Air Date 11/20/2021
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the state of international climate negotiations and the intersection of capitalism and colonialism in the role of indigenous peoples around the world in stewarding the lands in a climate friendly way.
Clips today are from the United States of Anxiety, Tysky Sour, the Brian Lehrer Show, and Consider This, with additional members-only clips from Tysky Sour and This is Hell.
Promises to Help the Climate Keep Breaking Part 1 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-15-21
[00:00:29] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: First off, COP-- you know, for those who aren't following, that's "Conference Of Parties," that's the... the... the nations who have agreed to... to a treaty to reduce our emissions.
And I like how you put it in your article. You wrote that, "COP26 is a sequel to COP21, which is an attempt to recover from the mess of COP15..." You know, and you say we've got to go all the way back to the conference that preceeded all of these "bad COPS," and that was the 1992 so-called "Earth Summit."
So take us back there. This was in Rio, 1992. Why is it important to understand what happened there for understanding our climate conversations now?
[00:01:05] ELIZABETH KOLBERT: Yeah, so that... that was a big moment. It was called the Earth Summit, and it itself was the 20th anniversary of a big summit that had been held in 1972 in... in Stockholm.
And what happened at the Earth Summit, was, climate change was, in the scientific community already, you know, alarm bells going off. And one of the important things to understand about climate change, and why it's somewhat different from some other, sort of, pollution problems, is it's... it's a cumulative problem. Whatever you put up there stays up there for a very long time.
And also, there's a time lag in the system. So scientists were saying, "You may not be seeing climate change now, but if you continue down this path, you know, disastrous things are gonna happen."
And that had gotten the attention of, you know, quote unquote, "World leaders." And so a document called the UN-- "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" was drawn up. And it committed signatories to avoiding what... what's, sort of, a terrible mouthful," Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference with the Climate System." That is the goal.
And it left undefined what that was, what was dangerous. And it left undefined how we were going to do it. And, at the insistence of the U.S.-- This was under George HW Bush-- there were no timetables, there were no targets in this. It was a very vague document. \
And we've been dealing with, sort of, the consequences of that ever since. Now, one of the good consequences is, it sailed through the Senate. It passed the Senate unanimously. They approved the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. So there was a time when this was, sort of, quote unquote "Uncontroversial."
But we've been struggling ever since to figure out what to do.
And one thing I should say, we could go even further back, if you really want to set the stage for this, to what was called the Montreal protocol, which phased out ozone destroying chemicals. And that was back in the eighties, in 1987. And that was a UN agreement to phase out these chemicals that were, you know, destroying the ozone layer, and the ozone layer protects us from ultraviolet radiation. So that was a big deal.
And a lot of people thought, "Well, if we raise the alarm about climate change, the same thing will happen. We will phase out fossil fuels." So, there was a lot of optimism about that that has, you know, since long been lost. Let's put it that way.
Is COP26 Set To End in Failure Part 1 - TyskySour - Air Date 11-12-21
[00:03:31] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: Let's look at how far we are from where we need to be.
Climate Action Tracker has said that current pledges put the world on course for 2.4 degrees of warming. That's down from a 2.7 degree projection at the start of the conference, although obviously way too high. They also said, though, that in an optimistic scenario where countries met their 2050 targets, it could be the case that warming could be limited to 1.8 degrees this century.
So, you understand climate modeling much better than me. You're a climate scientist. How have they managed to come to these very different figures? 2.4 and 1.8. I'm sure there's a world of difference between those two things. What's the difference between what they consider their mid range number and what they see as their optimistic one?
[00:04:17] SIMON LEWIS: So their mid-range number is if you take all of the national climate plans, nationally determined contributions in the jargon that have been somewhat submitted to the UN, and those pledges from last week on deforestation and [unintelligible] and the other announcements, and then you project those forward, and then you include changes in technology and other changes in the world that are expected, and you come out with 2.4 degrees Celsius warming.
The 1.8 is when you take those 2030 figures where we keep emissions roughly the same as they are now, and then you assume that every country that said it will then get to net zero by 2050 or 2060 goes on a straight slope down to net zero. And that's just completely unrealistic.
There's no way, for example, that Saudi Arabia, whose emissions are rapidly increasing, are then going to suddenly decarbonize completely in the 30 years following. So I think we can discard that 1.8.
But what it does show, this difference between 2.4 and somewhere down at 1.8, is that there's this huge implementation gap; that we have these long-term targets, but the short term, the near term policies are just not there yet.
And that's why this decade is so important, and why we need to bring, countries need to come back next year to be able to try and bridge that gap and get onto a trajectory where emissions actually start to form rather than keep going up as they have for the last 13 years.
[00:05:56] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: This is from the BBC. It's showing the emission cuts which are needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030 and the ones which have actually been pledged. So you can see the pledges before COP26, 52 gigatons; after COP26, that's down to 41 gigatons. But what we actually need to limit warming to 1.5 degrees is to be at 26.6 gigatons. So we're not even halfway there from before and after COP26.
Promises to Help the Climate Keep Breaking Part 2 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-15-21
[00:06:22] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: I think we often conceptualize climate change as a legacy of the industrial revolution, which means that we think of it as something it started in, like, 1750, or 1850. But, well, first of all, the industrialization of the world as a whole really didn't begin until the middle of the 20th century.
You know, up until 1850, the lion's share of all global carbon emissions were produced by the UK. And even thinking about the problem, the math from the perspective of the present, basically all of it has been done since World war II. I think the figure is something like 90% of all carbon emissions ever produced in the history of humanity has come since World War two.
And that means a lot of things. It means that the crisis is a relatively recent creation. And it means that many of the people who are most responsible, both at the sort of individual level, at the corporate level, and at the national level, are alive today. And often in power.
So, fully a quarter of the damage-- as you mentioned, a half since the early nineties, that's startling itself-- a quarter of the damage that's been done to the climate has been since 2008. Since Joe Biden was elected vice president.
So, we're really still doing this damage very much in real time. It's not just that we're not doing enough to clean up the mess that was left behind by our grandparents. We are creating the mess. We're creating a much bigger mess than our grandparents, and we're still not doing nearly enough about it.
Now it's important to keep in mind, in thinking about all that, that, because carbon hangs in the atmosphere for centuries, and maybe even longer, that carbon, the carbon that was produced in the U S in 1995, or was produced in China in 2003, that carbon's not gone. It's still warming the planet. It is the reason that we have a climate crisis today, and unless we take it out of the air, it's the reason we're going to still have a climate crisis for centuries to come.
So we often think about carbon emissions in terms of future emissions, trajectories; you know, how can we get China, and India, and Sub-Saharan Africa on a... on a cleaner path.
Those things are really important. But we are at the point we are today, where we're talking about a make or break climate conference, we're at that point because of emissions that we've already produced in the past. Some people call them historical emissions, some called them legacy emissions, and they're not going to go away unless we do something about them.
