Friday, August 30, 2019


Publisher’s precis
Battistoni’s review
Robert Weissman’s praise (president of Public Citizen)
David Sixbey’s praise (citizen living in Flippin, AR)
Dick’s Analysis of The Uninhabitable Earth
Google Search of the book
And Interviews

·         Publisher’s précis:
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
'A profound book, which simultaneously makes me terrified and hopeful about the future' Jonathan Safran Foer.   Times and FT Most Anticipated Book 2019.

It is worse, much worse, than you think.
The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and if your anxiety about it is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today.
Over the past decades, the term "Anthropocene" has climbed into the popular imagination - a name given to the geologic era we live in now, one defined by human intervention in the life of the planet. But however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. In the meantime, it will remake us, transforming every aspect of the way we live--the planet no longer nurturing a dream of abundance, but a living nightmare.

Opener of Battistoni’s review
Alyssa Battistoni.  “Everything to Lose: The struggle to save the planet.”  The Nation (MAY 20, 2019), JUNE 3-10, 2019, ISSUE).

 (Illustration by Tim Robinson)At this point, we all know that climate change is happening (or at least most of us do). But do we really know what it will mean to live on a planet transformed by it? We know the seas will rise, but have we truly reckoned with the fact that they are on track to be four to eight feet higher by the end of the century, at which point they will drown the Maldives, the White House, St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Bengal tiger’s habitat? We know that Earth is getting hotter, but have we actually come to terms with what it would mean if half the world were so hot that it would essentially cook the human body to death, as would be the case with a temperature rise of 5 or 6 degrees Celsius?
     That we do not really grasp what climate change will bring is the central premise of David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth. An editor at New York magazine, Wallace-Wells describes in chilling detail the possibility of year-round fires scorching the planet; latent plagues revived as the ice that harbors these frozen pathogens melts; growing numbers of people left homeless by climate-fueled disasters, rising sea levels, increasingly scarce resources, and the toxic effects of pollution. Very little of what he reports here is new, as Wallace-Wells notes; most of it has been predicted in scientific studies for years. This is part of his point: For decades, we have avoided thinking about the catastrophe on the horizon. His gambit is that, by offering this information in the form of a taut, evocative, and frequently terrifying view of the future that awaits, he might make the reality hit home in a way that scattered headlines do not. . . . The daunting challenge of saying something about climate change that will break through where other warnings have not is at the heart of both The Uninhabitable Earth and Losing Earth, the new book by Nathaniel Rich. Both writers try to understand why it is that we have known about climate change for nearly four decades and yet seem to go through the same cycle of discovery time after time. Both try their best to force us out of this pattern.
(The review is brilliant, identifying precisely not only the uninhabitable and the loss surveyed by the authors, but where and how they fell short in their quite different analyses.  –Dick)
By David Wallace-Wells   Buy this book 
By Nathaniel Rich   Buy this book

National and Local Praise for The Uninhabitable Earth
Robert Weissman’s praise (Weisman is president of Public Citizen, founded by Nader)
Sixbey’s praise in NADG LTE
Time’s running short
American culture evolved with the expansion of the market economy, and today’s market is destroying the planet—producing global warming, ecological implosion and species extinction that makes the current culture unsustainable. As a result, national politics divides between so-called “leftists” who advocate new patterns of culture to address climate change, and traditionalists determined to preserve “the American way of life”—positions that offer little room for compromise.
Donald Trump serves the corporate marketeers who profit from the destructive economy they created and champions the cultural traditionalists who embrace the past. By discrediting science and nullifying regulations designed to address global warming, Trump benefits from a political bump produced by the resulting full employment and rising stock market. He poses as the national paladin defending tradition, while using patriotic clichés and national prejudices to disparage as un-American those who oppose his folly.
There’s a wealth of information on the Internet and in the library on the science and impact of global warming. The national government blocks effective response, but for the time being one can still focus on state, county and municipal reform, encourage discourse in local and state media, critique educational curricula at all levels, and work to enlighten or remove from public office those who block essential reforms.
Those who have doubts about the looming planetary crisis would do well to read recent reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( or David Wallace- Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. Tempus fugit!
If you read the LTE to the ADG you will have seen many letters from Sixbey, a well-informed, brave voice from small town Arkansas.  (All letters about climate are forwarded to CCL members by Charles Sisco.)  Pg 7B 8/19/2019 NWADG        


