Military spending is up around the world. Will they protect fossil fuel interests while the world burns? Australia security analyst & climate researcher Dr. Elizabeth Boulton has a very different plan. Canadian medical doctor Peter Carter now heads the Climate Emergency Institute. Carter says the world climate is already tipping into disaster.
This past week the highest temperature recorded in 2023 struck Iran, going over 50 degrees Celsius, more than 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Pakistan is suffering extreme heat again, with temperatures as high as 49 degrees C. Northern India continues to cook and the heat stuck over central China moved up to the capital Beijing, setting a new June record there at 41 degrees C. Then there is Mexico, Texas and the U.S. South. Not reported on American news, people are dying of heat in Mexico, crops that feed Americans are dying too. Few Mexicans have air-conditioners and many must work outside.
The heat dome over Texas is famous now. With the high Gulf humidity, it feels up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 49 degrees C, just like Pakistan. While the whole American south is roasting, beastly storms and deadly tornadoes torment the population. It is a time of discomfort and fear in the year 2023 of climate change.
There are realistic plans to stop extinction level heating on the planet. Saving conditions for life as we know it demands big changes for all of us. You hear two expert activist voices in this program.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK: THE CLIMATE CLUSTERF**K
Next week I’m back with another new program. From the UK, scientist research Simon Willcock confirms what we all feared: the combination of forces will bring climate catastrophe much sooner than we have been told – important new science. Then Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith and I wrap up the stunning climate-driven disasters already unfolding.
Every summer I select the must-hear interviews you may have missed from past years of the show. I may add some killer podcasts from other hosts (a million-download interview on AI is lined up). At other times I collect voices on a theme, putting it all together. Because Earth systems are destabilized, I think this summer in the Northern Hemisphere could bring never-before-seen climate-driven events. I may create new programs to cover that. So stay tuned for more climate emergency radio this summer.
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CLIMATE AS NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT
While hospitals and schools struggle, humans spend more on the military every year. In 2022 world military spending hit another record high of 2.2 trillion dollars. But what will all those uniforms and equipment do as the climate changes? Will they protect fossil fuel investments?
Dr. Elizabeth Boulton was a logistics officer for the Australian army, including a tour in Iraq. Now she is a climate security researcher. Elizabeth has worked with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Pacific Climate Change Science Program and the National Climate Centre.
In 2022, the U.S. Marine Corp. Press published Boulton’s paper called: “Plan E – A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-first Century Era of Entangled Security and Hyperthreats”. It is a ground-up re-think of who we are, and how humans operate against threats like climate change.
HYPER-OBJECTS AND HYPER-THREATS
Ecological philosopher Timothy Morton called climate change a “hyperobject”. Elizabeth explains a hyperobject and how that helped shape her research. From Boulton’s “Plan E” document:
“…in simple terms, a hyperobject is a gigantic new “thing” that humanity has not encountered before; it moves like fog, is diffused through everyday life, and is beyond human sensory and perceptive capacities. The hyperobject’s presence disrupts and displaces humanity’s sense of existential identity:
’Yet what has happened so far during the epoch of the Anthropocene has been the gradual realization by humans that they are not running the show, at the very moment of their most powerful technical mastery on a planetary scale. [As Timonthy Boulton says:] ’Humans are not the conductors of meaning, not the pianists of the real.’”
Boulton extends that hyperobject to introduce “hyperthreat” – and climate change is a hyper threat, writing in Plan E:
“The hyperthreat has warlike destructive capabilities that are so diffuse that it is hard to see the enormity of the destruction coherently nor who is responsible for its hostile actions. It defies existing human thought and institutional constructs.”
This is more than just words. Learning this concept helps explain why climate change is so difficult to grasp, and why it escapes our biological response systems for threats. We are wired to watch for particular threats and respond, like the approach of a lion or bear, or danger on a cliff. But climate is much larger than our perceptions, happening all over the world, often in atmospheric flows we cannot detect with our senses.
The Wikipedia entry for Timothy Morton has this useful insight. It says, quote: “global warming is made apparent through emissions levels, temperature changes, and ocean levels, making it seem as if global warming is a product of scientific models, rather than an object that predates its own measurement.”
