Climate Wars: The Fight For Survival As The World Overheats by Gwynne Dyer investigates the worst case scenarios of global warming, via studies done by and interviews of risk-assessment professionals at the Pentagon and defence policy think tanks. It does not make for reassuring reading. As the world heats up, the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America are likely to become hotter and more arid; this is likely to decrease agricultural productivity and food production in these densely populated regions. The outcome could be a new age of warfare. One possible location for conflict identified by Dyer is South Asia, where many of Pakistan’s rivers are reliant on sources in the Indian Himalayas. Due to global warming, the overall climate of the region is likely to become more dry and arid. This could spark increasing tension between India and Pakistan over the water in their shared rivers, possibly ultimately resulting in warfare between these two nuclear-armed states. This analysis of conflict potential also holds true for India and Bangladesh; however, since Bangladesh is not a nuclear power, the prospect of nuclear warfare between these two countries does not arise. Another frightening possibility is of a Russia-China war. China is likely to become hotter and drier as global warming progresses. This is likely to affect water availability and agriculture, a major concern for a country of over a billion people. This may fuel expansionism on the part of China with the goal of controlling more land for food production. Any such expansionism might result in warfare with Russia, the dominant power among the ex-Soviet republics in the region. These concerns seem remote in today’s world, where the worst case scenario for a bad crop in any country is increased food imports. However, the worst case scenarios of global warming inevitably involve a hotter, drier globe with less productive agriculture closer to the equator. In this scenario, it is not clear where the required shortfall in food will be produced, and whether there will be enough to go around. It seems that we may be living in an age of plenty which will be cut short by climate change. Life on a warmed globe means an age of scarcity, and increased risks of conflict. By far the best outcome for everyone would be if governments around the world prevented global warming by real measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions. This requires taxes on fossil fuel use, and reinvesting the tax proceeds in renewable energy such as solar and wind power. Unfortunately, the governments of the world are still dragging their feet rather than taking real action, even though the UN IPCC report of 2018 made clear that there are now only 11 years left to cut carbon emissions and prevent potentially catastrophic warming of more than 1.5degrees Celsius. Further delay could well doom us to a future of climate warfare.
Extinction Rebellion activists have thrown buckets of “blood” outside Downing Street to call for greater action on climate change. About 400 demonstrators, including families with children, spilled more than 200 litres of red paint to make the severity of climate change “viscerally clear”.
The blood was meant to symbolise “the death of our children” and the hellish future young people faced, the group said in a statement.
Paolo, 61, a translator, said: “We are here to mourn the loss of life, and for the life that has not yet been born; and to protest the injustice of this for future generations. I have no children of my own, but I haven’t stopped loving the world.”
Hector, aged 10, said: “Many animals will go extinct if we do not act now. We have invested all our support in the government. But in our time of need, they have deserted us. We need the press and the government to tell the truth.”
The protest follows a demonstration in Edinburgh on Friday, when police arrested 14 Extinction Rebellion activists who were protesting at an oil industry dinner at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. About 30 people staged a sit-in at the museum before hundreds of oil company executives gathered for the annual dinner of the Scottish Oil Club.
The protesters hung two banners from the balcony of the museum’s main hall that read, “Climate emergency” and “Smash the patriarchy – save the planet”.
They were asked to leave by Police Scotland, but 13 protesters remained in the building, six of them joined together with bicycle locks. They were arrested and removed from the museum at about 8pm.
It is understood that the 14th activist was arrested at about midnight after unfurling a climate protest banner from the same balcony. An Extinction Rebellion spokeswoman said all 14 had been charged with breaching the peace.
It was the latest in a series of direct action protests and occupations by Extinction Rebellion activists in Scotland, including a sit-in at the Scottish parliament and a demonstration in Glasgow.
The campaign group said about 300 people staged a party on Chamber Street outside the museum before executives from oil firms including Shell, BP and Total arrived.
“When guests started arriving, protesters lined the entrance to the museum and sang, chanted and spoke to them about the climate emergency,” the group said, before criticising the museum for renting out its building for the event.