David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. 
     The term "Anthropocene"-- the geologic era we live in now, defined by human intervention in the life of the planet-- is gaining popularity.  But do people know what it signifies?   That out of ignorance and then in denial we have engineered a climate system that is going to war with us possibly until it destroys us?
     The book was not written for those who already know the possible worst, toward which we are heading, though they offer abundantly rich information for all levels of readers.  Rather it seeks to prepare advocates of a new way of thinking to help leaders and the public more rapidly and effectively engage in creating a new politics and a new economics.
     Wallace-Wells would make so concrete, so specific, so immediate the anthropocentric warmed world coming that by the billions the people will clamor for change.  His central premise is: When the general public fully understands that the seas will likely rise to be four to eight feet higher by the end of the century, drowning the Maldives, the White House, St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Bengal tiger’s habitat, that half the world is predicted to become so hot that it will cook the human body, that millions of refugees will press on our borders, then THE PEOPLE will demand and the politicians will listen.   Readers of the OMNI CBF books already know this argument.   Our job is to help the public get it, and get to work.

Accretive, Cumulative Organization of themes in Section I, “Cascades”
 You will recall classes in high school on classifying sentences functionally and rhetorically. Rhetorically sentences tend to be cumulative (the most common) or periodic.   Cumulative sentences begin with the subject and predicate and then build on this foundation with phrases and clauses. (Periodic: subject and verb at end.) Not only sentences, but paragraphs, and even whole essays can be described as cumulative or periodic.   Usually they are mixed in various ways to give variety to the writing.
      McKibben in Falter told readers his subject and then elaborated, advancing and returning, often by connecting the beginning of a sentence to the end of the preceding sentence, until his major terms and ideas were established.
     Wallace-Wells follows the same twining style with his themes in Part I, “Cascades,” such as cascades, delusions, dire warnings, one generation (for catastrophe and one for rescue), and extreme transformations.  

P. 21  Here’s one of several explanations of “cascades”:
“The assaults [on the planet] will not be discrete—this is another climate delusion.  Instead, they will produce a new kind of cascading violence…with increasing intensity and in ways that build on each other and undermine our ability to respond, uprooting much of the landscape we have taken for granted, for centuries…and subverting the promise that the world we have engineered and built for ourselves, out of nature, will also protect us against it, rather than conspiring with disaster against its makers” (complex issues inspire complex but perfectly clear sentences).
Anthropocene (In only “a single generation” human exhaust, “the poison of emissions” has melted “a millennia of ice” and destroyed the environmental stability that enable human history.)
Delusions (the opening paragraph lists eight delusions, and others are discussed passim, e.g. 29, “…that the totality of climate change should make us feel so passive—that is another of its delusions”)
Dire warnings
     Pp. 4, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, etc.
Extreme transformation (possibly “whole regions” of the planet…would be rendered uninhabitable by heat, desertification, and flooding” 6, etc.)
One generation , the speed of climate change (e.g., “the story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is the story of a single lifetime” 4; “the single lifetime is also the lifetime of my mother” 5, etc.)
Twine: entwine, braid, twist, intertwine, curl, wreathe, spiral, wind, weave, interweave.
 Part II, “Elements of Chaos,”
      Seen as a whole structure, Part II differs entirely from Part I, “Cascades.”  Cascades produce anything suggesting a series of waterfalls, often connected, but to W-W signifying chaos.  Elements denote the effort to put order in movement, to identify the essential features of a larger whole.  “The science that makes up the following twelve chapters has been culled from interviews with dozens of experts, and from hundreds of papers published in the best academic journals over the previous decade or so. “  [He also cites many books that were published also during the preceding 10 years.]  It is an effort to present “the state of our collective understanding of the many multiplying threats that a warming planet poses to all of us….”
      The twelve chapters move in blocks of individual topics: Heat Death, Hunger, Drowning, Wildfire, Disasters No Longer Natural, Freshwater Drain, Dying Oceans, Unbreathable Air, Plagues of Warming, Economic Collapse, Climate Conflict, ‘Systems.’  This arrangement is helpful for anyone seeking an explanation of a topic in one location (especially when the index is incomplete like this one).  Yet these are not simple, single-topic essays, for in each section the author throws out filaments backwards and forwards, past and present.
 Heat.   Burning carbon/fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide which increases water absorption which destabilizes the weather into extremes.  “Since 1980, the planet has experienced a fiftyfold increase in the number of dangerous heat waves; a bigger increase is to come” (40).
       Another level of sophistication exists in that the blocks function also as one structure progressing from the first to the last.  This first, on the rising temperature, propels all the others.    Throughout he reminds us of the politics of climate, “principally, how much more carbon we decide to emit, which is not a question for the natural sciences [Part II], but the human ones” 43).  Climatologists can predict hurricane place, time, and intensity, but not what humans in market economics will do; we still produce and consume energy without forethought of the human future (or other species) future.  We talk restraint and reason and political will while growing emissions and heat for profit (44).  The human track record of shortsightedness since Kyoto tells us to focus not on prediction but on “what could happen” (but he does scatters many predictions throughout). 
 Hunger.  Our future of rising temperature, 50 percent more people, 50 percent less grain, proteins worse (see his details just in the opening par.).   Insects, disease, soil erosion. The Green Revolution reduced extreme poverty, but we’re responding today too slowly and inufficiently.   Since 1980 the arid West has moved 140 miles eastward.  The earth’s carrying capacity is decreasing.  Climate change Is the totality of the “planet already struggling with civil strife and war and horrifying inequality and far too many other insoluble hardships to iterate” (53).  With cruel irony, all the progress, the humanitarian growth, “has been paid for by fossil-fuel-driven industrialization” (53-5).    “Climate change promises. . .an empire of hunger erected among the world’s poor” (58).
The middle chapters:  Drowning, Wildfire, Disasters No Longer Natural, Freshwater Drain, Dying Oceans, Unbreathable Air, Plagues of Warming, Economic Collapse.
    The penultimate chapter, “Climate Conflict,” relates, the two chief existential threats, warming and (nuclear) war. “Most wars throughout history…have been conflicts over resources...which is what an earth densely populated and denuded by climate change will yield” (129).  And “heat frays everything,” and then “can cascade into violence.”  Droughts and heat waves hit, agricultural yields drop,  political fault lines electrify, societies falter.
    The last chapter of Part II, “Systems,”  traces the resultant  climate refugees.  The poor will suffer the most.  By 2050 from 140 to 200 million climate refugees in just three global regions.  Humans suffering from mental problems will escalate.  And it is today; all the research W-W summarizes is from the “world we know today”—“a world just one degree warmer…now barreling headlong into an age of …climate chaos, a world we are only beginning to perceive” (138).
     For clarity, he has identified twelve threats from cc, but they are not discrete.   “…together they form a latticework of climate crisis, beneath which at least some humans, and probably many billions, will live.”  The question is, How? (140).

