many very wealth/very powerful who read NC. So you aren’t encouraging them to be better people, you are discouraging the NC ‘brain trust’ of concerned citizens and discontented intellectuals from seeking and pursuing real solutions (to what is essentially a political problem).

          Your comparison to Julius Ceasar is apples and oranges.

          1. hunkerdown

            Your comparison to Julius Ceasar is apples and oranges.

            No it’s not. It’s provided just one more data point that influential people who take concrete action to improve the lot of the common people get killed. It doesn’t kill Banger’s argument outright, but I have a feeling it might not live through the night.

    3. HotFlash

      I really like the idea about love, however, I would suggest, “Love, but verify.”

      1. Banger

        No, “trust but verify” makes sense–but “love but verify” doesn’t. Compassion and love does not depend on conditionality. So I love her but only if she shows me she loves me. Well what if she doesn’t? Then I get a broken heart–always a risk with love–you can’t turn it on and off it doesn’t work that way. So you love others and if they end up stepping on you so your heart breaks–you can’t take back love it automatically makes you vulnerable always. But this is kind of a big spiritual concern that isn’t going to make much sense on this forum I should think.

  14. Dino Reno

    Since it is a known fact by most Americans that God is in charge of the climate, there is nothing this report can say that will change the ultimate outcome. If we fry in our own pot of oil, it was God’s plan for allowing gay marriage, welfare, immigration and abortion. The report doesn’t recommend remedial measures because who are we to know what’s on God’s mind? Better to just beef up internal security when things get too hot handle. That’s the plan and it’s right on schedule.
    On a personal level, going green should involve buying a Green Glock 19. Doing so would put a little smile on God’s face. This is the mindset of the heartland. Science reports fed to the masses through the sieve of disgraced Wall Street Bankers will land with a thud on the front porch.

    1. Banger

      There are no remedial measures because the authors know that there is no political consensus that we even ought to do anything about the problem. Remedial measures will only come after political struggle–first at the level of the oligarchs and eventually, hopefully, involving the rest of us.

      1. Ulysses

        Certainly we do need divisions within the transnational kleptocratic classes to allow us to topple them from power– and build a new, much more convivial world. Yet you still seem to cling to this infinitesimally remote possibility that genuinely benevolent plutocrats will emerge from crisis to set things right for the rest of us.

        Banger, I fear you are going to be horribly disillusioned fairly soon. Pwelder is right to say that “you can count on it that Goldman Sachs (formerly chaired by Rubin and Paulson, and a major customer of Bloomberg), will be on deck with clever schemes to extract rents from whatever climate mitigation measures are finally adopted.”

        In a situation where we all face enormous challenges to our very survival, the best hope for the least disastrous outcome is to embrace new egalitarianism, not continue to put faith in long discredited elitism.

        I cannot share your contempt for ordinary working folks, most of whom are not at all the selfish imbeciles that you depict. In my own everyday life I see tremendous ingenuity, bravery and self-sacrifice among the commons. Sadly, the kind of narcissism and shallowness you rightly deplore I most often see amongst the very elites you say will be our salvation.

        I am confident that your heart is in the right place, yet it pains me to see you deluding yourself that a mere palace coup will make things better. A palace coup can be an important first step to positive change. Only a coup that allows a subversive to open the gates to the wretched hordes, long kept far from power and comfort, is a coup worth having.

        1. Jackrabbit

          “I am confident that your heart is in the right place”

          I’m not so sure anymore. Banger is too much “on message” on a range of issues.

          Time and time again, Banger :

          > talks up spiritual change – but looks to the oligarchy for salvation;

          > decries neocons but assures us that knee-capped realists and/or the ‘deep state’ (mostly neocon collaborators) with keep them in check;

          > tells us he hates hates hates Obama, Hilary, etc but then excuses them (as above: they are just people)

          > blames ordinary people for their plight, ignoring that they have been lied to, swindled, misdirected, etc.

          > derides “the left” (by which I believe he means the institutional left) but ignores success of progressive action and coops and growing discontent

          > attacks society and calls for spiritualism with virtually no calls for social justice – because of his fatalistic viewpoint, he see no need for such a call. (This reminds me of “no drama” Obama, forgiving all sins of the Bush years.)

          Banger is a big presence at NC and that makes his underlying views – which can be difficult to decipher – important. Banger has said that he is a social libertarian with anarchist leanings. That’s fine,everyone is welcome to their opinion. But he promotes his thinking via repeating the same talking points (as above) in different guises, again and again – even after these arguments have been questioned, resisted, or refuted. Basically, as far as I can determine, Banger doesn’t want to see a revival of the progressive left. When people come to their senses, he wants to see a weakened/broken government instead of mass movements to restore proper government.

          Banger sings a pleasant lullaby to the discontented NC readership. I am among many here that appreciate Banger as a critic of TPTB and there are times that he has some good insights. However, after Obama’s hoodwinking America with neolibcon “Yes We Can!” and “Hope and Change” BS, I am wary of ideologues that sing a happy tune.

          H O P

          1. Banger

            As for the rest of the accusations, I don’t buy them and I’m not going to bother with answering them. I’m a realist and I think that is what bothers you. I know that we are politically (on the left) more powerless than at any point in my memory and we are powerless for a reason–we don’t understand realpolitik very well. Salvation has to come from the elites because they have most of the power at this time largely because of the ability to institute a regime of mind-control with its origins with the Creel Committee.

            I don’t hate Obama. I really don’t. He’s neither good nor bad–he’s just a guy doing a job that has been well-structured and defined by forces that, collectively, outrank him–he has some leeway in what he does but not that much. I think he’s a bullshitter as much as big Bill was but not as engaging.