Which means that, you know, it is still American responsibility, the responsibility of the global... you know, it's our fault that we are in the bind that we're in today.
[00:08:36] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: another stat you give in that regard is that... that one transatlantic airline ticket yields more emissions than the average person living in Sub-Saharan Africa generates in an entire year.
And it made me wrestle with, sort of, how we think about the... the balance between individual level accountability, and responsibility, and response; versus, you know, the fossil fuel companies' level of responsibility, and response, and just, sort of, how we as individuals then enter into this conversation.
[00:09:09] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Yeah, I think in a country like the U S, it's easy to think that there are basically two teams: there's, like, a Team Science Climate, which is basically progressive, or liberal; and there's a Team Denier Conservative, that's like a fossil fuel business, that's, sort of, on the other side.
And those fights are real. Those disputes are real. And, you know, even down to the level of individual behavior, there are certain groups of people that are behaving much more responsibly when it comes to climate change, and others who were behaving much less responsibly.
When you pull out and think about it in the global context, you know, it's really just about what country you're from, and how rich you are. And the huge gap is between the countries of the Global North and the countries of the Global south. Not between liberals and Republicans; not between environmentally conscious people and environmentally fatalistic people.
You know, this... these gaps are just so enormous. The average American emits something like 20 times the the average Kenyan or Ugandan, and maybe more than a hundred times what the average person in, say, Mali, or some of the most poor countries in the world, emits.
And so, from the perspective of the Global South, like, whether you support a Green New Deal, whether you voted for Joe Biden, those are relatively trivial aspects of your, sort of, carbon profile. From the perspective of the Global South, just about everybody who's not very poor in a place like the U S or Western Europe is just doing an enormous amount of damage.
And we think, "Oh, we can... we can behave a little more responsibility. We can eat a little less meat. We can buy an electric car." Those things do help, but they help off of a baseline of a very, very brutal.... baseline, in which basically every American is, just, doing quite a lot of damage to the stability, wellbeing, livelihood, and potential for future human flourishing in the developing world.
[00:10:50] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Sort of, along these lines, but... but challenging them a bit, is, there's somebody on Twitter, you know, "Given the fact that Big Oil's delegation at COP26 was larger than that of any country, shouldn't COP be changed to the Conference Of petroleum, or Conference of Polluters, to better reflect reality.
So it's, you know, at the same time that we are all individuals, there are these big structural things that have that showed up. Even at this very conference.
[00:11:12] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Oh, I mean, absolutely. I don't want to minimize the ability of the fossil fuel companies or the... the moral cowardice that's been shown by, not just American political leaders, but political leaders all around the world, of the last generation, who, knowing, you know, everything that fossil fuel use was doing to the planet, nevertheless, sort of, continued on in a business-as-usual way. I think those are... those are real differentials.
I don't mean to suggest the average American is, you know, as guilty as Rex Tillerson, or whatever. I just think it's, you know, it's important to understand that we are all also operating, still, in... within those systems, which have been designed to benefit us, and are built on the back of fossil fuel use.
It is now the case that you can look around the world and see paths of possible greener prosperity. That is the wonderful promise of renewable energy, which is now cheaper in 90% of the world than dirty energy is. But for all of human history, wealth has been created, basically, by the use of fossil fuels. And so, countries and people are rich because of the use of fossil fuels, which means because they're polluting or even poisoning the planet.
You know, we have a culture now where, especially in the U S, we tend to regard wealth as, sort of, clean. All these beautiful people, with their clean skin, and their fit bodies, and healthy diets.
But the truth is it's, you know, from a climate perspective, it's really the opposite. You know, wealth is extremely dirty. Poverty, as much as people in the U S regard it as dirty, is, from a climate perspective, really quite clean.
And we are living high off the hog here in the U S, and across Europe, by, basically, imposing pollution on parts of the world that... that can't deal with it.
Now, we're going to deal with it too. But it's the equatorial band of the planet, and the developing countries of the world, who are expecting the most intense impacts, who're already experiencing the most intense impacts.
And, of course, both have the least resources to deal with those impacts, and also did the least to cause the problem in the first place.
COP26 Closes Out What Comes Next - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 11-15-21
[00:13:04] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Julian, as an activist who's concerned with wealth inequality around the world and with the fate of Indigenous peoples around the world, do you experience any tension over this particular provision? Because the goal, at least if we take it earnestly from those who want to phase out coal and other fossil fuels more slowly, is that the poorer nations of the world need some leeway here to build their economy while the United States and other wealthier nations have had that leeway before the world started to get it all serious about global warming. For all these decades and look at the wealth disparities that have come as a result. So do you have any sympathy for more leeway on fossil fuels, for developing countries, so that they can get their standards of living up higher more quickly?
[00:14:00] JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT: Yes, and I think this is one of the biggest challenges of the clean energy transition, which is the fact that in the broadest climate atmospheric future of our species sence, we must do everything in our power to transition to a future that produces less and less emissions over time, and transitioning away from coal is one of the best ways to do that. But on the other hand, coal power is in particular are very labor intensive energy source, and it has been, in many parts of the world, the foundation here in the United States, in West Virginia, in, not that far from Glasgow, actually parts of Northern England, and all around the world, a lifeblood in a sense of a certain era of industrial capitalism. Coal miners were a major force, are a major force in many different parts of the world.
The challenge here to me is more about how do we ensure that in the transition to a future that runs on a lot less and maybe no coal, that the workers in those industries and the economies around them get the kinds of economic support that you need. And when you're in a situation where the commitments made at the Copenhagen summit 12 years ago of the developed nations, the wealthy nations of the world to finance to the tune of $100 billion, the transition to clean energy and adaptation to global warming in developing nations and island nations. The reality that that money has not materialized 12 years later, I do very much sympathize with the perspective of, say an India, and for that matter the perspective of a coal miner in a place like West Virginia. I think that that is a very legitimate perspective, a perspective that comes from the need for good work and the kinds of growth and benefits that come from it.
But look, a lot of people have gotten very wealthy during this pandemic. It's not like there's not enough capital sloshing around the more well-off portions of our economic system, the challenge, it seems to me, has to do more with the willingness to redistribute some of that capital and apply some of that capital in areas where it might create new kinds of economic benefits, around things like solar energy and wind power. And wind power in particular can be the bedrock of a new sort of industrial capitalism that involves organized labor and creates the same sorts of good paying union jobs that we saw in the era of coal power.
[00:16:36] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: I want to read the beginning of Article 6 for our listeners, cause they probably haven't heard it anywhere else. It says that the pact "acknowledges that climate change has already caused, and will increasingly cause, loss and damage, and that as temperatures rise impacts from climate and weather extremes as well as slow onset events will pose an ever greater social economic and environmental threat." And it also directly references Indigenous peoples and local communities.
How significant is the acknowledgement and the whatever reparations go with that?