Extinction Rebellion, which has spread to a number of countries after being launched in London last year, argues that governments and industries are failing to address the climate crisis with sufficient urgency.
They believe the UK needs to rapidly cut carbon emissions, with the aim of no net carbon emissions by 2026, about 25 years earlier than its current target. They argue that the UK’s oil industry, which is based in Aberdeen, enjoys £10.5bn a year in subsidies and is continuing to develop new oilfields, despite evidence of increased manmade global warming.
Mim Black, an Extinction Rebellion Scotland spokeswoman, said: “Climate chaos is already under way across the planet and we know that the fossil fuel industry is a major driver of this. We must immediately start putting safety before profit.”
Police Scotland said its officers were deployed at 4.30pm on Friday. After the museum closed to the public, the protesters were asked to leave but refused. “Following a period of negotiation police provided a proportionate response to the protest and 13 people, a mix of men and women, have been arrested,” the force said.
In 1988, Dr. James Hansen, senior climate scientist at NASA, testified to the US Senate that global warming caused by burning fossil fuels was a serious threat. Yet for 30 years the world did practically nothing, and both greenhouse gas emissions and global warming continued. Global inactivity was largely due to successive US governments pretending that the science of global warming was still uncertain and not worth the expense of reducing coal, oil and gas use. The intentional ignorance of climate science on the part of the American politicians was encouraged by a small group of right-wing scientists who were not specialists in climate change, but were rather driven by ideological opposition to the increased government regulation that would obviously be required to tackle issues such as global warming. Reluctance of US authorities to consider reducing fossil fuel use resulted in all other countries refusing to to act as well. How this happened is the subject of Merchants of Doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.
Oreskes, a professor of history of science at Harvard University, points out that a number of the prominent scientific advisors of the US government (recurring names are Fred Seitz, Fred Singer, Robert Jastrow and Bill Nierenberg) started their careers in nuclear weapons and missile research in the midst of Cold War conflicts with Russia. Thus these scientists were reflexively anti-Communist and inclined to oppose any scientific research that made a case for more government regulation; they saw such regulations as a sign of the socialism which they had opposed all their careers growing within the US. Hence this small but influential group of senior scientific advisors continuously opposed emerging scientific findings that tobacco caused cancer, that industrial pollution caused acid rain, and finally that dangerous climate change would be caused by burning coal, oil and gas. Unfortunately, these anti-regulation/pro-market scientists found support in the fossil fuel industry, various pro-market media and think tanks, and various US politicians whose political campaigns received money from coal/oil/gas companies. The result was that the science of global warming and climate change was perceived by the media, the government and the public as contested for decades after a scientific consensus on these issues was in fact established. Due to these manufactured doubts, government policy was slow to accept the scientific evidence on the danger of man-made global warming.
Of the various scientific issues discussed by Oreskes, climate change has by far the biggest impact on humanity as a whole and thus also created the most resistance amongst anti-regulation scientists, corporate lobby groups and politicians. Reading Oreskes’ book, one sees how naïve it is to expect that worldwide government policies regarding global warming would be simply be decided based on scientific evidence. The fact is that the political systems which have been established to govern democratic countries are not set up to make decisions based on science. Rather they are set up to encourage politicians to make decisions based on the likelihood of winning the next election. Multinational coal, oil and gas companies have more than enough money to make political donations big enough to legally “buy” political support for their industries in spite of dire scientific warnings. The public has largely been deceived by fake science produced by non-specialists in climate change presenting themselves as ‘experts’ and muddying up the waters with doubt. Oreskes’ book has also been made into an informative film.
The past 30 years has shown that voters around the world, and especially in the US, have not been sufficiently informed of the dangers of catastrophic global warming which could cause worldwide water shortage, crop failures and famines resulting in hundreds of millions of deaths if left unchecked. Fossil fuel companies and anti-regulation scientists and politicians have taken advantage of the lack of knowledge of climate science among the public to deceive and endanger us all. Hopefully this will change as the media and the public wake up to the threat of global warming. Only the tireless activism of all members of the public can change the cycle of misinformation and election of climate-skeptic politicians. Otherwise the world will continue getting hotter, and our children might grow up to inherit a climate running amok.