            1. Jackrabbit

              Yes, the traditional left has been compromised by the Democratic Party that has played ‘the base’ them like a fiddle. Part of the reason that they are so compromised is that they must “be realistic”. The result has effectively been disenfranchisement via ‘vote with your money’ elections. Now, as a ‘realist’ you advise more of the same!

              The problem that I have with your ‘realism’ is that it sings a siren’s song of false promise. What we seen is that ‘realist’ calls for reasonable policies wind up just being cons. “Shared sacrifice” is a perfect example. It almost always means the little guy is getting shafted.

              One can’t hold abstract concepts like “the system” or “the government” accountable.

              1. Jackrabbit

                To complete the thought:

                Your assertion that the left is powerless is misleading. Yes, much of what used to constitute ‘the left’ has been compromised but the progressive left who see inequality as the root of a compromised government, and conservatives who see compromised government as a threat to liberty are pushing for reforms. And I think many independents are sympathetic to these reformers.

                  1. skippy

                    There is a left, it just does not exist in apple pie [gawds] country.

                    skippy… heretics are hunted relentlessly and burned at the alter by quasi religious demagogues…. eh…

              2. Banger

                And your alternative is….what exactly. Hope for the people to rise in revolution? How is that going to happen?

                1. Jackrabbit

                  Your “rise in revolution” strawman requires no response.

                  You essentially assert that There Is No Alternative (TINA) to the economic/political oligarchical ‘system’. The best we can do is show our ‘love’ if a few oligarchs deign to help (making a bundle for themselves as they do so). I suppose your next suggestion will be that if we work harder for less and be extra nice then we’ll get a few MORE oligarchs to ‘friend’ us.

                  More and more people believe the ‘system’ IS the problem. That is why we’ve seen efforts like the Tea Party, Occupy, Wikileaks, and more. You discount their concerns and efforts much too lightly, especially since we only seem to have MORE problems since these groups were formed.

        2. Banger

          No, I never said a palace coup, by itself, is enough–there has to be some cultural movement supporting that coup in society. I honestly believe that, ultimately, there is a connection between popular culture in terms of what ruling elites do even in authoritarian societies. I just don’t see from a strictly pragmatic and mechanical point of view how any political change can come from anywhere other than the finance oligarchs and their minions and/or the big wheels in the national-security/deep state.

          Since I’ve been able to converse with the lower echelons (mainly) of the ruling elites over the years mainly through social contacts (my one of ex-wives seemed to attract those types of people) and occasionally through my work I see them as real human beings and know they are capable of changing, of thinking things out for themselves and not always a slave to their genitals or obsession with their status that is usually a big deal for them. Sometimes they thing about the future of their country and the world and they often are wrestling with their consciousness. I knew a lobbyist once, pretty well, though we fell out eventually (I got tired of his whining) who just couldn’t stand his job but the money was so f-ing good he had to be crazy to quit. I told him to take a year off and write the book he’d always wanted to write (the guy was really, really smart and witty) but he wouldn’t do it and there are a lot of people like that–they are just caught up in the system both in the lower-middle class and right near the top. From what people have told me about Presidents (I never met any but usually ran into people who knew them or dealt with them) they are very much constrained by the system and do agonize over things–they aren’t just a-holes getting off on power–they are conflicted human beings. Sure, there are loads of Machiavellian operators in Washington and elsewhere who do nothing but plot and conspire–they are the fixers and bag-men who always oil the wheels of power but they aren’t in the majority. The majority consists of real human beings who take anti-depressants and have weird sex just to get through the day. If our culture started to value something other than “winning” maybe these people would be encouraged to stand up for something besides “the Great Game.”

          1. Ulysses

            ” If our culture started to value something other than “winning” maybe these people would be encouraged to stand up for something besides “the Great Game.””

            Maybe this is kind of a chicken and egg thing. I am convinced that “our culture” includes far more beautiful and compassionate elements than the shallow, narcissistic nonsense promoted by big corporate media.

            We do not need to fear allowing the present day “losers” in our rigged game of hyper-financialized capitalism to win the opportunity to freely make a new and more decent world. Sure there will be folks (including some of my own relatives) who will lose a great deal with any massive upheaval. But waiting for the kleptocrats to suddenly get nice and do the right thing is not an option.

            Supplicating those now in power to reform themselves is indeed a losing game. Patiently changing “our culture”– to embolden those lorded over by kleptocrats to challenge and overthrow this irredeemably corrupt system– is the work we must accomplish soon!

            1. Banger

              Fine, and that’s my recommendation–the long-game. But in the short term there is no movement at all towards the left–but lots on the right.

          2. Carla

            “I knew a lobbyist once…who just couldn’t stand his job but the money was so f-ing good he had to be crazy to quit. I told him to take a year off and write the book he’d always wanted to write (the guy was really, really smart and witty) but he wouldn’t do it and there are a lot of people like that–they are just caught up in the system both in the lower-middle class and right near the top. ”

            They’re Americans, Banger. What the hell do you want?

  15. John Mc

    Yves, thank you for this analysis and story.

    What do you think about Chris Martenson’s content and website called Peak Prosperity? Do you think this is a valuable place to get information? The Crash Course makes some interesting points, especially around the issue of compound growth (financial, ecological, and resource use). However, I find it a bit like this article – acknowledging a problem, but with vanilla solutions often. Any insights?

    1. John Mc

      Apologies… Wrongly worded, I meant to say l find his work to be like this report for the “luminaries”, not so much late (Martenson), but left wanting more substance on what to do about it…

  16. docg

    I’m not a climate change denier, I see no reason to deny the climate science. And I have no love for the Koch bros., believe me. But I do see bias in your analysis, Yves. You focus on increased summer temperatures and increased air conditioning costs, and it looks as though this is a reflection of what’s in the report, so fine — as far as it goes. But what about higher winter temps? And associated savings in heating costs? Also, less burning of fossil fuels in winter, which would ameliorate the effects of global warming, no?

