CBS, ABC Joke About Global Warming’s Effect on Coffee. When Will The Media Start Talking Seriously About Food Security?

Back in March I wrote about Peak Arabica Coffee:  Top coffee scientist warns, “Coffee production is under threat from global warming.” I ran this chart:


Seven months later, Big Media grabbed the story when Starbucks started talking up the threat.  Good Morning America and the CBS Early Show both did segments on it.

Characteristically, though, both networks treated the story mostly as a source for levity.  And you’d be hard-pressed to find them given equal time to the far more consequential, far more serious, impact of climate change on global food prices and supply (see “Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: “We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity”).

Here are the two network videos and an excellent print story on “Food price volatility – causes and consequences”:




Funny stuff, Americans might lose their coffee thanks to climate change.

But hey, at least the story was about Americans so the networks covered it.  The food insecurity story is only a few orders of magnitude more consequential, indeed it may be the most important story of our time, as I’ve noted many times (see “How extreme weather could create a global food crisis“).

Within a decade or so, that’ll be painfully obvious to all.  It already is to many.  Here, for instance, is an excerpt from “Food price volatility – causes and consequences,” a terrific piece by Alertnet, “a free humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation covering crises worldwide”:

In the past four years, global prices of staples such as maize and wheat have twice hit record levels, driving hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people further towards hunger and poverty.

It is the poorest people in the poorest countries who are most affected by the high price of staple foods.

Recent responses to high prices have increasingly tended to focus on reducing price volatility -0 sharp fluctuations in food prices.

G20 countries in their June 2011 ministerial declaration recommended measure such as building grain reserves, a global market information system and regulating financial transactions in commodities markets….


Maximo Torero, director of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI’s) Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, highlights some “non-traditional” causes of price volatility: the increasing use of food crops to produce biofuels, extreme weather events, and an increased volume of trading in commodity futures markets.

He also notes that price volatility is common in agriculture because of seasonal variations.

The surge in demand for biofuel since 2006 caused a decline in aggregate grain and oilseed stocks that made markets and governments much more sensitive to routine disturbances, according to Wright.

“The increasing diversion of food crops like maize and soya to produce ethanol has been the new shock to the market that has kept stocks and supplies of food staples extra low.  With low stocks otherwise – minor disturbances become major price movers, he said.

In the USA, the amount of maize being diverted to ethanol production has increased rapidly – from less than 5 percent of total maize production in 1995 to more than 35 percent by 2010, according to the Earth Policy Institute. This year it will rise again.

“To put the magnitude of these reductions into perspective, a drought or pest infestation that reduced US maize output by 30 percent in a given year would be viewed as a production catastrophe,” said Wright.

See “The Corn Ultimatum: How long can Americans keep burning one sixth the world’s corn supply in our cars?

Weather events/climate change

Sudden weather events like the drought in Russia in 2010, which destroyed wheat crops and in part triggered the spike in wheat prices that year, are another major factor, said George Rapsomanikis, an economist with FAO’s Market and Trade Division.

Wright believes that oil prices and government policy on biofuels, not just in the USA and Europe but also in Africa and Latin America, will continue to be major determinants of food price behaviour in the future.

Low stocks of staples “made markets unusually sensitive to subsequent shocks such as high petroleum prices, the Australian drought [in 2006] and other regional production problems,” Wright said in a recent paper.

IFPRI – through simulated projections for the period 2010 to 2050 linking climate variability and food supplies – has shown that the rise in the price of staples could range from more than 20 percent for rice in the optimistic scenario (with high income and low population growth) to 50.4 percent for maize in the pessimistic scenario (low income and high population growth).

So the problem is a deadly serious one.

Yet, the most I’ve ever seen on any network this year is an ABC evening News from August 16 on extreme weather and its connection to global warming.  I can’t find the video online, but here’s the key part of the transcript:

HEIDI CULLEN (Climatologist): When you crank up the heat, when you globally warm the planet, you’re going to see more extreme events.

AVILA: How is this for extreme? The arctic sea ice is at its smallest ever. While globally, July was the seventh warmest ever. Making the drought in Texas easier to explain. 75 percent of America’s second largest state, bone dry. Kemp, Texas’ water tanks ran dry for days and farmers all across the southern tier are suffering. Crops from corn to soybeans are dying on the vine. And soon prices on vegetables and beef are expected to climb.

