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Stan Cox and Priti Gulati Cox, “We Have Not Yet Been Defeated”

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Oxfam puts the matter all too strikingly: “The number of climate-related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years. Between 2006 and 2016, the rate of global sea-level rise was 2.5 times faster than it was for almost all of the 20th century. More than 20 million people a year are forced from their homes by climate change.” And, of course, that’s just to begin a rundown of what’s already becoming an endless list of unprecedented floods, fires, megadroughts, melting ice and rising sea levels, ever more devastating storms, and so on down a list that only gets longer by the year. And the human toll from all this, especially in the Global South, grows ever more horrifying.

Take, as an example, drought caused significantly by the overheating of this planet — and here, I’m not thinking about the 500-year record drought in Europe last summer, the heat of which is estimated to have been responsible for more than 20,000 deaths, or the 1,200-year record megadrought in the American West (now moving east), or the record-blazing temperatures in China for two months last summer.  No, what’s on my mind are the climate-change-influenced droughts that have repeatedly struck the Horn of Africa after five seasons of failed rains, the latest of which is so severe that, in Somalia alone, hundreds of thousands of people (particularly starving children) could die in the resulting famine.

Yes, climate change is increasing the death toll in the rich industrial countries of the Global North, too.  In 2021, for instance, the United States experienced 20 billion-dollar climate and weather disasters, the second largest group of them in its history. (You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to discover that the record — 22 — was set only the year before and will undoubtedly be broken again in the years to come.) From them came an estimated 688 direct or indirect deaths. And that is, of course, a horror, but still a relatively modest number compared to the 1,700 or more Pakistanis who died from this year’s singularly devastating summer floods alone, and if Africa’s famine turns out as expected, that number will be less than nothing by comparison.

Sadly, unlike the northern powers largely responsible for the greenhouse gases that created this growing set of disasters, as TomDispatch regulars Stan and Priti Gulati Cox explain today, the countries of the Global South can’t afford to pay for what’s happening to them. And at a time when the major fossil-fuel companies — housed, of course, largely in the Global North — are still raking in staggering profits off their oil and natural gas supplies, as that line straight out of my childhood went: there oughta be a law.  Sadly, there isn’t, even though, when you think about it, those fossil-fuel companies could be considered the real terrorists of Planet Earth. Tom

Paying for an Overheating Earth

Whose Planet Are We On?

On October 29th, 75-year-old Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo Bay’s oldest detainee, was finally released by U.S. authorities and flown home to his family in Karachi, Pakistan. He had been incarcerated for nearly two decades without either charges or a trial. His plane touched down in a land still reeling from this year’s cataclysmic monsoon floods that, in July, had covered an unparalleled one-third of that country. Even his own family’s neighborhood, the well-heeled Defense Housing Authority complex, had been thoroughly inundated with, as a reporter wrote at the time, “water gushing into houses.”

Having endured 19 years of suffering inflicted by the brute force of imperialism during America's "Global War on Terror,” Paracha, along with all of Pakistan, will now suffer through the climatic devastation wrought by the invisible hand of economic imperialism. Indeed, even as his family members were embracing him for the first time since that fateful day in 2003 when he was seized in an FBI sting operation in Thailand, governments and corporations throughout the Global North were sharpening their knives, preparing to reassert their dominance as they do at every year’s U.N. climate conference -- this one being COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

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Clarence Lusane, The Decline of Democracy

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Phew! In the recent midterms, election deniers running nationwide for the post of secretary of state to oversee future elections not only lost across the board but did even worse than losers running for other state posts. And that’s certainly something to be thankful for.

Still, think about this: if I had mentioned the phrase “election denier” after the 2018 midterms, you wouldn’t have had the slightest idea what I was talking about. Now — can there be any question? — it’s part of the language and our political universe.  After all, there were almost 300 (yes, you read that right!) election deniers running for office in 2022. So, give Donald Trump credit. If he’s done nothing else — and he’s done all too much else — he’s certainly lodged that term in our brains and our politics for, assumedly, forever and a day.

