Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America

Posted on  

"Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America"

Time magazine removes its Pakistan story — titled “Through Hell And High Water” (!) — from the cover of its U.S. edition

Time cover Pakistan

The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions that the country is central to American security.  Now, with new evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American television and out of popular consciousness….

The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned. Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories — of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land.  That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit.  (The print press was better at covering the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.)

The great Pakistani deluge did not exist, it seems, because it was not on television, would not have delivered audiences to products, and was not all about us.  As we saw on September 11, 2001, and again in March 2003, however, the failure of our electronic media to inform the public about centrally important global developments is itself a security threat to the republic.

That is U. Michigan history professor Juan Cole in a piece for TomDispatch.com, “The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened:  Don’t Tune In, It’s Not Important.”

Certainly, the print press did a little better on both great Pakistani deluge and, to a lesser extent, the climate connection:

But even the big new Time magazine cover story for their European, Asian, and South Pacific editions, Through Hell And High Water, doesn’t make the cut for the U.S. edition’s cover (as the screen capture above shows).  In fact, can someone tell me if it made the print edition at all, since I can’t find the story in the table of contents?

Equally significant, the Time story itself never mentions the link to climate change or global warming at all, even though it is pretty basic physics:

  • Exclusive interview “” NCAR’s Trenberth on the link between global warming and extreme deluges: “I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

See also USGS report: Asian glacier retreat, driven by climate change, “increases the likelihood of outburst floods that threaten life and property in nearby areas.”

And yes, there is a small irony that my 2006 book on likely climate impacts is titled Hell and High Water.

Here are some more excerpts from the all-too-accurate Cole piece:

No one yet knows just what kind of long-term instability the Pakistani floods are likely to create, but count on one thing: the implications for the United States are likely to be significant and by the time anyone here pays much attention, it will already be too late.  Few Americans were shown — by the media conglomerates of their choice — the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing.  The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated.

The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned.  Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories — of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land.  That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit.  (The print press was better at covering the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.)

In his speech on the withdrawal of designated combat units from Iraq last week, Barack Obama put Pakistan front and center in American security doctrine, “But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”  Even if Pakistan were not a major non-NATO ally of the United States, it is the world’s sixth most populous country and the 44th largest economy, according to the World Bank.  The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country’s modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid.  If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right.

News junkies who watch a lot of television broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks.  I did a LexisNexis search for the terms “Pakistan” and “flood” in broadcast transcripts (covering mostly American networks) from July 31st to September 4th, and it returned only about 1,100 hits.  A search for the name of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan returned 653 search results in the same period and one for “Iraq,” more than 3,000 hits (the most the search engine will count).  A search for “mosque” and “New York” yielded 1,300 hits.  Put another way, the American media, whipped into an artificial frenzy by anti-Muslim bigots like New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and GOP hatemonger Newt Gingrich, were far more interested in the possible construction of a Muslim-owned interfaith community center two long blocks from the old World Trade Center site than in the sight of millions of hapless Pakistani flood victims.Of course, some television correspondents did good work trying to cover the calamity, including CNN’s Reza Sayah and Sanjay Gupta, but they generally got limited air time and poor time slots. (Gupta’s special report on the Pakistan floods aired the evening of September 5th, the Sunday before Labor Day, not exactly a time when most viewers might be expected to watch hard news.)  As for the global warming angle, it was not completely ignored.  On August 13th, reporter Dan Harris interviewed NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show at 7:45 am.  The subject was whether global warming could be the likely cause for the Pakistan floods and other extreme weather events of the summer, with Schmidt pointing out that such weather-driven cataclysms are going to become more common later in the twenty-first century.   Becky Anderson at CNN did a similar segment at 4 pm on August 16th.  My own search of news transcripts suggests that that was about it for commercial television.

The “Worst Disaster” TV Didn’t Cover

… By August 9th, nearly 14 million people had been affected by the deluge, the likes of which had never been experienced in the region in modern history, and at least 20% of the country was under water.  At that point, in terms of its human impact, the catastrophe had already outstripped both the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  On August 10th, the United Nations announced that six million Pakistanis needed immediate humanitarian aid just to stay alive.

On August 14th, another half-million people were evacuated from the Sindhi city of Jacobabad.  By now, conspiracy theories were swirling inside Pakistan about landlords who had deliberately cut levees to force the waters away from their estates and into peasant villages, or about the possibility that the U.S. military had diverted the waters from its base at Jacobabad.  It was announced that 18 million Pakistanis had now been adversely affected by the floods, having been displaced, cut off from help by the waters, or having lost crops, farms, and other property.  The next day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, surveying the damage, pronounced it was “the worst disaster” he had ever seen.