GERALD NELSON (International Food Policy Research Institute): Every farmer in the world will be affected by climate change one way or the other.

SAWYER: So, Jim, you say soon the prices will begin to rise. How soon?

AVILA: Well, hit hardest is corn and soybean. That’s all the way from breakfast cereal to steaks. And that could start happening as soon as fall, certainly six months by now.

It’s the story of the century — and arguably the best major network on TV for climate coverage has only a couple of soundbites on it.  Hard to believe some people think the media coverage isn’t part of the problem.

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47 Responses to CBS, ABC Joke About Global Warming’s Effect on Coffee. When Will The Media Start Talking Seriously About Food Security?

  1. John Tucker says:

    Really whistling past the grave yard.

    Again, also in coffee excessive environmental stress increases the amount of fungal toxins in the crop, not only in the field but also after harvest under unregulated conditions and is a concern not many are aware of.

    Safer coffee ( ) [Ochratoxin A]

    OTA is nephrotoxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic and immunosuppressive in a variety of animal species. It is a mitochondrial poison causing mitochondrial damage, oxidative burst, lipid peroxidation and interferes with oxidative posphorylation. In addition, OTA increases apoptosis in several cell types. ( )

    Incidentally dark roasted coffee fares better with respect to removal of some toxins it seems:

    The Effect of Roasting on the Fate of Aflatoxin B1 in Artificially Contaminated Green Coffee Beans ( ) [Aflatoxin]

  2. Joan Savage says:

    You’ve done so much groundwork that can help media move ahead on pieces on corn, soy and the like. I want to see that, too. Meanwhile I relish this news.

    It’s great that Starbucks pushed the climate change / coffee issue into mainstream attention, and that in turn brought along the chocolate story.

    The vocal dependency on caffeine is like pre-World War II women thinking they “couldn’t live without” silk stockings. Surprise.

    Here’s a sober thought for me, without caffeine I actually have to get enough sleep at night to function the next day. Without caffeine, I turn off the lights and electronics a few hours earlier in the evening. An energy savings!

  3. dick smith says:

    Only slightly off topic. Bananas are apparently a very important food crop, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where they grow in poor soils. I had no idea what an important part of the local diet bananas are in some countries.

    On Friday, October 21, Caitilyn Allen, Chair of the UW-Madison’s Dept. of Plant Pathology gave a public lecture entitled, “Banana Blues.”

    Among her many points: Bananas are the number 4 grain in calorie content (behind wheat, rice, potates); 90% of the crop is eaten locally in Africa; bananas meet 30-60% of caloric needs in many countries; 1/3 of the global supply is grown in sub-saharan Africa.

    In Uganda (where she has worked for several years) the average person eats 500 pounds of bananas per year. They are also a very important food source in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. They are boiled and mashed to create “makote” (which in Swahili means “food.”)

    While she was speaking of her work to stop devastation of Ugandan bananas from a bacterium originating in Ethiopia that mutated in Uganda to attack bananas, she also pointed out that global warming (and a lack of rain in East Africa) is also a very serious threat to the banana crop. She also indicated that the banana yield drops by 10% for each one-degree average increase in temperature.

    Finally, she pointed that farmers are smart if given the right information about how to eradicate the disease, by culling their crop during certain stages of fertilization. The mechanism of communicating this throughout the country was a “scandalously racy” and wildly popular radio soap opera (it sounded like JR Ewing on TV’s “Dallas”)in which the characters talk about their efforts to fight the blight–in between cheating on their spouses.

    All of this (except the drought) was news to me. I thought it was worth sharing for those concerned about food scarcity issues in East Africa.

  4. Peter Mizla says:

    I am not a coffee snob. Starbucks is overpriced anyway, and the taste is too bitter for me. Costs for all coffee is up. Be it Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.

    Food prices have risen as well.I may add the the coast of chocolate has risen. The cost of a chocolate bar is up 20% over a year ago.

    Pet lovers- if you buy dog or cat food- the price has risen over 20% as well.

    Other items from frozen foods, to cereal- all up over 2 years ago by 20%.

    If we have a climate catastrophe in the US in coming years- expect the prices for basics to rise precipitously.

    Coffee and Chocolate- where the coffee bean and cocoa bean are grown- under stress from a quickly changing climate.

