Veterans Day, 2030

Climate Wars by Gwynne DyerThe worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy — over the next few decades — will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and extreme weather and food insecurity:  Hell and High Water.

But all of the impacts occurring simultaneously will have an even more devastating synergy (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“).  It means the rich countries will be far less likely to be offering much assistance to the poorer ones, since there will be ever worsening catastrophes everywhere simultaneously so we’ll be suffering at the same time.  Heck, this deep economic downturn and record-smashing disaster season has already exacerbated media myopia and compassion fatigue to help those around the world staggered by floods and droughts.

And that suggests another deadly climate impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.

We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source — if not the source — of two of our biggest recent wars.

Just yesterday, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan “said rising temperatures and rainwater shortages are having a devastating effect on food production. Failing to address the problem will have repercussions on health, security and stability.”

The NYT reported in 2009:

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill last year, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.”  The Pentagon itself has made the climate/security link explicit in its Quadrennial Defense Review.

Sadly, the chance that humanity will avert catastrophic climate impacts has dropped  sharply this year (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“).  And that means it is increasingly likely we face a world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which in turn means we likely cross carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 800 to 1000 ppm.

It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees “” hundreds of millions by the second half of this century “” all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified.

In such a world, everyone will ultimately become a veteran, and Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day may fade into obscurity, as people forget about a time when wars were the exception, a time when soldiers were but a small minority of the population.  And if we don’t act swiftly and strongly to stop it, the worst impacts could last a long, long time (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe and Nature Geoscience: ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

So when does this start to happen?

Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” sees it happening by the mid-2020s:

By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

For poorer countries, climate change “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Fingar said, while the United States will face “Dust Bowl” conditions in the parched Southwest“¦.

He said U.S. intelligence agencies accepted the consensual scientific view of global warming, including the conclusion that it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades. The conclusions are in line with an intelligence assessment produced this summer that characterized global warming as a serious security threat for the coming decades.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world.

For the latest literature review and projections, see “Must-read NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path,” the source of this figure, where “A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought”:

drought map 2 2030-2039

The National Center for Atmospheric Research, “Climate change: Drought may threaten much of globe within decades,” explains the implications of such low readings of the Palmer Drought Severity Index [PDSI]:

By the 2030s, the results indicated that some regions in the United States and overseas could experience particularly severe conditions, with average decadal readings potentially dropping to -4 to -6 in much of the central and western United States as well as several regions overseas, and -8 or lower in parts of the Mediterranean. By the end of the century, many populated areas, including parts of the United States, could face readings in the range of -8 to -10, and much of the Mediterranean could fall to -15 to -20. Such readings would be almost unprecedented.

The PDSI in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here).

And, of course, we’ve seen that even in areas expected to become wetter, can experience an extreme heat wave so unprecedented that it forces the entire country to suspend grain exports:

See also Nature Publishes My Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security

Significantly, the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, laid out a scenario similar to Fingar’s in a 2009 speech to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster. He warned that by 2030, “A ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions,” as the UK’s Guardian put it.

You can see a five-minute BBC interview with Beddington here. The speech is online. Here are some excerpts:

We saw the food spike last year; prices going up by something in the order of 300%, rice went up by 400%, we saw food riots, we saw major issues for the poorest in the world, in the sense that the organisations like the World Food Programme did not have sufficient money to buy food on the open market and actually use it to feed the poorest of the poor.

So this is a major problem. You can see the catastrophic decline in those reserves, over the last five years or so, indicates that we actually have a problem; we’re not growing enough food, we’re not able to put stuff into the reserves”….

So, what are the drivers? I am going to go through them now very briefly.

First of all, population growth. World population grows by six million every month “” greater than the size of the UK population every year. Between now and”¦ I am going to focus on the year 2030 and the reason I am going to focus on 2030 is that I feel that some of the climate change discussions focusing on 2100 don’t actually grip”¦. I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together.

By 2030, looking at population terms, you are looking at the global population increasing from a little over six billion at the moment to about eight billion”…

you are going to see major changes but particularly in the demand for livestock — meat and dairy….

