ANNOTATED TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I: UNPRECEDENTED THREATS
Introduction: The basic issue is whether global warming, besides
leading to a hellish existence for our children and grandchildren,
will destroy civilization. Each chapter in Part I addresses 3
possible responses: Plan B (mobilization), Plan A (business as
usual), and Plan C (wait and see).
1 Extreme Weather: Prior to discussing four types of “extreme
weather,” this chapter discusses extreme weather in general and
how global warming is responsible for it.
2 Heat Waves: This chapter deals with the phenomenon that
comes to mind most readily when people think of “global
warming,” namely, warmer weather, which will include hotter and
more frequent heat waves. The danger is that the temperature
will make life hellish, eventually intolerable.
3 Droughts and Wildfires: Drought has thus far been the climate
effect most harmful to people. Aggravated by global warming, its
pernicious effects include dramatic increases in wildfires.
4 Storms: Various types of storms are becoming more extreme
and increasing in number: rainstorms (deluges), which increase
flooding; major snowstorms – as in the "Snowpocalypse" of 2009;
hurricanes, which are becoming bigger and stronger (such as
Katrina and Sandy); and tornadoes, which have been shown by
recent evidence to be also intensified by global warming.
5 Sea-Level Rise: This chapter deals with scientific projections
about sea-level rise if business as usual continues (perhaps 7
feet by end of century) and what this will do to island nations and
the coastal areas of the USA, China, and many other countries.
6 Fresh Water Shortage: Although national security experts have
long worried about peak oil, “the real threat to our future,” said
Lester Brown, “is peak water.” There are substitutes for oil, but
there is no substitute for fresh water, which is getting less
plentiful in many parts of the world, due to melting glaciers,
shrinking snowpack, decreasing water in lakes and rivers, and
the depletion of aquifers.
7 Food Shortage: According to Oxfam, “Increased hunger is likely
to be one of climate change’s most savage impacts.” Food
shortage will be increased by extreme weather, water shortage;
and global warming’s “equally evil twin” - ocean acidification -
which, if it continues, will lead to a world without seafood.
8 Climate Refugees: Climate refugees have to leave home
because of some type of climate-influenced change, such as sea-
level rise, upon which this chapter focuses. If climate change
continues, the refugees will number in the millions and
eventually billions. Going with anything other than Plan B will be
9 Climate Wars: Climate disruption is also important because of
ways it could threaten national security and the world’s political-
economic order, due primarily to increasing resource scarcity.
Conflict over scarcity may end up influencing more people than
any of the other results of climate change. Plan B is the only way
to minimize international strife.
10 Ecosystem Collapse and Extinction: Although any one of the
changes in Chs. 1-9 could become catastrophic, even worse will
be the occurrence of some of these changes simultaneously,
which could lead to global ecosystem collapse. With business as
usual, the sixth mass extinction, which we are already in, will
eventually include us.
PART II: UNPRECEDENTED CHALLENGES AND FAILURES
11 Climate Change Denial: Worst in America, climate-change
denialism has resulted from a concentrated campaign by the
fossil-fuel industry to repudiate the scientific consensus and
promote public uncertainty. This chapter examines techniques
previously used by big business to impact public opinion in
relation to smoking, acid rain, CFCs, and the ozone layer,
showing how they are now being used by the fossil-fuel industry
to dispute the conclusion of virtually all climate scientists that
fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas - are imperiling our planet.
The fossil-fuel industry, which knows its claims to be false, has
deceived many citizens into accepting its propaganda over the
evidence provided by climate scientists. This chapter debunks a
large number of the claims against climate science,
12 Media Failure: The fossil-fuel industry’s denialist strategy has
been forced upon, if not willingly embraced by, the major
American corporate media, leading to their failure to adequately
address either the science or the urgency of climate disruption.
Examined here are various media techniques geared to produce
public uncertainty on the issue: reduced coverage, inadequate
contextualization of extreme weather events, and false balance
(giving the opinions of propagandists paid by Big Oil as much
attention as the views of renowned climate scientists), and going
even beyond that to explicit denialism.