Part III, “The Climate Kaleidoscope”
     In six chapters W-W gives us an “accounting of the human costs of human life” in one generation, filling up the planet “with only more humans” producing massive heat intensities , conflicts, wars, and disruptions of public health and food production, overheated, overcrowded,  drowning cities, epidemic of PTSD, and an “acceleration of history and the diminishing of possibility that acceleration likely brings” (36).
Storytelling (6 parts)
Effects of proliferation of Armageddon fictions in print and film, when humans are experiencing a real world climate and nuclear catastrophe.   Heroes and villains in the fictions and real life.  Climate parables-- significant and not.  The end of nature/the ascendancy of the Anthropocene.  “The arrival of this scale of climate suffering in the modern West will be one of the great and terrible stories of the coming decades.”(153).    [Transforming all departments in universities worldwide, but especially those studying stories.   I was a professor English and US literature –D]  Striking data, as throughout the book; e.g., “”Ninety-six percent of the world’s mammals, by weight, are now humans and their livestock.”(154).    And global warming [gw] “will come to shape everything we do on the planet….” (155).   Scientists’ reticence and caution, industry disinformation, and other reasons caused us to be so late (too late?) in engaging cc (it’s been 30 years since Hansen’s first testimony and the establishment of the IPCC).

Crisis Capitalism (6 parts)
Humans (Dr. Frankenstein) created the Anthropocene via capitalism (the Dr.’s creation) in a few recent years, and it is now so monstrously pervasive and powerful (e.g., trillions of dollars in ff subsidies) that renovating it seems impossible.  The end of the Cold War and explosion of carbon emissions.  Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and The Battle for Paradise.  Growth!  Warming!  The growing power of the 1%.  The costs will make the Great Depression minor.  Increasing inequality.  (166).  Violence, wars.   Adaptation and mitigation (decarbonization) costs, a WWII mobilization now global and rapid (169).  To pull us back from total destruction will cost $300 trillion—“or nearly four times total global GDP” (170).

The Church of Technology (7 parts)
Assesses technological magical thinking. Silicon Valley dreams of rescue through technology.  The dreams of the new billionaire caste of escape and tech immortality.  Cost of renewables dropped 80%, but “Solar isn’t eating away at fossil fuel use…it’s just buttressing it.”  While human civilization commits suicide, the market and profits  grow for the few (178).  And “we have just twelve years to cut [emissions] in half”(179).  “If we start [cutting emissions] today, when global emissions are still growing, the necessary rate is 10 percent.   If we delay another decade….” (180).  “…the world is on track to complete the necessary energy revolution in four hundred years.”  Both nuclear power and renewables power are at present reveries revolution. 