[00:17:14] JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT: I think it's very significant because Article 6 generally has to do with the creation of emissions trading markets, so these are " cap and trade" markets where economies and countries that are able to take faster action on climate change get a certain number of tradable emissions credits, and then can sell those credits to economies and countries and corporations that perhaps are not able to take actions so quickly. And often this has to do with actually real trees and real things that are better and helping that carbon in the ground rather than up in the sky.
And the places where that's happening is most often actually in the homelands of Native peoples throughout the Americas and in other parts of the world. And the complexity around those sorts of regimes, it cannot be overstated, in some instances, these kinds of carbon trading markets have been used by Indigenous communities to actually bring real revenue into their communities and to preserve some of their homelands. In parts of Canada there are First Nations who really support these kinds of policy systems and I've gone to some of them and reported on some of those situations.
In other parts of the world however, there has been a very troubling track record of these sorts of emissions tradings schemes that call on the protection of particular patches of forests that belong to Indigenous communities or used by Indigenous communities to then actually keep those areas from being used by Native peoples in the traditional, perhaps cultural or harvesting practices that they have been used in for millennia. And so there is this real concern that in one of the key solutions that's being put forward to the climate crisis, there might actually be a financial land grab that's happening once again in parts of the Amazon and in Native communities around the world.
And so I think that that language acknowledging Indigenous peoples is really important, because there are very real concerns that have actually been proven in some instances, particularly in Brazil, where these kinds of carbon credit type systems have actually dispossessed people of their lands. And of course that's not something that we want to see happening in the fight against climate change.
Is COP26 Set To End in Failure Part 2 - TyskySour - Air Date 11-12-21
[00:19:33] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: I spoke earlier to Kirtana Chandrasekaran who wrote a great article for one of our media on this, in fact. So this is what she told me about nature-based solutions and their role at COP26.
[00:19:46] KIRTANA CHANDRASEKARAN: All their targets to achieve and mitigation on net zero, on the net means that it is the carbon emissions of you met minus what you're able to draw down from the atmosphere, carbon sequestration, carbon removal. And that's where the nature-based solutions, because nature based solutions are what enables the trees and forests or soil carbon, for example, draws down carbon from the atmosphere. But what they're essentially saying is that they're going to achieve net zero, which means what they are going to do and what they're already doing in at the moment -- corporations, 1,500 corporations, rich country governments -- are going to keep emitting according to their trajectories, expand fossil fuel extraction. The UK itself has [unintelligible] fossil fuel projects, but will then use land in the global south, forests and trees, to offset the emissions that they're going to in it. And that's what nature-based solutions here is about.
So it's actually in the COP text now, not as the term nature-based solutions, but as the term nature as net carbon sink and enhanced carbon removals from nature.
So there's a lot of definitions you'll hear for how lovely nature-based solutions is and what it is, but this is what is actually the politics of nature-based solutions.
[00:20:58] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: Aaron, do you agree with that? Do you think, I mean, you've talked about some of the ambiguities about nature-based solutions. We are going to need to have significant extraction of carbon from the air though, aren't we? Because far as I understand, our carbon budget is going to be used up in six years, unless, you know, we really, really have a dramatic transformation in sort of how the world deals with this kind of thing. What's your take?
[00:21:21] AARON BASTANI - CO-HOST, TYSKYSOUR: And, you know, this is quite hard for some people to understand, Michael, because they think, my God, look, the green movement has been talking about deforestation for decades. We're saying, here's more trees and it's still not making you happy. Maybe you're being contrarians. We thought you were tree huggers. But it's a bit more complicated than that, Michael, because if you don't plant the right trees in the right place, it doesn't just not solve the problem, it can actually make things worse.
So examples, for instance, of trees being planted in certain areas, pine trees in Latin America, and they take up too much water and actually they do nothing for biodiversity. They might not live very long often. The initial reforestation efforts in China, trees were dying, but half of the trees were dying.
And of course the worry is if you have reforestation where you took down some trees, which will continue for at least 10 years, and you plant them elsewhere, and elsewhere they're sucking up precious water reserves, or most of them are dying and they've got no biodiversity. It's still a massive net loss, Michael. I think we have to get this really through as political common sense.
If we're serious about expanding the forested parts of the planet, which we have to do -- you're absolutely right, it's a critically necessary thing to do -- that has to be led by indigenous peoples. That's not some woke thing I'm trying to say to score brownie points and to look cool or to knock Western governments. These, the people who presently administer, I believe 70 to 80% of the world's rainforests and habitats like that, they're very, they're very good at maintaining these places, being custodians of these places.
And so if we're going to adopt that strategy, Michael, which you're saying rightly that we have to do, you have to center indigenous peoples. And it can't just be the UK says -- I'll give you an example -- we're going to plant 30,000 hectares every year after 2025. Well, how many trees per hectacre? What kinds of trees? These are hugely important questions.
Secondly, you also have all these commitments around planting trees. When you actually break it down, it often looks like there isn't really enough land. And that's before you ask questions about, well, people live on this land, where are you going to put them? Obviously conflicts between agricultural land, we need to use land for agricultural purposes. And you were saying also, we need to use it as a carbon sink. I mean, that's what Bill Gates says, I agree with him, he says, there's an important conversation here. We need to feed the planet equitably and in a far healthier way than we presently do. You need to be careful about saying, well, we can just give multiple Australias over to reforestation tomorrow. Well, it's a planet of seven and a half billion people. There's going to be 10 billion probably sometime this century. They need to live somewhere. They need to eat. That's that's a lot harder than it sounds. So the reforestation thing is good. It's positive. It's a, it's, it's a really positive thing that we're here.
But the likes of Bill Gates, the billionaire class, are attracted to it for a reason. And the reason is twofold. The first is it allows them to carry on burning fossil fuels for a little bit longer, really into the second half of the century, which should not be happening for developed countries. Secondly, this of course provides a whole new area of financialization because you can trade the carbon, you can create futures markets. And actually the idea of nature being a commodity is why we're in this situation in the first place. And I find it very hard to believe it will therefore be part of the solution.
So I think criticisms to treat of tree planting reforestation, they may sound strange initially, but it's being adopted and it's all the rage at COP26 for a reason, because it means we don't talk about the thing that matters the most, which is stopping fossil fuels. We can't drill any more oil and gas wells. And yet in this country, we're doing it in dozens of places. China, which I think is doing considerably better than the United States or any European country, is still going to open dozens of new coal-fired power stations over the next decade. If we're serious about 1.5, none of that would be happening. But it is.
So the idea of net zero and reforestation to sort of redress carrying on with this business as usual and at the same time saying, well, we can stick to 1.5, 1.5 to stay alive. It's 2.4, it's three degrees C. And three degrees C is really concerning, you know, today or the last 24 hours, I think we had about 1200 documented migrants come here in the UK or over the English channel. Look, in a world of three degrees warming, that's a walk in the park. You're going to see displacement of billions of people.
And so 1.5 is still very possible, but necessary as an agenda, I think locks in us going far beyond it.