The following week a second crest of river water hit Sindh Province.  On August 30th, it submerged the city of Sujawal (population 250,000).  The next day, however, there were a mere 16 mentions of Pakistan on all American television news broadcasts, mostly on CNN.  On Labor Day weekend, another major dam began to fail in Sindh and, by September 6th, several hundred thousand more people had to flee from Dadu district, with all but four districts in that rich agricultural province having seen at least some flooding.

Today, almost six million Pakistanis are still homeless, and many have not so much as received tents for shelter.  In large swaths of the country, roads, bridges, crops, power plants — everything that matters to the economy — were inundated and damaged or simply swept away.  Even if the money proves to be available for repairs (and that remains an open question), it will take years to rebuild what was lost and, for many among those millions, the future will mean nothing but immiseration, illness, and death.

Why the Floods Weren’t News

In the United States, the contrast with the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the Haitian earthquake in January and the consequent outpouring of public donations was palpable.  Not only has the United Nations’ plea for $460 million in aid to cover the first three months of flood response still not been met, but in the past week donations seem to have dried up.  The U.S. government pledged $200 million (some diverted from an already planned aid program for Pakistan) and provided helicopter gunships to rescue cut-off refugees or ferry aid to them.

What of American civil society?  No rock concerts were organized to help Pakistani children sleeping on highways or in open fields infested with vermin.  No sports events offered receipts to aid victims at risk from cholera and other diseases.  It was as if the great Pakistani deluge were happening in another dimension, beyond the ken of Americans.

A number of explanations have been offered for the lack of empathy, or even interest, not to speak of a visible American unwillingness to help millions of Pakistanis.  As a start, there were perfectly reasonable fears, even among Pakistani-Americans, that such aid money might simply be pocketed by corrupt government officials.  But was the Haitian government really so much more transparent and less corrupt than the Pakistani one?

It has also been suggested that Americans suffer from donor fatigue, given the string of world disasters in recent years and the bad domestic economy.  On August 16th, for instance, Glenn Beck fulminated: “We can’t keep spending. We are broke! Game over”¦ no one is going to ride in to save you”¦ You see the scene in Pakistan? People were waiting in line for aids [sic] from floods. And they were complaining, how come the aid is not here?  Look, when America is gone, who’s going to save the people in Pakistan? See, we got to change this one, because we’re the ones that always ride in to save people.”

Still, the submerging of a fifth of a country the size of Pakistan is — or at least should be — a dramatic global event and even small sums, if aggregated, would matter.  (A dollar and a half from each American would have met the U.N. appeal.)  Some have suggested that the Islamophobia visible in the debate about the Park 51 Muslim-owned community center in lower Manhattan left Americans far less willing to donate to Muslim disaster victims.

And what of those national security arguments that nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial not just to the American war in Afghanistan, but to the American way of life?  Ironically, the collapse of the neoconservative narrative about what it takes to make the planet’s “sole superpower” secure appears to have fallen on President Obama’s head.  One of the few themes he adopted wholeheartedly from the Bush administration has been the idea that a poor Asian country of 170 million halfway around the world, facing a challenge from a few thousand rural fundamentalists, is the key to the security of the United States.

If the Pakistani floods reveal one thing, it’s that Americans now look on such explanations through increasingly jaundiced eyes.  At the moment, no matter whether it’s the Afghan War or those millions of desperate peasants and city dwellers in Pakistan, the public has largely decided to ignore the AfPak theater of operations….

Just remember, it’s coming here, folks.  Heck, it’s happened here and been equally ignored by our media:

UPDATE:  If you want to donate to Pakistan, Masters posted this in his piece on “Pakistan’s Katrina“:

  • The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word “SWAT” to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

« »

42 Responses to Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America

  1. Wit'sEnd says:

    A personal confession.

    As a relatively poor person, I don’t have a lot of disposable income. If I did, I would certainly send it towards Haiti, and Pakistan.

    I have this reluctance though, to send my (rare) money towards the victims of climate change, for the simple reason that I expect the victims of climate change to be so soon, and so overwhelming, and even be my own family. I wonder, what is the point in mitigating suffering, when it will likely be by the billions?

    I’m trying to be honest here. I don’t think I or my children will survive, will probably endure short, hungry, and painful demise. But I want to be compassionate towards the people who are already suffering. – we’re not – yet.

    Ach! thank you colorado Bob. you gave me an easy way I hope to contribute.