Politics of Consumption  (6)
“…the climate crisis demands political commitment” not only against entrenched corporations but against the easy, comfortable, lukewarm semi-engagement of “liberal environmentalists” (186).  “Eating organic is nice…but if your goal is to save the climate your vote is much more important.  Politics is a moral multiplier.” (187).  What kind of politics will evolve to replace neoliberalism (US capitalism)?  Mann and Wainwright, Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future  (191): a planetary threat requires a planetary sovereignty such as China seems most likely to provide (194-5).  Harold Welzer, Climate Wars: What People Will Be Killed for in the 21st Century.  Mad Max.

History After Progress (3)
Loss of belief in Progress in industrialization and economic growth.  Books by Noah Harari, James Scott, Jared Diamond, et al.  Rising temperature.  The Industrial Revolution as organized by capitalism has induced cc, which has made “us all prisoners” of  “a time of cascading, disorienting change”  (kaleidoscope)(202).  The catastrophic future summarized (203).  But this future calls forth massive resistance—counter engineering-- if we are to prevent the worst.   But also keep in mind, “The entire lifespan of human civilization is rendered, effectively, an afterthought; and the much longer span of climate change becomes eternity” (203).  [This is the perspective all geologists, I suppose, convey.)

Ethics at the End of the World (6)
Preparation for the death of our species should emulate the Dalai Lama’s recommendation for preparing for our individual death—with “compassion, wonderment, and, above all, love” (205).  Rejection  of fearmongering, paranoid, conspiratorial doomsayers –Guy McPherson, et al. (204-).  Rejection too of “nihilists” of “detachment” from the endangered planet—Kingsnorth, Robinson Jeffers, Charles Taylor and other “anti-humanists.’  Paul Kingsnorth’s “Dark Ecology” (210): withdraw, preserve all species, get your hands dirty, affirm nature’s value beyond utility, build refuges (211).   Following the IPCC, W-W supports mass mobilization of WWII proportions; he labels himself a “climate alarmist” (213); he declares flatly: “the world has, at most, about three decades to completely decarbonize before truly devastating climate horrors begin.  You can’t halfway your way to a solution to a crisis this large” (214).  Against panic and depression, growing in a world menaced by “a raging environment fueled by indifferent politics,” we must reject “human exceptionalism” and promote forest health as “our health” and “make people ‘plant-conscious.’” (215).  He cites books by Roy Scranton.  As we “gaze out at the future” from our planet warming to a “nightmarish” two degrees and heading to a “grotesque” three, we might “normalize climate suffering at the same pace we accelerate it” (216).
Part IV.  The Anthropic Principle
“How much will we do to stall disaster, and how quickly?  Those are the only questions that matter.”  (219)   The Fermi paradox—the Great Silence.  The Drake equation.  Why haven’t we heard from anybody?   (This chapter is for astronomers!)  Adam Frank, Light of the Stars:  thinking like a planet, “we are not the first.” (223)   We are humans, however, whose ancestors chose to live “in a gaseous suicide, a running car in a sealed garage” (223).  But we can think like one people, and we can choose the fate of the earth.  The transformation under way is “ubiquitous and dramatic,”  “exceeding in just two centuries” the worst in tens of thousands of years.  Yet “we have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all:  a carbon tax and the political apparatus to aggressively phase out dirty energy; a new approach to agricultural practices and a shift away from beef and dairy in the global diet; and public investment in green energy and carbon capture” (226-7).  “I think that climate change…calls the world, as one,  to action.”  (228).

IF THE BOOK WERE LONGER: What Is Omitted or Under-Discussed?
Indexes are usually inadequate and misleading.  The author doesn’t want to prepare them, just having spent so long writing the book.  The publisher doesn’t want to spend more money on the book.  Research scholars will compile their own index.  But for critical readers a good index is important for more rapid, accurate, and comprehensive assessment of the book.  This Index is mediocre.
Animals (p. 35 W-W explains their absence from his book: “the tragic fate of the planet’s animals” has been “written about” so amply and well as almost to “occlude” attention to the “human animal”).  Maybe “written about” amply, but this is the 6th Great Extinction.
He generalizes often about the USA, but in fact areas and states of the nation vary in educational levels and awareness; e.g., AR’s statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette apparently knows almost nothing about the subject Anthropocene (W-W 20).