    We can live without air conditioning — we certain didn’t have it when I was a kid. In fact I never had air conditioning at all until just few years ago. But we can’t survive in autumn and winter without heating.

    Also please take a look at this map: http://www.skepticalscience.com/images/Sea-Level-1.gif As should be evident, sea level has been rising steadily since 1870, which tells us it will most likely continue to rise even if we discontinued the use of all fossil fuels. The rise might not be quite as steep, but we will nevertheless be forced to adapt to it sooner or later, regardless.

    The best estimates I’ve seen tell us that even after drastic measures have been taken to curtail the use of fossil fuels, the worst effects of global warming would only be delayed by a few years at best. Meanwhile think of the billions of people in the poorest regions of the world who would bear the brunt of increased heating costs and related increases in the price of food and other necessary supplies.

    There seems something truly narcissistic about all the hand wringing over climate change among liberals. All we can think about, it seems, is protecting OUR grandchildren, with no regard for all the living children now present in the world and the misery they’d suffer if the use of fossil fuels were seriously curtailed. Sure, the 1% are making a bundle on oil and coal –but that should not blind us to the absolute necessity of these commodities. If the unfairness upsets you, then why not advocate for nationalization of these industries?

    You claim that something needs to be done post haste, but exactly what do you have in mind, Yves? As I see it there is no “solution” to the problem that would not make things worse.

    1. Vatch

      I can think of one partial solution to the problem that will not make anything worse, and which will make many things better: population stabilization followed by population reduction. Widespread use of contraceptive family planning will reduce poverty, fuel use, pollution, and the stresses caused by high human density. It’s far from a complete solution to global warming, but it’s an essential component of any effective plan.

      1. docg

        I completely agree. The current population explosion makes the prospect of global warming far worse than it has to be. And, unlike global warming, which looks to be inevitable, there IS something we can do to control population.

        1. washunate

          Agreed, and the irony is that basic economic development – lifting people out of poverty – is a primary indicator of increased usage of family planning. Every industrializing nation, from East Asia to Western Europe, has shown dramatically falling birth rates as basic* levels of growth occur.

          It seems that we humans, across the world, have an instinctual understanding that there are too many of us. Like environmental protection, if you just meet people’s basic needs, the demand for family planning explodes.

          *I emphasize basic, because of course the absurd concentration of wealth and power that fuels much of the GROWTH ZOMG in the Western world is quite hostile to broadly shared prosperity and sustainable human habitation of this little planet of ours.

      2. craazyboy

        There is a severe birth control shortage around the entire world!

        If there was a way to “fix” that (I believe we do have the technology), that would lead to aging populations and then old people could lay around being lazy. This is turn would fix unemployment among young people and balance out this seemingly too productive world economy.

        Big win-win all the way around, I’d say.

      3. Ishmael

        I am not a global warmer denier but I question its source. The world came out of an ice age something like 50,000 years ago. There use to be a land bridge from Asia to the US and it is now underwater. As I mentioned above there were places like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde 1,000 years ago that have been abandoned for several hundred years because of no water. All I can grasp from this is temperatures have been rising for quite a long time.

        However, as I mentioned above, and received some typical liberal comments. Environmental damage increases as population increases. In the US every policy exists to support increasing populations. However, most experts say the long run sustainable population of the US is something like 50% of the current population.

        The first and easiest step is to eliminate all illegal and legal immigration. Besides curtailing the pressure here it would put pressure on the places they came from to reduce their population increases. As long as the US serves as the blowout valve for over population of other countries, the quickest and easiest way to reduce environmental damage will not happen.

        1. James Levy

          Nice try, but that’s the strategy as the 1% (raise the drawbridge and fuck the losers), and since I decry their selfishness and greediness I can’t then turn around and apply it to someone else. Call it a commitment to justice as fairness, or the fact that I spent many years as Quaker before I lost faith that God existed, or just plain human decency, but I can’t say “the 1% deliberately siphoning up all the resources is unjust” then say, “throw the darkies back where the came from–they’ll probably die but who gives a shit, I gots mine.”

        2. HotFlash

          Totally agree w/ Ishmael here. The First Nations peoples should just kick us all back to where we came from.

    2. John Yard

      I once was chairman of a local environmental group, and I remember well the speaker at one of the meetings who advocated a great expansion of rail transit as opposed to the automobile. Mingling with people during the intermission, much of the conversation was about planned outings , all of which involved use of their automobiles, none of which would be feasible by rail.
      It is clear that cuts to the standard of living will be imposed on the masses of the population – the working class and middle class – while the elites will still retain their SUVs and McMansions , all in the name of a permanent , incoherent state of emergency.
      After all, the biggest benefit of class distinction is not in absolute wealth , but in the ability to do things others cannot. Just think how great it will feel to get on that airplane to travel to some distant land – ecotourism – when many will be unable to travel to the beach on the weekend !
      I think the Hank Paulson article should be read in this light : a tremendous heightening of class distinctions and entitlements.

      1. Banger

        Frankly, who cares. I flat out enjoy public transportation–I like being around people, striking up conversations, or just watching people rather than riding around in my own private metal box. I like the fact I don’t have to concentrate on the road. I don’t get the joy it seems to provide for so many people. We have the technological capacity to rent stuff rather than bring it we don’t need that much stuff–it’s much cooler to have less than more. Let the rich assholes swim in mountains of junk–I’ve been around mountains of junk–it gets really old.

      2. washunate

        I agree about class distinctions, but I don’t follow what that has to do with rail?