Young Activists At U.N. Climate Summit 'We Are Not Drowning. We Are Fighting' - Consider This from NPR - Air Date 11-12-21
[00:25:47] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: As 23 year old Brianna Fruean, one of the young activists I met here this week.
[00:25:51] BRIANNA FRUEAN : I was telling someone earlier this week, like they were asking, how do you know you live with the climate crisis? and I said, well, I can recall the smell of mud.
[00:26:00] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: The smell of mud in her home country, Samoa.
[00:26:02] BRIANNA FRUEAN : I don't know if you've ever been like a storm or a flood, but when the flood drains back into the ocean, it leaves piles and piles of mud. And so I scooped mud out of my house...
[00:26:12] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Brianna is part of a group called Pacific Climate Warriors. They represent small island nations, some of the country's most vulnerable to a warming planet. She opened the first day of the COP26 summit here in Glasgow. Speaking to leaders from all over the world.
[00:26:28] BRIANNA FRUEAN : Pacific youth have rallied behind the cry. We are not drowning, we are fighting. This is our warrior cry to the world. We are not drowning, we are fighting.
[00:26:41] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: It's a fight young people are waging from Samoa to Uganda. There, 24 year old activist Vanessa Nakate told me the problems include extreme drought, flooding, and landslides.
[00:26:53] VANESSA NAKATE: So with the rise in global temperatures, it means the loss of people's farms, drying of people's crops, destruction of peoples houses...
[00:27:02] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: In Glasgow this week, I heard all kinds of stories like this. Young activists from around the world say climate change is already transforming their countries, and to Briana Fruean of Samoa, it matters how we tell that story.
[00:27:15] BRIANNA FRUEAN : A lot of people think my role here at COP is to come and cry, like I owe them my trauma, when I don't owe you my trauma. If I want to come here in bright pink and neon colors and be like, I'm a very happy person, and this is the happiness I'm trying to save, then that's what gives me the energy to be in this space.
[00:27:33] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: The youth climate movement is trying to translate that energy into action. Here's a passage Vanessa Nakate of Uganda wrote in her new book, A Bigger Picture.
[00:27:43] VANESSA NAKATE: We've seen what's happening on the ground. We have less access to resources and power, and so we feel more accurately what occurs when the little we have is taken from us, washed away in the rising waters or withering in the unrelenting sun.
[00:28:01] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Consider this, the world's youngest generations have the most to lose to catastrophic climate change.
[00:28:08] RUTH MILLER: Being an Indigenous youth at COP is extraordinarily limiting and tokenizing in a number of ways, both by nature of being Indigenous and by being youth.
[00:28:18] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Ruth Miller is 24, and she's one of nine people squeezed into a four bedroom rental house above a corner pub. I met them at the halfway point of the summit when they'd already spent a week in demonstrations, meetings, and panel discussions. One of them said the first week felt like one long day with naps. Ruth Miller grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. Some of her roommates here are from New Zealand or islands in the South Pacific. They're hanging out in the living room with low wooden furniture covered in mustard colored velvet cushions, joking about some of their shared experiences as kids who grew up in native communities.
Without planning on it, they all brought different kinds of smoked fish to Scotland. Salmon from Alaska, eel from New Zealand, they bond over memories of fry bread.
[00:29:04] YOUTH CLIMATE ACTIVISTS: There's always a version of fry bread across like indigenous people. Are you guys going to hate me? Okay, I only try to fry bread the first time, like the beginning of this year.
[00:29:17] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: But of course their connections go much deeper than food. When I ask if they are learning new things from each other's experiences and different parts of the world, Ruth says that's not exactly it. They come here with a shared view of how lands and waters are connected and how to care for them.
[00:29:32] RUTH MILLER: It does seem less you know, learning new things and more like meeting a long lost family member that you haven't seen in quite some time.
[00:29:41] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Everyone squeezes around the dining table for a family style meal of takeout Thai food. 23 year old Tiana Jakicevich leads everyone in a blessing.
They talk logistics for the next day's events, planning out how to get to, and from the conference site, because I should mention this house they rented is not in Glasgow. We're in a city called Sterling, almost an hour north of where the summit is taking place. They had to raise their own money for this trip. Staying in Glasgow was way too expensive and that's a metaphor for their experience of the conference itself. They're often on the outside looking in, trying to carve out space for their people.
[00:30:23] RUTH MILLER: It was deeply difficult and extractive and tokenizing to be here.
[00:30:28] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Ruth Miller and Tiana Jakicevich sat down with us to talk about their shared experience here, and that includes their experience of a warming planet, from the Arctic where Ruth is from to the Southern hemisphere where Tiana lives.
[00:30:38] TIANA JAKICEVISH: While Ruth's ice is melting, our seas are rising. And yeah, so we are intrinsically connected to the earth and each other through that.
[00:30:48] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Tiana woke up in Scotland recently to news that her small town was in a state of emergency after three months worth of rain fell in 48 hours. And she's seen slower changes too.
[00:31:00] TIANA JAKICEVISH: When I was little, we used to go down to the beach and collect tuatua, which is like a little shellfish. And you used to just dig in the sand for them. And every year we kept going back and they moved every year, and then about five years ago we couldn't find them. So at this point in time where we've always been able to collect tuatua from, we no longer can anymore.
[00:31:25] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: That's in New Zealand and Alaska is heating up much faster than the rest of the. Ruth has seen record-setting wildfires and relocations from land that our people have lived on for generations.
[00:31:36] RUTH MILLER: But of course you can't relocate your grandparents' graves. You can't relocate your ancient, sacred sites. You can't adapt to the places that are lost due to climate change. This past year, when I was forced to watch our sitka, our salmon, dying in our streams of heatstroke, it was heartbreaking.
[00:31:54] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: That's why these activists put in the work, raise the money, and risk their health to fly to Scotland during a pandemic. But now that they're here, it's sometimes feels like everyone wants to put them in a box.
[00:32:05] RUTH MILLER: Whitening our speech, and whitening the way that we behave, and wearing blazers and such. If we do bring our whole Indigenous selves, it gets translated as a photo opportunity in COP spaces.
[00:32:18] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: How do you deal with that?
[00:32:23] RUTH MILLER: Prayer. We bring our prayer. And we bring our spiritual fortitude. We bring our traditions and we bring our medicines. We take care of one another.
[00:32:32] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Sometimes they're invited to panels where they feel like organizers only want them to demonstrate victimhood. And they show up with more than stories of suffering
[00:32:39] RUTH MILLER: A number of us are extremely well-versed in the substantive content of, particularly Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, of a number of negotiating platforms.
[00:32:52] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Article 6 is about carbon markets, a system that lets companies buy or sell credits towards a specified amount of CO2 emissions. The activists here see it as a gift to big business, a plan that endorses systems of capitalism that created these problems in the first place.
[00:33:06] RUTH MILLER: We work in these fields as well as being youth, and yet most of what I've talked about is how difficult it is for youth to be heard. We don't even get to talk about what we would talk about if we were heard.
