Welcome Christian Parenti, and Host Miles Grant (TheGreenMiles.com)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

Host, Miles Grant:

Progressives’ concerns about the climate crisis typically bring our gaze to the north – struggling polar bears and melting ice caps. But in Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti makes the case that we’re missing the real story to the south – where our addiction to dirty fuels is introducing a new level of disorder in places that are already struggling and unstable.

“The metabolism of the world economy is fundamentally out of sync with that of nature,” writes Parenti. “And that is a mortal threat to both.”

According to Parenti, nowhere is this hitting harder than Earth’s tropical zone, “a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states.” Parenti calls it a “catastrophic convergence”:

• The destabilizing legacy of Cold War proxy fights
Neoliberal economic restructuring, marked by privatization, globalization & deregulation
• The early stages of the climate crisis delivering weather extremes

Tropic of Chaos brings us examples of the climate crisis fueling conflict from East Africa to Afghanistan to Brazil. And 2011 may have delivered the most prominent example yet, with Arab Spring revolutions in places like Egypt, fed by skyrocketing food prices driven up by extreme weather.

We don’t need to go halfway around the world to find evidence of climate calamity. Unprecedented wildfires, historic flooding, and heat and drought even worse than what broke Dust Bowl records have gripped America. But the media mostly ignores the climate connections of extreme weather – at best an ignorance of the latest climate science, and at worst a deliberate aversion to reporting facts that might upset the Tea Party.

And of course no one is more terrified of the Tea Party than Congress, which has done little to invest in clean energy, and nothing to limit carbon pollution. President Obama has a major carbon-cutting tool at his disposal in the Clean Air Act, but it remains to be seen if he’ll deploy his weapon of mass reduction.

Meanwhile, tired of watching fuel convoys targeted by roadside bombs, the military is quietly leading on clean energy. According to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts, military spending on clean energy tripled from 2006 to 2009, reaching $1.2 billion – and that number could hit $10 billion by 2030.

What remains missing, a generation after the prophetic warning of James Hansen, is a binding global treaty to cut emissions, provide aid to developing countries invest in clean energy, and help those vulnerable to climate adversity adapt. The question that lingers ominously: What happens when countries within the Tropic of Chaos figure out who took the lead in putting all that carbon pollution up there? It’s no wonder response plans are being drawn up by the military, private contractors, and corporations.

Join us in comments to share your thoughts and questions for today’s FDL Book Salon author, Christian Parenti.

107 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence”

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Christian, Welcome to the Lake.

Miles, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Thanks, Bev!

Christian, thanks for joining us. What’s the most prominent example of climate disruption we’ve seen so far in 2011?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Thank you for having me on the FDL book salon.

The most prominent weather disruption? Hard to say there are so many. But as the thesis of my book argues, so will I and insist that it is not just the events themselves but their social and economic fallout that is most disturbing.

In that regard I wrote an article for Tom dispatch linking surging food prices to climate change, particularly rain in the upper Midwest and drought in the Black Sea region, and those climate driven surging food prices to the Arab spring.

So, I guess, it was the weather events of last year that have produced these most profound political events this year.

Elliott September 24th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Welcome to the Lake

I’m fascinated that the Defense Department/Pentagon is taking climate change extremely seriously yet the Republican Party is still bouncing around in fantasyland. Is that all the result of Big Oil/Gas’ dastardly influence?

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Christian, foreign bureaus have been shuttered around the globe & I find the Washington Post’s bureau map (halfway down the right side here) particularly hard to look at. How do you think the contracting American news media affects perceptions of climate-fueled chaos?

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Tomgram: Christian Parenti, Staff of Life, Bread of Death

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Another part of an answer to that last question…Closer to home, tropical storm Irene dissipated over the Green Mountains in a fashion that wrought tremendous devastation. I am writing now from southern Vermont where I was raised. It is becoming clear that this region is getting wetter and we are already seeing the economic cost of that in the form of washed out bridges, flooded downtowns and an enormous repair bill.

The response to the devastation here in Vermont seems to show 2 things: communities must come together in the face of climate change and the government must inevitably play an important role in the response. The scale of the crisis is really beyond what individuals or even small voluntary groups can handle, though their role in the response is important. Rebuilding public infrastructure upon which our economy depends requiers a healthy, well-funded and well-organized government. That is a fact the tea party GOP are now in total denial of.