  2. Deborah Stark says:

    Joe Romm wrote:
    …..But even the big new Time magazine cover story for their European, Asian, and South Pacific editions, Through Hell And High Water, doesn’t make the cut for the U.S. edition’s cover (as the screen capture above shows). In fact, can someone tell me if it made the print edition at all, since I can’t find the story in the table of contents?…..

    ***

    In the Table of Contents (link provided by you) if one scrolls down in the left-hand column underneath the “What’s In This Issue” header for the current U.S. edition of TIME magazine one will find the following:

    WEB EXCLUSIVE
    Pakistan’s Waiting Place (hyperlink)
    While Pakistan grapples with how to pick itself up from its catastrophic flooding, refugees at a camp in the town of Thatta await their fate

    The above-referenced hyperlink leads to a series of photographs of refugees from the town of Thatta but there is no accompanying article that I can see. I will check the print edition tomorrow or as soon as it hits the news stands.

    Thank you very much for posting the extraordinary piece by Juan Cole. Your tireless coverage of the unprecedented situation now well underway (despite increasingly strident and irrational exhortations to the contrary) is GREATLY appreciated.

  3. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I can’t speak for all Americans, but the amount of devastating news is taking its toll on me personally. I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors the people of Pakistan are going through. It just seems like there are so many disasters and so little money…

    I think all the earthquakes, floods, etc. plus the global warming news are making people become nihilistic and feel like there’s no hope. Add to this the bad news from the world economy and one just wants to go have a few beers…

  4. Tim says:

    @2 Deborah:

    Actually, if you go to the picture slide show (Pakistan’s Waiting Place) and click on the Through Hell and High Water link at lower left on the first slide, you will get the article … and no, it wasn’t prominently featured, that’s for sure.

  5. richard pauli says:

    #1 WitsEnd… poignant comment, agreed and thank you.

    It shows how badly Time is missing the story. The story is not whether there is global warming, and the story is beyond any specific disasters. The real story is how will people cope? It is deeply personal, totally important – and any news organization that misses that is just empty electrons and fishwrap.

  6. Omega Centauri says:

    The sad truth is the only thing we care about in Pakistan is the fight against Al Qaeda they can never do enough of that, no matter how much it may risk their own stability. Otherwise Americans simply see it as a place were problems (for us) arise.

    But, we have big time subjects to cover, like the latest white-girl who’s been kidknapped. As a public we love to get these personal stories about attractive people and individual villians. Of course we learn almost nothing about the real world, but we can feel pity for the victims, and outrage over the actions of the villian.

  7. paulm says:

    Anyone seen Invictus recently….chins up.

  8. William P says:

    #1 Wit’s End,

    Pretty good little post, Wit’s End. You seem to understand where global warming is going and that its not just the poor Polar bears and a few glaciers. It will affect you, me, and our families. All of Mankind is in the bull’s eye of global warming.

    For some reason the best of our media like the New York Times and the Washington Post, and even NPR and PBS have only reported on incidents and framed global warming as a “threat.” What they have failed to do is tell the public it can very well be doomsday, maybe for mankind.

    It is interesting they have not reported the ultimate conclusion of global warming. It may be the story too big to tell. These news organizations are plenty well informed. Don’t take their not reporting the whole story as showing they don’t know enough. They know. It is the ultimate story of all time, the biggest story they’ve ever been confronted with and they just don’t know how, or dare not, tell it in its entirety.

    Until something big hits the US (bigger than Katrina – like say 50% of our crops getting wiped out by heat or maybe a huge quantity of ice slipping off Greenland or Antarctica immediately raising world sea levels significantly), the average America won’t “get it”. We are dealing with a very dumbed down and very propagandized public whose news comes through right wing media where global warming is a liberal plot instigated by Al Gore to make him a ton of money.

    Yes, they really believe that. People who read blogs like this – we are really in a tiny minority of the US population. So, it will take a huge impact on America to show these propagandized Americans they have been lied to yet again by Limbaugh, Fox “News”, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Gordon Liddy and the whole, large right wing media.

    Let’s hope the larger public “gets it” soon. But is even soon, too late?

  9. Lewis C says:

    I’m unable to accept the tenor of the critique of US media’s lack of coverage as incompetence, not least because of the vital military storylines justifying intensive coverage and outspoken calls for a massive aid program.