    Onto wine…….

  5. prokaryotes says:

    The classic media is incompetent.

    We need a scientific based media and experts briefing and educating on all the topics concerning climate change and how to deal with it.

    The classic media has failed us.

  6. As every right-thinking rightist knows, poor people in the Third World don’t really care about the prices of rice, wheat, or maize, and care more about being able to pump gasoline into their cars.

    — frank

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Headline Hits a Nail on The Head

    The answer is this: the media will not start to talk *seriously* about ANY subject about which serious talk will lead to serious action, unless serious action would serve the media’s own self-serving interests.

    This point is as plain as day. Yet we yawn at it and don’t see that it matters, immensely, in a very real and practical sense.

    And indeed, this is also beginning to be clear, if you ask me: The same point applies to all of us, to the blogs, to CAP and CP, to the environmental groups and etc. We — most people — stop short of any *serious* writing or *serious* action that would actually be so *serious* as to possibly contradict, or put at risk, our own proximate self-interests. This is why most scientists handcuff themselves and don’t get active and loud about climate change. It’s why most academics continue to operate within the “academic comfort zone”. It’s why CAP/CP doesn’t seem comfortable or willing to host discussion that might possibly lead to more progressives ultimately NOT voting for Democrats. It’s why The New York Times wishes to not offend the oil industry, or at least not too much. It’s ultimately why Bill and want to continue saying “please Mr. President” and “live up to your promises (but we’ll vote for you either way)” but don’t want to make votes in 2012 conditional upon a NO to Keystone XL decision. And so forth. We are all — but in different ways — unnecessarily tied up by our own proximate short-term self-interests, of one sort or another.

    Yet it’s the GAPS of action, of writing, and of discussion — but ultimately of action — the things not done, and the things not said — that are created by the network or fabric of status-quo self-interests that ultimately prevent responsible action. In other words, it will be necessary for people of nearly all disciplines and types to STEP OUT OF those comfort zones and DO the very things that those people would not think of doing according to the conventional views of their disciplines and to the proximate pressures that they feel: pressures to conform to a professional ethic, a political party, a network of friendships, the implied requirements associated with a paycheck, or whatever.

    We’re all going to have to GET UNCOMFORTABLE — to DO those *serious* things — if we eventually want to become comfortable that society is facing and addressing climate change. It will be interesting — very interesting — to see who actually understands this idea and embraces it in the form of changes to his/her present self-imposed limits.

    Be Well,


  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Food and water prices are the most visible effects apart from the extreme weather events themselves and will play their part in the realization of what we’re up against. It’s a bit difficult to avoid the connections when e.g. you have extreme floods and bananas suddenly become a luxury item suitable for a special birthday present.

    That said, I found in 2009 that the choice of commercial versus non-commercial media played a significant role in the degree to which people had accurate information about climate change and were also taking action to reduce emissions, ME

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Even before the current flooding across SE Asia, salt water was slowly encroaching further up the Mekong delta which is a highly fertile area, also supporting fish farms which have supplied cheap protein for millions.

    It’s OK to make jokes about coffee, chocolate and bananas but it is the destruction of the basic cereal groups and the disappearance of fish that are going to affect the lives, and deaths, of the world’s poorest billions, ME

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    Oil was cheap in the 90’s, but when the party was over it never returned. It will be the same with basic cereal grains, especially wheat, as Australian and Canadian exports crash.

    This adjustment won’t be like the one with oil, when people begin to drive less and buy smaller cars. There will be a lot of finger pointing, little of it directed at climate change, since people will be looking to make money out of global starvation. Cargill will issue press kits saying “If only Europe had allowed more GM crops”, and starvation driven violence in Asia and Africa will be explained by “warlords hoarding supplies”.

    It will be a challenging time for the media. It’s too bad they have been hollowed out. Let’s hope that whoever replaces the tired old conglomerates, and does their homework, can reach an audience and begin to right the ship.

  11. Leif says:

    When starvation is good for the GDP or trade deficit, or Wall Street, something is seriously amiss.

  12. CW says:

    So who is approaching and working with the greater coffee industry for its support?

  13. Hank says:

    This is obviously an attempt by Starbucks to raise prices even further under the guise of “global warming”. Their own dept of sustainability produced this report! Wake up people!