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

As a technical note,
there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and number you are replying to and helps for everyone in following the conversation.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Christian, let me ask a devil’s advocate question. Tropic of Chaos countries are burning their own rainforests, others building new highways, and still more drilling for oil. Why should America set aside billions for international climate adaptation when some of these nations are helping dig the hole deeper?

Tammany Tiger September 24th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Christian, have you read Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars and if so, do you agree with his prediction that by the mid-21st century, temperate-zone countries will seal themselves off while the the rest of the world dies of war and starvation?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

In answer to Elliott, Certainly the profound denial and antiscience politics of the GOP have much to do with it erect influence of fossil fuel industry investment in messaging. But there is an older deeper strain of anti-rational reaction in American politics. I’m in the middle of reading about Jacksonian era-America and I’m struck by the parallel with today between the southern Democratic parties opposition to science and economic planning in the late 1820s early 1830s and positions taken today by the Republican Party.

So what I’m saying is, the fossil fuel industry helps to fuel and exacerbate and plays upon an old and enduring set of know nothing style prejudices that are common among certain sectors of the American public.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

In answer to Miles question about the decline in investment in foreign reporting: That is a serious problem. But I do not think that reporting is the primary issue I think it is the way in which the pundit class and the political class refused to take seriously the issue of climate change.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I recently read Cod – as I read how in the 1800s the English blamed the Spanish for cod stock collapse & in the 1900s the Canadians blamed the Americans, it was hard not to think of the GOP-blaming-China-&-India parallels. No one likes to think their own actions are responsible for suffering.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

In answer to TammanyTiger, you might want to read “Tropic of Chaos”. In it I argued that we can already see the contours of how that is happening. AB 1070 in Arizona, Fortress Europe, these are only the beginning. But a future climate fascism is not inevitable. We have to take action now to both adapt to the amount climate change were locked in for and to mitigate the problem–that is get off of fossil fuels.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Your list of hortatories, or “musts,” is just not going to happen in the U.S. as long as the country is run by two identical parties. The USG won’t even respond with disaster relief anymore, except for the most f’d up kind provided at corruption-infested (pun intended) prices by campaign contributors. Is there anything happening locally in VT after Irene, both volunteer & state govt/local govt that seems like a better model?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Miles, that is an interesting parallel. I wonder if will become harder and harder to blame China as their clean technology sector builds momentum. Let’s hope that happens and that it might spur on some sort of “clean tech arms race” the global struggle to build the better windmill. Alas, I am not optimistic that that will happen.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Christian, what’s the one best thing that could be done to get Americans to pay more attention to climate-fueled political & economic disruptions? Do we need to hear more from Americans who are originally from Tropic of Chaos countries?

bluewombat September 24th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Christian, you may (or may not) remember me for sending you a CIA map of Iraq four years ago — you said that the information wasn’t new to you, but you were going to hang it on your wall.

My question: I have a friend who’s not a right-winger by any means, but nonetheless has somehow bought into this whole thing of the emails of the British climate scientists in East Anglia were hinky, so she doesn’t believe that global warming is caused by humanity — it’s cosmic rays from the sun, or something like that.

Can you suggest anything or any source that might get her to see reason? Unlike a wingnut, I believe she’s amenable to reason, although I haven’t had any luck so far.

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Welcome, Christian and Miles.

I’m curious about the book’s premise. Well before Hanson spoke out, the zone you write about was constantly in wars, violence, revolutions, etc. How do you see the climate challenge exacerbating that, or changing it in fundamental ways?

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

The USG has been driven by Old Testament religion (“chosen people”; manifest destiny) for much of its history, not just Jackson’s era & current era. The only time the U.S. cared about science (well, except for weapons) in my 3-score & 7 was after Sputnik went up. Otherwise U.S. prez are pretty lame (and not just about science).

Elliott September 24th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

ahh, very interesting. Any special book you’d recommend to us on that period – we have some voracious readers/students of history.

ps there’s a wee reply button below each comment to direct your replies.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

eCAHNomics, I think you are too harsh about federal responses to disasters. Here in Vermont we are very dependent on federal money to help out. The planning and rebuilding is being done locally, by the state and by the local contractors that it uses. Luckily we have a good governor, a young fairly liberal Democrat named Pete Shumblin who happens to be from my hometown (and in full-disclosure, I gaven money to Shumlin though I also once voted against him when he was running against the more left-leaning Anthony Pollina).