Marx, Marxist Ecology (the people best informed about changing the economic system in the US are not mentioned in the Index)
Mass Media
W-W provides only one paragraph (p. 8) on media complicity in causing global warming (failure to investigate and report, denial).  But like the preceding subject, that’s a book or books! In itself. Here’s an example for the chief newspaper of the state of Arkansas.
        ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE’s extreme underreporting of global warming:  Is it from
        Ignorance?  Economic gain? 
Wallace-Wells quotes an oceanographer as calling the planet an “angry beast” in its extreme weather responses to centuries of human (especially US) abuses; or even better, “a war machine” which “each day we arm…more” (21).   Thus he observes that “Over the past few decades, the term ‘Anthropocene’ has climbed out of academic discourse and into the popular imagination” (20).   Maybe in a few academies and cities in the US, maybe in Europe, but not in Arkansas as indicated by the state’s chief newspaper, the ADG.  Day after day, month after month, year after year it’s business as usual for our newspaper, as though we were stuck in the 1950s.  What can we say about the newspaper’s  President Brent Powers, the Editor Rusty Turner, the Editorial Page Editor Greg Harton?  Which explanation is kinder—that they are ignorant of or they are covering up the rising temperature and its consequences?  They heard me coming?  On August 23, 2019, the ADG printed an editorial from The Washington Post: “Global Warming Happening” that denounces President Trump’s denial of global warming.  “It is beyond unforgivable.”   Do the ADG editors read their extremely rare guest editorials?
Mass Movements (to gain control of the establishment)
Like during the crisis activists faced in the first years of the Great Depression, if we hope to harness state power and the neoliberal economic system if we are ever to slow and stop the dissemination of carbon,  the people need to build a powerful, mass-movement for change. W-W does not discuss how we are to accomplish this.   Of course, the subject has the magnitude of another book.
US “neoliberal” Capitalism
Not mentioned until p. 27 and then not again until p. 115, despite actually and inevitably discussing its features often.  I cannot think W-W was unaware, but only avoiding the severe condemnation sure to come from the worshippers of the US unregulated economic system, “neoliberal” capitalism.   
Asking the Right Questions (How much will we do to stall disaster, and how quickly?   We know the answer: the People have done little and none quickly.  Dozens of conferences and books and hundreds of articles have been written exhorting our leaders to take action For the Planet.  Perhaps a different response would occur if we concentrated on the future: What should we do to realign power quickly in the US?
Many pages on the fundamental subject temperature yet only one, insignificant Index entry, which does not refer readers to the entry on global warming covering the subject.

Some important subjects he doesn’t index (but see Index note above):
Climate justice (injustice!; one entry on environmental justice)
Contraceptives (for population/CO2 control)
Corporate crime (esp. fossil fuel companies: lying, coverup, bribery; this subject has been extensively reported in books, articles, films; McKibben uses one book especially: Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Dick Russell))
Denial (of warming, cc; he seems not to have read the prolific studies of Exxon et al.)
Nuclear war (29 he mentions nuclear winter).
Patriarchy (well, destroyed our civilization has been a male’s prerogative)
Politics (W-W  recognizes the need for mass mobilization of WWII proportions if we are to avoid a new Dark Age, but readers will look in vain for even a paragraph about how we are to do it)
Over-Population (at least a half-dozen times W-W incisively emphasizes the major iharms of population growth; for example:  P. 7  Compares dramatic climate refugee statsistics around the world with population growth ,concluding with 140 million to one billion climate refugees by 2050 (refugees in 2019 were 65 million, global population in 1820 was a billion).   P. 8 Why have “carbon emissions… accelerated so much”?  “this is what results when there are simply that many more humans around.”  “Fifteen percent of all human experience throughout history…belongs to people alive right now, each walking the earth with carbon footprints.”  P. 129 “…most wars throughout history…have been conflicts over resources, often ignited by resource scarcity, which what an earth densely populated and denuded by climate change will yield.”
 Yet he does not devote a chapter to population growth as an element of chaos.
The latest no. of Population Connection arrived today as usual containing vital information for stabilizing and reversing population growth despite the interferences by Pres. Trump.  You’ll find a long article on Guatemalan women: victims of violence, racism and persistent indigenous poverty, machismo at the root of gender inequality, and more; the president of PC relates overpopulation and social collapse; a full-page graphic depicting rapid population growth around the world; a cartoon showing a pregnant woman and a child speaking to the woman’s belly: “You wanna be protected, wanted, looked after? Stay Where You Are!” And more, and of course advocacy of the new long-range contraceptives throughout.

United Nations (on 25 and elsewhere and in his conclusion he makes a strong but very general case for world government, but fails to develop circumstantially how the UN is and could be functioning better against warming with adequate support from its affluent nations).

