Putin – whose name I use here as shorthand for the entire oligarchy of not just Russia but all major fossil fuel exporters – wants to prevent the emergence of international institutions which would be able to bring climate change under control. That is because the control of climate change would require destroying the oil and gas business, and with it his wealth and power.
To this end, two of the central objectives of the oil oligarchs have been the installation of a US government which is hostile to international cooperation in general and cooperation on climate in particular; and the fragmentation of the European Union. Trump, and Brexit; more broadly, a science-denying Republican party, and resurgent nationalism in every European country and region.
Even soft Brexit will be enough for Putin
I will explain below why these two political objectives, in the US and in the EU, are necessary – and, unfortunately, probably sufficient – for Putin’s ends. But first let me just say that, for Putin’s purposes, any Brexit will do, Hard, No Deal … or the softest of soft, as long as Britain withdraws from the political institutions of the EU. Continue reading
How many books have I read, and then forgotten? Writing things down may help.
Nordhaus has gotten a Nobel for understating the damage from climate change, and overstating the cost of doing anything about it. Continue reading
The Trump-Putin connection can seem just a lurid sideshow in Trump’s horrific circus of racial and religious profiling, misogyny and authoritarianism. And, when that special relationship does catch our attention, the most obvious thing linking the two men (possible videos and blackmail aside) is their common political language of aggressive nationalism.
But this is no sideshow, and much as Trump would like it to be all about him, it is not his personal foible: the agendas of the Republican Party’s petro-backers coincide perfectly with those of the Russian oligarchy, and that is why Trump’s links to Russia were tolerated even before he was elected. The nationalist postures of Trump and Putin, which might seem to be simply ways of rallying some segments of the aggrieved masses to the banners of the countries’ respective caudillos, are instrumental for reshaping the international order in a way favourable to the oil interests.
The overriding need of the oil interests is to block anything that would cut the demand for oil – which is to say, to stymie any serious steps to mitigate climate change. International cooperation is necessary to fight climate change, and aggrieved nationalism undermines international cooperation. The cohesion of the EU is particularly important for international action on climate, and so European integration has become the enemy not only of Moscow, but also of Republican Washington.
I was talking earlier today with a colleague who runs a masters degree on Climate Change Management. Their enrollments have fallen. She attributes this to a “change in the discourse on climate change”, which has rendered the very term a downer, to be avoided (she and her colleagues had thought the degree’s name was pretty upbeat, because “management” suggested… hey, it’s a problem, but we can manage it: not enough, it seems). She contrasted the public attention to the Copenhagen meetings a few years ago, to the relative silence on Paris today. And this of course comes in the midst of an increasingly clear picture of the disaster we’re walking into. If your attention has been elsewhere of late, consider these tidbits:
Kevin Anderson tells us that all the IPCC scenarios that offer at least a 50% chance of staying below 2 degrees depend either on negative emissions technologies that don’t exist yet, or on emissions peaking by 2010 (hint: that didn’t happen). It’s a short and readable piece in Nature Geoscience. Continue reading
Still too much, says James Hansen, of NASA (retired) and Columbia University, who has been warning us about this since 1981 or so:
• The last time Earth was +2C, 120,000 years ago, sea levels were 6-8 meters higher than today. 2 degrees would lock that in, the only question being how fast we would get there.
Stephen Gardiner, in his book A Perfect Moral Storm, says that climate change produces moral corruption. The worst effects of carbon pollution are many years to come; responsibility is diffused over hundreds of governments, thousands of corporations, billions of individuals, and many generations; and, we are not well practiced or intellectually equipped for making decisions about problems of this sort. So it is hard not to make up stories, to fool ourselves, to tell ourselves that what we do now doesn’t matter, and carry on as before. That is moral corruption. It leaves us with a good chance that action will not be taken soon enough to avert catastrophe.
Americans voted yesterday for more moral corruption, choosing to boost the power of a party that is wedded to the propositions that we can’t have a good life without plenty of fossil fuels, Continue reading