By 2030, the demand for food is going to be increased by about 50%. Can we do it? One of the questions. There is a major food security issue by 2030. We’ve got to somehow produce 50% more by that time.The second issue I want to focus on is the availability of fresh water”¦. The fresh water available per head of the world population is around 25% of what it was in 1960. To give you some idea of this; there are enormous potential shortages in certain parts of the world”¦ China has something like 23% of the world’s population and 11% of the world’s water.

… the massive use of water is in agriculture and particularly in developing world agriculture. Something of the order of 70% of that. One in three people are already facing water shortages and the total world demand for water is predicted to increase by 30% by 2030.

So, we’ve got food — expectation of demand increase of 50% by 2030, we’ve got water — expectation of demand increase of 30% by 2030. And in terms of what it looks like, we have real issues of global water security.

…. where there is genuine water stress [in 2025 is] China and also parts of India, but look at parts of southern Europe where by 2025 we are looking at serious issues of water stress”….

So, water is really enormously important. I am going to get onto the climate change interactions with it a little bit later but water is the one area that I feel is seriously threatening. It is so important because a shortage of water obviously interacts with a shortage of food, there are real potentials for driving significant international problems — what do you do if you have no water and you have no food? You migrate. So one can have a reasonable expectation that international migration will occur as these shortages come in.

Now, the third one I want to focus on is energy and, driven by the population increase that I talked about, the urbanisation I talked about and indeed the movement out of poverty”…. For the first time, the demand of the rest of the world exceeded the demand of energy of the OECD …. Energy demand is actually increasing and going to hit something of the order of a 50% increase, again by 2030.

Now, if that were not enough … those are three things that are coming together. What will the world be like when that happens? But we also have, of course, the issue of climate change. Now, this is a very familiar slide to you all but we are shooting for a target of two degrees centigrade, a perfectly sensible target. There is enormous uncertainty in the climate change models about that particular target. It is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for one degrees centigrade or, oddly enough, it is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for three degrees centigrade’, the only information we have is really enormously uncertain in terms of the climate change model.

Shooting for two seems a perfectly sensible and legitimate objective but there are enormous problems. You are talking about serious problems in tropical glaciers “” the Chinese government has recognised this and has actually announced about 10 days ago that it is going to build 59 new reservoirs to take the glacial melt in the Xinjiang province. 59 reservoirs. It is actually contemplating putting many of them underground. This is a recognition that water, which has hitherto been stored in glaciers, is going to be very scarce. We have to think about water in a major way….

The other area that really worries me in terms of climate change and the potential for positive feedbacks and also for interactions with food is ocean acidification….

As I say, it’s as acid today as it has been for 25 million years. When this occurred some 25 million years ago, this level of acidification in the ocean, you had major problems with it, problems of extinctions of large numbers of species in the ocean community. The areas which are going to be hit most severely by this are the coral reefs of the world and that is already starting to show. Coral reefs provide significant protein supplies to about a billion people. So it is not just that you can’t go snorkelling and see lots of pretty fish, it is that there are a billion people dependent on coral reefs for a very substantial portion of their high protein diet.

… we have got to deal with increased demand for energy, increased demand for food, increased demand for water, and we’ve got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it….

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Some of this can be avoid or minimized if we act now. Some of it can’t. But if we don’t act strongly now, then by Veterans Day 2030, many of the global conflicts will either be resource wars or wars driven by environmental degradation and dislocation (see “Warming Will Worsen Water Wars). Indeed that may already have started to happen (see “Report: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation Trigger Darfur Crisis).

For one discussion of the kind of wars we might be seeing, albeit for the year 2046, here is a three-part radio series on Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian journalist and historian of warfare.

For all of the above reasons, veterans and security experts and politicians of all parties have begun working together to avoid the worst.   A key leader on climate and energy security has been the conservative Virgina Republican, John Warner, who pushed hard to pass the clean energy bill — because he is a former Navy secretary and former Senate Armed Services Committee chair and because he is a former Forest Service firefighter now “just absolutely heartbroken” because “the old forest, the white pine forest in which I worked, was absolutely gone, devastated, standing there dead from the bark beetle” thanks in large part to global warming.