I think it is dangerous to simply wave away the role of the federal government. The disaster that was the response to Katrina is not the only model for federal action.

Consider this: 5 million people get federally subsidized flood insurance. The federal government insures $1.2 trillion worth of property. The private insurance market ensures less than 260,000 people.

It is my belief that climate change will be met by big government or it will not be met at all.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 13

I listened to Cod. Perfect example of environmental destruction with no one willing to take responsibility.

It took rivers set ablaze to make Nixon do anything along the lines of environmental protection.

Elliott September 24th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 13

the cod collapse is a profound example of human impact on the environment

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 18

Great resources: Grist’s How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic or ClimateProgress’ Skeptic Rebuttals

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Christian, there is a Reply button at the lower right of each comment. If you hit that first, then we can match your responses to specific comments. Thanks.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Bluewombat, that map still hangs in my apartment, for years it was in my kitchen now in an office. Thank you.

I refer conservative climate denial lists to the Pentagon. Your friend is possibly not a right-winger. Nonetheless most climate denial lists lean heavily to the right. As part of their worldview they venerate the military in the armed services. I think it is effective for them to realize that this most hallowed of institutions does not agree with the Fox news talking points that deny the validity of climate science.

It is hard to argue with people who do not accept the overwhelming scientific consensus.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 26

You mean like this?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I was trying to match my response to the specific comment by hitting the reply button… But I don’t think it worked.

bluewombat September 24th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 25

Ah, thank you very much.

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Yep. Thanks.

Phoenix Woman September 24th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Thanks for being here, gentlemen!

I notice that the Pentagon admits that human-caused climate change is real. Why won’t the oil and coal companies on whose ultimate behalf they apparently fight?

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I usually limit myself to two scientific back-and-forths with people who call themselves skeptics. If they’re still stonewalling, I consider them political deniers & stop wasting my breath trying to convince them.

bluewombat September 24th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Ah, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it! :)

In the spirit of politics making strange bedfellows, my friend is both liberal and a lesbian, although she does live in Texas.

Still, your suggestion is a good one, and I’ll try it out on her.

Elliott September 24th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 33

ahh, wisdom

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 32

Phoenix woman, I think it is in large part because the oil and gas companies have billions and billions of dollars of sunk capital – oil wells, pipelines, and refineries – that are threatened with economic annihilation if these companies admit that the overwhelming scientific consensus is correct. All those pipelines will become scrap metal if we shift to wind, solar and hydropower.

Climate denial by the fossil fuel industry is the most explicit and prominent example of capitalism’s tendency towards self-destruction. Yes, in the end we all go down together. But in the near-term those companies and their investors seek to profit off of the billions of dollars they have invested.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

What’s happening in Brazil? Destruction of rain forest, I presume. Are there wars about that, or just easy slaughter of rain forest dwellers? How does current destruction of Brazilian rain forest compare to era when tire companies tried (unsuccessfully) to clear & plant rubber trees, in terms of extent? Is the lefty-leaning Brazilian central govt a held or a hindrance, i.e., are they bought & paid for by the corps that are destroying rain forest? Other info you think is pertinent.

Also, how does Brazil compare to North America in 19C, when a squirrel could jump from tree to tree from one coast to the other at the beginning but at the end there was nary a tree in sight in large swaths of the middle of the continent?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Here’s a question for all of you. What sort of a role could and should organize labor be playing in pushing for, and articulating the needs for, the transition away from fossil fuels?

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 33

Great rule of thumb.

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Because the US has had so many weather related catastrophes this year, it seems the media has at last been asking about the possible connection to climate change, though it’s often a debate about whether the earth is round. Do yu see thn changing in the US? And if so, what more will it take for them to start seeing the connections to our foreign interests? Where do you expect that realization to occur first?

Tammany Tiger September 24th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I think that not accepting the scientific consensus is a symptom of a bigger problem: ignoring facts in general.

It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who argue rationally about sports, citing statistics and exposing opponents’ logical fallacies, then parrot Rush Limbaugh’s talking points when the debate turns to subjects such as climate.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Christian, I was fascinated by your critiques of counterinsurgency. I’d love to hear more about what you think the best way to deal with unstable regimes would be moving forward. Has the Obama administration’s dealings with countries like Libya & Syria shown improvement, or are we still making mistakes?

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The CEOs of fossil fuel corps, and the pols they have bought, will die in supreme luxury in their mansions long before they or their issue have to face consequences of their actions.