        “none of which would be feasible by rail”

        That’s kinda the point. Our rail system has been largely dismantled. If we rebuilt it, there would be a significant decrease in driving, particularly among commuters, holiday travel, young people, and the elderly. There is widespread hatred of automobiles in our society that is superficially masked by the utter lack of alternatives. That’s not a decrease in our standard of living. The decrease is happening right now, as millions of people are forced against their will to commute in horrible traffic and wait in security lines at airports.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Rail is very nice. I would like some relief from the unreasonable price for riding the train. I don’t believe that the price even remotely reflects the actual, TRUE, costs. I remember a neighbor I met at a place I lived in Florida who used to work for a railroad company. He hinted that the price for passenger service on AMTRAK and I infer other rail systems was a way to move money to the RailRoad Companies that owned the rails and rightaway, rightaway granted to them by our government in years past.

          Locally, if we just got serious about making a place for bikes I would ride many more places. Right now, in my area, which is very much better situated for bikes than most/any I know of in my state, I would feel that I were taking my life in my hands to ride a bicyble. Even walking can be problematic sidewalks come and then mysteriously go.

    3. Banger

      Before you comment learn something about systems in nature and how they operate–guess what–they’re not linear! When you deal with systems you look for the ranges that homeostasis can occur. It’s like the human body–you can live with 105 F but not 107. The same two degrees between say, 97 and 99 really no big deal–see the difference? Is that so hard to understand? The issue in climate-change is not only the rise in temperature but the possibility for positive feedback loops of various kinds. Climate has been changing very rapidly in recent years and the science of it has become very good compared to what it was in the late 80s when the alarm bells were sounded by some. Why play Russian Roulette in a system that even if there were not climate change is ugly, noxious and creates a culture of narcissism. Let’s have fun partying–much better than driving around in cars and buying a bunch of crap at Walmart–I see no net benefit and few actual benefits to carbon-based energy systems.

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      You clearly have never spend any time in the South. “Live without air conditioning”? The daily high is Dallas is over 100 degrees for weeks at a time in the summer. In Birmingham, the temperature and humidity are over 90 degrees for most of the summer. They had slaves and debtcroppers who were the functional equivalent of slaves doing outdoor work before the days of air conditioning, and prevailing temperatures were lower then.

  17. shinola

    Nobody wants to confront the basic underlying problem. (I know I don’t): Human overpopulation.
    Will we restrict pop. growth? I doubt it.
    Are we even contemplating deliberately depopulating coastal areas? I don’t think so.
    Will we bitch & moan and fiddle around the margins until climate changes force depopulation through water wars & famine? Most likely.
    Human nature being what it is…

    1. Banger

      I don’t like this notion that the main problem is overpopulation. The problem is Americans being utter pigs who believe the highest value of life is the luxury of consuming mass-quantities of utterly absurd junk just because they are too stupid to see they are being controlled by the mind-control regime we call popular-culture which tells us that self-indulgence is virtue.

      1. Vatch

        I don’t like the notion either, but I accept it. Human overpopulation is the world’s number one problem. It is a significant partial cause of global warming, poverty, war, deforestation, species extinction. As a cause of so many serious problems, it is the world’s biggest cause of our planet’s ills.

        Sure, many Americans are pigs, as are prosperous people everywhere. But the big picture is the total consumption of resources and consequent pollution, not the individual consumption by specific people. The Earth’s biosphere doesn’t care whether 10 people produce 1 unit of pollution or whether 1 person produces 10 units of pollution. What we need is fewer people, and less consumption by the high consumers.

        1. Banger

          Ok, are you going to choose who is to live and who to die? I think your argument is weak. We can live much lighter on the planet and not require mass deaths to do so. It is conceivable using the full range of modern technology to radically lower carbon emissions to at least a tenth in the U.S., not right away but in 20 years for sure. If you encourage birth control, women’s education (considered the best way to limit births) I’m ok with that but the logic of your argument implies genocide.

          I think the major problem we face is a lack of concern for the commons, i.e., morality. Even climate-change takes a back seat to that.

          1. Vatch

            I already answered your straw man argument elsewhere in another comment to this article, but I can repeat myself.

            Nobody here is demanding that anyone be “wiped out” or killed. What is needed is the acceptance of the idea that families must be smaller, and the practical follow up. One child per family is enough, and any more than two is morally wrong.”

            There is nothing about my position on overpopulation that demands genocide. Why would you even say such a thing? My position is life affirming — I want to improve the quality of people’s lives — nobody needs to die from anything other than natural causes. But if the Earth’s population increases or stays where it is, deaths from disease, malnutrition, and violence will increase.

            Here’s a link that I posted a few months ago, but it’s worth looking at the graphics again. You’ll have to scroll down a bit, I’m afraid. If everyone on Earth lived like the average person in China, we’d need 1.1 Earths to sustain ourselves. If everyone on Earth lived like the average person in Costa Rica, 1.4 Earths would be needed. Like France? 2.5 Earths!

            The Big Squeeze

          1. Vatch

            I agree. This is very important and effective. It’s also being vigorously and violently opposed by groups such as Boko Haram and the Taliban.

      2. washunate

        It is interesting how the percentage of the population you describe is so small. The vast majority of Americans have no meaningful luxury and mass consumption of junk. They spend basically everything they make on housing, food, clothing, transportation, education, etc. They would like to work less, not consume more. From tree huggers to creationists, there is actually great disdain for popular culture and crass materialism and self-indulgence. One of my favorite news tidbits making the rounds last year was how a lot of people are no longer even bothering to get driver licenses.

  18. Jackrabbit

    Yves, I’m surprised at your confusion regarding this report.

    It seems clear to me that they hope to push for cap & trade and other commercially beneficial policies. As you have previously pointed out, cap & trade is a half-measure that is just not as effective a remedy. It probably represents the ‘best case’ for energy companies and heads off stronger action.