    Consider – Pakistan is not only a nuclear-armed state which, if disaffection allows the militant fundamentalists to win enough recruits to take over, could potentially unleash a new ‘holy’ total warfare, not least with the US client state of Israel. –

    Pakistan is also a prime recruiting ground for the Afghan Taliban. And this impact of climate destabilization has just made over a million young men destitute and frantic for any wage to help keep their families fed. They’ve been watching the children dying for weeks, while the west looks away. And given that knowledge of GW is widespread in developing countries, both from media and from personal experience of ever greater climate volatility, the growing recognition of America’s lead responsibility for this climate disaster is a potent additional motivation for those young men to listen to the Taliban’s recruiters.

    In the absence of a ‘Marshall Plan’ aid program to employ those young men, the looming certainty is of NATO getting kicked out of Afghanistan bloodily – which would seem eminently newsworthy – yet there was all but total silence in the US media. – That’s censorship, not incompetence.

    And that is without putting in the scales the moral case for intensive coverage of such a disaster, let alone the prudential case for coverage as part of the vital national climate education program that the Whitehouse still disdains.

    It has to be one of the blackest lies sold to Americans that they enjoy a free press, when in reality it is at least as deferential to its paymasters as were Tass & Isvestia during the soviet empire. (They too just occasionally carried insightful stories).

    I wonder how many progressives are recognizing that the T-party’s efforts at stirring anti-muslim fears (9 years after the twin towers event) as a means to boost its recruitment & activity among the religious right, are thereby strengthening its hindrance of action on GW ? For T-party patrons and fossil energy corporations alike, censoring media coverage of the most dramatic climate disaster thus far was entirely in keeping with their efforts at promoting both bigotry and denial among the American public.

    One point on the lousy progressive messaging on GW seems worth noting, as exemplified by Gavin Schmidt remarking on air that “weather-driven cataclysms are going to become more common later in the twenty-first century.” – This was, unintentionally, misleading by heavily understating the case, as evidenced not merely by science but by the 30 years of meticulous commercial records of Munich Re, one of the world’s leading re-insurance houses.

    Their records show a trebling of the number of major weather disasters since 1980, (doubling each ~19 years, on an average 3.7% exponent) and an almost six-fold rise in the annual total economic weather losses since that date (doubling each ~12 year on an average 6.0% exponent). Their recognition back in the ’70s of a climate change losses-component and its inclusion in the rates they’ve charged has always been open to challenge by their competitors, with much business being lost had they ever been shown to be wrong. In fact their business has grown very well indeed, due largely to their highly prudential business philosophy.

    Thus as a matter of raising the messaging, I suggest that we have to dump the self-censorship that prevents us from mentioning a 30-year daily record of highly credible commercial evidence of intensifying climate destabilization.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  10. paulm says:

    British government seems to have given up on climate mitigation…
    (wonder what they are going to say about peak oil)

    Britain must adapt to ‘inevitable’ climate change, warns minister
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/britain-must-adapt-to-inevitable-climate-change-warns-minister-2077175.html

    Britons must radically change the way they live and work to adapt to being “stuck with unavoidable climate change” the Government will caution this week, as it unveils a dramatic vision of how society will be altered by floods, droughts and rising temperatures.

    The coalition will signal a major switch towards adapting to the impact of existing climate change, away from Labour’s heavy emphasis on cutting carbon emissions to reverse global temperature rises.

  11. paulm says:

    more….

    Caroline Spelman, the Tory Secretary of State for the Environment, will use her first major speech on climate change since taking office to admit that the inevitable severe weather conditions will present a “survival-of-the- fittest scenario”, with only those who have planned ahead able to thrive. Adapting to climate change will be “at the heart of our agenda”, she is expected to say.

    In a series of dramatic artistic impressions, the Government illustrates how hospitals and fire stations should be built on hills to escape floods, skyscrapers designed to reflect the sun’s rays and tracts of land allowed to be reclaimed by the sea. At the same time, two major reports that will make the urgent scientific and economic case for action this week.

  12. paulm says:

    Stuff is really starting to hit the fan…

    “…Caroline Spelman is wrong to say inaction isn’t an option. Inaction is this government’s policy. The threat to individual life and to this country’s way of life are greater from climate change than any other danger.”

    The coalition will use the ASC report to show its commitment to a global climate deal. But it will make clear that urgent action is also needed to adapt. As part of the new planning process, national policy statements will demand that climate impacts are considered in the planning of roads, railways, airports and power stations. [what is going to be done about nuclear stations on the coast @ sea level???? The whole thing is just frightening]

  13. mike roddy says:

    Thanks for this, Joe, and for your thorough monitoring of the inexcusable performance of MSM on this subject, both in Pakistan and for disaster coverage in general. The conservative/fossil fuel tom tom drums have made it clear, including to reputable newspapers: Don’t you dare associate a climate disaster with global warming!