Warner’s is trying to build grass-roots support for congressional action to limit global warming,” as Politics Daily reported. “He is traveling the country to discuss military research that shows climate change is a threat to U.S. national security.” Here is part of PD‘s interview:

PD: Does the responsibility fall to us to respond to the consequences of climate change?
JW: Not exclusively, but we’re often in the forefront of response to these things. We’re the nation with the most sealift. The most airlift. We have more medical teams which are mobile, more storehouses of food and supplies to meet emergencies. And throughout our history, from the beginning of the republic, America’s always had to respond to certain humanitarian disasters.
PD: What are some examples of destabilization due to climate?
JW: One clear case of it is Somalia. [In the early 1990s] the prolonged drought began to tie up the economy, the food supplies. There was a certain amount of political and economic instability. Where you have fragile nations . . . a serious climactic problem will come along, with a shortage of food or water, and often those governments are toppled. And then they fall to the evils of . . . terrorism or others who try to exploit these fallen governments. You saw it in Darfur. You saw it in Somalia. This political instability and weakness is given the final tilt by a problem associated with climactic change.

Our choice today is clear. We can continue listening to the voices of denial and delay, assuring that everyone ultimately becomes a veteran of the growing number of climate-related conflicts.

Or we can launch a WWII-scale effort and a WWII-style effort to address the problem as Hansen and I and many others have called for. That is our most necessary fight today.


This post is an update.

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25 Responses to Veterans Day, 2030

  1. Sasparilla says:

    A very powerful article Joe, sobering to say the least, thank you.

    The book (Climate Wars) that Mr. Dyer bases the 3 part audio series on is a very good read as well, I highly recommend it.

    It’s a very, very stark future we are blundering our way into as we leave behind the possible 450ppm paths for the 1000+ppm paths.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Few Points

    First, there is still a near-absence of ethics-based discussions of climate change, even in the blogosphere. If you compare the science-focused discussions of climate change, the narrow economics-focused discussions, the discussions of politics (“guess what Perry said!” and “guess what Obama didn’t say!”), and the occasional military/security-oriented discussions, with the ethics-based discussions, the latter nearly get lost in the pile. Also, they are often written and read as if the understanding is that “these ethical considerations are nice, but not real or compelling or ‘practical'”. Yikes.

    Alas, that is also, in some ways, the impression left here; not because ethics aren’t sometimes discussed (they are), and not because the posts here don’t show ethical verve or seriousness (they do), but because of this: the ethical considerations don’t really carry the day in terms of the actions we actually choose and don’t choose.

    For example: Now that the Obama Administration has decided to delay its decision on Keystone XL until after the election, will we (CP, CP’s readers, the leaders of the climate-oriented organizations, the environmental organizations, and etc.) choose to pose this clear question to candidate Obama: “Candidate Obama, will you approve Keystone XL, or not, if you are reelected?”

    Will we choose to pose that question clearly, again and again, until he’s forced to answer it? Will we expect and demand a clear answer? Will we explain to him why a clear answer is necessary, and why it is right, warranted, and understandable for us to demand a clear answer in order to decide whether we’ll vote for him, or not?

    You see, our willingness or unwillingness to ask ourselves these questions, and how we answer them, will show a great deal about whether we are guided more by the ethical considerations than by the “game-of-politics” considerations, or (instead) guided more by the “game-of-politics” considerations than by anything else.

    In more than one way, we often say that we’re guided by the science and the ethics, and then we proceed to “play politics”, avoid the difficult questions, enable vagueness and even excuse it — and even try to justify it! — try to protect our own roles and funding, and so forth.

    Where stands the effort to run a slate of candidates against President Obama in a real Democratic primary season? Where does that effort stand (started by Nader and many others)?

    Will we pose real questions to candidate Obama, and will we require and demand clear answers?