[00:33:18] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: They'd also like to see plans to protect human rights and Indigenous rights spelled out in the text of the COP agreement.
Last week, Ruth Miller says she was offered a platform where she could have raised some of these ideas. She was invited to speak at an Indigenous peoples event with Alok Sharma, the president of COP26. Then the schedule ran long and the meeting abruptly ended before she could speak. So at the house in Sterling, I asked her "what would you have said if you had been given that opportunity that you were told you you would have?"
[00:33:46] RUTH MILLER: I would remind him of our Indigenous diplomats and the ways that we call in deep community.
[00:33:53] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: And then she says she would have offered him a traditional song.
[00:33:56] RUTH MILLER: My people come from volcanoes, and the song was gifted to me in a time of great need, and it is a song of deep, deep earth and of ancestors that are older than human.
It is a song that reminds me of embers, and the way that we tend to our fires. But what I would have reminded him of is that our embers are not ones that easily go out or fade away. The embers of our Indigenous voices, if they are neglected or ignored, they tend to start fires.
[00:34:34] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: I can't promise that Alok Sharma will hear this, but if you would like to share that for an audience that will hear it.
That's Ruth Lchav'aya K'isen Miller. She is Native Dena'ina Athabaskan from Alaska. It's Consider This from NPR. I'm Ari Shapiro.
Promises to Help the Climate Keep Breaking Part 3 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-15-21
[00:35:00] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Well, so Vanessa Nakate's speech in Milan was meant to refocus the conversation at meetings like COP26 on exactly this. She and others say we can't only talk, at this point, about how to reduce emissions, and adapt to the damage done; we need to have another conversation altogether.
And let me play another piece of her speech on this.
[00:35:19] VANESSA NAKATE: But there's one thing I almost never hear leaders talk about, and that is, loss and damage. For many of us, reducing and avoiding is no longer enough. You cannot adapt to lost cultures. You cannot adapt to lost traditions. You cannot adapt to lost history. You cannot adapt to starvation. And you cannot adapt to extinction.
[00:36:02] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: So David, what are some examples of the things that people are already experiencing in places that are not actually responsible for the destruction of the climate? What are some of the things that you talk about in the article?
[00:36:14] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Well, there's a... there's a ongoing famine right now in Madagascar, where as many as half a million people are experiencing extreme hunger, and probably 30,000 or 50,000 are in the brink of death from that. In what the UN has called the first climate famine.
There are, you know, droughts, intense flooding, much beyond what anybody has experienced in Sub-Saharan Africa, or really across South Asia. You have unprecedented heat waves; although the truth is, we actually know a lot less about the heat impacts, and some of these other climate impacts as well, because climate scientists don't even really study the Global South, or the developing world, nearly as much as they study the Global North. Our data is much more piecemeal.
But all-- there are huge problems with using economic projections as total measures of this stuff. But I think, to some degree, they're useful, because they do, sort of, collate all of the impacts. And you're seeing, already across the Global South, many countries having their GDPs reduced by 20, 30% from what they would be without climate change, already today.
And if you project those impacts forward, you know, several decades, you're talking about many of these [countries] p otentially losing the very possibility of economic growth at all, because of the combined impacts on.. on agriculture on, you know, in drought.
There's also a relationship between temperature and violence, so it, it tends to create more conflict, both within states and between states.
You know, it's... it's really the whole... the whole gamut.
I'd spoke--- one of the other activists I spoke to in the... in the article, an Indian activist named Disha Ravi, said to me, very bluntly, "Like in India, we have the whole climate crisis. It's not one impact. It's, you want floods? We've got those. You want droughts? We've got those. You've got well water shortages? We've got those. You've got hurri-- you want hurricanes? We've got them."
And in fact, India is, according to some research, expected to shoulder the burden of about a quarter of all global climate impacts this century, even though, of course, it's... it's just one country.
[00:38:00] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: And is it also the case that-- you mentioned that there's research showing that this is already making poor countries poor-- is it... is the research showing that it's making rich countries richer.
[00:38:10] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Uh, there's some research to suggest that, particularly in Scandinavia, Canada, and in Russia, that the impacts are already... are positive, and will continue to be positive. You know, it makes some farmland up there more productive; people, in fact, are more productive economically when they... at certain temperature levels, so these are countries that are quite cold and they're being made slightly warmer.
The U S is already suffering, and is expected to suffer, actually, somewhat considerably this century if warming trends continue-- not like people in India, or Uganda, or Kenya will, but at a different level than the countries of Northern Europe-- we think of often as our peers-- will, and much more in line with the countries of the Mediterranean, who are, again, also suffering already from climate impacts, although much smaller ones than those felt in the developing world.
[00:38:53] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: And David, in your article, you do try to do some math, to get an actual number for what wealthy nations owe for all of this damage, and... and having profited from this damage, as you point out. And it's complicated, and you say you do this as more of a propagation than a real accounting.
But still it adds up to $250 trillion. Why that number?
[00:39:17] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Well, I started with the fact that we know... you know, we, we talked earlier, carbon hangs in the air for centuries, so it doesn't really disappear. What... any damage that's been done, any carbon that's been produced, it's still up there. It's still on the ledger. .
We know the total amount of carbon, and we can divide it country by country. The U S is responsible for about 20% of all global historical emissions, which is about twice as many as the country that's produced the second most, which is China. And China, of course, has somewhere between three and four times as many people, so on a per capita basis, we're at, it's something like, 10 times the Chinese impact. And many of the countries that followed on that ledger are... have done even less.
So the U S towers above all of the other countries in the world, in terms of its responsibility for this crisis. So that's the, like, "How much carbon did we put into the air?" tabulation.
And then, the other part is, how much would it cost to take that carbon out? This is a little bit complicated, but I tried to take seriously the real meaning of the term reparations, and try to figure out what the dollar amount would be to actually repair the climate. Not just-- as Vanessa Nakate was talking about-- not just to pay for the damage that's been caused, but to actually undo the damage that's been caused to the atmosphere.
And that may sound a little far-fetched, but actually, first of all, we do it all the time. Trees take carbon out of the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen.
But we also have technology that can do it, or promises to do it at significantly greater scale. There are a lot of problems with this technology. It's... there are limitations it's extremely expensive, much more expensive than avoiding putting carbon in the atmosphere in the first place. But we do have those machines, they do take carbon out of the air. And they do store that carbon permanently.
And while they're doing it now for something like $500 or $600 a ton of carbon, most researchers expect that, within a decade or so, with, especially, with public support, that figure could fall to about a hundred dollars a ton.
So I used that figure, a hundred dollars a ton.,
[00:41:10] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: And, just to clarify, because, with public support, meaning that the government could buy the... the carbon itself.
[00:41:17] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Yeah. Unfortunately, you know, there's no market for the captured carbon at this point at all, which means for any of this tech to go forward and for any of this repair, climate repair to take place, will require public support and public investment.
