Professor and author Michael Klare on awful future of climate genocide. Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh: science of climate driving extreme weather events. Australian radio host Vivien Langford’s original radio on Malaysia. Song “Speak for the Trees”.
MICHAEL KLARE: CLIMATE GENOCIDE
We know our daily lives add carbon relentlessly to the atmosphere. I know this isn’t what anybody wants to talk about, but what if millions of helpless people die, because we won’t change? Michael T. Klare says we may bear the guilt of climate genocide.
Klare is a long-standing Professor of Peace & World Security Studies at four New England colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 2008 I interviewed him for his book “Rising Powers, Shrinking World”. He’s the Defense Correspondent for The Nation magazine, often posts on TomDispatch, and Salon magazine. His latest there carries the headline “Climate change as genocide: But the international response is essentially a shrug of indifference.” I saw it in Salon for April 22nd, but it was originally published at Tomdispatch.com.
Professor Michael T. Klare
Michael delivers an uncomfortable article about climate genocide. This isn’t an inconvenient truth. It’s horrible truth. Do you have to write about it? Do we have to think about it? I think below our daily consciousness, most of us who understand the science of climate change fear this will happen. Hundreds of millions of people will die, or move toward the Poles and more developed societies, or both.
My first reaction was to find all kinds of excuses about why the developing deaths of millions in four countries named by the United Nations as famine hot-spots is not our fault. Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen have famines before. They have terrorism, civil war and/or very corrupt governments.
Plus these countries have hugely increased their populations in recent decades. Michael’s article leaves out the simple fact that population in all four of those countries have more than quadrupled since 1960. Right wing radio listeners must surely be saying “just because they can’t control their reproduction doesn’t mean WE have to feed them all”. Isn’t it possible that nature is trying to bring population back in line with the available food base?
Those are the excuses, the reasons why we in the developed countries are not to blame by burning fossil fuels and altering the atmosphere. In our interview, Michael Klare doesn’t duck or discount any of those other drivers, but science if pretty clear we have changed the rainfall patterns over the Sahel in North Africa. They are more likely to experience severe droughts – but punctuated by the reverse: extreme rainfall events that flood out the hardened land.
First the cattle are dying, now the humans are dying, and millions of them are on the move. About 5,000 North Africans a day reach Italy alone using risky boats that need rescues.
The people in those death zones used little to no fossil fuels. They are completely not responsible for climate change, and pay with their lives, as their societies crumble into civil war and other violence. Our mainstream media doesn’t cover it, except with the occasional visit by a concerned-looking TV anchor. Nobody but nobody in the media talks about our responsibility for creating climate change that strikes these people. And nobody thinks we really need to help our victims. The United Nations got a low response from countries willing to help with what Klare calls the greatest famine threat since the Second World War.
One other nit-pick: to fact-check the sub-headline in that Salon article, and the United Nations Press, I don’t think it’s true that, quote “Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk of disease and starvation than at this very moment.” The U.N. says 20 million people are now at risk of starvation or death. What about The Great Chinese Famine from 1959 to 1961? According to Chinese government statistics, there were 15 million excess deaths there. Other estimates go from 15–43 million dead. Those were not “at risk”, those were deaths.
But again, we are looking for any excuse to duck our responsibility for what is happening now, and what is coming in the near future. Plus, governments are being decided in Western Democracies based on a desire by some to block out all climate immigrants, or the economic immigrants whose societies have been destabilized by droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. The Brexit Movement, Marine LePen, and Donald Trump come to mind.
SOME TAKEAWAYS FROM MICHAEL’S ARTICLE AND THIS INTERVIEW
Let’s get to the real points in Michael’s article.
* are the current food and water shortages in the four countries of Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen previews of what is coming as the climate warms?
* reading the United Nations reports, it seems herding big numbers of people into camps for aid can be another bridge to mass deaths by disease. The big camps can become full of dysentery, cholera and other diseases.
* as Klare tells us, refugees from collapsing social systems and dying ecosystems get hit yet again when they move toward urban centers, especially near the sea coast. The poor new arrivals tend to be located on low-lying areas that are flooded in extreme rains, or flooded when rising seas go higher in the new big storms.
* another key myth is that famines are about food shortages. In the four countries flagged critical by the United Nations, the real story is also about water. Aid expeditions might be able to deliver food packages, but can they keep up with water demand?
In his article in Salon on April 22nd, Michael Klare raises another point we all miss. He writes about: “hundreds of millions of people who depend on rain-fed agriculture to sustain themselves and their families.” That is a key difference, compared to the drought in California. California had the dams and infrastructure to draw water from very long distances, from mountain systems. It brings me to wonder, are less developed societies doomed during climate change?
In an article published March 27th in the New York Times, reporter Jeffrey Gettleman writes “After Somalia’s last famine, the multibillion-dollar aid industry thought it had come up with an answer to prevent the next one: resilience. It was the new buzzword in aid circles, bandied about at workshops and among high-powered officials.” How did that hip Western concept work out in Africa? Not well enough, apparently, although NGO’s are still working away to improve resilience in impoverished communities. I would think that a massive change in rainfall may be far to great for “resilience”. We’ll see.
Gettleman also found experts who say simply giving out cash to starving people works better than bags of food. That seems counter-intuitive, be we are told it can work.