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

One possibility is to recognize that renewable energy industries are some of the fastest growing, so the jobs are there, if the money is focused. The same would be true if more money were directed towards energy efficient retrofits, which to some extent requires some of the skills in the construction industry. And those jobs can’t be outsourced.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

The cynicism is just unfathomable. I truly believe people like Dick Cheney & think life’s short so you might as well cash in. And future chaos? Let the grandkids clean up the mess.

Phoenix Woman September 24th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Too bad we can’t talk them into repurposing old offshore oil rig platforms as small-scale wind or solar farms.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 41

Sports is a diversion that the few use to control the many. Think about gladiators vs. lions in Roman colloseum.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 42

Miles, the best way to deal with unstable regimes is to stop creating them. Look at Pakistan. Look at what we have done in Pakistan: $20 billion in US military aid spent in 10 years with zero accountability. And now Adm. Mike Mullen is saying things that only dissident journalists like your correspondent here were saying 5 and 7 years ago. Pakistan funds the Taliban and seeks to destabilize Afghanistan as part of its little cold war with India. (I can go into details about that later if you want.) But my point is, we must think about unintended consequences, blowback, repercussions in the future that result from lavishing weaponry and training on despotic and duplicitous regimes.

Somalia, another country I discuss in Tropic of Chaos, collapsed in large part because the US funded it in its fight against Ethiopia. Ethiopia in turn was funded by the Soviet Union and Cuba. To be fair, neither Fidel Castro nor Jimmy Carter ever suspected that their hot proxy conflict, a subset of the Cold War, would end in the first case of modern state failure in Somalia.

But it did.

Now Pakistan is headed in the same direction. So too are many other states… I’ll give detals if you wish. Look at the response to the crisis in northern Mexico: drones, more military aid from the US. That is insanity.

Tammany Tiger September 24th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 43

In the 2007 novel Our American King by David Lozell Martin, the rich had walled themselves off inside gated communities, guarded by private armies of men who chose serfdom over starvation. In that novel the rich knew that energy depletion would lead to an apocalypse. I’m certain that at least some of the rich see a climate apocalypse coming and plan to hunker down behind walls and mercenary armies.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 41

Actually, you’re on to something there – has 100 years without a title stopped Cubs fans from rooting for their team? Similarly, no amount of reality-based evidence can dissuade Team GOP.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

WRT the wealthy, I have an acquaintance who sails, who has watched one supra rich person after another rebuild a mansion on a Martha’s Vineyard spit of land the next season after the last one got washed into the ocean. If you want ONE particular example of why nothing will happen with current US power structure, that might be the poster boy.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 43

You are correct. And that is part of the problem why current elites refuse to plan for the near future. It is just far enough away for them to be fairly confident they will not die as refugees on some levity fighting over food rations. However give it another generation or 2 and without serious changes to our energy economy all bets are off.

I hesitate to remind people of this–James Hansen in his book “storms of my grandchildren” makes a credible case for the possibility of what he calls the venous syndrome: self fueling climate change accelerating to the point where all life on earth is wiped out.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 49

Already done. Sounds like nonfiction to me.

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 46
Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

The fossil fuel industries don’t need labors help in pushing fed subsidies for their development. So it’s a waste for labor to help them. But alternative technologies that also create jobs won’t get fed funding unless their advocates fight for them and overcome the fossil fuel opposition, including phony scandals like Solyndra. Labor can help in that effort to expand the range of technology eligible for support and thus jobs.

Tammany Tiger September 24th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 50

Part of the problem with Team GOP is that they’ve locked themselves into getting their information from a limited set of sources: Fox “News” and right-wing talk-show hosts, and their own like-minded friends. There’s not a chance in a hundred that these people would pick up a copy of Tropic of Chaos.

Phoenix Woman September 24th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to BevW @ 54

Or all three!

Decommissioning offshore rigs is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Why not retrofit them to provide clean energy? It would be a great way to help the economies of the Gulf states like Lousiana.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Christian, I wish I could call your vision of climate-fueled chaos the cynical perspective … but it’s the realistic one. What would be the (non-realistic) optimist’s vision of a more harmonious future? I don’t think anyone would see the GOP joining hands with the people of the world and singing. But would a sudden & dramatic drop in the price of clean energy (below the cost of coal-fired electricity or oil-fueled vehicles) change our course?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Here’s an issue I put out to you all. What is the role of the state in facing this crisis?