It's possible that some markets will develop, but probably none at the scale that we're talking about, if we're really hoping to actually undo the damage that we've done to the... to the climate, and take... eventually, reduce carbon concentrations below where they are now.
So all you have to do is multiply a hundred dollars a ton by the number of tons that we've produced. The U S has produced 509 gigatons, which is 509 billion tons; so you multiply 509 billion by a hundred, and you get $50 trillion, that's the U S debt.
And you can do that for all the individual countries of the world, or you could do it for all the countries of the world as a... as a whole, which it gives you the figure, uh, that you mentioned earlier, which is $250 trillion.
And that is obviously a lot. It's more than half of all the wealth that exists in the world today. But one of the appealing things about even entertaining this thought experiment, is that, carbon capture technology like this, carbon removal technology like this, doesn't have to take place in the next 10 years.
Which means we wouldn't have to pay that $250 trillion bill by 2030. In fact, it would be designed to operate in an ongoing way, possibly, over the course of a century or more.
And if you were talking about funding an effort like this at that timescale, then the dollar figure shrinks considerably. You know, if you're doing $250 trillion over a hundred years you have a much smaller bill than if you're trying to do it in single decade.
A lot of activists point out, absolutely rightly, "We don't want to lean too much on this tech, we don't want to trust in it too much," because it's often understood to be a, sort of, an invitation to continue burning fossil fuels. And we wouldn't be able to do the work of climate repair and climate restoration.
[00:43:02] KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: And it is, in fact... the fossil fuel companies, it's something that they point to. They say, "Oh, we'll happily do that."
[00:43:07] DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Yeah. When they talk about their net zero targets, they're almost entirely talking about, just, funding carbon removal in the second half of the century, when they assume it will be very cheap.
And there is that moral hazard problem: we do need to get to net zero to really entertain this project, because if we're still putting carbon in the atmosphere, it's going to be that much more difficult, that much more expensive, to continue taking it out.
And yet, if you're thinking about, you know, engineering or mobilizing a political response to climate change, not just on the next five or 10 years, which is how most advocates have thought over the last couple of years, but engineering a response that would take place over 50 years, or a hundred, or a hundred years. That really does change some of the logic. It does mean that the political forces that could govern systems like this could be very different than they are today, and may even be engineered in a much more progressive way, to benefit the people, chiefly in the Global South, although poor people in richer parts of the world as well, rather than to benefit the fossil fuel companies, which is how the system is set up today.
Is COP26 Set To End in Failure Part 3 - TyskySour - Air Date 11-12-21
[00:44:00] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: I want to talk about who've been the good guys and the bad guys at this COP26. First, let's take a look at John Kerry, the US climate envoy, speaking this morning.
[00:44:11] JOHN KERRY - US CLIMATE ENVOY: I think we're coming together. I think they're always in this kind of a negotiation, a few issues floating around. There are usually a hundred rumors regarding that thing. And I feel very, very good that this has the potential to be a very important statement.
[00:44:25] INTERVIEWER: Big arguments over finance I'm hearing.
[00:44:28] JOHN KERRY - US CLIMATE ENVOY: Well, there's some arguments over finance. I don't know how big they are, but we have to come up with a mechanism that provides more money. We want to support more money for adaptation, more money for the overall effort. Because we can't win if we don't have the funding to be able to implement. You know, there always expectations. We're going to work through it. We're going to come up with an agreement.
[00:44:46] INTERVIEWER: And the arguments are line by line. Do you think the sentence about fossil fuels and coal will survive this last stage of --
[00:44:54] JOHN KERRY - US CLIMATE ENVOY: Well, the G20, the G20 supported it. It's very much taken from the G20. The G20 had China, Russia, India, a bunch of countries at the table. They signed off on that language. So it'd be sort of odd to suddenly being going backwards and what you already put out in the context of the 20 biggest economies in the world.
I think the language is coming together. I really feel very confident we are going to raise the amount of money for an adaptation. We're going to be moving in the right direction. Less developed countries desperately need additional help. We agree with that. From day one at this COP, we've been saying the United States wants to raise the amount for adaptation. We support it and we'll be moving in the right direction I believe as we leave here.
[00:45:37] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: That was John Kerry suggesting the US is driving for more ambitious change and also sounding fairly positive about COP26. Speaking to Sky, the prime minister of The Bahamas, Philip Davies, sounded less optimistic about the likely outcomes of this conference.
[00:45:53] PHILIP DAVIES - PRIME MINISTER OF THE BAHAMAS: There's a lot of fancy words. They don't seem to have any teeth to them. It's aspirational. I don't want to say success or failure. What I want to say is progress has been stagnant. Progress is stagnant. And I hope that we will get out of this quagmire. If you're lucky maybe become refugees. If you're not lucky, you will be swallowed up at the rising sea levels.
[00:46:24] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: That was Philip Davies with some incredibly sobering comments about the future of The Bahamas, if we continue on our current trajectories.
Simon, how have the differing priorities of different countries played out at this COP? Who's blocked positive change? Who's been pushing for it? Who's come out on -- well, I don't want to say come out on top, cause I don't want to talk about this like a sport -- but how has the interaction between the different parties worked over these past two weeks?
[00:46:50] SIMON LEWIS: Well, you have to take the public statements with a bit of pinch of salt. So John Kerry speaks a very good game to the public on the outside and from the big plenaries. But behind the scenes in the actual negotiations, United States have been pretty obstructive. So they won't agree to a definition of what constitutes climate finance. Now that's a real stumbling block if you're saying well, we're going to provide a hundred billion altogether in climate finance, or any other amount. You have to have a definition, but they are resisting that. And they're also resisting this being on the shoulders of the historical emitters in the developed world and saying, well, the new emerging big economy should also contribute, and what about philanthropists and the private sector. And they have a role, but that's outside of these negotiations.
And it's been the same with the European Union, who have been pretty missing in action over the two weeks. And they also start to speak a good game on the outside, but are really not stepping up on the inside.
And those two groups, the US and EU that really need to stand in solidarity with those really vulnerable and income poor countries to both block the Saudi Arabians and the Russians and the Australians who are trying to water down the agreement and provide the finance that's really required.
So to increase the ambition, if you want to increase the ambition of mitigation of reducing emissions, you've also got to help global south countries to leapfrog the fossil fuel age, and they need concessionary loans and de-risking of rollouts of renewables and other support to be able to do that.
And that's not there yet. And finances is the one thing that really could stop a deal completely this weekend. It's still moving, but it is that serious.
[00:48:45] MICHAEL WALKER - HOST, TYSKYSOUR: To make this discussion in terms and them negotiating the specific words of the text, in that example, why would the US not want to define climate finance? What are they planning to do that a definition of climate finance would stop them doing it? Do they want to send money to the military allies and call that climate finance? Is that what was going on or is it something slightly more?
[00:49:01] SIMON LEWIS: I think it's more subtle about not wanting to be boxed in to an agreement and then having to deliver it where they want more options in how they might deliver things in future years.