  14. Anne says:

    Q: When Will The Media Start Talking Seriously About Food Security?

    A: When the media moguls start to go hungry.

  15. Ben Lieberman says:

    Trader Joe’s has recently posted some kind of notice near coffee attributing price spikes to weather, but the notice did not mention global warming–apparently that kind of reality is much too hot to handle–some of the customers may be climate reality deniers.

  16. Ben Lieberman says:

    Trader Joe’s has recently posted some kind of notice near coffee attributing price spikes to weather, but the notice did not mention global warming–apparently that kind of reality is much too hot to handle–some of the customers may be climate reality deniers.

  17. “Get Uncomfortable” is a great slogan. Because we need to get used to it.

    And no advertiser-supported mass media will ever look at global warming directly.

    People will increasingly disturbed and pained. The 2012 election will be SO interesting.

  18. Edith Wiethorn says:

    ME, please say more about your interesting distinction “commercial & non-commercial media.” How do you perceive non-commercial media? currently & potentially?

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Hank –
    I didn’t need to hear it from Starbucks, I watched the rains pound most of Columbia all of last year. I didn’t need to hear it from Starbucks , because I watched 4 feet of rain fall in Central America in the last 2 weeks.

    And I didn’t need to hear it from Starbucks, because I’ve watched thousands of factories be inundated in Thailand the last 90 days.

    But after the floods swept through five industrial estates in Ayutthaya and two in Pathum Thani, causing damage to thousands of factories, questions emerged about the flood-warning system and information provided by the government…… Japanese businesses are among the hardest-hit. Figures from the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok show that at least 400 Japanese factories have been inundated in six industrial estates in Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani.

    They are Rojana Industrial Park, where 147 Japanese plants were damaged; Saha Rattananakorn (35); Bang Pa-in (30); Factoryland (5); Hi-Tech (about 100); and Nava Nakorn (104).

    Bangkadi Industrial Park, the latest to be hit by floods, is the major production centre in Southeast Asia for Japan’s Toshiba Corporation. Its factories make home appliances, semiconductors and lighting products.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Flooding in SE Asia May Cause Shortages: UN
    The United Nations is closely monitoring the potential for “serious food shortages” in parts of Southeast Asia after flooding devastated rice paddies and other crops and as aid deliveries are disrupted.

    About 12.5 percent of rice farmland in Thailand has been damaged, along with 6 percent in the Philippines, 12 percent in Cambodia, 7.5 percent in Laos and 0.4 percent in Vietnam, as storms hit the region since the start of September, the UN Food & Agriculture Organization said in an Oct. 21 report……….. Thailand may lose 6 million tons of rough-rice from flooding, paring the main harvest to about 19 million tons, Apichart Jongskul, secretary-general of the Office of Agricultural Economics, said Oct. 21. The damage estimate does not include rice stored in warehouses that have been submerged in floodwaters, he said. ……The Philippines lost almost 600,000 tons of milled rice from typhoons that struck the country, Lito Banayo, administrator of National Food Authority said Oct. 20.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Thailand floods to lead to hard drive shortages for months
    Floods in Thailand have rattled the hard drive supply chain from component suppliers to giants like Western Digital and ultimately PC and server makers will be affected, say analysts. Thailand’s disaster has shut down 14,000 factories, flooded hundreds of thousands of homes and put more than 660,000 out of work.

  22. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    “We — most people — stop short of any *serious* writing or *serious* action that would actually be so *serious* as to possibly contradict, or put at risk, our own proximate self-interests. . . . . . .
    It’s why CAP/CP doesn’t seem comfortable or willing to host discussion that might possibly lead to more progressives ultimately NOT voting for Democrats.”

    It needs saying that Joe posted, and then updated, his article “The failed presidency of Barak Obama”, along with a detailed article on the New Yorker expose’ of the president’s sabotage of the senate climate bill, along with a host of articles highly critical of the Democrat presidency. (The recent slagging of the BPC report was noteworthy as Tom Daschle – one of four BPC founders – is also on the board of CAP). Joe has also been explicit in stating that he does not accept any editorial censorship from those hosting the site.

