[Note for TomDispatch Readers: This is a big day for Dispatch Books! TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy’s To Govern the Globe, his history of empire that sweeps you across five continents and seven centuries into our own moment (and beyond), was just published. Believe me, it’s a tour de force and one hell of a book! Of it, Amy Goodman says, “To Govern the Globe is a brilliant distillation of 700 years of geopolitics, exposing how we arrived where we are, amidst the worsening climate crisis and collapsing world orders. Al McCoy’s eloquently written book is a call to action for us all, as time still remains to prevent an unprecedented cascade of catastrophes.” Of it, Andrew Bacevich says, “To Govern the Globe is history on an epic scale — sweeping, provocative, and unsparing in its judgments. Alfred McCoy’s immensely readable narrative spans centuries, charting the rise and fall of successive world orders down to our own present moment shaped by China’s emergence as a great power and the blight of climate change.” Of it, Tom Engelhardt says, “To Govern the Globe explains our world to us in a way that I found endlessly illuminating and genuinely riveting (and I edited it!).”
Honestly, don’t waste a moment. Get a copy right now! Should you, however, want to offer some always much-needed support to TomDispatch right now, do visit our donation page and contribute at least $100. (If you live outside the U.S.A., make it $150 since it’s a big book and will be expensive to send abroad.) For that, you’ll get not only my deepest sense of appreciation, but a signed, personalized copy of To Govern the Globe from McCoy himself. So, don’t wait! Do it now, while the offer still stands! Tom]
I have to admit that, in 2018, when I first read in the Guardian that, later in this century, the deadliest place for climate-change-induced heat waves could prove to be the North China plain, I was shocked. After all, that region is central to China’s agriculture and home to hundreds of millions of people. By century’s end, if climate change was not brought under control, that very area could become “the deadliest place on the planet for extreme future heatwaves” — and quite literally “unlivable.”
Right now, the best estimates are that the urge to keep global temperatures from rising above an already dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius is little short of a fantasy. A new analysis by Climate Action Tracker suggests that, based on recent promises made at Glasgow, the global temperature could easily rise a disastrous 2.4 degrees Celsius. And, if actual policies rather than future promises are the baseline for such calculations, that number could prove to be 2.7 degrees Celsius, according to a new U.N. report. Mind you, if you live on the burning West Coast of North America; in its megadrought-ridden Southwest; on the Italian island of Sicily where the temperature hit a record 119.8 Fahrenheit this summer; on Greece’s second largest island, Evia, which almost burned to the ground in those months; in the Chinese city of Zhengchou, which was flooded in a historically unprecedented fashion; or in any of so many other places on this globe of ours, you know that the 1.1-degree rise already experienced is proving devastating.
Given that Washington seems increasingly geared up for a new version of last century’s Cold War, however, I must admit that the sole encouragement I found at Glasgow was — thank you, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua — that the U.S. and China managed to craft a statement pledging that their two countries would indeed work together on climate change. It was admittedly vague and lacked all details, but as Michael Klare has been arguing at this site for some time, if the greatest greenhouse gas emitter in history and the greatest one of the present moment can’t reach some kind of accord, we’re all quite literally cooked!
As Alfred McCoy, TomDispatch regular and author of the just-published book To Govern the Globe, reminds us today, within decades we could be at the end of the imperial era that began so many centuries ago. We may, in fact, find ourselves in a world shaped all too obviously for the worse as we humans take the place of the gods of the past by quite literally making the world’s weather in an apocalyptic fashion. With that in mind, consider the thoughts of a remarkable historian on what our world truly could hold in store for us. Tom
Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change
When the leaders of more than 100 nations gathered in Glasgow for the U.N. climate conference last week, there was much discussion about the disastrous effect of climate change on the global environment. There was, however, little awareness of its likely political impact on the current world order that made such an international gathering possible.
World orders are deeply rooted global systems that structure relations among nations and the conditions of life for their peoples. For the past 600 years, as I've argued in my new book To Govern the Globe, it's taken catastrophic events like war or plague to overturn such entrenched ways of life. But within a decade, climate change will already be wreaking a kind of cumulative devastation likely to surpass previous catastrophes, creating the perfect conditions for the eclipse of Washington’s liberal world order and the rise of Beijing’s decidedly illiberal one. In this sweeping imperial transition, global warming will undoubtedly be the catalyst for a witch’s brew of change guaranteed to erode both America’s world system and its once unchallenged hegemony (along with the military force that's been behind it all these years).