A few of the books cited by W-W in his notes
These are a few of the books cited in the “Storytelling” chapter of Part III to sample how impressively climate change is being examined, reported, and resisted by our scientists, scholars, and general citizens, and W-W’s knowledge of them.  (And of course many articles were cited also.)    W-W’s notation system is nothing new (cited phrase and source placed together) but is especially appropriate for establishing the author’s reliability and credibility.
Amitav Ghosh.  The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.  2016. 
IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5C: An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming. . . . 2018E. Ann Kaplan.  Climate Trauma: Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction. 
    2015.Naomi Klein.  This Changes Everything and The Battle for Paradise.Andreas Malm.  Fossil Capital.
Michael Mann and Tom Toles.  The Madhouse Effect. 2016.Oreskes and Conway.  Merchants of Doubt.  2010.Jedediah Purdy.  After Nature.
Roy Scranton.  Learning to Die in the Anthropocene and We’re Doomed.  Now What?
F. O. Wilson.  Half- Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.  2016.
Speculative fiction driven by climate conditions (p. 281):  7 authors in one note; e.g., J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World trilogy.  Other authors: Wells, Verne, Atwood, McEwan, McCarthy, Robinson.
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Enough to induce a panic attack ... a brutal portrait of climate change and our future lives on Earth. But we have the tools to avoid it.
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David Wallace-Wells. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.--David Wallace-Wells.  “The Uninhabitable Earth.”  New York Magazine, 2017.

Wallace-Wells, David.  PBS video interview of author.  Excellent.
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PBS NewsHour
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Nathaniel Rich, Losing Earth

        Recently a former student knocked on my door with a book I had loaned him several years ago (Tropic of Chaos).   During a brief conversation he opined that as soon as we rid ourselves of Trump, we could return to our devotion to the nation and planet we had enjoyed.    (Unfortunately, I thought, Trump was an atrocious symptom rather than a cause of global warming. I urged him to read a book on how the CEOs of corporations, members of the 1%, and their government allies—the fossil fuel industry, the American Petroleum Industry, associated business interests, the Chamber of Commerce,  energy lobbyists, assorted Reaganites, AND  individuals in high positions blocked the scientific consensus on rising temperature and business as usual and rising temperature continue today.  OMNI has discussed Hoggan’s Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.   And many other books more or less expose the conspiracy to hide the truth about warming:   --David Michaels.   Doubt is Their Product: How Industry Scientists Manufacture Uncertainty and Threaten Your Health. Bovard, Attention Deficit Democracy; Grant, Denying Science; Hertsgaard, Hot; Nancy MacLean,  Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America; Mann and Toles, The Madhouse Effect; Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.;  Milburn and Conrad, The Politics of Denial; Mooney, The Republican War on Science; Mooney and Kirshenbaum, Unscientific America;  Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt; Potter, Deadly Spin; Schneider, Science as a Contact Sport; Siegel, False Alarm; Specter, Denialism.  I saved for last Dick Russell, ed. by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying Life on Earth and What It Means for Our Children (2017), because Bill McKibben drew from it for the villains almost exclusively in his book Falter.
     And now in 2019 the writer-resisters Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth, and Rich, Losing Earth, should be added to the list of books that defend the planet.      
     My education in the politics of climate began in earnest via James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren.   It is two books really: the science of climatology and its politics: scientist James Hansen’s struggle to discover and reveal the truth about warming and climate change, and to push leaders to take action.   The book might have been titled “The Truth and the Politics of CC.”    (The 2010 paperback includes a Q&A with Bill McKibben in which Hansen, sick of silence and compromise, condenses into blowtorch intensity what will happen in our children's and grandchildren's lifetimes if we follow the course we're on.)
  Two 2019 righteous alarmists are David Wallace-Wells and Nathaniel Rich.  

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. 
     The term "Anthropocene"-- the geologic era we live in now, defined by human intervention in the life of the planet-- is gaining popularity.  But do people know what it signifies?   That out of ignorance and then in denial we have engineered a climate system that is going to war with us possibly until it destroys us?
     The books were not written for those who already know the possible worst, toward which we are heading, though they offer abundantly rich information for all levels of readers.  Rather they seek to prepare advocates of a new way of thinking to help leaders and the public more rapidly and effectively engage in creating a new politics and a new economics.
     Wallace-Wells would make so concrete, so specific, so immediate the anthropocentric warmed world coming that by the billions the people will clamor for change.  His central premise is: When the general public fully understands that the seas will likely rise to be four to eight feet higher by the end of the century, drowning the Maldives, the White House, St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Bengal tiger’s habitat, that half the world is predicted to become so hot that it will cook the human body, that millions of refugees will press on our borders, then THE PEOPLE will demand and the politicians will listen.   Readers of the OMNI CBF books already know this argument.   Our job is to help the public get it, and get to work.

Rich's Losing Earth: A Recent History.   
This book reinforces W-W by explaining one small part of the history of why US scientists failed to win the struggle for truth and why the public in general remains unengaged. The book is composed of a series of anecdotes covering the years 1979-1989 when US bipartisan and public support for stopping CO2 was widespread, and change was possible, yet nothing was done, the stories explaining very specifically why (for example, two chapters on silencing Hansen).   The stories are profoundly important to us today because they show us how to cope with business as usual in our everyday lives (much the coverage presented by W-W).    In his final paragraph, Rich writes: "There is one thing that each of us can do....We can call the threats to our future what they are.  We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims [all the actors in this historical tragedy are identified], and ourselves complicit."  Only then, he believes, will the public and our officials take action.   When this happens, watch out, Arkansas!