Across Vermont there are many “transition towns” that are planning and training for local response to the civilizational downshift that seems to be coming. But I feel that progressives– American leftists from liberals to anarchists– have unconsciously swallowed the GOP’s antigovernment hook. we do not seem able to articulate a defense of government and explain what it does well and why it should do those things better and more.

Is this a real problem or is it just a pet peeve of mine?

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I was an economic forecaster on Wall St. One of the many lessons I learned too late to help my career is that almost no one can forecast. Not snark but honestly offered. I.E., even though clients (institutional money managers) had to make decisions about the future, they could not understand how it could differ from the present no matter what evidence could be advanced. One of my cleverest competitors recognized this early in his career, and would always wait until there was enough evidence available before advising clients of change. And everyone would sit up and clap and say: “Oh, that Ed Hyman, he’s so schmart. That’s just what I was thinking.”

Of course, by then in the climate change sphere, it will be too late.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Wiping out life on earth would be consistent with Darwin, right? Evolve or die…

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 58

here is the unrealistic optimistic scenario: China due to local air pollution problems invests heavily in clean technology, it begins retiring its coal fleet and marketing this clean technology to the increasingly rapidly growing economies of the global South. I will remind you that Africa as a whole is now growing at 5% per annum. Energy is key to the growth of the global South. The basis upon which the global South industrialize is is an open question. If China can sell the global South functional clean technology that possibly spurs similar investment here in the US.

Europe realizes that austerity is insanity. Creditors are forced to take a massive hit. The state embraces its Keynesian responsibilities and directs investment, participating directly with public investment and guiding private investment with incentives and tax policy. Thus would countries like Germany and Portugal that have a good start on the clean tech sector make greater strides.

In other words capitalism as it exists now is pushed by proper state policy to make the investments necessary.

This is not pie-in-the-sky for several reasons. The problem we face is political. It is not economic nor technological. There are vast amounts of capital sloshing around world markets in search of profitable outlets for investment. That money can be channeled towards clean technology.

The problem is not technological. We have the technologies that we need. We have invented the windmill, the solar arrays, etc. yes they all need to become better and better and they will with investment.

The one missing piece to the problem is political. In a way that’s quite hopeful it’s not as if we can see the vision but we know that we can’t afford it whether we can see the vision but we can imagine what the technology is. We can see the vision we can afford it we have the technology we just do not have the political will to bring all the components together.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

The theme of “humans think things happen linearly, but reality often involves sudden tipping points” recurs in Christian’s book, not just in climate change but in the disruption of nations’ stability.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

You called me too pessimistic on role of govt when I asked you earlier. I respectfully disagree.

I know VT reasonably well. Learned to ski at Mad River Glen and had a friend, now dead, with an historic house on Lake Champlain & factory in St. Albans. I’ve been there a lot.

Development has been a big problem in VT (dairy shit slides downhill dontcha know) as it is in the mid-Hudson where I now live. Preservation of open space is HUGE problem, many meetings, quite expensive, land is farmers’ (dairy in VT, orchards locally) retirement income. No easy answers.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 61

I hear what you are saying. But on book tour I have been trying to caution against cynicism. Here’s my line: the easy argument to make is that we have gone too far and overshot the edge of the cliff and are already on our way down. The difficult argument to make and to make credibly is that there is still some way to pull back.

I believe the difficult argument is true and therefore it is worth trying to make. Only by making such an argument – an argument for the realistic possibility of civilizations continuation – can we nurture that project along.

If nothing else, it seems to me almost a matter of personal and species honor that we do not throw in the towel in the face of our own self-destructive sins against nature.

Scarecrow September 24th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Don’t you think the growing number and intensity of climate related disasters, which require government response, will change that attitude? Even the debate in Congress about offsets for emergency funding seems to be shifting.

How would you characterize the difference in views between e.g., Europe and the US on making these connections?

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I couldn’t agree with this more: “The problem we face is political. It is not economic nor technological.” But there’s an unholy alliance of big polluters who don’t want us to do anything, and politicians who can gain power easily by saying “elect me and I won’t ask you to make hard choices.” And as someone who has to deal with Jim Webb as my senator, I can’t just blame the GOP for that.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 64

The difference between Vermont and New Hampshire is the role of government. On one side of the Connecticut River, the Vermont side, government takes an active role in trying to support social services education and the environment and to limit endless sprawl. Tho large lot sprawl is a big problem in Vermont. On the other side of the Connecticut River lies New Hampshire, no offense to my freedom loving neighbors to the east, but the landscape itself will tell the story. It is been trashed malls tangled traffic in small towns surrounded by suburban sprawl. A higher crime rate.