How To Mobilise Against The Climate Violence Perps
“An effective response to climate change requires collective action by all countries and sectors.” – Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“Australia… remains one of the most carbon-intensive OECD countries and one of the few where greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use change and forestry) have risen in the past decade.” – OECD, January 2019.
Is it just me, or have you noticed how conversations have changed over recent weeks/months? The climate emergency seems to have crept into every discursive nook and cranny. There’s talk of floods, fires, droughts and associated calamities, and of the prospects for survival as the climate emergency goes through what one commentator refers to as an “escalation crisis”, meaning that the pace and scale of change is far in excess of what the climate models are telling us. The upshot is that we simply don’t know where all this is heading. It’s a wicked problem, on steroids – a problem over which we (apparently) have less and less control.
Not surprisingly, there’s panic in the air. The world’s leading scientists – including the 15,000 from 184 countries who signed an open letter in 2017 – have exhausted themselves in pleading to governments and corporations to take the necessary action to avoid “runaway climate change”. In many instances such pleas have been either ignored, dismissed or entangled in webs of sectional interests and realpolitik obfuscation.
The growing sense of concern among scientists, however, has not gone unnoticed among my friends and acquaintances. When the “climate thing” comes up, I’ve seen perfectly well-adjusted people start chewing their nails, fidgeting, staring into the distance, and more than occasionally, quietly weeping. We shouldn’t be too surprised by such reactions – or what psychologists refer to as “ecoanxiety” – as there is growing evidence that the threat posed by the climate emergency is generating severe mental health problems – anxiety, depression and suicide ideation, to name a few.
The fact is that people are becoming more and more attuned to what is happening around them. My own mind is swirling with terrifying predictions about the extinction of all life on earth in a few decades, or, as some are predicting, in 12 years or less. Its hair rising stuff.
And as if all that isn’t enough, we still have to put up with so-called “denialists”-cum-conspiracy-merchants who peddle spade loads of aberrant nonsense that merely deplete one’s energies. I don’t bother with them, frankly – the people or theories. Why would I? It’s like arguing over whether the world is flat or if smoking leads to lung cancer. It’s a waste of time. There’s no ‘debate’.
Common global experiences
Most days I chat with my older brother, Henryk, who lives in Lima, Peru. We talk about this and that – Brexit, the state of the Peruvian economy, Donald Trump’s latest buffoonery, and whether our prostates are in good shape. But since the middle of last year all that has changed. Now we both wrestle with the climate emergency, its consequences, the tragedy of it all. This is what he said during our last Skype chat:
“Does anyone [in Peru]care that we have the highest temperatures ever recorded in parts of Lima, or that there’s flooding in the north and south east of Peru? Roads have been blocked and bridges downed, communities are often cut off. Farm land is being destroyed in many parts of the country. Power consumption is at record highs to keep household temperatures down, with electrical goods in high demand. The snow is melting in the Andes, a source of drinking water for the capital. This is all the result of climate change. It’s an unfolding tragedy. I have been in a permanent sweat for 15 days. This is very unusual, uncomfortable and it’s difficult to sleep at night.”
A quick browse through the Internet confirms what Henryk is saying. In 2017, heavy rainfall (10 times more than the average) fell in the northern Piura region of Peru, leading to the deaths of 67 people, mainly as a result of mud slides, with thousands more having to evacuate their homes. In total, over 100,000 homes were damaged and more than 100 bridges destroyed, bringing chaos to that part of the country.
Floods and droughts have had severe impacts on farmlands across Peru, impacting its food supply. To make matters worse, the Ausangate glacier in the Andes is melting, threatening water supplies to Lima’s 10 million people. Many other extreme climate effects have been noted, not least unprecedented snow falls in parts of the Andes, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency. As in Australia, records are tumbling, year on year. The projections for both countries are similarly depressing.
On some of our better days Henryk and I hope things aren’t as bad as we think, although we’re not silly enough to put our faith in geo-engineering which, as Naomi Klein has wryly observed, is using pollution to neutralise pollution. On other days, Henryk and I get so depressed that we take to packing our existential bags. In short, we veer from naïve optimism to bone-jarring panic, seething anger and everything in-between.