Grasping climate change is like following dinosaur tracks. You only see the tracks, never the dinosaur. We can’t really “see” climate change, it is beyond our conception. What does it mean to campaign for a safe climate if the actual “thing” is beyond human understanding?
To learn more, I recommend this podcast:
Podcast 6th March 2023: The Voices of War podcast, with Vedran Maslic. ‘Tackling the Climate Change Hyperthreat: Plan E, Entangled Security and harnessing a Hyper-response.’
Elizabeth Boulton has also written a book chapter on Hyper-threats, but it is behind a paywall. Here are the details:
Climate Change as a Hyperthreat
Elizabeth G. Boulton, a Chapter in Australian Contributions to Strategic and Military Geography
First Online: 09 March 2018
DOESN’T THIS EXPLAIN A LOT?
Here is a short quote from the Abstract for Elizabeth’s Chapter in Australian Contributions to Strategic and Military Geography:
“The chapter concludes that the hyperthreat of climate change has warlike destructive capabilities that are so diffuse that it is hard to comprehend the enormity of the destruction, nor those responsible for these hostile actions. The hyperthreat defies existing human thought and institutional constructs. It is powered and energised by three key enablers; its invisibility, its ability to evade all existing human threat response mechanisms, and by human hesitancy – the slower humans are to act, the stronger it becomes.”
In 2022, NATO opened a new facility in Montreal explicitly on hyper-threats. But in the interview, Elizabeth Boulton says here ideas have yet to be implemented, and some authorities (including within the IPCC) reject her analysis.
SEE ALSO THIS STORY ON PLAN E
“Defence Agencies ‘Accelerating’ Risk of ‘Hothouse Earth’, US Military Study Warns” by Nafeez Ahmed, June 2022.
IS IT TIME TO SOUND THE ALARM?
Extreme heat lingers over half the world’s people – India, China, all of Southeast Asia. Even Scotland is abnormally hot with wildfires. The world is developing a fever. The cause is known: the atmosphere is being poisoned with fossil carbon. It is a sickness and we have a Doctor in the house. Our guest Peter Carter is Director of the Climate Emergency Institute. He is a relentless climate communicator.
To be honest, a few years ago I thought Peter Carter was too extreme, maybe an alarmist. He still says we are in an “insane global suicide scenario” – but given apocalyptic scenes in the nightly news, that sounds about right. Is there a time to be an “alarmist”? Plus, with almost every Tweet or YouTube broadcast, Peter backs his claims with links to the latest science. He is on solid ground.
Peter Carter says in the interview that fossil fuel emissions kill 10 million people a year. Is that accurate? Our World in Data says:
“These researchers study the impact of burning fossil fuels in particular. They find that the death toll from burning fossil fuels – in power generation, transportation and industry – 3.6 million premature deaths annually.”
But that shows the danger of just taking the top Google search results. Our World In Data is using outdated and very conservative numbers. Dig deeper and again Peter Carter has science on his side. We find this paper for example: Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem; Karn Vohra et al. published in Environmental Research April 2021. They estimate fossil fuel burning kills 8.7 million people annually, with an error margin that could take it up to 10 million.
Plus: as a medical doctor Peter Carter worked directly on air-borne air pollution, coming from pulp mills for example. He’s had decades of specializing in air pollution – and he knows that publicly reported figures for those deaths are almost always seriously under-reported.
For example, I know from earlier interviews with other doctors, small particles from air pollution may lead to heart attacks and sudden death. The Death Certificate will list “heart attack” as the cause of death, not burning fossil fuels. And read this article from the large American NGO National Resources Defence Council: “Fossil Fuel Air Pollution Kills One in Five People” February 19, 2021. They say: “The global toll of premature deaths attributed to the burning of coal, gasoline, and diesel is breathtakingly high, with new research doubling previous estimates.”
So yeah, Peter Carter is a credible source and we should be listening much more closely to his alarming warnings.
CHECK OUT PETER CARTER’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL
His Twitter feed (I follow him) is here, and Facebook page here.
My thanks to volunteers at more than a hundred non-profit radio stations in four countries who get this program out to listeners every week. I’m Alex Smith.
As always, thank you for listening, and caring about our world.