It is not that government is perfect or government is the solution for everything, but without some planning you get, well, you get New Hampshire. Ha-ha, just kidding New Hampshire!

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

As a Boston native, I wish New Hampshire was held up as an example of what happens in small government utopia – fireworks & cheap booze. Similarly, as a Syracuse grad I wish that city was held up as an example of what happens when you turn your natural resources over to big business – millions of pounds of mercury at the bottom of Onondaga Lake.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 63

As an econ forecaster I utterly and completely reject the model of tipping point. Turning points are always visible FAR in advance of their happening. The tricky issue is timing. If you forecast a turning point too soon, you lose your job.

Example: I left Wall St at the peak of the dot-com bubble. I knew it was a bubble and didn’t hesitate to talk about it. People would just shake their heads at how little I knew.

I sold my tech stocks in 9/99, having bitten my nails about them for over a year, but realizing that bubbles got a lot bigger and lasted a lot longer than you thought. NASDAQ (largely tech index) peaked in 3/00, SIX months later, and FIFTY percent higher than in 9/99. If I had been a money manager, I would have been fired in those 6 months.

Calling a burst bubble a tipping point is a misuse of language. The signs were all there long before the bubble burst.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 70

But if you’re an Italian geologist, you better be able to see earthquake turning points coming or else your ass is in jail.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 66

Europe has always had – for better and for worse – a more statist system. Remember they have both statist left and a statist right. In the US we have an antistatist right and an antistatist left. But we have a political economy that fundamentally depends on the state.

I’m not an expert in European politics, it would be hard for me to say too much of use about how European political culture is responding to the escalating pace of extreme weather. That said I did my graduate work at the London School of Economics and lived in England for several years. And there are fundamental questions about the role of government in suring up the public good that are taken for granted by everyone across the political spectrum in the UK. For example the national health service even many, many conservatives like it. When you have that level of consensus about a useful role for government, it makes a collective response to climate change through proper government planning seem eminently more realistic and reasonable.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I think the solution to climate change might be technological. Could you address that? What about burying CO-2? What other near term changes could be made to reverse the spewing of CO-2 into the atmosphere? Green energy, seemingly, will be too little too late, esp given the vested interests in black energy.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 69

For the record, fireworks and cheap booze are the features of New Hampshire culture that us Vermonters enjoyed most.

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 71

LOL. Love it. I NEVER faced prosecution nor jail time for a bad forecast!

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Okay, no more beating up on New Hampshire. It’s a great state. Live free or die… Or maybe both?

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Christian, what’s the next topic you’re looking to tackle? What’s the next issue that people aren’t yet talking about you want to dig into?

eCAHNomics September 24th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Good discussion. I’m off to another matter. I asked a Q about Brazil earlier (37) but did not see an answer. I’ll check back later, and see if you get a chance to address it.

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Christian, you mention Kyrgyzstan in your book, a country we don’t think of very often. Could you explain the “climate war” they had?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 73

There are many on the left who automatically oppose technological solutions. I however am not one of them. I agree I think technology is the solution, clean technology possibly also forms of carbon capture and sequestration.

However the one carbon capture and sequestration experiment underway has been so for almost a decade. Next Gen as this model coal plant is called is known in the industry as nevergen Because the executives of the colon to stream know that it will never in fact come online.

Several years ago I edited the 1st green issue of the nation magazine, In it I asked Jeff Gooddel to write an article about coal–he being the author of big coal. if you look back at that article you will see that he is very critical of carbon capture sequestration. Interestingly Jeff Gooddell is now quite concerned about and it seems has largely embraced the idea of geo-engineering.

My friend and colleague Naomi Klein is very worried about this turn towards geo-engineering. I for one do not support geo-engineering but I am worried that certain forms of radical technological solutions like possibly carbon capture and and sequestration in a solid form ( I understand that at least in series CO2 could be turned into limestone) are being categorically ignored.

Nuclear power is an issue that I have addressed in more detail. And there the issue is cost and timing. A full buildout of a full fleet of new atomic plants would buy most credible estimates cost trillions of dollars and take many decades. We simply do not have that amount of time.