    The absence of any articles on the justification for using electoral votes as hostage to the Keystone decision, or for replacing Obama with a more electable candidate who’ll apply full executive power on climate action;
    – and on the sheer implausibility of White House staff claims that years of silence and total paralysis of action on the existential climate threat reflect merely a serial misreading of patently obvious polling and voting data;
    – and on the grossly callous, nationalistic and futile nature of the US climate policy of total standoff with China and of undermining the climate treaty negotiations,
    – may simply reflect Joe’s opinion that these perspectives are too obviously irrelevant to warrant discussion.

    If so, it would really be helpful to read articles on the dynamics of these seminal issues, as their irrelevance is far from obvious to some of CP’s readership and commenters. In this manner I’d hope, Joe, that you both can and will provide a practical refutation of Jeff’s inference above that CP has to an extent been co-opted by status quo interests.

    Perhaps it needs saying that I remain deeply impressed with the work, the skill and the talent that go into making CP an exceptional site ?



  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Crop scientists now fret about heat not just water

    But scientists now wonder if a more immediate issue is an unusual rise in day-time and, especially, night-time summer temperatures being seen in crop belts around the world.

    Interviews with crop researchers at American universities paint the same picture: high temperatures have already shrunken output of many crops and vegetables.

    “We don’t grow tomatoes in the deep South in the summer. Pollination fails,” said Ken Boote, a crop scientist with the University of Florida.

    The same goes for snap beans which can no longer be grown in Florida during the summer, he added.

  24. Colorado Bob says:

    Coffee Futures Jump on Asia, Latin America Rains

    Torrential rain has claimed scores of lives across Central America, knocked mature coffee berries from trees, and damaged infrastructure across the region, the supplier of 10% of the world’s coffee.

    Roads damaged by flooding and landslides may delay exports from Central America, which started its 2011-12 harvest this month. The region’s rich, volcanic soil produces some of the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

    Heavy rain is also pummeling Colombia, the world’s largest producer of arabica beans after Brazil, sparking worries that disease and fungus would hurt this season’s crop.

    Floods in Vietnam may also hurt coffee shipping. Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of robusta, a less popular coffee bean that roasters sometimes add to their blends when arabica isn’t available.

  25. Bill G says:

    ABC and the mainstream can joke about global warming because no one has fully explained to the public that warming will likely lead to the death of billions of humans.

    It is too big a fact to report. So it goes unreported.

    Even climate blogs hesitate to clearly and specifically spell out the whole, terrible truth.

  26. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Frank –
    in the interest of balance it’s worth noting that most American progressives seem equally comfortably convinced that, under this democrat presidency:

    – it’s just an accident that nothing effective has been done either nationally or globally to outlaw profiteering in the form of food-price speculation;
    – it’s just an accident that the diversion of the nation’s corn harvest from food exports into fuel has risen to near 40%, which further helps to keep global food prices at the highest sustained level ever;
    – it’s just an accident that professionals’ serial inverse misreading of opinion polls has given the delusion of climate being such an extreme vote-loser that not even presidential rhetoric on climate is allowed, let alone constructive negotiation of the climate treaty to halt rising climate impacts on global food production;
    – it’s just an accident that populations from Latin America to Africa to East Asia are now on a steepening slide towards ruinous mega-famines;
    – and it’s going to be just an accident if climatic destabilization happens to knock over the Chinese communist government and so ends China’s bid to replace accustomed US global dominance – and all without a shot fired . . . .

    Yeah, that’s sure a lot of accidents, but then life, and especially the weather, are kind of unpredictable – you think ?



  27. Bill G says:

    There is a strange, but broad tacit agreement that the term “global warming” not be used in mainstream activities.

    Similarly, mention that food sources will be increasingly squeezed down more and more is verboten.

  28. Bill G says:

    Countries of Central and South America, and the Caribbean consume a lot of bananas. Various varieties have names like “Lady Fingers” (a small, sweet banana), “Plaintains” (large banana used in cooking), “Machos” (large, sweet banana) and regular bananas as we see in our supermarkets.

  29. pickens says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Have you got that boycott of Chevron set up yet ? I’m about ready to roll.

  30. Joe Romm says:

    Huh, you are confusing incompetence with conspiracy. The last bullet isn’t even true.

  31. Raul M. says:

    weather and whether-
    Mankind has progressed in making buildings more exclusive to the environment yet that people will at times still emerge from their buildings is a given. Adding closure awnings with refrigerator door like seals would help to secure the buildings during the more extreme weather events. Whether it is done before the weather event isn’t a given.