    One of the the best ways to help disaster victims is to send personnel and key building materials, including emergency water and power systems.
    This is no longer practical in Pakistan, due to nine year presence of the US Army in the region. American relief workers run a high risk of being killed by what the media chooses to call “insurgents”.

    One of the best ways to address climate change would be to scale back our bloated military, which is diverting the money needed to rebuild US power and transportation systems. As this example in Pakistan shows, we would be better off with a military whose mission is defense, and not just offense.

  14. Talk about media failure — Nashville was actually flooded twice!

    “Tennessee Receives Its Second Major Deluge in 2010
    by Eric Normand, The Normand Post, August 19th, 2010

    As 2010 has delivered a continuous assault of extreme weather disasters around the Globe – the heat wave in Russia, the floods in Pakistan, China, Europe, and America, the continuing “1000 year” drought in Australia – the state of Tennessee was just hit with its second round of significant flooding in just four months.

    The Tennessee Deluge of 2010 was grossly underreported by US media, despite being one of the most significant rainstorms ever recorded in the U.S. During this thousand year deluge a staggering 13.57 inches of rain was reported at Nashville international Airport in just 36 hours, with some areas of the state receiving up to 19 inches of rain. The extreme weather event was the result of several fronts stalling over the region.

    This week another extreme deluge occurred in middle Tennessee marking a return to this disturbing trend that is becoming all too frequent in this new world of man-made climate change. On Thursday, August 19 NOAA reported up to 11 inches of rain in a 48 hour period in some parts of middle Tennessee with significant flooding occurring at multiple locations across the state. Again, this extreme rainfall was the result of a stalling front.”

    The rest of the article is here: http://normandpost.com/?p=208.

  15. Mark says:

    @Wit’s End – At times I feel overwhelmed as well, but there is always a point in helping others, in mitigating suffering, even when the task seems endless. And there are more ways to help others than sending money. We all have time and talent and the freedom to decide how we will use them.

    My father-in-law, now in his 80′s, has no disposable income, lives on his social security check. But he and three friends of his have now sent several tractor trailer containers full of medical supplies to Haiti and other areas where people are suffering.

    Thank you Joe – for using your time and talent in raising our awareness of these issues and inspiring us to action.

  16. The crisis in Pakistan will persist for months, even years.
    The clean up will take years.
    It will be interesting to see if the MSM picks any of it up.

    And the fact that the government has been destabilized by this catastrophe hasn’t registered with many… and that should be a very big deal!
    http://www.hindustantimes.com/Flood-hit-Pakistan-s-internal-stability-under-threat-Imran-Khan/Article1-599585.aspx

  17. Anderwan says:

    Wit,
    Don’t be despondent. All we need is some leadership to begin to whip this problem into some sort of shape. I believe a phased in fossil fee with 100% of fee collected sent back to individuals (not companies) as a monthly tax cut and/or credit will be the quickest way. Target would be for fossil fuel energy price to go higher than most non-fossil, while non-fossil goes down because of investment and volume, and emissions go down to 10% 1990 level. I think we could safely aim for phase-in of 10 years, but the increase of the fee/tax-cut would continue beyond that if targets were not met.

  18. Lore says:

    I think we will look back and see 2010 as the year that people began to change the rhetoric from mitigation to adaptation. Already the denilists are subtly making the shift and jumping on the wagon with those that take a stance which ignores the causes and promotes adjusting to our new environment.

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary about the need for Britain, as well as those on the rest of the planet, to adapt to rising temperatures. The high side of the predictions are pretty much already baked into the cake. I don’t see on the horizon where any major shift in the way the world does business will occur before more serious consequences are also piled on.

    It may also be the year where we are at the calm before the storm. We face several converging catastrophes that have been pretty much ignored over the last 50 years. Whether your concerned about peak oil, sovereign debt, global pandemic, water and food security, or population overshoot in general, all of these problems will be exacerbated by a warming climate. Like death, because it hasn’t happened to you yet, doesn’t mean it’s not inevitable.

    I can’t really blame Wit’s End for a duck and cover attitude, it may be that Malthus wins out after all.

  19. CNN featuring a Pakistani story now

  20. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    Just as one would expect the media to cover “The Great Pakistani Deluge” of August 2010, one would also expect this article to mention the seasonal winds that blow in from the Bay of Bengal every August causing deluges that occur like clockwork. These highly predictable yearly cycles of winds and associated deluges are called “Monsoons”. They occur every year in India and Pakistan, and they have nothing to do with AGW. It is just as disingenuous for Climate Progress to ignore these salient facts as it is for the rest of the media to ignore this story.