So the same arguments you level against clean technology are even more potent against atomic and more exotic forms of technological intervention such as carbon capture and sequestration: the timing and tremendous cost( which affects the timing) just don’t seem realistic.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Christian, continuing the “China as clean energy driver” optimist scenario, how would China as a fighter for a global climate price impact international negotiations?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

One more thing on nukes. The conversation about atomic power focuses on (as yet non-existant) 3rd and 4th generation plants and how they will be built in the future.

meanwhile, while we talk about the future of atomic energy the nuclear industry is busy relicensing and getting “power up rates” for its fleet of old rickety leaking reactors. Built to last for 40 years and badly embrittled by radiation the fully privatized fleet of American nuclear power plants is being relicensed to operate another 20 years and some of them, such as Vermont Yankee, are allowed to operate at 120% of their intended capacity.

As they say, nuclear is the power of the future and it always will be.

sn1789 September 24th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

CP – A decade later your *Lockdown America* is still the best one volume introduction to the class structure and class projects that really drive the war on drugs and mass incarceration in the US. Thank you for writing the book. I personally know a number of your radicals that ended up on our team thanks to *Lockdown…*

la lucha continua

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 81

I must admit I have not been following the negotiations leading up to the Durban round of the UNFCCC negotiations for a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol. I am feeling very pessimistic about international agreements. Ultimately, I think the fight for clean energy will be won or lost at the nexus where private Investment and public regulation and investment meet in the form of policy and actual technology.

One of the most important things an international treaty could do would be to transfer technology and capital from the north to the global South. The key hurdle in this process is, no offense people, the United States.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I agree with all of comment 84. Who do climate activists need to be pressuring? Or to put it another way, who’s the villain here?

ThingsComeUndone September 24th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Question with higher heat we get more baked ground that does not absorb water until the water has soaked into the ground given that some crops are on hills or hillsides then we get more runoff water and less rain for drops.
Has this been factored in to climate change predictions on harvests? If so what countries will be hurt most?
I assume hilly ground, high heat and lack of rain are the three factors to watch out for.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 83

Thank you very much! there is a 2nd edition of Lockdown out, and really only has a new epilogue not any updated stats.

And if I may indulge in some self-promotion… if you enjoyed “Lockdown America” you’ll love “Tropic of Chaos.”

Hey, and while were at it check out my book of reportage from a rock called “The Freedom: shadows and hallucinations in occupied Iraq” and my book on the history of routine everyday surveillance, “The Soft Cage surveillance from slavery to the war on terror.”

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

The UN just put out a report on the Issue of water management and climate change, on the 21st, I have not read it but I’ll bet there’s a lot of good information in there about precisely the questions you ask.

opit September 24th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 25

That’s disgusting. Why are you not capable of understanding applied propaganda of ‘Denierism’ which disallows reasoned rebuttal through Strawman Argumentation / Poisoning the Well generalization using a list of ‘Talking Points’ when the source is not obviously Rovian ?
Scientific Method depends on considering of other views than those promoting a given scenario – just as courts did when they were not an adjunct of oppression.
As for AGW : representing pollution as solvable through an International Tax on the Use of Fire ought to sound all kinds of warning bells. It certainly did at Copenhagen.
And. Predictions of the future are not scientifically testable : which is why muted dissent about background conditions/scenario viability ought to be more seriously considered.
Context : opitslinkfest.blogspot.com > Topical Index > Climate in Contention

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
ThingsComeUndone September 24th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Running an old plant past its designed life span at 120% of what it was rated for new is insane even if you replace ALL the old equipment with new tech well they still have an old structure and the words metal fatigue, rust, cracks in the concrete etc all come to mind as potential concerns.

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
ThingsComeUndone September 24th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I read somewhere once years ago that one of the Arab countries with oil was trying to lower the temperature by growing forests to provide shade has anyone heard about that effort and if its working?

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 85

The villain is unbridled greed. The force that will restrain that is the collective willof the people embody in and expressed as government regulation of industry.

I believe–in a Marxist fashion–that capitalism is driven to self-destruction. That does not mean the solution is necessarily overthrowing capitalism. I also believe that capitalism is here to stay for the immediate future. But it seems obvious to me that the state, government, is the force that can and must act to contain regulate guide and control private investment. To blunt its worst excesses. To channel its potential, it’s Promethean capacities, in the correct direction. People – social movements organizing – must ultimately crystallize their power in law, as regulations and restrictions on the power and privilege of private capital. If the American left is incapable of dealing with that fact–the fact that government is necessary, that it is perhaps a necessary evil but that it is necessary–I do not see anyway forward.