But somehow, we always end up with the “so what can we do to stop this before it’s too late” question. Yesterday we both agreed that given the severity of the crisis – my brother keeps an eye of the doomsday clock which is set at two minutes to midnight – all of global civil society should take radical action.
Ok, so what does that look like? We echo various activist suggestions, like mobilising people to surround our parliaments with human chains, mass protests outside the homes of fossil fuel CEOs, heckling at shareholder meetings, chaining ourselves to mining equipment at extraction sites, stopping coal trains, and so forth. We both laud the actions of activists who have prevented CSG mining in NSW, or the open-cut mine in Gloucester, NSW, and those brave souls in Peru who have been killed or criminalised for seeking to protect the environment. We know that the rich and powerful are worried by all this, that’s why they’ve introduced draconian anti-protest laws across the globe, including in my own state of NSW.
Henryk and I also talk about changing the language we use in order to sheet home blame for the crisis to where it belongs: governments, lobbyists, corporate heads, mainstream media etc. Phrases like “policy violence”, “climate disaster”, “climate criminals” and “climate genocide” have crept into our vocabulary.
Like many others, we also think that citizens tribunals should be created to prosecute the guilty parties – or at least to identify who they are (as happened in the wake of the invasion of Iraq) – and that the criminal and environmental courts should do the same. We’ve ruled out violence as a tactic but we’re all for civil disobedience of the Extinction Rebellion and 350.org variety, if only to raise public awareness about the scale of the impending catastrophe.
All these actions and more are urgently needed to tackle the climate violence being perpetrated against us, even though it might be too little, too late. The window is shutting, and fast.
These are unprecedented times, much worse than the nuclear crisis because, even with the egregious policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, human agency could still intervene to draw us back from the brink. But if the runaway climate emergency takes hold then no-one knows what will happen and no amount of geo-inventiveness will pull us back from the abyss.
I often laugh at this prospect, in the same mad way that occurs when all hope is lost. At other times, I’m virtually catatonic, especially when reading those doom-laden reports. My brother and I also rant at the self-censorship of the corporate media, the marginalisation of voices calling for radical action – independent journalists, climate scientists, environmental activists – and the way the plutocratic elites have turned the climate emergency into an infotainment sideshow or a business opportunity.
The deceit and vacillation of governments across the globe when it comes to emissions reduction is nothing less than scandalous: an act of wilful violence perpetrated against us all.
We have choices about how to respond to all this. My worry is that too many people are opting to carry on regardless (because life is demanding, or the story of finality is too much, or because we want to shelter our nearest and dearest). Others have retreated into fatalism (the party’s over, time to hunker down in gated communities, survivalist enclaves and nirvana-like hamlets), and yet others are talking of armed resistance when strangers come looking for food and water.
But there are other ways of responding which we see, for instance, in litigation cases through the courts, mass protests, actively shutting down mines, divestment, and so on. The current reality demands that these and other actions intensify, and that the coalitions and networks that make up the global environmental movement name the guilty parties and compel them, through organised civic action, to take the necessary decisions to prevent climate catastrophe.
Ultimately of course, what this means is system change and a radically different way of thinking about democracy and our relationship with the planet. Conference resolutions, non-binding targets, trading schemes and the rest will not be enough in the short term to prevent the slide to catastrophe – after all, carbon emissions are at record levels as I write.
That should tell us all we need to know about what the abuse of power looks like.
Cooking the books?
What about Australia’s commitment, or lack thereof, to reducing carbon emissions? A recent OECD report, Environmental Performance Review of Australia, suggests that our actions are ruinous when it comes to greenhouse gases (GHGs).
In a press release, the OECD notes that: “The country will fall short of its 2030 emissions target without a major effort to move to a low-carbon model…. Australia needs to develop a long-term strategy that integrates energy and climate policies to support progress towards its commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions.”
Reflecting on the review in The Conversation, Alan Pears, senior industry fellow, RMIT, concludes that the government’s current targets, “fall far short of what is really necessary and responsible”, a conclusion backed by the Climate Council and respected researchers like Anna Skarbek, CEO at Climate Works Australia, Monash University.