    When will we have real, candid, and open discussions that relate the ethical considerations to the security considerations, even if those discussions are deeply uncomfortable and subject to misinterpretation and intense criticism on the part of those who want to criticize them? For example, how many people understand that the very “authorities” and reasoning that underpinned our own Declaration of Independence, and our own theory of government, and much of our own ethical thinking, can be used (already, right now) to justify actions against us by those who are being harmed by climate change and who will likely be harmed by it? In other words, consider John Locke’s ‘The Second Treatise of Government’. Consider John Stuart Mills’ ‘On Liberty’. Consider even key passages from Milton Friedman’s ‘Capitalism and Freedom’. Do people realize that fundamental arguments in those works justify actions against us, on the part of those who are being harmed by climate change or likely to be harmed by it, brought about by our excessive emissions of GHGs? Put one way, if a person or country causes harms to another person or country, and does not cease to do so despite repeated requests and warnings, then the victims can at some point justifiably take actions against the harm-causers. This is nothing new, and many of the greatest thinkers of history have stated the point, explained it, and justified it. So, when will we take up such topics — admittedly difficult to take up, but apparently necessary?

    One reason why this is important is this: the initial tensions and unrest will not necessarily show up first, or only, among nations, although that is already starting. Instead, the divisions on this matter in our own country will begin to result, sooner rather than later, in unrest, stressful disagreement, and visible struggle. Consider the upcoming political conventions, both Democrat and Republican. Will there be peaceful and passive civil disobedience over the climate change issue, and related issues, at the conventions? Will there be greater degrees of unrest? Will there begin to be vandalism, riots, etc.? Indeed, the only way to AVOID such outcomes is to actually face and address the problem at hand: climate change. People who think that the status quo can continue, without addressing climate change, while climate change just gets worse and worse, are flat-out nutty. The ethical justifications for action — for responsible changes that address climate change — are on the side of those who would change the status quo to address climate change, NOT on the side of those who would preserve the status quo and allow climate change to progress and cause harms. Unless the scientists are wrong, or unless foundational principles of ethics are wrong, people in the streets who demand responsible change will be in the right, and leaders who resist responsible change will be in the wrong — that is, without justification of any real sort.

    But present discussions — even here on CP — have not even gotten close to taking up these topics or engaging in such discussions. For example, would CP take up the topic that even today (given the long history of climate change discussions, and rejected appeals) some island nations that are deeply threatened by climate change would already be “in the right” — justified — to begin taking actions against the U.S., for example, as a start, taking over U.S.-owned assets in their countries in order to help compensate for the harms caused? Such a conclusion is justified by fundamental parts of the arguments in the books mentioned, and many other such books — indeed, by the same sorts of arguments that our forefathers used to declare independence, and upon which our government is structured. But who will present these points for wide readership?

    We are already in an ethical hole, and the only way to get ourselves out of it is to take ethics seriously and positively climb out, not to dig ourselves deeper into the hole. It stands to reason. Read the books. Then let’s have the discussions. Soon.

    Be Well,


  3. Or we can launch a WWII-scale effort and a WWII-style effort to address the problem as Hansen and I and many others have called for. That is our most necessary fight today.

    What we do have, right now, is a WWII-scale effort and a WWII-style effort by the Fossil Fools to conquer public discourse using sockpuppets, meatpuppets, death threats, rape threats, and pretty much every kind of nonsense one can imagine.

    The psyops campaign launched by the Empire of Bullshit is already well under way. How will we fight it?

    — frank

  4. Richard Miller says:

    Dear Joe,

    I have read many articles by Michael Levi regarding climate change. The man does not seem to recognize the scale of the challenge before us. Also, the tactics that were used to stop the pipeline are necessary because our elected leaders are in the back pocket of big oil. If our leaders governed based on sane risk management guided by science the pipeline would never be considered and environmentalists would not have to employ these tactics. Since our leaders have made it clear that they are willing to drive us off a cliff, emergency measures are needed.

    Levi’s OP-ED in NYTimes needs a proper rebuttal from someone like yourself or McKibben or Hansen. As of 4:15 EST time Friday it is the 3rd most emailed story.

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Given the data from 2010-2011 which shows close to exponential increases in effects, and given that we are still mainly using linear projections, his time horizon of 2030 needs to be brought forward.

    Now add the N hemisphere economic drought and the enforcement of greater ‘austerity’ which roughly translates to ‘misery’, and the scenario looks considerably worse.

    Why aren’t those millions of unemployed being put to work in constructing and then operating factories that churn out solar and wind installations that can be sent to wherever they are needed around the world? Why are we putting a faddish economic theory which has clearly failed before the survival of life? It is not just the climate deniers who are elevating their belief systems above their perceptions of reality.

