Michael Mann on South Africa’s Flooding Disaster

April 15, 2022

“The sort of event that is becoming much more widespread.”
Michael Mann continues to sound the alarm, both on BBC this week, and earlier in an Op-Ed in Time magazine.

Michael Mann and Susan Joy Hassol in Time:

 We are at an agonizing moment in world history. The combined stresses of the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and economic troubles stemming from spiking oil and gas prices, inflation, and growing global inequality have pushed us to our limits— geopolitically, environmentally, and psychologically. After centuries of colonialism, intensive resource extraction, and narrow, short-term thinking, the chickens have come home to roost. But what if we could feed three birds with one scone?

Following the release of climate reports, such as the recent IPCC assessments, we often observe a surge of doomism. When headlines proclaim it’s “now or never” to limit warming, some assume we won’t do what’s needed in time. And if you think there’s nothing we can do, why bother trying? Some well-meaning people can be weaponized by those who stand to benefit if we throw up our hands in surrender rather than challenging the fossil fuel industry’s social license. We must stress the urgency. There is clearly no time to waste. But there is agency too. The problem with “now or never” is that it implies a hard threshold at 1.5°C that if we fail to achieve, it’s game over. But this game will never be over. There is no point beyond which we shouldn’t keep trying to limit warming. Every fraction of a degree matters to the level of suffering climate disruption will rain down on us.

We are reaping what we’ve sown in a world that has remained dependent on fossil fuels for far too long. Bad actors like Russia and Saudi Arabia (which have done everything they can to block global climate action) have gained tremendous wealth and influence from our dependence on fossil fuels. And they have long held the world hostage with their leverage over oil and gas markets. They have weakened our ability to respond to their various aggressions from a place of strength.

With so many crises competing for our attention and concern, how can we prioritize the greatest threats when the more immediate ones so often displace the most important? Someone needs to be thinking about the future, and fittingly, those who will inherit it, are. More than 80 percent of young people are worried about climate change. And they are angry, as well they should be. Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor, Vanessa Nakate, and other leaders of the youth climate movement are fueled with righteous anger against those who have stood by and watched as the world burned.

These coal and oil barons say they’re just supplying people with what they want. But we don’t want fossil fuels. What we want is cold beer and hot showers, services like convenient ways to get around and good food to eat. If we can get those in a way that doesn’t destroy our planet’s life-support system, we’d surely prefer that. The IPCC’s latest report, on climate change mitigation, that is, reducing future climate change by cutting heat-trapping gas emissions or increasing their uptake from the air, tells us that this is entirely possible, using current technologies. Many such actions are on the so-called “demand side,” because they reduce energy demand rather than increasing its supply. The IPCC found that demand-side strategies could reduce 40 to 70 percent of heat-trapping gas emissions across all sectors by 2050. A pretty astounding finding, and as investigative journalist Amy Westervelt bemoans, why wasn’t this a headline in every paper?

Let’s return to our three birds: war in Ukraine, climate change, and the economy. A broader and more integrated approach sees these not as three separate crises but as one with a single win-win-win solution. Now is the time to tackle these related crises and seize the opportunity to move with determination into the clean energy future. The U.S. is in a good position to do so; we’re not starting from scratch. The U.S. is second (to China) in both wind and solar. Fossil fuel companies can use their expertise, work force, and other resources to become broader energy companies. Their experience in geology can be turned to geothermal energy, which has tremendous untapped promise. Their experience in offshore oil can be turned to offshore wind, a resource with enormous potential, and in which the U.S. lags far behind a dozen other nations. Peabody coal owns extensive lands that can be used for solar farms and other renewable energy development.

These companies have long been agents of denial and delay on climate action. Even now, big fossil fuel companies continue to explore for oil and gas and build new infrastructure, with the support of big banks. The top four banks making these investments are American: JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. New oil and gas projects are being planned and approved as we speak. The world is on track to produce twice the fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with the internationally agreed upon 1.5°C target. The time has come for the fossil fuel industry and the banks that fund it to be held accountable and have their social license revoked.

The only path to lasting security is to get off fossil fuels, once and for all. Let this be the moment that the U.S. takes the lead in solving the related challenges before us, helping propel the world toward a climate safe, politically secure, and economically prosperous future. It is in our hands.

5 Responses to “Michael Mann on South Africa’s Flooding Disaster”

  1. More floods will come as the climate crisis worsens. 🌍

  2. redskylite Says:

    “Measures ranging from better drainage to more careful urban planning will be crucial to limiting losses during weather extremes such as this week’s floods, climate experts said.”


  3. Brian R Smith Says:

    We obviously all share these goals with Dr Mann, but identifying them without plotting a clear strategy for reaching them doesn’t advance the cause. He boils it down to

    “The time has come for the fossil fuel industry and the banks that fund it to be held accountable and have their social license revoked.”

    There would have to be strong commitment by government *and* industry to reduce FF use. Neither one is headed in that direction. So the question is, how are industry and the investors to be held accountable without government volition to sharply regulate them? Are we anywhere near the level congressional & presidential will necessary for that? The roadblocks are political.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      The roadblocks ARE political, which means they’re psychological.

      After 8,000 years of Stockholm syndrome in obeisance to patriarchal hierarchies (would be better called CCS, Civilizationized Child Syndrome), the lunatic right wing fronted by the US oligarchic duopoly has piled on, conditioning people to be confused, paralyzed, lost, & helpless. They switch directly from denial to despair, both manifestations of the 3rd choice most often left out of the psychophysiological fork—fight, flight, or freeze.

      We have to heal ourselves psychologically enough to break free of the frozenness and act, first to remove from power those who have lied to us, then to replace them with people who will do what’s needed. The right wing is so determined & so rich & interconnected they’ll never give up without violent repression, which we have to meet with mass psychotherapy in the form of peaceful resistance, positive direct action, education, & the use of symbols to counter Republican lies.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    Bad actors like Russia and Saudi Arabia? Is Mann still too mired in conservatism to oppose nukes and the now-pointless “conservative-friendly” solutions like carbon prices, and too mired in patriotism to assign responsibility to the leaders of those pushing us toward destruction of civilization and nature—the US oligarchy?

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