    H O P

    1. susan the other

      Actually, I read Hank Paulson’s article in the NYT. In it he advocated explicitly not cap n trade, but a CO2 tax. He may have hedged some plan to cap emissions when possible and trade when not – but he advocated a straight CO2 tax. So we can assume at least one thing: there is already a plan in place for a loophole for the 1%. So many details; so little time.

  19. mf

    financial industry decided to embark on “Hail Mary” attempt to Enronize US economy. Just look at the cast of characters.

  20. Ed

    In response to some of the comments, the climate change issue is really an overpopulation/ overshoot issue. Increased use of fossil fuels in agricultural production and shipment underwrote the increase in the planet’s population from 2 billion people when World War II ended to 7 billion today. The additional population increased polution -even the use of fire for cooking!- and depleted resources. The post World War 2 American lifestyle happens to be particularly energy intensive, but the damage caused by the US was more in encouraging the green revolution and the growth of international trade.

    Once a population of any species gets to the point where its consumption of the resources needed to stay alive depletes those resources, the resulting crash takes the population below the point where it started to expand, since its environment has been degraded to the point where it can’t even support the population at its original size.

    1. Vatch

      Good comment. For a chilling example of overshoot, the fate of the reindeer on St. Matthew Island is quite sobering:


      In 1944, 29 reindeer were introduced to the island by the United States Coast Guard to provide an emergency food source. The coast guard abandoned the island a few years later, leaving the reindeer. Subsequently, the reindeer population rose to about 6,000 by 1963 and then died off in the next two years to 42 animals. A scientific study attributed the population crash to the limited food supply in interaction with climatic factors (the winter of 1963–64 was exceptionally severe in the region). By the 1980s, the reindeer population had completely died out. Environmentalists see this as an issue of overpopulation. For example, Garrett Hardin cited the “natural experiment” of St. Matthew Island of the reindeer population explosion and collapse as a paradigmatic example of the consequences of overpopulation in his essay An Ecolate View of the Human Predicament.

    2. Banger

      There are other methods of efficient food production other than fossil fuels just as there are other methods of energy production that we are now in a position to expand dramatically but the power of vested interests not only keeps it from happening but will not transmit the information.

    3. Mark P.

      ‘Once a population of any species gets to the point where its consumption of the resources needed to stay alive depletes those resources, the resulting crash takes the population below the point where it started to expand.’

      Homo Sap is _not_ any species. I’m not making a technocopian argument; nor opposing one. We may or may not make it through the coming bottleneck. I’m simply noting that the human species is quite singular.

      Specifically, the very kind of resource-depletion crisis that you describe, starting12,000 years ago, prompted the Neolithic Revolution, and the move from hunter-gatherer cultures to permanent agricultural-centered habitations and city-based civilization. Human beings didn’t make that move because agricultural drudgery then was a better life than being a hunter-gatherer — to the contrary. The species did it to survive.

      More generally, there’s simply no other species on the planet that’s used primitive technology for millions of years, and had its brains and bodies completely formed by that technology-use: our proto-ancestors were one of 250-odd lemur-like species and possessed less than an eighth the size that we do till they picked up stones as tools to carve meat (from the carcasses of larger animals killed by larger predators).

      We’ve even routinely worn technology — clothes are a technology — continually for hundreds of thousands of years. Even John Zerzan — anti-civilization and anti-technology activist — wears clothes and glasses, and has an internet site, God bless him —

  21. myshkin

    The planet is apparently in the midst of a mass extinction and human activity is deeply implicated on several different fronts, habitat destrcution, GW/CO2 emissions, ocean acidification and a report in the Guardian today that references an independent study on insecticide over-use that threatens the organisms responsible for pollination, etc. and ultimately global food supplies.

    The corporations involved in the agrindustry pesticide business are funding studies through a variety of institutions that contradict this claim much the way fossil fuel industry denies anthropogenic climate change. There is an enormous load or drag, correlated with human activities, stressing the planets ecosystem. It is perpetuated by the wealth accumulating corporate systems that benefit inordinately from the current arrangement at the expense of the commons and the general populous. Obviously they have assumed control of mass perception and opinion formulation on a variety of issues of critical importance through control of the media.

    NC commentariat and others point to human over population, limits to which are part of another ongoing debate, Ehrlich and his detractors encompass the roughly defined sides. One suspects that some substantial part of the one tenth of one percent, the pharaonic, cynical elite, have actually accepted the likelihood of imminent planetary-wide-failure and liking their positioning, have fortified themselves against the expected apocalypse, which they privately view as necessary and a beneficial cleansing of superfluous human population. Their gamble apparently is that they can weather the storm and emerge still on top on the other side of the apocalypse.


    Today’s Guardian also has an interesting and possibly related article on the uber militarization of the local constabulatory in the US and presumably elsewhere.

    1. Banger

      I think you are right, more or less. The one argument I hate as being the most counter-revolutionary of them all is “overpopulation” which invites the next step is–why don’t we just wipe a few billion poor folks off the planet–the ultimate argument of Mr. E. Scrooge. It’s not that we “need” all those people its that we need to take care of them–we are connected and responsible for each other–this isn’t a video game. If we did get rid of those people what then? Why, then should anyone except me and people that amuse me be allowed to live? In the end if we adopt that culling the population (other than sensible ideas like women’s education and birth control and the spread of gay sex) idea it we who are harmed–the dead people will just go off into the ethers and will be fine (I believe in the afterlife).

      1. Vatch

        Nobody here is demanding that anyone be “wiped out” or killed. What is needed is the acceptance of the idea that families must be smaller, and the practical follow up. One child per family is enough, and any more than two is morally wrong.

        1. Banger

          I know nobody here is saying that–but it is inherent in the argument. Even with birth control, you have a situation where an authoritarian regime will force people to have one child. When you make those kinds of statements it implies a certain political order and set of pretty draconian rules. I say that is counter-productive. Better is spreading compassion and the wisdom of lowering carbon use–the culprit is not people having babies but oligarchs with a stranglehold on society by deliberately holding back technological advances.