    China is showing the way by subsidizing the manufacture and export of renewables. Surely it is time now to put the long term strategic goal of survival before prissy concerns about our previous choice of means. It is certainly time to put survival above dogmatism, ME

  6. Artful Dodger says:

    ME, it’s clear that the 1% are hoping they can survive, and the 0.01% do not care if we survive. If fact, some of them probably want us off their land.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The global masters, the 1%, have never hesitated to mobilise extreme violence to ensure their rule. The destruction of Iraq and Libya to seize control of their hydrocarbon riches, the increasing violence being mobilised to destroy the global ‘Occupy’ movement and the rising propaganda violence of the Rightwing MSM all point towards a nasty future. As economic collapse, followed by society destroying austerity (for the plebs only)interacts with ecological collapse and resource depletion, the wars will not just be those of neo-imperial aggression, but also global civil war between the 1% and their ‘security’ forces and the rest. The parameters of our destruction are drawn already, and the process is quickening. One thing you can bank on, moreover, is that the 1% will be pitiless as the unfortunate inhabitants of Fallujah, Sirte, Gaza, Dahiya or Panama City can attest.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Perhaps, if the Evil Ones prevail, it would be better if our species disappeared. After all, if the best we can do is create a human world dominated by the likes of the death-worshipping plutocracy,perhaps humanity has failed a cosmic test of suitability to survive. Imagine if we, somehow, avert the multiple calamities that elite rapacity have engendered, and go on to colonise and exploit the cosmos. How many planets and civilizations would we destroy in a Wild West orgy of greed and omnicide? Until we encounter either an infinitely wise alien species, or one even more violent and destructive than ourselves. The first would probably finish us off out of self-defence and to protect others, the latter out of even great and more effective maliciousness. Human salvation requires an internal, spiritual, rebirth, but all I can discern is a greater and greater descent into spiritual and moral wickedness.

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I don’t think it’s that simple Artful. 1% versus 99% is great marketing but the reality is that we have virtually whole populations who seriously believe in ‘free markets’ and ‘capitalism’ whatever they mean by those words.

    I’ve read plenty of comments here by people who would not generally be regarded as the 1%, complaining about for example, China’s subsidization of renewables and what it is doing to the USA industry. They don’t consider that the USA should emulate it.

    This almost reflexive resort to beliefs is clearly overriding longer term considerations and I am sure that the genuine 1% are well aware of it. Thats why they reckon they are on pretty safe ground to continue the ripoff for a bit longer – until the social ground really starts moving beneath their feet, as it is just starting to do.

    When the social earthquakes get high enough on the Richter scale, we will see change but it is up to all of us to examine our belief systems, think about what we are really supporting and adjust as necessary, ME

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There will be change, all right, when the ‘social earthquakes’ get intense enough, but it will, I fear, all be negative. There has not been a successful revolution followed by the establishment of a just, humane and sustainable society yet, as far as I am aware, in human history. There is no chance of reform of plutocratic market capitalism. The ruling 1% will simply intensify the brainwashing, followed by more and more violent repression, until their overthrow becomes a matter of becoming exactly like them, whereupon they win in any case. I know this sounds like indulgent pessimism, but I would dearly love to be made aware of some process by which we can avert species suicide inflicted by a tiny, pathocratic, elite.

  11. Wes Rolley says:

    I have just received this from an electronic friend. It fits in with your point.

    No liberals are confronting the dire reality: that traditional economic growth of the kind that supports capitalism is ending. and that renewable energy will not save us. True, there will be ups and downs, and residual “improvements” and occasional good new about electric cars and the like. But the you have to look at the 5%=plus increase in CO2 this year over last year. Yo have to listen to everyone clamoring for cheaper energy. You have to listen to the economists who still believe that stimulating consumption to restore growth is the answer. You have to listen to Bill McKibben saying he is undecided about fracking for natural gas. You have to look at EDF lining up with the natural gas industry. And you have to listen to the deafening silence coming from liberals and the environmental movement (among others).