  32. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I have no doubts about AGW. All my questions about climate are not whether, but how much and when. And although I don’t doubt the possibility of the death of billions, I just haven’t yet managed to get my head around it. Perhaps the dread of impending terribleness affects others as well?

  33. Spike says:

    At one point last week the only mainstream coverage of the floods in Latin America I could find was the WSJ article above on the effects on coffee futures!!

    Kind of puts our society in perspective huh?

  34. Spike says:

    5 years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury warned on the BBC about the risks of millions losing their lives, perhaps billions, and was predictably ridiculed for his efforts.The prescient interview can be read here:

    sadly the UK media continue to ignore the greatest issue of our times with anything other than vague peripheral allusions.

  35. Lewis Cleverdon, even if you’re right, you’re still wrong. “Progressives” didn’t elect Obama because they wanted to defeat China.

    Were I a US citizen who’d voted for Obama, I can justifiably say, ‘What? Obama’s doing all this to fulfill his top-secret plan to defeat China? That wasn’t what I signed up for, you friggin’ bunch of morons!’

    — frank

  36. Robert In New Orleans says:

    The general public is not connecting the dots yet, but the real questions are what happens when they do and what they will do, if anything about it.

    I personally believe they do not want to connect the dots because the reality is way too much for them to handle.

  37. Joan Savage says:

    Yeah. Seemingly, the commentator hadn’t checked with her research department about the bad news for wine and climate change.

  38. CTG says:

    Losing coffee is no joke – the IT industry is powered by coffee…

  39. Bill G says:

    Dennis, you put your finger on it very well.

    You don’t want to deal with or think about the big and terrible truth of GW. I don’t either. We prefer to look for that happy ending we have been led to expect – mainly by Hollywood.

    But keeping quiet about the final stages of global warming and what they will bring permits us to talk only about polar bears or clever ways to mitigate CO2, etc., etc.

    We quickly need to begin thinking about that final chapter and what, if anything, can be done about survival. Was it Herman Kann who termed it, “Thinking about the Unthinkable”?

  40. SqueakyRat says:

    Amusing that Avila thinks corn and soybeans grow on vines.

  41. 6thextinction says:

    since we all agree the impending disaster of GW makes people uncomfortable, and mainstream media won’t treat it seriously for several unconscionable reasons, what can WE do, who so want this dire situation to change?

    1) go to dc on nov 6
    2) occupy a city (this is a movement you’ve never seen, whatever your age.)

    that’s our homework for the next 2 weeks.

  42. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Edith, we have two national organizations and sets of networks covering all media, that are non-commercial. There is the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) which is totally govt. funded and therefore, has no ads, and the Special Broadcast Service (SBS) which was set up by the govt to cater for our multicultural and multilingual community. SBS now has a few ads but that advertizing is nowhere near enough to start influencing the content.

    Both the ABC and SBS maintain extremely high quality journalistic practices and most people trust them for accurate info when it really counts. However, that does not stop fusspots like me complaining about them at regular intervals, ME

  43. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joe –
    we differ over this, as in my view you are confusing a discreet but essentially normal strategic policy enactment with a bizarre level of unmitigated incompetence in multiple fields.

    As a rule, empires have faced ruinous warfare rather than cede their dominance to a rising rival power – America, with its immense military, its cultivated popular nationalism, its unprecedented ‘free press’ propaganda machine, and a sequence of well-crafted provocations as pretext, could follow suit if wiser heads were ignored – no doubt the Koch bros and the far right elite around them would accept pouring away just as many lives to maintain the profitable US hegemony as the British empire did for its maintenance in WW1.

    In this context, Climatic Destabilization of the rival power gives the appearance of being a far cheaper alternative for America, with the failsafe of Teller’s proposal of sulphate aerosols as a backstop control option. The hypothesis of its present development thus provides potent economic and social motivations and is grounded in the historical conduct of empires. It is merely ‘real politique’ – as conducted by an exceptionally cold-blooded poker player.

    I could of course have cited a long list of additional events where the White House ‘just happens’ to have advanced the Bush policy of a “brinkmanship of inaction” with China – starting with Obama’s unforced reneging on the UNFCCC 1990 baseline in March ’09.