I don't think it's been completely obstructive. But they always want things on their own terms. And, you know, that's the running sore through all of these negotiations is that we have a world that's been built on colonialism and those rich countries are holding most of the cards. And they are not paying for the climate impacts that they have historically caused through the cumulative emissions. And income poor countries are credibly frustrated by this and are nearly demanding action. And that's the core tension, and it's always the core tension with these ministries.
Border walls and the climate crisis Nick Buxton Part 1 - This is Hell! - Air Date 11-3-21
[00:49:54] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: The seven nations that are the wealthiest nations, that have contributed the most to climate change, that are also the ones that are securitizing their borders far more than they are addressing climate change are the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Japan. Cause this is what everybody's always talking about here in the United States, but what about China? China is producing far more coal than any other nation. They are and will continue to contribute to climate change. Is China militarizing its borders? Are countries like India, which produces the second highest amount of coal, are they securitizing instead of financing the fight against climate change as well?
[00:50:31] NICK BUXTON: So in that sense, that's why the US has a particular responsibility, because it's developed is how the economy and become the richest economy on back of fossil fuel development, and has had that role really since the beginning of the 20th century. So it's had a whole century of development based on that. Countries like China and India are much more recent carbon polluters, and they're only now starting to develop the economies that match the fossil fuel production they produce. So there's a difference there in terms of historic and current responsibility, and and I think it's important to keep that in mind.
And the other thing is of course people blame China, but China has a vast population. So if you look at tons per capita, an average American produces about 20 tons of carbon dioxide, the average Chinese person now produces about nine. So there's a difference that you've got to keep in mind. Firstly, the population difference, and that's part of the picture, and then they're also just starting to be... they've also got high levels of poverty, which they're only now starting to address. So certainly going forward they have an increasingly important role to play, but up to now historic responsibility lies with some of the richest countries like the US.
In terms of whether China and India starting to militarize their borders, there is evidence that trend is also happening. As countries become more and more wealthy there seems to be a trend that the richest countries then start to rather than tackle the underlying causes elsewhere and globally, they start to retreat behind walls and declare a much more aggressive nationalistic position. I think we're seeing some trends like that starting to happen in India and China as well. And India now has an increasingly militarized border against Bangladesh.
The question is, is this a strategy which is either humane or even rational in the longterm? And that's really what our report is saying. That it makes much more sense for us to be investing money in actually tackling the causes of displacement rather than militarizing the consequences. And that's just not a rational position, so it's a moral position because the higher and more militarized walls we are building the higher the death toll that we're seeing. And the Mediterranean now has become one of the world's largest graveyards because European Union is no longer trying to find safe ways to deal with migration in legal ways, and they're creating an armed border, which means that people are taking more and more risky ways just to try and find a way to survive and to live and are dying in the process as they go through the Mediterranean.
So this is, in my view, that's the future that it's a very bleak future. We're going to take that as our main response to climate change, that we're going to just barricade ourselves against the consequences.
[00:53:15] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: The report finds that seven of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, again, the US, Germany, Japan, UK, Canada, France, and Australia collectively spent at least twice as much on border and immigration enforcement as on climate finance, between 2013 and 2018. Canada spent 15 times more, Australia 13 times, the US almost 11 times more, and the UK nearly two times more. So Nick, if all these wealthy climate change contributing nations, which have and continue to profit off climate change as well as building border security, if they all spent just as much on climate change as they did on the militarization of their borders, how much difference would it make in addressing climate change? Wouldn't that still be far less than is actually needed to truly address global warming?
[00:54:01] NICK BUXTON: Well, if you look at what they spent, these richest countries spent 33 billion. So that's a third of what's needed by the whole world to pay for the promise of Paris, which is to raise a $100 billion. And the other part of this picture is that many of these, the spending on borders is also going to companies who are very much part of the military industrial complex. And there we're talking about even much bigger figures. The global military spending was $2 trillion last year on military spending.
So I guess one part of this is that border spending is one dimension of an increasingly militarized approach that the richest countries are taking, and climate change is increasingly becoming part of that agenda. I was on a conversation with you, I think a couple of years ago, where we talked about this, where national security strategies, the richest countries are increasingly looking at how to militarize and build up the military in response to climate change.
And so again, it's part of this picture of militarizing the consequences rather than tackling the causes. If you put the money you've spent on borders, that you spent the money on military towards tackling climate change, then I think we could make much bigger headway and much bigger chance of success. Instead, what we have is we are moving to as many people saying here in Glasgow with a three degree world. So that's three times what we're currently at, and we already see the consequences at one degree. So it's a very dangerous and short-sighted approach to be taking.
[00:55:24] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: The report finds the countries with the highest historic emissions are fortifying their borders, while those with lowest are the hardest hit by population displacement. Somalia, for example, is responsible for 27/10000 of a percentage point of total emissions since 1850, but had more than 1 million, 6% of the population, displaced by a climate related disaster in 2020. So why are the countries that are contributing the least to climate change suffering the most?
[00:55:54] NICK BUXTON: Well, one of it's partly an accident of geography, that actually that some of the places that have warming the most are in some of the poorest countries. And so it's been called the Tropic of Chaos by one author, between the cancer of Capricorn and the other one escapes right now, but the ones that parallel the equator are being particularly hardly hard hit by climate change. But of course the other one is just about a vulnerability in infrastructure. It's always been the case that a disaster, a flood, in a very poor country with very little infrastructure will have much more catastrophic effects than the richer country that has the capacity, whether it's the equivalent of emergency services that can respond or just the infrastructure that can cope with some of these things.
So that's why a lot of the impact really hits, it's a question of vulnerability. It hits the poorest... and we have a level of vulnerability now that people who are already living on subsistence lifestyles, when they face, on top of that, climate effects, then they no longer can deal with it, and that's what we're facing, particularly in Central America right now. There's a whole region which has become known as the dry zone, where farmers can cope with one bad harvest, but if you have five or six bad harvest in a row, then eventually you're forced to make some very difficult decisions.
Most people still will travel within the country, very few people travel across borders that they can help it, so you have increasing rural to urban migration. But eventually some people will also say that, especially if you've got other contributing factors like violence or gang warfare or criminalization, they'll decide to make the much more desperate thing of traveling across borders. And so that's why we have this. It's really a combination of a long-term systemic injustice combined with vulnerability, and when you add climate to that mix, and then it's forcing people to make much more difficult choices than they've ever had to take before, which includes moving home and family to different regions.
Final comments with an update on shifting conservative baseline syndrome
[00:57:52] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The United States of Anxiety, explaining the history of the conference of parties. TyskySour analyzed the numbers behind the warming estimates. The United States of Anxiety explained historical emissions and the divide between the rich and poor of the world. The Brian Lehrer Show explored the ideas of a just transition for underdeveloped nations and the role of carbon markets. TyskySour explained many of the pitfalls inherent in depending on so-called nature-based solutions, including indigenous stewardship, while Consider This followed a group of indigenous activists through their experience attending the COP. And The United States of Anxiety added up the carbon debt owed by the world's wealthiest nations.