    Then you realize why collapse is inevitable…

  12. lemmonmc says:

    I commend you again Mr. Huggins, you consistently bring up this faucet of the problem. The greatest chance we have is if the United States leads. If the world’s population watched the most powerful country in the world admit it’s present system is antithetical to climate mitigation and make the case for dramatic and serious economic, political, scientific and social reforms I doubt seriously China, India, the EU or even Russia wouldn’t be persuaded to act with us in unison.
    But in order to accomplish this people will have to get out of their comfort zone. More scientist will need to be disruptive (James Hansen comes to mind)in confronting government lack of action, journalist must confront corporate media which is hostile to or under-reporting the seriousness of climate change (Krugman and Friedman should have already written articles or given lectures on their ‘outrage’ over the NYTimes bullshit coverage.)
    And as Mr.Huggin’s as stated politicians must give definitive answers on knowledge and actions concerning climate change. It must be a demand, not just another issue. Obama simply saying he’s going to wait for a study before making his decision just isn’t good enough (what’s the plan if he gets re-elected and approves it anyway, or if he loses and Mitt is then in office, what was accomplished?). Obama seems resigned to avoiding confrontation, and if so then the left better realize quick, cause enacting climate action will take balls, really really big balls.
    But personally I think the public doesn’t realize the extent of the crisis. After attending OWS in Chicago most of the people I spoke with put it in a category below the economy, war, or at least on par with any-other environmental concern. Few keep as close tabs on the science as do people here (this startlingly enough includes most environmentalist I’ve met), and as a result haven’t prioritized it accordingly. In addition when addressing it, because of their lack of knowledge on the specifics of the problem, will often cling to solutions that not only just won’t work, but also make the problem worse.
    So at some point soon the heat needs to be turned up, way up by all those who know how serious this is. All of us on here should (I’m sure many already do)joint at whatever level you can to add to that heat in ‘unconventional’ ways. As Mr.Huggins stated the ethical question (in my opinion) should be the fuel that propels this issue. As it was for the civil-rights movement, when families, newspaper reporters, etc. weren’t actually allowed to just watch and or comment. You were drawn in because of the moral imperative, people were ‘confronted’ with it, whether they wanted it or not. This I believe is shared with climate change. That simply voting, blogging or writing about this issue in our current climate of denial & underestimation of it’s effects isn’t enough when discussing the very real possibility of a dying biosphere.

  13. Peter Mizla says:

    Climate disruption has begun- all over the world, and in the USA. Come visit Connecticut, where we are still grappling with a shattered power infrastructure, human frustration and misery, & economic loss to individuals and businesses. State & Local Governments are searching for money to help clean up this mess.

    I wonder what happens when the CT Shoreline sees a foot sea-rise by as early as 2040- what then?

    The Southwest is drying out as scheduled- in 10 years it should become a dust bowl. This time the condition will become permanent as Greenhouse gases continue to rise unabated.

    What a Nice ticket to the future the 1% is giving us. Will they be overthrown?

  14. John McCormick says:

    Mulga, you might want to read Tom Englehardt’s

    “An All-American Nightmare
    This Is What Defeat Looks Like ”


    We Americans are fools and worse. And Ralph Nader played a cameo role in the birth of the Bush-Cheney murder of Iraq.

  15. David Smith says:

    Important comment IMO. I absolutely agree. Here is an unconventional idea; This is an election season. Climate hawks need their own Super-PAC but with no candidate, to blanket the airwares with “truth” type ads educating the general public to AGW, or whatever would seem appropriate in a large scale effort. I think there are a lot of people out there willing to give $10 or $50 or more to this cause. It has to focus on AGW absolutely as the problem, not polar bears or pipelines.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    Things like Fukushima could be common too, which affects impact world-wide.

  17. Tom Lenz says:

    The infrastructure for violent supression in the US is already in place. Since 9/11 there has been a remarkable and rapid militarization of domestic law enforcement, but only for our ‘safety’ of course. Para-military police units regularly kick in doors in the middle of the night, shoot family pets, traumatize children and ruin lives bases only on suspicions that someone could be growing the wrong plant in their garden. Police on the street regularly beat the living hell out of or arrest anyone who dares question any move they make, or even without any provocation at all. Witness the behavior of the Oakland police with occupiers. The US with 5% of world population jails around 25% of the entire planet’s prison population, mostly for low level non-violent drug charges. The US is already a rapidly evolving police state which seems to be anticipating mass unrest and civil strife. It’s almost as though the government is planning for collapse and is fortifying the streets now before the masses awaken to their situation and rise-up. That the Pentagon is planning for civil unrest and violence overseas as a result of climate change is well know. What is less clear is the extent to which the government is preparing for a massive crackdown on the american people. The police/prison-for-profit industrial complex is already well-oiled and ready for action.