          1. myshkin

            In Japan, Italy, France and I think some of the Scandinavian countries, even the US if we look at those parts of the population that are educated and middle class or upwardly mobile, reproduction replacement rates are in negative territory, populations are indeed declining.

            That is one way of reasonably trending to negative population growth on the planet; spread the wealth more equitably and make education readily available to women. Another way, what I suspect a significant percentage of the one percent or the pharaonic class are expecting, (the people whose pyramids we work on), is apocalyptic global collapse. I doubt anyone welcomes it Banger, (maybe the Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s) but some of these people are clear on the science; after all, some of them are very bright people, their minds not clouded by the propaganda unleashed on the population at large.

            With great resources i.e, the few with wealth equivalent to what the bottom 40% can marshal and likely in control of compliant and grateful military/police force. These people understand that inexorably, the planet is likely rapidly approaching crisis, mass extinction is underway, humans will suffer terribly.

            They must be making plans, plans that don’t include the bottom 70% or so. They likely deeply regret that human population control has to happen this way but that won’t stop these clear eyed realists from funding their favorite think tanks, off shoring wealth, fortifying their islands where they will ride out the havoc we have all wrought; from making certain arrangements.

          2. Vatch

            Authoritarian regimes are more likely to demand large families, so that they can have a large pool of low paid workers and cannon fodder for their armies. Examples are Romania under Ceausescu and contemporary Iran. Some authoritarian governments that do understand the dangers of overpopulations, such as China, focus on birth rather than “genocide”.

            As far as I can tell, the facts contradict your concern about family planning morphing into genocide. Do you have any evidence to support your concern?

            1. Vatch

              As a follow up, I have a question. Is there anything wrong with forcing people to have only one child on a dangerously overpopulated planet? I don’t advocate that — I prefer education and the possible use of taxation, as recommended by the commenter Different Clue. But limitations on family size are far superior to the inevitable collapse that we face from continuing population growth and finite resources.

            2. Vatch

              The poster child for authoritarianism is North Korea:


              The North Korean government seems to perceive its population as too small in relation to that of South Korea. In its public pronouncements, P’yongyang has called for accelerated population growth and encouraged large families. According to one Korean American scholar who visited North Korea in the early 1980s, the country has no birth control policies; parents are encouraged to have as many as six children.

              The article goes on to say that contraceptive information is freely available to North Koreans. But that doesn’t mean that the government encourages contraception.

  22. susan the other

    One thing I thought was a blatant omission in all this global warming-stable environment talk was Fukushima Daiichi. And the WIPP. And Hanford. And Denver. And South Carolina. And many others both domestic and military (secret ones). What good are measures taken to provide new technology to desalinate San Diego’s culinary water supply when that water supply is full of Americium, and other hidden sub-atomic dangers? Maybe more than a Green Clock, we should promote a new Institution: Polluters Anonymous.

  23. different clue

    The only leadership the US could impose which would make a difference to the carbon skydumping behavior of enemy economies would be to abolish Free Trade and to restore millitant belligerent Protectionism. Then we could forbid economic contact between ourselves and any national economy which skydumps more carbon per unit of economic activity (however measured) than we do.
    And OF COURSE we would then be vulnerable to the same economic exclusion by countries which skydump less carbon per unit of economic activity (however measured) than we do. Turnabout is fair play, after all. Instead of the current race to the Venusian Hell-Planet carbon skydumping bottom which we now have, we could all be engaged in a forced march to the carbon sky-sparing top. Would an American rejection of the Free Trade regime be enough to force this march to the top? Or would the peoples of the world have to exterminate Free Trade everywhere on Earth in order to force every nation into the forced march to the top?

  24. different clue

    (Hmmm . . . I must have a programming problem. Here at work the computers forbid proper comment nesting.
    At the Public Library the computers permit proper nesting).
    For incenting childbearing reduction, a big tax credit for childless people, a small tax credit for one-child people, zero tax-anything for two-child people , rising tax penalties for over two children.

  25. different clue

    To Jackrabbit above, I continue to suspect that at least some of the Overclass continue to embrace global warming as a way to foster conditions for the seemingly accidental death of several billion non-rich people, along with various shortages, carefully fostered and incubated evolution of antibiiotic-proof superbugs especially including drug immune malaria and tuberculosis, food shortages, etc.
    Putting out such a report now might be sincere on the part of some of these rich people, and might be diversionary chameleon cover on the part of others among these rich people.

        1. jrs

          Yea but would assume the elite are total boneheads, if they think climate change is something they can turn on and off (after the plebs die) rather than the feedforward mechinism it is (towrd human extinction).

          1. HotFlash

            I have not seen any evidence that they are not boneheads, or at any rate, that they are not Exceptional, which amounts to the same thing.

          2. hunkerdown

            Whether they are or not, they can buy advisors. How they succeed in achieving their planned outcomes doesn’t change that the ability to achieve such is the definition of social power.

  26. different clue

    (Non-nested comment) . . .

    I recently skimmed James Hansen’s Storms Of My Grandchildren. Partway through it he noted the development of some kind of safer approach to nuclear power at Argonne National Lab and elsewhere. Something about less-moderated faster-moving neutrons which could fissionize more of the atoms in the fuel chunks and allow for their fissing down to stable isotopes and exploitable heat with very little radwaste. he claimed that all the papers and results were belligerently suppressed and the program destroyed as much as possible.
    Hannsen takes Global Warming very seriously. He suggests we re-look at these Fast Reactor methods. Could he be right? Could a fleet of small modular identical Federal Government reactors run up to Admiral Rickover safety standards be a good thing? Dare we give the matter thought?