The publisher and, we can assume, the author, Nathaniel Rich, wrote the following about  Losing Earth:
 By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change—including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story, and ours.  [They are the climatologist James Hansen and  government official  Rafe Pomerance.]
The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich’s groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon—the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight.
Now expanded into book form, Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil fuel industry’s coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The book carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves.”
 Beginning in the 1970s and continuing to this day, distinguished climate scientists have announced that the world was warming at a rate without precedent during at least the last two millennia, and that warming was caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases from human activity. The story of how scientists reached that conclusion was the story Spencer R. Weart told in The Discovery of Global Warming in 2003.    Then in 2008 he brought his award-winning account up to date, to show how the scientific consensus caught fire among the general world public, and how an understanding of the human meaning of climate change spurred individuals and governments to action.

    But that’s only one side of the story.
     Nathaniel Rich gives the complementary narrative of the earlier 1970s and‘80s consensus and the mainly successful efforts to thwart that consensus and block the disclosure of and action on the scientific discovery of warming, ending with the US refusal to agree to a binding agreement at the 1979 Noordwijk and 1992 Rio Summits. 
     The book is composed of a series of interesting anecdotes covering the years 1979-1989 when bipartisan and public support for stopping CO2 was widespread, and change was possible.  Here’s one example:
      In 1982, Hansen thought the only political question that mattered was how long until the worst began?    Testifying before Gore's congressional committee, he was asked, "are we pushing beyond the range of human adaptability?"  "Yes," he answered.  Therefore how soon would the US "need to change the national model of energy production?"   Hansen hesitated.   He thought, false hopes were worse than no hope at all, since they deluded people away from real solutions.     Finally he replied "very soon."  (A member of the audience, Nobel winner Melvin Calvin--all of Rich's actors are named--, said that time was past already.)   
That's one page from Rich's Losing Earthchapters 8 and 9 on silencing Hansen. 

    Despite hearings in Congress and other seeming breakthroughs, nothing was done,.   Rich’s stories explain humanly and politically why. 
       It's a short book with profound importance to us today.  For a decade the two heroes of science and their supporters, confronted the concentrated power of our economic system.    Unfortunately, Rich does not provide an Index or a list of these protagonists.   So to make clear why I think this book is worth reading  I’ll list some of the villains and heroes discussed in Rich’s final chapter, “Afterword: Glass-Bottomed Boats”  (the victims numbering in the billions, are unnamed) .   THE LIST
     The time period is 1989 and 1992, the first international conferences in pursuit of  a binding international agreement to prevent catastrophic global warming: in 1989, the failure of the international conference in Noordwijk, Netherlands, and in 1992, the failure of the Rio Earth Summit. Noordwijk sought 3 stipulations: 1) freeze of U.S. CO2  emissions at current levels, 2) specific targets for reductions, and 3) assistance to developing c0untries to use renewable sources of energy.

8 Heroes central to Rich’s story in the final chapter  
Ken Caldeira (180)
Jule Charney (187)
President Bill Clinton (185)
Al Gore (186)
Jim Hansen (182
William Nordhaus (181
 Rafe Pomerance , lobbyist for the environment in Friends of the earth, Clinton’s Dep. Assistant Secretary Bureau of Oceans (10, 182, 186), the chief hero of the story
Timothy Wirth, Clinton’s Undersecretary for Global Affairs (186
15 Villains(Sununu left gov. in 1991) 15
 Dr. Allan Bromley (178-9)
Pres. George H. W. Bush (182)
Brian Flannery, Exxon (183
Robert Jastrow, Marshall Institute (188
Duane LeVine , Exxon (180)
Richard Lindzen, MIT (184
Patrick Michaels, UVA (184)
William Nierenberg (185)
William O’Keefe , API, GCC (185
William Reilly, EPA(177)
Charles Sandler , GCC (183
Henry Shaw (183
Fred Singer, UVA (184
Arthur Wiese, GCC (183
Terry Yosie , American Petroleum Institute API (182)
Some of the front groups in which these disgraceful or mistaken persons operated are:
Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Citizens for the Environment
Cooler Heads Coalition
George C. Marshall Institute
Global Climate Coalition (“spent at least $1 million a year to crush public support for climate policy”)
Global Climate Information Project
Information Council on the Environment
The GCC “spent $13 million on a single ad campaign to induce the Senate to oppose the Kyoto treaty.  It passed 95-0.” (186)
 “The corporations that funded these groups together represented the lion’s share of the gross domestic product.”  (185)

I know I’m out of time, but I wanted to show how circumstantial is the book.   In only 10 pages Rich cites some 20 actors during the late 1989 Republican conquest of climate policy.