  18. John McCormick says:

    Jeff, you are a pro when it comes to comprehensive thinking and writing. Wish that more of us had that gift. And, you are sticking closely to your repeated demands that President Obama convince you he will not authorize the pipeline if he values your vote.

    I am tied in a knot about this but keep coming back to my view of the large and immediate world problems and needs.

    Joe laid out a devastating view of the next 30 years and their impact on civilization will set the stage for its collapse. He made a mistake of saying:

    “it is increasingly likely we face a world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide,”

    No likely about it, we will exceed 500, 600 700 ppm at roughly 2ppm annual increments and I have not factored positive feed backs.

    These next 30 years will witness much local and widespread suffering elsewhere than the US; though we will get our deserved share. What those tragedies will need most is not some rethug president or congress thumbing their nose at the world’s suffering. The victims will need extraordinary help and money to survive a bit longer.

    You challenge President Obama for your vote on this one issue of the pipeline; and, I know you include the entire problem of his MIA on climate chaos. I get that.

    But, life will have to struggle on for those next 30 years and no rethug or bagger or koch is going to give a rat about the poor and the suffering. 25 million permanently unemployed will become 50 million Americans and those rich bastards will not lend a hand. They will crush the complainers and sick the dogs on the rabble.

    We have to admit there are others among us struggling to keep their families out of homeless shelters and worse. They will need more and more help as times get tougher; they are tough now and getting worse at the hands of the rethug govs, state legislatures and US House.

    Your challenge to Obama will lead to their absolute takeover of every tool of ‘democracy’ we know here in America.

    Whatever President Obama means to climate hawks is not justification for throwing gasoline on the fire of our domestic problems of high cost of living, stagnant wages and outsourcing. That is not an ethical action.

    The immediate American concerns put climate chaos low on their list of anxieties. Pyaing bill and mortgage; looking for a paying job after graduation……… Those are legitimate worries, at this moment in time, as are the worries of a drought-persistent midwest NA in 2039.

    It will take a lot of money and about a decade to change the makeup of the Congress and prime some great candidates to take over the reins of government. I can think of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz as a hugely capable President one day. But, it doesn’t happen if that Texas low brow gets there first.

    Young people are now starting to walk away from their moral obligations to vote and stay informed. Give them some rethug jackass to look up to for 8 years or longer and seen how they drop out of the picture.

    You have hit on some huge points worth reading again. Don’t let your pipeline challenge become the curtain call for years of rethugery. The Democratic party and all of its warts and failings will stand with working class most of the time. Rethugs, never. To my mind, it is that simple.

    Perfection is impossible in politics. Compassion in politics is possible. And, as Joe has so clearly pointed out, many Americans will not survive without that compassion from the rest of us. It starts on Capitol Hill and in the Oval office.

  19. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I just returned from walking the dogs through the neighborhood – a very conservative neighborhood in a very conservative suburb of Chicago. In front of one house a few blocks from home, one neighbor had placed in his front yard a McCain/Palin campaign sign from 2008 after having covered up the “Mc” with duct tape. It struck me as somewhat clever and incredibly stupid at the same time – a self study in dis-Cognitive Dissonance, I might add. But it also added another data point to the plethora of data points all of which point to the Republican Party having gone completely fu$*^ng insane. As a pragmatist (an engineer’s curse) it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the probability of Obama’s re-election is somewhere north of 90%. At this point, as new polls continue to confirm that rank-and-file Republicans want anyone but Willard Romney, I begin to entertain the possibility of 2012 being a re-run of Goldwater-64. How, then, do we drag Obama and the Democrats (screaming and kicking if need be) to where we need them to be? Can the corporate Dems be co-opted by #OWS? The Greens? By Joe and Bill? Gwynne Dyer in “Climate Wars” went so far as to state his opinion on this matter near the end of his book. He is not hopeful – not in the least. He says that mankind cannot (or will not) be capable of saving themselves. I can’t accept this! I will be long dead by 2030, but I cannot accept the thought of leaving my kids and my grandkids to face the “Climate Wars”. So how do we, starting with what I’m dead certain will happen in 2012, get from here to there?