The OECD review notes Australia’s’ continued heavy reliance of fossil fuels far exceeds those of other wealthy countries: “[Australia is] reliant on coal for two-thirds of its electricity [and]has one of the highest levels of non-renewable energy use of advanced economies, with fossil fuel consumption still benefitting from government support. Coal, oil and gas make up 93% of the overall energy mix compared to an OECD average of 80%. The share of renewables in electricity generation has risen to 16% but remains below the OECD average of 25%. Australia’s power sector – the country’s top emitting sector – is not subject to emission reduction constraints.”
As one of the worlds’ leading per capita GHG emitting nations and coal exporters, Australia stands out as a pariah state. But, like other countries, it is paying the price. As the review notes: “Australia has warmed by 0.9ºC over the past 60 years, with the warmest years occurring since 2005. Both rainfall and drought are likely to grow more extreme, and bushfire smoke and dust will increasingly affect air quality. The oceans around Australia are warming, rising, and are expected to become more acidic, exacerbating pressures on the Great Barrier Reef. Better water management is needed to respond to the changing climate and prevent further toxic algae blooms forming and killing fish in the drought-hit Darling River”.
The review outlines a range of recommendations to lesson GHG emissions and the destruction (among the worst on the planet) of biodiversity and ecological systems.
Despite such tragedies, the current Coalition government remains committed to coal as part of its “energy mix” into the foreseeable future, and new mines are in the offing in various parts of the country. It may not be official policy, but Australia is, in effect, committed to worsening the globe’s biosphere, thereby inflicting spectacular violence on all species.
Coal of course is only one, albeit hugely significant, contributor to GHGs. It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that globally, about 7.5 million people die avoidably (prematurely) each year due to the effects carbon burning pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine carbon particulates that lodge in the lungs) and 500,000 perish as a result of extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change. Yet, as Melbourne-based scientist, Dr Gideon Polya, observes, “This latter estimate of presently about 0.5 million climate change-related deaths may be an under-estimate because UN Population Division data indicate that presently 15 million people die avoidably (prematurely) each year (half of them children) due to poverty and deprivation in the Developing World (minus China), with these impoverished, tropical or sub-tropical countries already being severely impacted by global warming.”
Australia’s contribution to this unfolding tragedy is manifestly evident. It’s up to the global environmental justice movement to ratchet up the struggle for survival.
Fixing Climate; The Story of Climate Science and How to Stop Global Warming by eminent climate scientist Wallace Broecker (who unfortunately just passed away)and his co-writer Robert Kunzig is an informative look at the science of global warming as well as a summary of the options for solving it. Wallace Broecker was professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, and through his research first discovered one of the primary regulators of the planet’s climate; namely the “thermo-haline conveyor,” the network of ocean currents which circulates hot and cold water over much of the Earth’s surface.
A recurrent theme in Broecker’s writing is his view of Earth’s climate as a sleeping beast which we awaken at our peril. The relative stability of climate for the past ten thousand years (since the end of the last ice age) is exactly what allowed humans to develop agriculture and create civilisation. Thus, we have greatly benefited from the long sleep of the climate beast. However, the carbon dioxide emissions created by our modern society’s dependence on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas risk disrupting the climate and waking the climate beast. The consequences could be sudden and drastic.
Whereas we may think of climate change as being gradual and taking place over centuries or millennia, climate science has shown that drastic changes have happened very quickly in the past. A prime example is the end of the “Younger Dryas” ice age, a cold period which lasted from 12,800 to 11,500 years ago.
“The [ice] measurements … had shown that the warming at the end of the Younger Dryas had been abrupt … the ice layers were suddenly half as thick … most of that change had taken place in just a few years” (page 141).
So the scientific evidence is that climate change of sufficient magnitude to end an ice age can occur naturally in “just a few years,” not centuries or even decades. This bodes ill for our future, as our burning of coal, oil and gas is now changing the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere faster than any time in history. If a similarly quick global warming were to happen now, humanity would have little time or ability to adapt to it. The results would be catastrophic in terms of increased desertification, reduced food production and famine.