    As for Kevin Trenberth’s prognostications, after hurricane Katrina he predicted that warmer oceans producing “extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere” would dramatically increase the number of Atlantic hurricanes. He was 100% wrong. The number of Atlantic hurricanes has dramatically decreased since Katrina. Now, he’s back, claiming credit for a natural variation in the monsoon cycle. How typical of IPCC ‘Climate Scientists’! First they make continuous claims that AGW causes (insert your favorite catastrophe), then they continuously announce (whenever anything happens): “See! I told you so! That’s just we predicted!”

    Astrophysicist Piers Corbyn apparently did predict the Russian heat wave and an unusually active monsoon season this year, based on real data. If Dr. Trenberth (or any other ‘Climate Scientists’) have real data that correctly attributes this particular flood, (or any particular catastrophe for that matter) to human activities, he should by all means post it here for all to see. I won’t hold my breath waiting for such data, as I don’t believe it exists. But please feel free to prove me wrong.

  21. Joanne Baek says:

    The US may not be widely reporting the Pakistani flooding for yet another reason: Today’s Democracy Now broadcast included news of a deliberate breach of the Indus in order to prevent flooding of the US base in Pakistan from which drone flights are launched. I’d quote from the program, but online transcripts aren’t available until later in the day, and my dialup connection doesn’t do video. http://www.democracynow.org/

    I appreciate very much Juan Cole’s article, and Joe Rohm’s dilegent work.

    I also appreciate Wit’s comment, and that of others who have responded. I too am poor, but I do give, understanding both how grave the circumstances, and also because I believe the thing that will BEST lead to collective and effective action will be when many people come to insight and empathy, something like “OMG, we’re all in this together,” and start acting like compassionate neighbors.

    And to all who despair, (yes I go there sometimes but not so much because I think reason and compassion WILL eventually win out) and those who think maybe we are past the point of no return, it’s important to express these things, but also keep remembering, you can never tell what will happen. Both chance events and the effects of all those who try to help can lead to a tsunami of eventual positive change. Keep helping, and keep your spirits up about it when you can.

    Paulm reminds us to remember Invictus (read the book too–Playing the Enemy): In South Africa, when majority rule replaced Afrikaner rule and apartheid, civil war became all but inevitable. Mandela, however, led the “Blacks” to love what they hated–Afrikaner rugby, a long entrenched symbol of Apartheid–and gave the Afrikaners (absolutely passionate about rugby) what made them love Mandela: he transformed a losing, rotten team into a symbol of “one team, one nation,” beloved by all, and the world cup winners.

    Miracles are made by very wise people working hard together… don’t give up! Every day the world is showing us more evidence of need for action; everyday more people are seeing the crisis dependence on fossil fuels is causing.

    Keep looking for where one’s action’s can have the most influence for positive change. Others are listening and learning.

    Thanks!

  22. Joanne Baek says:

    Anderwan (comment #17) discusses wanting fossil fees with 100% returned monthly to individuals. I would like to recommend S. 2877, the CLEAR Act (Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal Act), a cap and dividend bill, which auctions carbon extraction/import permits by the ton, and remits 75% of that revenue monthly to all US legal residents as per capita dividends. The other 25% is set aside for clean energy projects as allocated by Congress.

    One of the provisions allows all residents to take advances on their dividends for “energy efficiency” projects which reduce emissions and energy costs. You could install solar panels on your roof for instance, which could also allow you to put clean energy into the grid. I see this single senate bill, and this provision in particular, as the fastest possible way to jumpstart a clean energy transition, as all of us who are concerned would have funding for clean energy generation which we could put into the grid.

    My top amendment recommendations for this bill are: First, change the annual carbon limit change from 0.25% as listed in the bill to something much higher–we don’t have collective ambition for 10% yet, but I’d be real happy with 5%. Start as high as possible…depends on political will at the time, but start!

    Second, we need a national net metering law, which not only allows people to discount their electric bills by the amount of energy they put into the grid, but also to be PAID green energy rates for that energy they feed into the grid. And I believe that as long as a utility buys or produces dirty energy, the clean energy rate should be higher than that paid for dirty or unsafe (nuclear) energy.

    I hope you will tell your senators you want them to support and champion the CLEAR Act. (Capital switchboard phone number to reach them is 202 224 3121.)

  23. Wonhyo says:

    Wit’s End, #1: Your comment shows a deep and concrete understanding of the social consequences of climate change that the vast majority of the U.S. (and probably the world) is still in complete and utter denial of.