    Yet the actions I did list are cogent – For instance, it seems simply implausible with all of the high calibre players in and around the White House – from the Joint Chiefs to Chu and Holdren to the NSA to the CIA – that nobody has been able to point out to the president, during almost three years, that it is demonstrably wrong to see the critical climate issue as an extreme vote-loser. These and doubtless many other players have a professional duty to correct misinformation that is obstructing policy which would serve the national interest – while Obama’s 2012 campaign planners actually have the direct motivation of serving his re-election.

    Ergo, the president was persuaded to declare that the national interest is best served by maintaining Bush’s total inaction on climate and the issue’s near total exclusion from public discourse, and enough cover has been provided to obscure the decision and it’s rationale from the public. This is in no sense conspiracy: it is merely covert policy.

    Your note is unclear as to what you think is untrue about the fifth bullet point. That China is potentially vulnerable to climatic destabilization seems pretty obvious – given a plausible future scenario of steeply rising food prices and slowing factory employment, protests over privations turning to rioting would not be a surprise, at which point the heavy handed security forces are less likely to defuse tensions than to exacerbate them by brutality. Sufficient food insecurity and rising flood and storm damage to homes, factories and infrastructure certainly would destabilize the regime – though the timing remains very uncertain.

    The second phrase was of the fall of the regime ending the present Chinese bid for global dominance. For this the Russian example is relevant with its massive sudden economic decline and gangster capitalism. By comparison, China has about five times Russia’s population needing feeding – off significantly degraded soils and depleted aquifers – and does not have the huge oil & gas resources whose exports have funded Russia’s recovery, after two decades, to a second-rank power status.

    The tag of China’s bid being ended “without a shot fired” was rhetorical, and referred to a lack of US military involvement – not to a lack of internal conflict – which I guess you understood.

    Perhaps by “not true” you meant simply that it’s not yet happened ? But, since the future tense was used for the projection, this would seem an odd critique.

    It seems a pity that the hypothesis doesn’t warrant a more dispassionate evaluation in your view – not least because evidence both of Obama’s misconduct on the climate issue and of the acceleration of the climate threats are mounting by the week. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, to have any chance of achieving policy change, we have first to identify accurately just what policy is currently operational.



  44. Joe Romm says:

    Lewis, we may disagree, but you are simply wrong. I have spoken to people who have worked at the highest levels of this White House (some who still do) and the conspiracy notion is just utter nonsense. I did a post earlier about how dreadful they are on basic communications on things like health care. You’ve seen how catastrophically bad they were on the debt ceiling. They are just incredibly incompetent on the messaging and Axelrod among others bought the myth which is quite common among Democratic politicians that this is a losing political issue. I just can’t tell you how many serious people even out of power still believe that.

    The China stuff is bordering on well, I won’t put it in print but when the other side says stuff like this, I write long blog posts….

  45. Roger says:

    6thextinction says, “since we all agree the impending disaster of GW makes people uncomfortable, and mainstream media won’t treat it seriously for several unconscionable reasons, what can WE do, who so want this dire situation to change?”

    Yes, we can (and should) go to DC on Novemeber 6th (to surround the WH), asking Obama to veto the KXL pipeline, and to come clean on climate in a so dedicated speech.

    And we should look to the recent OWS-style protests, not only to occupy a city, but also to, perhaps more effectively, occupy the highway (in a safe and legal way) as described here:

  46. Raul M. says:

    isn’t it becoming rather more a contest to be the ones who get to have the safe refuge in the safe and secure and comfortable secure storm shelter there in D.C.

  47. Raul M. says:

    Shouldn’t there be some different considerations as to who gets to stay in the D.C. storm shelter that was built as a.bomb shelter?
    As some could say a storm would be an act of god wouldn’t shelter be considered to have more criteria than an act of violence by another country.
    Wouldn’t it be more easily studied as to what a lawmaker voted for and how a lawmaker’s personal carbon footprint evidences in AGW?
    Because the hiding from an act of god could be hiding from an angry god whose anger is of their own making, a correlation could be drawn to the Adam and Eve story where Adam tries to keep that fig leaf in place that eve gave him.
    Trying to put in place policy where those who get to find salvation in the D.C. Storm shelter is thus a loosing proposition even if those who get control do get to make grand decisions that would make differences in a time of national disaster.
    But to make a world class community storm shelter that wouldn’t be commandeered well it might need secrecy first.