That's what everyone heard. But members also heard bonus clips, including TyskySour scratching beneath the surface of rhetoric versus action in the negotiations. And This Is Hell looked ahead to a warming world in which the primary response is militarization of borders.
To hear that, and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at BestoftheLeft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now I have a little bit of a follow-up to my previous discussion from last week about, my sort of theory on the conservative drift that people seem to go through with age, at least that's sort of the folk wisdom, right? Is that people get more conservative with age. People have just been saying it sort of mindlessly for ages now. And so the way I was talking about it was actually sort of refuting the idea that people shift and become more conservative with age. I was arguing more along the lines that people stay pretty similar and as society shifts, they end up being left behind and become relatively more conservative, sort of subjectively more conservative.
And I was bringing this up in the context of people like Bill Maher and Dave Chappelle, who were very famously to the left of the main stream 20 years ago, and are now angry at the left for calling them out for having sort of shifted in relation to society, that they have not kept up with society, and so now they are relatively conservative by comparison.
So that was the conversation that happened, oh, about a week ago, I think. And now, Jeff, listener Jeff has written in and sent me a couple of interesting articles on the subject.
The first I have snippets from is it's an article from the University of Chicago Press: "Do people really become more conservative as they age?" and this is an article that's behind a paywall, so I can only read from the abstract. But it says, quote, "Consistent with previous research, but contrary to folk wisdom, our results indicate that political attitudes are remarkably stable over the long term." And then continuing in another section, it says, "In contrast to previous research, however, we also find support for folk wisdom on those occasions when political attitudes do shift across the lifespan, liberals are more likely to become conservatives than conservatives are to become liberals." End quote. And, I'm sure as with any study or research or anything like that along these lines, you could read it multiple ways and you'd really have to dive into the data to deeply understand how are the questions being asked, who was being asked, at what point in their lives, were they asked more than once over the course of their lives, and on and on and on. The abstract does not go into that level of detail.
But just reading the abstract, it really strikes me as being in line with my theory of political attitudes. The idea that a person doesn't actually change that much, as they said, political attitudes are remarkably stable.
But if someone is going to switch, they are going to consider themselves to have shifted from one to the other, it's more likely for them to become conservative than to shift and become liberal. That's exactly in line with what I was saying. So that's interesting.
But then there's a second article which seems to take a different tack. This is an article from Live Science, titled "Busting myth, people turn more liberal with age."
And so this is referring to surveys that were done. And it says, quote, "The surveys assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion, and sexuality issues. In some cases, such as racial issues and questions of civil liberties for communists, the researchers measured a greater change toward liberalism in older people, than in younger people." And just to parse that out, "the change toward liberalism happened more in older people than younger people." So they're arguing that basically everyone is becoming more liberal and older people shift faster. Continuing, I think the second quote sort of clarifies it a little bit: "People might find an average 60-year-old to be more conservative than an average 30 year old. But beware of extrapolating a trend. The older person, for example, might have started off even more conservative than he or she is now." End quote.
So basically, over time, we shift toward more liberal thinking, particularly on these, what we refer to as mostly social issues. They do talk about economics a little bit, but there's a lot of politics, race, gender, religion, sexuality, all the social issues. So according to this, we tend to shift more toward liberalism on these topics as we age.
And at first glance, these two articles seem to be at odds with one another. One says that political attitudes stay basically static, with the caveat that of the people who do change, more move towards conservatism. And the other says that people's views get more liberal over time. But in the context of my wave metaphor that I used the last time I talked about this -- talking about the wave being mainstream societal opinion that you can either be ahead of, on top of, or behind this moving wave, but the wave is moving. And in that context, I think this makes sense. Essentially, everyone's views tends to get more liberal over time, but it seems the average speed of that shift in the individual is still slower than for society as a whole.
So you think about a person born in the 1950s who supported racial segregation at the time. That person, all grown up today, could still very well have absolutely terrible opinions about black people, but no longer believe that we need segregated schools, water fountains, and pools. So congratulations to that person, they are now more liberal than they used to be. But they are still being passed by by the rest of society, maybe by a wide margin. So while they may have been in the mainstream during their youth, and although their thinking has moved to the left, has become more progressive, more liberal over the years, they'd still be considered more conservative today than they were before, comparing them to mainstream society. Because that spectrum just keeps moving. That wave keeps moving.
And most importantly, for understanding these surveys and how to make these questions and answers make sense, that person who we would consider extremely conservative today would still very likely self-report as conservative, and quite rightly, even though they are slightly less conservative then they were 50 or 60 or 70 years ago, at least on some social issues. Just ask all the conservative Christians who have switched to being accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in just the last 20 years, they probably still consider themselves conservative, but they have become more liberal at least on that topic, as a for instance.
Now to wrap up, unsurprisingly, I did get a note from a conservative who made the traditional argument that I even mentioned in the show -- I don't know if he heard it or not -- that he argued that well, people just get smarter, and therefore more conservative with age. So Larry asks, kind of rhetorically, why we become conservative with age? We learn what works. Human nature. Utopia versus reality. Old white men really do know more than you do. I used to be a liberal. I grew up and understand reality. So that was from Larry.
And if that argument was coming from a conservative corporate Democrat, or like a Scandinavian conservative, I think it would make a lot more sense than in America.
You know, if you're a little on the older side, you've learned that change doesn't happen quickly. And when it does, it can be really messy. So you might actually desire a little bit less ambitiousness in your change. But you still want interest in the public good to prevail. You know, don't quote me on this cause I couldn't find the story, but I'm pretty sure I heard a story, years and years ago, that a conservative party member from a Scandinavian country in Denmark, Norway, somewhere like that, said that they loved Barack Obama and thought that he would fit in perfectly with their conservative party.
And I think that tells you a lot of what you need to know about the difference in America to a lot of the rest of the world. So, you know, there's a conservative argument that is not what we think of as an American conservative argument. There is a conservative argument that lives today in mainstream Democrats or Scandinavian conservatives who would argue that incremental change, this "don't rock the boat too much" conservatism, is the path to a more careful, a more stable change. Whereas radical change can be messy and destabilizing to social cohesion and maybe even cause more problems than it solves. I can at least take that as an intellectually honest concern and think it's a worthwhile debate to have on any given topic that any issue that we're debating, any change we're proposing. I think that's a worthwhile discussion to have.
Nothing along the lines of learning more and understanding what works and human nature as Larry described explains American conservatism that has pivoted to nonsensical trickle down economics, anti-science climate denialism, angry nativism, and nearly overt white supremacy.
So if Larry considers himself a conservative, and by that means, Hey, I'm glad Bernie Sanders didn't win, and we got someone much more inclined to incrementalism, then I have no problem with that. That is what conservatism in a healthy society looks like.
As always, keep the comments coming in at 202-999-3991, or by emailing me to [email protected]
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