    I think any respectable ethical/moral/religious/spiritual belief system mandates that we help those in need. However, it is important to realize that we individually cannot help EVERYONE in need. Unfortunately, the consequence of climate change is that everyone will be in need. Choosing to help those closer to you, instead of those further away, is a perfectly rational and justifiable choice, when your own resources are limited.

    You ask, “What is the point of mitigating suffering?”. I’m starting to suspect that the wealthiest people in America have already considered this question, and that their answer is to enjoy the spoils of their success, while letting others suffer. With the understanding that I’m generalizing (but that the generalization is valid, with some exceptions), I see the wealthiest Americans going to any and all lengths to reduce their tax burden, present token amounts of charity (large in absolute dollars, small in percentage of wealth/income), and persecute other Americans (Muslims, Hispanics) to deny them social services. I expect this behavior to become more pronounced as climate change produces even greater stresses on society.

    For me, the question is, “Do I start a family?”. Is there enough of a stable, moderate climate left to experience the joys of raising a family? Or, is climate change so close that bringing another child into the world is just bringing more suffering? I can consider adopting, but do I want to take personal responsibility for providing for one more person, when I am doubting whether I can provide for myself and for my existing family members?

    A while back, I had hopes that religious organizations would play a strong role in guiding humanity through climate change. Religious institutions have a moral purpose, national and worldwide organizations, and the ability to motivate members to action, and provide hope to the despondent. Sadly, I find that religious organizations (at least the one’s I’ve talked to) are burying their heads in the sand like everyone else. While I haven’t given up on this, I realize that the individual battles I win on this front are likely to be part of a lost war.

    My decision is to continue doing my part to advocate what’s right, accept that it is probably too late to save humanity, and enjoy what remains of our previously stable and moderate climate. The question now is, how do I live the remainder of my life?

    The near-term success strategy is to fight to be among the dwindling numbers who find success and comfort in the pre-climate change social system based on money, wealth, etc. Up to a point, money can and does provide water, food, and shelter. The medium-term strategy is to learn to adapt to nature, migrating to where nature continues to provide for my needs.

    Sadly, I don’t think there is a viable long-term strategy. I expect there’s a 50% probability of human species extinction by 2100, and a 25% probability by 2050. The stable and moderate climate that sustains the human species is terminally ill, and in need of end-of-life counseling. End-of-life counseling starts with the acknowledgement that the end of life is imminent and unavoidable. Decisions and actions to avoid unnecessary suffering can be made only after this acknowledgement.

  24. Chris Winter says:

    Louis Hooffstetter writes to sarcastically complain that Climate Progress ignores the salient fact of the monsoons, observing that “They occur every year in India and Pakistan, and they have nothing to do with AGW.”

    Saying “weather is not climate” is not the same as believing weather has nothing to do with climate. No competent climatologist will predict a specific weather event years, or even months, ahead of time. They do predict climate trends — long-term changes in conditions like the increased water vapor content of the atmosphere or the warming of the surface of the sea. In those two cases, their predictions have come true.

  25. John McCormick says:

    RE # 24

    Wanhyo, you said:

    “Sadly, I don’t think there is a viable long-term strategy. I expect there’s a 50% probability of human species extinction by 2100, and a 25% probability by 2050. The stable and moderate climate that sustains the human species is terminally ill, and in need of end-of-life counseling. End-of-life counseling starts with the acknowledgement that the end of life is imminent and unavoidable. Decisions and actions to avoid unnecessary suffering can be made only after this acknowledgement.”

    That is rapidly becoming a strong message this year among those who believe what they read and research. Would that climate scientists be more forthcoming about what they truly believe to be the fate of our global climate.

    And, while it is the acme of despair, your statement is valid and necessarily discussed broadly.

    There are strategic thinkers who can imagine where are the weakest links in the chain of contemporary civilization and they should be describing where immediate action might prop up a population, nation or ecosystem if only to stave off a more rapid decline for all of us.

    Is it loss of pollinating critters, loss of Arctic sea ice that might be linked to Asian weather systems and monsoons? I don’t know, but those weaknesses should be identified quickly and that information used to scare the hell out of we otherwise preoccupied masses.

    Thanks for your absolute candor.

    John McCormick

  26. karen S. says:

    The visual of the magazine covers astounded me. We need more comparisons of this kind–it’s the starkest way to see how badly we are being served by the media in the US. Except for web sites like this we’re all wearing blinders and we don;t even know it.

  27. cr says:

    Lewis C @9,

    If Pakistan nukes anyone, it isn’t going to be Israel. It will be India.