    Thank you for your indulgence,


  20. Leif says:

    Thank you Jeff Huggins for your continued efforts from me as well. I, like others, am torn over the dilemma you present, though not reluctant to use the threat with some conviction. My hope is that President Obama will see the error of his ways and I will not be required to make this agonizing choice you present so eloquently. He is perhaps even using the issue to energize the left to action so that he can harness the energy for the civilization Epiphany and corresponding effort required. “Make me do it.” (Obviously picking a thin field here.)

    One facet of the equation that is seldom addressed is the pressure that we must put upon the Church elders to become educated on this issue. As the self appointed “Ethical Leaders,” and often scholarly educated, they must take a much more active roll in this area. After all, in their eyes God gave man free will, but it is Gods “Creation,” and clearly man is a destructive influence, even without accepting the science of AGW. “We the People” must present these issues to our local Clergy and demand that they become informed. Unlike the Galileo debacle, humanity cannot afford 300+ years for the Church awareness to seep in. Occupy your Church! They do not receive a “get out of jail free card” here.

  21. Paul magnus says:

    This guy sums up lovelock in a more real world manner.

    He highlights the fact that everyone is using the wrong target year of 2100.

    Society is going to become undone way before then. 2030 is definitely the date we should all be using.

    However, the collapse has already started. Triggered by the coming together of three  main events,,,, peak oil, greed and current climate impacts.

    We are looking at collapse around 2015. There is no escape. We must, however, shoot for the best way through this and hope, as a species, we survive this ME we have precipitated.

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yeah, changing the bosses in a maladaptive system will get us nowhere and yet that now appears to be all that those poor buggers from Tunisia to Libya fought and died for.

    What we need is a full scale change of design principle in organizations and governance systems, for equality, cooperation and shared responsibility but it looks like we have run out of time. I have been searching the OWS movement for any awareness that this is necessary but so far, it sounds like a slightly more sophisticated and economically oriented version of ‘love, peace and freedom’.

    That 60-70s round failed because they assumed democracy was the absence of the first design principle (DP1) which gives us hierarchical systems of personal dominance. But removing DP1 just leaves an organizational vacuum called laissez-faire, every person for themself, which is even more destructive and unstable than DP1.

    Only by consciously substituting DP2 for DP1 will we see genuine change and that now seems unlikely although I am still hoping for a miracle. I also agree with Wes and Tom – hurry up miracle! ME

  23. David Smith says:

    Hi Leif; I have found that most of the traditional protestent denominations have made fairly strong statements with regards to taking AGW seriously and becoming active to do something about it. That is at the national level. However, the churches in the communities seem to be ignoring these statements and remain inactive.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thank-you, John-I shall do so.

  25. Alan Larkman says:

    Thanks, Joe, for a powerful article that doesn’t shy away from the scale and the urgency of the problem. Thanks also to the contributors who have dared to mention that there is (or should be, IMO) an ethical dimension to our thinking and decision making.
    My own thinking is driven by the view that, in addition to seeking ways to preserve our way of life over the next 30 years or so, we should also be trying to:
    1) reduce the huge and widening inequalities that have grown up between the rich and poor, within and between nations, and
    2) allow a reasonable range and quantity of non-human life to persist alongside us.
    So for me, the biggest decision facing us is whether we aim to try to ‘build and consume’ our way out of the mess, albeit with lower carbon intensity of energy production and a more sensible financial system, or whether the only real way out is to try to reduce the scale of our impact on almost every aspect of the biosphere.
    I can see no grounds for confidence that even a much more benign system of continued economic growth will achieve the practical and ethical outcomes we should be aiming for. Some form of managed contraction of our economic activity seems to me to be the only route that offers us this chance in the longer term.
    I fully understand the need for urgent action now, but until we at least grapple with the really big questions, there is a danger that we may take steps in entirely the wrong directions.
    If people consciously reject these ethical aims, at least we will know where we stand.