      The villainy of John Sununu is recounted rin 4 of Rich’s chapters out of 22.    Rich asked William Reilly, former EPA head, whether Sununu “was the only person” obstructing the agreement. Reilly replied, “Yes and no.”  Preceding chapters 18-21 present the yes of Sununu’s virulent opposition.  Earlier chapters 1-17 and the final chapter , the Afterword, present the no, for many other wicked people influenced the decision not to make the resolutions binding.
    Sununu himself explained the no.  Even had he been 100% in support of the treaty, it would not have mattered, because “the dirty little secret” was that none of the leaders of the world really wanted hard commitments but only the appearance of them.  He even said that the IPCC process was never expected to lead to anything definite.   “Even if the US had signed a strict treaty,” it would not have meant anything. (179).  
       Sununu’s cynical interpretation of the Noordwijk conference was seconded by Allan Bromley, G. H. W. Bush’s chief scientist.  Bromley wrote in his memoir before he died that the delegates from the major European nations were clueless regarding greenhouse gas emissions stabilization.

  Where are we today, according to Rich?(180)
“More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since November 7, 1989, the final day of the Noordwijk conference, than in the entire history of civilization….
“In 1990, humankind emitted more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.  In 2018 we were projected to have produced 37 billion metric tons.    check
“The earth is now as warm as it was before the last ice age, 115,000 years ago, when the seas were more than twenty feet higher.
Despite all the efforts taken since the Charney Report (date) , “the total quantity of emitted greenhouse gases has continued its inexorable rise.” 

Quick electoral history:
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney beat Gore.
Although in 2008 McCain lost to Barack Obama, the cult of denialism controlled the GOP, AND the Democratic- controlled Senate, when with a 59-seat majority the Dems declined to debate comprehensive climate legislation.  Of course, “in that year alone , the oil and gas industry spent about half a billion dollars on lobbying efforts to weaken energy legislation.” (187).

Where are we today?
“Our understanding of warming hasn’t increased substantially during this time.
“The political story hasn’t change greatly either.  Only 7 countries are close to limiting emissions at the level necessary to keep warming to 2 degrees. (181).

    Now fifty years since the struggle to tell the truth about climate change by scientists began, we might expect that sufficient apocalyptic warnings had been published, and nations would be engaged cooperatively in confronting the emergency.  But not so.   Some nations have perceived the truth and are organizing.   But the most powerful nation is not, and its present president is not only preventing new resistance to warming, but is dismantling as many of its environmental achievements as he can. 

      The bewildered US public largely remains as passive or paralyzed and either way complicit as it was when James Hansen confronted President Bush in 2003.  In response, additional scientist Paul Reveres have joined Hansen in crying out:  Sleepers Awake!   An aroused populace could compel the politicians to change their way of thinking and change the economic system.  (Even children—the Greta Thunbergs of the world—are demanding: We need new politics!)

     For the last quarter century the US dominant behavior in regard to warming has been 1) the unrestrained efforts of the fossil fuel industry to expand and make profit, by multimillion-dollar disinformation campaigns, paying scientists to lie, or trying to brainwash elementary school children, and 2) the Republican Party’s efforts “to suppress scientific fact, confuse the public, and bribe politicians.”


Rich’s book is after all a handbook on political struggle.   But it is a handbook on failure.  A handful of diverse people—scientists…political appointees, members of Congress, economists, philosophers, and …bureaucrats,” led by “a hyperkinetic lobbyist and a guileless atmospheric physicist” (Rafe Pomerance and James Hansen), “tried to warn humanity of what was coming.  They risked their careers in a painful, escalating campaign to solve the problem, first in scientific reports, later through conventional avenues of political persuasion, and finally with a strategy of public shaming.    Their efforts were shrewd, passionate, robust.  And they failed.” Rich’s book is “their story, and ours” (9).    
    The members of OMNI’s Climate Book Forum can be proud to be members of a genuine adult book forum, where the way to the better exacts a full look at the worst.

     In his final paragraph, Rich writes: "There is one thing that each of us can do....We can call the threats to our future what they are.  We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims, and ourselves complicit."  Only then will the public and our officials take action.   Unfortunately, people do this mindlessly all the time.  But his circumstantial narrative gives his solution validity.  When we have fully examined a problem, then we can name the despicable and the estimable.  And then we must take action. 

Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)

Dick's Wars and Warming KPSQ Radio Editorials (#1-48)