  27. impermanence

    When you bring so much future consumption forward [debt], it kind of makes sense that you would throw things out of balance [ecologically], but who knows to what degree.

    You want to fix the problem?…restore balance to all systems.

    1. Banger

      Or even decide that achieving some kind of balance and sustainability should be a common goal. That idea is just not accepted yet by the general population and very slow to be accepted among the power-elite.

  28. different clue

    And since Chindia ( especially the India part of Chindia) are more exposed to the tropics than we are, their cynical demand for a hundred free years of carbon skydumping to come will affect them worst of all. They won’t laugh last. They will cry last.

  29. different clue

    There is something newly broken about our programs here at work. My comments don’t nest anymore. And I am not a computer expert so I won’t try fixing anything. Oh well . . .

    So many comments here deserve quality reply that it is regrettable this thread will die before it matures. I stopped reading James Klunster over a year ago. He kept saying the same thing in “different” ways. It was clear that he was a “one schtick phony”. Blogger Elaine Supkis who lives in Eastern Upper State New York near where James Klunster lives wrote a review of his novel World Made By Hand. Its a pretty sympathetic review but she does note his anti-womanitic bigotry.
    Jackrabbit, yes I am that cynical. I believe large parts of the Overclass foster global warming anti-action on purpose in hopes they will survive the heatup meant to kill the rest of us. Google Georgia Guidestones for some insight into how the Overclasses think.
    I am actually less cynical about Banger than you are. You make a good case, especially in light of his contributions to this particular thread, but I see a possibly different explanation. I am 57 years old, too young to have taken the Hippie Trip but just old enough to have heard about it. Someone brought a copy of Revolution for the Hell Of It and maybe Steal This Book! into our junior high school class, for instance. A lot of the Early Hippies were children of upper middleclass very-establishment high-servant/operative type people . . . the people who kept putting oil in the Gears of the Machine. These Early Hippies got very upset and then decided their vision of rejection was due to cultural and moral superiority to the non-hippie non-classy masses. Your choice of drugs showed where you stood on War and Peace, for example. Drunken Smokers supported the Vietnam War. Tripping Tokers opposed it, and marijuana and hallucinogens-for-some were behavioral display-badges of that opposition. Banger is still a despise-the-masses snob and a Militant Missionary for his discoveries in Religionistic Enlightenmentism/Budhism/etc. That’s why he keeps saying “change the culture first”. Maybe he’s right. He should certainly try to gather recruits in a “change the culture first” movement. Others should gather recruits on behalf of whatever applied theory of change they think will work best. All these different applied-theory groups can compare notes to see how well what is working. People do best ( or at least hardest) that which they believe in the most.

    I believe we have a Crisis Crisis myself. Too many Crises to keep up. Each Crisis making other Crises worse. A Crisis for every taste in Crises. So everyone should feel free to pick their favorite Crisises and work on it/them in their own way with whatever recruits they can gather.

    1. Banger

      My position is simple–my POV is informed by realpolitik. There is no effective movement on the left so I have (duh!) figured out that if change is going to happen it must start with cultural change. The left depends on the notion that we live in community and social-morality matters–that is not generally accepted in society which is why the left can never get any traction for real reform. Now, it’s kind of too late, the political institutions are locked up. Demonizing the ruling-elites is childish in my view and because I don’t do it I am a snob. I don’t get it? The fact is I don’t like those people, I don’t like most of the elite very much, they’re boring and closed off. JR and others want to see life as black and white–I just don’t see life that way, I’ve encountered too many people who are varying shades of gray who are on the right, who are poor, who are young, who are old, who are ex-cons, who are DC political operatives most of them mean well but have to swim in a sea of ambiguity and moral nihilism. I want to cure the moral nihilism.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Banger says that he is a realist that is responding practically to the ‘failure’ of the ‘left’. I don’t doubt this and there is much to admire about his willingness to say state this clearly, as well as his dedication, his knowledge, and his skill in arguing for his point of view. Banger’s prescription is fairly simple, and on first blush seems to make good sense:

        1) accept the ‘New World Order’ that is imposed upon you – the Constitution and democracy are dead issues;

        2) attempt to influence elite/oligarchs via “love” for those elite/oligarchs that address issues you care about;

        3) focus on your spiritual development which MAY lead (at some indeterminate time in the future) to “real change” via a re-oriented culture.

        However, after some thought it becomes clear that what Banger really advocates is defeatism and withdrawl. Go gentle into that night., he coos. Furthermore, Banger’s reasoning relies on questionable devices such as:

        > blame the victim (ordinary people) via degenerate agency (things are the way people want them to be);

        > muddy the waters: humanize/sympathize with the elite; portray criticism as unfair/unjust/etc.; play up instances where the system is working or might work on behalf of the ‘little guy’;

        > pretend solidarity: he hates the elite too! BUT …;

        > desparage the left: Banger’s frequent assertion that “the left has failed” is misleading as it conflates the failings of a part (the compromised, ‘institutional left’) as a failure of the whole (i.e. every part). While it is true that he institutional left is compromised and the progressive left does not currently have much political power (mostly due to heavy neolib indoctrination and can-kicking), the capability of progressives to organize against injustice is a threat to the neolibcon/libertarian vision.

        > There Is No Alternative (TINA). This is conveyed in many ways but here is an egregious example (from above):

        “The left depends on the notion that we live in community and social-morality matters–that is not generally accepted in society which is why the left can never get any traction for real reform.”