I think we need to look back at the new deal 1930s for models.

So the short answer is activist mutts ceased to influence the state, policy and regulation are the prize. Those are the same prizes industry seeks to control.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I am unaware of that. Are you thinking of carbon offsets, paid for by polluters which take the form of re-foresttation in other often tropical regions?

One of the Emirates is trying to build a completely green city from scratch I will look up the name and post a link in a second.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I was thinking of Masdar in the united Arab Emirates… it aims to be a solar powered green city in the desert.

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Yet at the same time, you dismiss legislation like the American Clean Energy & Security Act (the House-passed, Senate-filibustered climate bill) as “badly flawed and compromised by corporate lobbies.” Wouldn’t we be better off if carbon limits & price redistribution – even weak ones – were going into effect?

BevW September 24th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Christian, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the coming climate changes.

Miles, Thank you very much for Hosting this Book Salon,

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Christian’s website and book

Miles’ website and blog

Thanks all,
Have a great evening.

Joe McGinniss / The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin; Hosted by EdwardTeller

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 97

The main reason I opposed the Kerry Lieberman Graham climate legislation was because it sought to strip the EPA of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Powers that were won after persistent litigation beginning in the late 1990s and ending in the Supreme Court in 2007.

I agree wholeheartedly with the folks at the Center for Biological Diversity. They argue that we already have enabling legislation to start cleaning up our economy. It’s the clean air act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and others.

Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, in fact has rejected a major mountaintop removal permit using the Clean Water Act. We are waiting for 30 rules that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But the EPA is being instructed to go slow and wait by the Obama administration. The most recent example of the Obama administrations backdown on the environmental front with the ground-level ozone rulings.

The fact of the matter is we have the legislation that we need and groups like the NRDC and EDF wasted a lot of time and money thinking that they were relevant during those 1st 2 years of the Obama administration. I believe that the green activist should really be taking a closer look at the EPA and defending it and also demanding that it do more.

There is a very simple reason why the right wing hates the EPA – it is a potentially incredibly powerful agency for transforming our whole economy.

Christian Parenti September 24th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Miles, Bev, and everyone else thank you very much for taking the time it was a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors.
In solidarity,

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks as always to Bev for the invitation, and thanks to Christian for fielding my questions. It’s a beautiful late summer/early fall night here at my friend Every Day Father‘s place in PA and I’m being beckoned to kickball with a 4 year old & a 6 year old. Good night, fellow proud Firebaggers!

Miles Grant September 24th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I’m going to be quoting from your posts for months. Like: “There is a very simple reason why the right wing hates the EPA – it is a potentially incredibly powerful agency for transforming our whole economy.”

Elliott September 24th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thank you both for a great salon.

and you,too, Bev.

September 24th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Do you address the problem of sea rise in your book? I saw a special on climate change on Nat Geo. and they reported that sea rise could affect us sooner than expected.

September 24th, 2011 at 4:12 pm
In response to popyeye99 @ 104

Probably late to the discussion. Sorry for that.

ondelette September 24th, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Sorry to be too late for the discussion.

What a laugh that China becomes the climate change leader based on current policy. Climate change in physical terms doesn’t care about per capita change, who’s raking in the process or cornering the market, and it isn’t high school where effort counts. It cares about what your net output is. On that scale China flunks solid cold.

As for some of the other points, the government is currently in wholesale schizophrenic mode. That’s the way everybody’s government that can’t go full bore into working against the impending doom is going. So it’s not really surprising on a global scale that the U.S. government has the Pentagon working on clean energy quietly, or that USAID is collaborating, using NOAA data, with FEWSNET under the covers with international agencies behind that anti-climate change bible thumper’s backs. The facts are solid and nobody wants any part of the deniers and their politics. So if there’s a problem in Congress or a limp spine in the White House, it’s like the flow of a great river around a dam — through any crevice, crack, cave, and spring possible, but water will flow downhill and that’s inevitable.

Real solutions are still unacceptable in the current scientific climate. Because nobody can conceive of giving up power. In more ways than one.

BevW September 25th, 2011 at 6:58 am

Article – Foreign Policy In Focus, Alexander Zaitchik, September 15, 2011, Global Warming, Global Violence

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