Aside from temperature rise, the biggest threat to Bangladesh in particular is from sea level rise. This is another area where research in climate science has made it clear that big changes can happen at a frightening pace.
In the 1980’s a colleague of Broecker’s, Richard Fairbanks, thought he could pinpoint a time when sea level rose twenty metres in a single century (page 171).
The above is indeed a stark contrast with the scientific conservatism of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of sea likely sea level rise being 59 centimetres by 2100.
The IPCC scientists specifically did not take into account the recent observations of accelerated ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica — essentially because they didn’t know what to make of them (page 183).
The problem is that scientists are generally cautious by nature, and unwilling to talk about possible worst case scenarios until that outcome is virtually certain. Unfortunately, if we wait until the worst case global warming scenario is inevitable before we start doing anything, it will be too late; the climate will have already changed, and humanity will have to suffer the awful consequences. Scientific conservatism in this case is lulling the public and world governments into a misplaced sense of security. So what is to be done? The answer is clear.
Which brings us to the one absolute certainty; no significant solution to the [carbon dioxide] problem can emerge until governments worldwide, and especially that of the United States, follow the lead of Norway and the European Union and impose either an emissions cap or a direct tax on [carbon dioxide] (page 266).
Broecker’s conclusion is shared by most climate scientists. To prevent dangerous climate change, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by replacing fossil fuels rapidly with nuclear, wind and solar energy. This will require huge investments, and the only way the money can be raised is through a carbon tax. Those of us who care about what the future holds for our children need to start thinking about how to bring about this colossal change in the world economy. The only way to solve the climate crisis is to put continuous and increasing public pressure on politicians around the world to transition away from fossil fuels.
In my last blog I reported on the unsurvivable heatwaves that lie in wait, later this century, for unsuspecting populations, particularly across Asia. Without serious efforts to slash global carbon emissions now, three quarters of the population of India will be exposed to ‘extremely dangerous’ levels of humid heat, while four hundred million inhabitants of China’s northern plain will be at severe risk of heat death.
This is shocking enough in its own right, but this week brought more bad news for the region that looks, increasingly, as if it will occupy an unenviable position in the front line as our world’s climate continues to break down. The huge populations of nations like India, China and Pakistan are only sustainable while there is a reliable food supply. This, in turn, is critically dependent upon a trustworthy supply of water for irrigation. There have been worries for some time that a failing climate will result in a more sporadic monsoon, or even – on occasion – its failure. The new research, however, brings an even greater threat.
According to the results of a new landmark study1, the glaciers of the 3,500-long Hindu Kush Himalaya mountain chain are in such a precarious state that a business as usual emissions scenario will see two-thirds of them gone by the century’s end. Even if we really pull our fingers out and slash emissions so as to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, one third of the ice will still be gone by 2100.
The reason why this scenario is so potentially cataclysmic is that the great rivers draining the Hindu Kush Himalaya – including the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow – provide the water that irrigates the crops that feed two billion people across a region stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the west to China and Myanmar in the east. Cut off this water supply and the stage is set for a prodigious famine far beyond biblical proportions. The study is the work of more than 200 scientists and peer reviewed by a further 150, so it stands as a formidable work of climate science that cannot and must not be ignored.
With 15 percent of the ice already gone, since the 1970s, problems are already becoming apparent due to more erratic river flow. By the middle of the century, the authors of the report predict, river flow will ramp up as more and more meltwater cascades down from the mountains. Flood events will occur far more frequently, while population centres will also face existential danger from catastrophic deluges arising from the breaching or overtopping of high-altitude meltwater lakes.
The real problems will set in, however, from around the 2060s onwards, as river flows start to drop off in earnest as the source ice fields fade away. Not only will this have a devastating impact on agriculture, it will also ensure that hydro-power dams on the rivers can no longer function, cutting power across the region. The prospects of billions being unable to feed themselves while at the same time having insufficient power to attend to the basics of life, doesn’t bear thinking about. This is a pending human catastrophe on the grandest of scales, and yet another reason why we can’t afford to dither any longer. The honest truth is that, even if we manage to achieve net zero emissions by 2025, this still won’t be enough to stop climate breakdown in its tracks. But failing to do this will doom vast tracts of our world to the heat, dust and despair of Hothouse Earth.
Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.
This was going to be a fairly straightforward re-post of a story in Cambridge about a new word. Then it started to get more complicated and to go beyond a single word. The use of language to explain why the system needs to change and the motives and reasoning to underpin that change are evolving.
We did not seek permission to re-post but consider it ‘fair use’ to re-post in full and credit the original source. Please get in touch if you are the original author and would like the post altered or taken down -The Editors.
This is a reprint, published on 1st February, 2019, by Mike Scialom email@example.com:
A new word to describe the willingness of the current generation to sacrifice the wellbeing and even survival of future generations has been coined by Professor Tony Booth, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Commonwealth Education at the University of Cambridge.
“Nepocide” takes the word “nepotism”, which is defined as “any favour granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities” and splices it with genocide, which is described in Article Two of the UN Convention on Genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
“Nepocide is the conscious willingness to sacrifice future generations for current convenience.”
“I originally started thinking about the dynamics of cross-generational responsibility during the Thatcher era. Back then I called it ‘grandchild murder’ – the conscious willingness to sacrifice future generations to poverty, but with climate change it’s become literally a reality for everyone, so I coined a name for it.”
Professor Tony Booth, speaking at an Extinction Rebellion event outside Parkside police station on January 31st, 2019
Extinction Rebellion is a movement which began in October, 2018. Its aim is to galvanise governments and councils to declare a climate emergency. Some UK councils have already done so, including Cornwall.
A petition to request that Cambridge City Council declares a state of climate emergency is due to be handed in this month.
The protest at Parkside police station centred on campaigner Ms Angela Ditchfield (twitter @GreenKingsHedgs), who belongs to King’s Hedges Green Party. Ms Ditchfield was requested to attend Parkside in connection with events at Shire Hall last month when graffiti was sprayed on a wall.
“They watched while the spray painting happened and didn’t arrest me. They then contacted me a couple of days later to ask me in for a chat and I had an interview under caution. Accepting a caution means accepting criminal guilt and that didn’t happen. They’ve called me back in to charge me.”
Ms Ditchfield, speaking to the Cambridge Independent before entering the police station.
“Criminal damage against property is a crime, but what about criminal damage against the planet – who can I talk to about that?”
Ms Ditchfield spoke to the Police Officier on the front desk, accompanied by a group of campaigners who also enquired as to who else would be arrested for criminal damage.
The officer replied: “I agree with a lot of what you’re saying but this isn’t the platform to express those views.”
“We would like to plead guilty to criminally damaging the world by living a privileged western lifestyle involving flying and driving, eating the products of the meat and diary industry, using plastic products and consumer electronics and buying unsustainable supermarket products.
All of these practices have caused irreparable damage to the world’s ecology. The glittering wealth grown in Britain’s economy is built on the extraction and theft of resources from countries in the global south.
It is built on the endless extraction of fossil fuels, a resource for which we have hideously violated human rights, started brutal wars, and killed millions.
The wealth and privilege has caused loss of life and irreparable damage to the world’s ecology, and we have benefited from it. We have enjoyed the fruits of the destruction of others.
Charge us with all of that.”
Read out to the Police Officer by one of the group
The officer explained that there would be no charges. “We’ve just taken in a lot of people and it’s full now.”
“Can we come back later?” the spokesperson asked.
Another officer then asked: “Why don’t I just have a chat with two of you?”
“Well we’re all guilty,” was the response.
“OK,” the officer replied, “but if there’s two of you who you trust I can listen to them.”
Two campaigners then stepped forward and were taken through.
The officer later reported that the chat went “very well”
“I thought they were going to charge me but they’re doing it in a different way. Technically I’ve not been charged yet but I’ve just been notified that I’ve been reported to be charged.”
Ms Angela Ditchfield
Ms Ditchfield awaits postal confirmation of the next stage of the case.
You can find a personal account by one of those attending the police station here.