        I don’t know Banger. He seems like a smart guy with wide ranging interests. A guy that many of us wouldn’t mind sharing a few beers with. It could be that I am misreading him but I think I have read enough of what he has written to get a strong sense of what his message is. What has led him to the understanding that he has and to be so dedicated to spreading this message at NC is unknown to me. But the degree to which TPTB attempt to shape public opinion makes me wary. And my very next thought is this: THE ELITE FEAR YOU, dear NC readers. They fear:

        – your intelligence

        – your humanity and moral compass

        – your influence via social networks other communications

        Banger is right that we need a cultural change. But he consistently ignores that, to a significant extent, our cultural ills originate from neolibcon promises of prosperity (and associated propaganda) that are illusory. The ‘con’ of ‘free markets’ and exceptionalism only works as long as neolibcons deliver on their promises. Our culture WILL change as people increasingly come to see, and are adversely affected by, the result: a bankrupt, disenfranchised nation with a financialized economy and militarized police led by crony capitalists and warmongers.

        Libertarians seek to replace the neolibcons centralized oligarchy, which Hedges terms “inverted totalitarianism”, with a decentralized oligarchy (neo-feudalism). They see this as a logical and necessary reaction to the neolibcon’s natural and all-too-easy subversion of the liberal tradition. Increasing the power of oligarchs may be a way to accelerate this transition. But do we really have to betray the western humanist principles to break free of the neolibcon grip? Cui bono?

        Even if you can’t muster the moral fortitude and humanity to resist a dystopic future, at least don’t fool yourself into believing that you and yours are so special or so cozy with the elite/oligarchs that you will avoid the deleterious effects of such a system. Besides the poverty and internecine conflict addressing global issues like climate change becomes nearly impossible.

        H O P

        1. Jackrabbit

          PS I recommend that you view the discussion between me and Banger starting with Banger’s comment here.

          Also, I don’t see this as Banger and Jackrabbit butting heads. We are not the only ones that hold our respective views. Even if I disagree with some of Bangers methods, he has been candid in describing his views when asked, and I think the discussion has been civil and productive. The question of how best to remake a society that has been abused and plundered by neolibcons is vital but unanswered. It is likely that no one can accurately foresee how it will shake out.

  30. Jeremy Grimm

    I recall from a class I attended or a book I read long ago, that one of the reasons the ancients stived toward wealth was to enable them to be a resource for their people in times of need. I hope the paper referenced in this post may indicate some burgeoning sense of responsibility in this direction. Similarly, those gifted or talented in some way, owe use of that boon to benefit those less gifted or less talented. I am torn between despair at the evident selfishness of the wealthy and the gifted (intellectuals?) and my hope the ancient ways may again find their value and be so valued.

    Climate change, more than any other concern, weighs upon me. I worry for my children, and though reason suggests otherwise, I worry for my children’s children. I notice several threads of concern for overpopulation. A closer look at the problems that climate change brings should alleviate those concerns. People must eat, and of greater urgency, people must have fresh water to drink. If nothing is done, overpopulation will not be a problem worthy of concern.

    Changing directions, I was disturbed by the all too personal complaints about Banger. I respect and value his opinions as much as I do those of his accuser. But please make argment, not indictment. I treasure this blog and the value it gives to many opinions, whether I agree with them or not. When I disagree, I try my best to argue counter.

    I believe that the impact of climate change will be wrenching. I found Yves posts about Adam Smith hopeful in the sense that there did indeed seem to be a way of life without Capitalism, before. I also believe that what we know now, and what we can learn or discover based on what we know, could form the basis for a life far more satisfying and fitting to human kind, and more real. Life without ‘Progress’ isn’t a life without progress if we measure progress in purely human terms. There was a good life without industrialization. There could be a better life without industrialization and ‘Progress’ which progresses the spirit and reach of human kind and grows our knowledge and wisdom.

  31. Bobbo

    I am surprised that there has been so much argument in this thread. It should be obvious that the world is overpopulated. It should also be obvious that there will never be a well-organized, well-thought out, top-down equitable solution. Not only is it against human nature, but it ignores the reality of our dysfunctional political and educational systems. Progressives hoping for enlightened solutions from enlightened politicians need to wake up and see the world for what it is.

    I was surprised to see the criticisms of Kunstler. Kunstler assumes the role of a prophet. Maybe he’s wrong about the future, maybe he’s right. But as I read him, he is just predicting what will happen, and not necessarily what should happen. Rather than ask the question “Is he sexist?” I think we should be asking “Is this the direction things will move, or not? And why?”

    Obviously Kunstler is in the camp that has given up on the politicians and who believes that the only way to prepare for what’s coming is to build strong communities at the local level. Can anyone here disagree with that? I think that message harmonizes well with what Ilargi and Hedges have been saying.

  32. GraffitiGrammarian

    I have not read all the comments yet, so forgive me if this point has already been made.

    I work on the periphery of the institutional investing. Don’t want to say which sector.

    I have conducted my own private survey of how concerned investors are about climate change, taking care to include investors who hold either debt or equity positions on assets directly affected by climate disruptions, like commercial real estate in coastal markets.

    And guess what? They don’t factor in climate change into their risk assessments AT AL. They nearly all have short-term horizons, and climate change is seen as a long-term risk.

    So even though we enlightened folks on this blog have been worried about CC since the Al Gore movie came out (if not before), most active investors simply don’t think about it, not in terms of their daily work lives.

    So this report is aimed at making them think about it — that’s my take. Or maybe better to say this report gives them permission to think about it, because respected business leaders are telling them to start paying attn.

    However, that said, I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference until NextGen and Rhodium and the other guys who put this report together can come out and say, hey investor dudes, your SHORT-TERM horizon is getting rocked by climate change, it’s not just for long-term guys anymore.

    Only then will guys who hold a position for only 5 or ten years — ie most of the market — start to take notice.

  33. Tom Denman

    Yves wrote: “They have changed their minds, but they haven’t changed their hearts.”

    It’s also kind of rich that two of the principle architects of the 2008 financial meltdown, Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, now readily present themselves as authorities on any area of public policy.

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