Also check out this article from an African journalist: Droughts in East Africa becoming more frequent, more devastating” by Stephen Wainaina March 17, 2017.
Wainaina writes: “This is a region where the global forces of climate change, forced migration, and volatile food supply converge, resulting in severe hunger and, at worst, famine. However, while drought is not new, it has become increasingly frequent.
In his Salon article, Michael Klare concludes:
“History and social science research indicate that, as environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials and the opportunists in any society — warlords, militia leaders, demagogues, government officials, and the like — will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage. “The data suggests a definite link between food insecurity and conflict,” points out Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. “Climate is an added stress factor.” In this sense, the current famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen provide us with a perfect template for our future, one in which resource wars and climate mayhem team up as temperatures continue their steady rise.”
IS AMERICA ABOUT TO ENTER ANOTHER WAR?
Michael T. Klare has been an expert on Peace and War for decades. He’s taught a couple of generations of New England College students about all this. So I wanted to know what he thinks about our current situation.
Dealing with young people daily, Klare seems less concerned than I am that a growing group of young unemployed could lead to the emotional need for a great “popular war”. The folks he deals with don’t think about that a lot, he says. But he is interacting with kids who made it as far as college, versus the poor whites, African Americans, and Latinos who don’t.
Is there a way to convert what we’ve learned about peace and peace activism, to create climate peace and activism?
I also worry the climate threat could tip democracies into military government. Picture living in extreme weather conditions and emergencies as the new normal. As our recent guest Sherri Goodman suggests, we have to deal with a number of emergencies at once. That could lead to popular demand for strong centralized society, which may be a military government. (At the same time, in America at least, an armed population may continually pop up in local civil wars, trying to defend their imagined rights to pollute the atmosphere with fossil fuels.)
Klare agrees this is a concern. We both think that a true functioning democracy is the best, and maybe only, tool capable of addressing climate change. After all, we need public support to change all of our lifestyles away from fossil fuels. But human nature likes to shirk off personal responsibility and hand it all over to the Great Leader. I’ll continue to worry about that.
I’m growing more of our family food. We drive little. I haven’t flown in years. But I know I helped wreck the planet’s atmosphere, and I’m still doing it, just by living. In the carbon age, are we all born guilty, just like the Catholics say? Klare tells us “guilt” is the wrong way to think about all this. His approach is more positive, but not naive.
NOAH DIFFENBAUGH: THE SCIENCE OF EXTREME WEATHER
It’s been in the low 80’s in New York, like summer in April. A nasty heat wave hit Eastern India recently, way ahead of anything expected. On April 20th, Pakistan experienced the hottest day ever recorded for the month of April. It was 50°C or 122 degrees Fahrenheit. We are entering a time when breaking records is the new normal.
You can’t turn on the TV news without getting weather porn. Or maybe it is your turn to experience extreme weather. But is it climate change? We may be one step closer to knowing, with a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author is Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh.
Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh
His official title is Professor Of Earth System Science, and Senior Fellow At The Woods Institute For The Environment. Noah has led in a key report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; he’s advised a previous White House.
From Stanford University, it’s a pleasure to welcome Noah Diffenbaugh back to Radio Ecoshock. I first talked with Noah about extreme weather in my show June 8, 2007 titled “Hard Rain Gonna Fall”. You can listen to that here (Diffenbaugh appears at 9 minutes 20 seconds into the program).
For a while there, some scientists cautioned against drawing a direct connection between the long process of climate change, and single events. Lately there have been a string of papers investigating the role of climate change in particular droughts, heat waves or floods. Do we really know enough to nail it down? More and more, the answer is “yes”.
The new paper led by Diffenbaugh is: “Quantifying the influence of global warming on unprecedented extreme climate events“, published March 10, 2017 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
We talk about the many extreme weather events seen so far this century, from the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods of 2010 and more. Noah is also Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, which gives him another inside track on new research.
RECENT ECOSHOCK COVERAGE OF EXTREME WEATHER
Michael Mann paper published in Nature on March 27, 2017: “Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events”. find my interview with Michael here.
A letter published in the journal Nature Climate Change is titled: “More extreme precipitation in the world’s dry and wet regions.” In Sydney Australia, we’ve reached the lead author, Markus G. Donat, a research fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. You can listen to my with Markus April 13, 2016 here.
I’ve also talked about this with Dr. J. David Neelin. He’s a Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, at the University of California in Los Angeles. Neelin has published over 150 papers during the past few decades. David Neelin is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union. He leads UCLA’s Climate Systems Interaction Group. We discuss the paper “Global warming precipitation accumulation increases above the current-climate cutoff scale” at published by PNAS January 17, 2017. Get that interview free here.
VIVIEN LANGFORD REPORTS FROM MALAYSIA
At the end of this program we get a small taste of socially-conscious radio from the other side of the world. One of my heroines of green radio is Vivien Langford and her team the Beyond Zero Community. They do serious radio for 3CR, the influential community radio station in Melbourne – which also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock.
Vivien recently went to Malaysia, to take the pulse of the environment and activism there. I’m just going to play you one brief clip, and then we’ll talk with Vivien in a wide-ranging interview next week.
In this interview Vivien unveils the complicated climate and energy policies in Malaysia.
That’s it for Radio Ecoshock this week. Please don’t forget to support my work if you can.
I play out the show with the full song “Speak for the Trees” by Aaron Ableman and the Earth Guardians.