  28. Colorado Bob says:

    Wits @ #1 -
    Thank-you for the chip in . When we first started last winter our goal was to raise enough for a box or two. But now, we are just short of funding 99 boxes. I am in the same boat as you. But my efforts at the keyboard helped me beat back that feeling of helplessness in the face of a wave despair.

    http://www.justgiving.com/Colorado-Bob

  29. Colorado Bob says:

    For those who aren’t aware, here is the box I am speaking of -

    http://www.shelterbox.org/index.php

  30. paulm says:

    Well said Wonhyo #24.

  31. Wit'sEnd says:

    Wonhyo, I have three daughters of child-bearing age. Until I understood that climate change is an imminent, urgent threat – not something constrained to a faraway place in the distant future – I was looking forward more than anything to being a grandmother. Now, I have begged each of them not to have children – because it will cause them such pain, the grief and guilt I have now, knowing they will inherit an uninhabitable climate with all the attendant horrors of resource wars after peak everything.

    Perhaps some people will survive, and future generations may even eventually make a good life after the dust has settled. But certainly this won’t be most of humanity, or most other species either. Children are one of life’s greatest joys – but had I known 30 years ago what I know now, I would have felt it’s not worth the gamble and chosen to be an observer who treads lightly on this earth.

  32. catman306 says:

    John McCormick, agriculture depends on predictable weather and climate. Extreme weather events clearly show us that climate is no longer predictable. It has become chaotic, in the mathematical sense. Therefore expect agricultural outputs to decline worldwide. Finding food for all the people of the world is the weakest link to humanity’s survival. Successful, bountiful, agriculture during times of chaotic climate would be the most important problem to fix. Good luck on that ’cause some of those starving people might just have nuclear bombs.

  33. John Mason says:

    Louis Hooffstetter seems to think that CP regulars and readers do not understand that monsoon rainfalls affect this part of Asia at this time of year. Perhaps there is a little sarcasm involved, who knows?

    Louis Hooffstetter also omits to point out, accidentally or deliberately, that this was an extremely severe monsoon deluge in terms of RF intensity – exceptional indeed. Louis then goes on to omit reference to the enhanced moisture-shedding ability of warmer seas and the enhanced moisture-carrying capability of warmer air, something that the most basic atmospheric physics points firmly to. Louis then goes off on a tangent about Piers, at which point John swivels eyes and wearily switches off computer and retires to the pub for an hour.

    Cheers – John

  34. John Mason says:

    Bob # 30 – I was talking to a senior member of the Shelter Boxes charity at a do organised by our local Rotary last month – Rotary support the campaign actively over here. The guy was telling me how hard it was to get people engaged on the Pakistan flooding. We got into an interesting conversation out of which we both ended up feeling that the public is nearing saturation point WRT natural disasters. In that case methinks ye Public will need to get a very firm grip of itself in the coming years and decades…

    Cheers – John

  35. Colorado Bob says:

    John @ 35 -

    Rotary is a great group, they’re working solar ovens as well.

  36. Windsong says:

    Yep,(#32). When I see little children, my first thoughts are– what their future will be like and it makes me shudder. I have 2 grown children; neither are married. Maybe it’s for the best!

  37. Windsong says:

    Concerning the non-news from the media–not too surprising there. It’s seeming more and more like “1984″ to me.

  38. Russell says:

    Glad to see joe, sero sed serio, taking The American Conservative’s lead on South Asia.– they ran Cole’s pece last week.

  39. LT says:

    There has not been much coverage in the Australian media either, but last night the Australian Broadcasting Commission screened a heart wrenching Four Corners documentary entitled “After the Deluge”. Worth watching. “http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2010/s3007251.htm

  40. dbmetzger says:

    Pakistan Flood Aftermath Creates Danger of Epidemics
    Waterborne illnesses are making the flooding victims in Pakistan increasingly desperate for medical help. Health and social workers warn that if aid does not come soon, the outbreak of potentially fatal diseases is imminent. http://www.newslook.com/videos/249665-pakistan-flood-aftermath-creates-danger-of-epidemics?autoplay=true

    and we know that chaos tends to breed… angry people looking to lash out at someone…

  41. Chris Winter says:

    In fairness to Time, the U.S. edition did run the Pakistan story. You just have to dig down a couple of levels to find it. And the sorry state of American K-12 education also deserves more coverage than it’s getting in the major media.

    That said, the impact of what just happened in Pakistan is hard to overstate. Six million people made homeless by a single event, over the course of two weeks!

    To steal a slogan from the GW Bush administration, we should help them over there so we don’t have to help them over here.

    And by help I mean not just immediate aid, which is clearly needed, but work to preserve a relatively stable climate.