In other words, you can be relieved that the Republicans wavered instead of (red) waving in the recent elections and only captured the House of Representatives by a relatively slim margin. Still, whatever happens with his latest bid for the White House, thanks to The Donald, there can be no question that we’re in a new, potentially far more ominous political world. Today, in his first TomDispatch piece, Clarence Lusane, author of the just-published book Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy (next in line by my bedside for late night reading), considers just where, in the future, our former president might be taking us — or, put another way, how, win or lose personally, he intends to Trump us. There may be no more crucial question for this country than the one Lusane raises today. Yes, democracy does indeed seem to be on the decline, but is this really a prelude to a new all-American version of authoritarianism, or worse? Check him out and see what you think. Tom

Prelude to Authoritarianism?

The MAGAfication of America

Just in case you didn't notice, authoritarianism was on the ballot in the 2022 midterm elections. An unprecedented majority of candidates from one of the nation's two major political parties were committed to undemocratic policies and outcomes. You would have to go back to the Democratic Party-dominated segregationist South of the 1950s to find such a sweeping array of authoritarian proclivities in an American election. While voters did stop some of the highest-profile election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and pro-Trump true believers from taking office, all too many won seats at the congressional, state, and local levels.

Count on one thing: this movement isn't going away. It won't be defeated in a single election cycle and don't think the authoritarian threat isn't real either. After all, it now forms the basis for the politics of the Republican Party and so is targeting every facet of public life. No one committed to constitutional democracy should rest easy while the network of right-wing activists, funders, media, judges, and political leaders work so tirelessly to gain yet more power and implement a thoroughly undemocratic agenda.

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Michael Klare, Can (Green) Diplomacy Save Us?

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Once upon a time, the American government was into scientific problem-solving in a big way. I’m thinking of the World War II years when that government invested upwards of $2 billion (no small sum then) to gather together the greatest available scientific minds to develop a war-ending weapon, the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project, as it came to be called, would employ more than 120,000 people and create that devastating weapon that would obliterate two Japanese cities and, to this day, leaves our world up for grabs.

Still, on a planet where, from flooding to megadrought, melting ice to rising sea levels, everything seems increasingly up for grabs, I sometimes wonder why, more than three-quarters of a century later, the country that created the atomic bomb (and is still willing to invest trillions of dollars in “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal) can no longer imagine a Manhattan Project to mitigate the overheating of this planet?  It’s true that the United Nations regularly convenes top scientists at its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to assess “the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.” And they do produce increasingly horrifying reports on what a disaster the fossil-fuelization of our planet is proving to be.

Despite that, neither this country, nor any other (as far as I know), has been willing to invest big time to come up with breakthrough ways of mitigating climate change in a world where greenhouse gas emissions only continue to rise. Consider it a sorry tale indeed that there is no twenty-first-century Manhattan Project in this country or, for that matter, anywhere else on Earth.

Today, TomDispatch regular Michael Klare takes a tiny bit of genuine good news — the U.S. and China, the globe’s two greatest carbon emitters, are again at least talking about climate change — and tries to imagine where those two governments could actually go if they truly decided to cooperate. All I would add to his thoughts is this: Isn’t it time to establish a Manhattan-Shanghai Project to find new ways to save this planet rather than blowing it to smithereens or overheating it beyond repair? Tom

What If the U.S. and China Really Cooperated on Climate Change?

Imagining a Necessary Future

As President Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping arrived on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, for their November 14th "summit," relations between their two countries were on a hair-raising downward spiral, with tensions over Taiwan nearing the boiling point. Diplomats hoped, at best, for a modest reduction in tensions, which, to the relief of many, did occur. No policy breakthroughs were expected, however, and none were achieved. In one vital area, though, there was at least a glimmer of hope: the planet's two largest greenhouse-gas emitters agreed to resume their languishing negotiations on joint efforts to overcome the climate crisis.

These talks have been an on-again, off-again proposition since President Barack Obama initiated them before the Paris climate summit of December 2015, at which delegates were to vote on a landmark measure to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (the maximum amount scientists believe this planet can absorb without catastrophic consequences). The U.S.-Chinese consultations continued after the adoption of the Paris climate accord, but were suspended in 2017 by that climate-change-denying president Donald Trump. They were relaunched by President Biden in 2021, only to be suspended again by an angry Chinese leadership in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2nd visit to Taiwan, viewed in Beijing as a show of support for pro-independence forces on that island. But thanks to Biden's intense lobbying in Bali, President Xi agreed to turn the interactive switch back on.

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