13 Political Failure: This chapter documents the historical record
of global failures to successfully address climate change and
explains reasons why. It demonstrates the extent to which
politicians have overruled the findings of science and analyzes
their motives. The record of US Presidents on climate change is
examined. Charting the Republican stampede toward absolute
climate change denial since 2011, it names specific malefactors
pursuing their selfish private interests to shed light on what
British journalist George Monbiot terms “the greatest political
failure the world has ever seen.”
14 Moral Challenge: There is a basic global ethic related to global
warming implicit in our understanding of human rights as well as
religious principles. The primary issue is intergenerational
justice - whether today’s generation will finally act fast and
decisively enough to save a tolerable planet for our descendants
or continue to act within the boundaries of its narrowly defined
self-interest. The notion of moral obligation in relation to climate
protection, along with the capacity of morality to make a
difference, is re-enforced by parallels to successful global
justice campaigns: the abolition of slavery and divestment from
South African apartheid.
15 Religious Challenge: American religious culture has mainly
revolved around theism, which comes in both traditional and non-
traditional forms. Traditional theism, which holds that the
supreme being is omnipotent, is held by most Evangelical
Christianity. This view often results in climate complacency,
holding that the world will not be destroyed by global warming
unless God wants this to happen - an attitude expressed by
several members of the U.S. Congress. Some Evangelical
Christians resist this tendency, instead fighting strongly to stop
global warming. But there are forms of theism that more fully
support climate concern.
16 Economic Challenge: Besides being impeded by limited
moralities and false religious ideas, society’s task of saving
civilization has also been impeded by false economic ideas.
Starting with the complacency of Yale’s William Nordhaus, this
chapter traces the mounting urgency of coming to grips with the
projected costs of climate disruption through the thinking of
Oxford’s Nicholas Stern and Harvard’s Martin Weitzman – who
warns that the costs could be infinite. Whereas Nordhaus argued
that going full out to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as
possible would damage the economy, a growing number of
economists have realized, with Stern and Weitzman, that going
full out is the only way to save the economy. This chapter ends
with the policies most needed: a carbon tax and the elimination
of fossil-fuel subsidies.
PART III: WHAT IS TO BE DONE
17 Transitioning to Clean Energy: Fossil-fuel industry
propaganda has claimed that clean energy is too expensive and
could not, in any case, power civilization. But developments over
the past decade show that clean and renewable energy is now
not only achievable but also affordable. This chapter discusses
various types of clean energy, including solar, wind, geothermal,
and ocean energy, showing how these, combined with
hydropower, could provide far more than enough energy to
power civilization. Also discussed are automobiles, trains, and
airplane fuels that could make 100% clean transportation
possible. The great untold story is that the planet’s energy could
be 70% clean by 2035 and 100% clean by 2050.
18 Abandoning Dirty Energy: The “carbon budget” - meaning the
most additional carbon that could be burned without catastrophe
- shows that, if there is to be any hope, fossil fuels must be
quickly phased out. Coal and oil have long been the primary
threats to the planet. But natural gas, alleged to be a “bridge” to
clean energy, has become equally harmful, especially with the
rise of “fracking.” And oil is now more dangerous than ever due
to the exploitation of “tough oil.” Fossil fuel companies have
been irresponsible global citizens and a primary threat to
civilization. Now that there are numerous alternatives, we
should have no regrets about swiftly phasing them out of
19 Mobilization: Lester Brown, author of Plan B: Mobilizing to Save
Civilization, says that quickly moving from fossil fuels to clean
energy “will take a massive mobilization - at wartime speed.” Any
global mobilization would likely need to begin in the United
States: The President should declare a national climate
emergency and implement pro-climate policies on an appropriate
scale. Such US leadership should then enable, indeed unleash, a
similar mobilization worldwide. This mobilization will require
leadership of many different levels and types, mounting from all
sectors of society (academic, activist, agricultural, business,
entertainment, labor, media, political, scientific, and so on) to
enable such presidential action.
Conclusion: We are facing an unprecedented challenge. This
chapter drives home the need to devote ourselves to the task
wholeheartedly for the coming decades, until the transition to a
clean-energy economy has been made.