Timothy Snyder Speaks, ep. 10: Pompeo or Pompeii? Climate Security is National Security

Pompeo is an interesting figure here
because Mike Pompeo who as I’m sure you
know has been the head of the CIA and is
now going to be confirmed probably to be
Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo comes into existence as part
of the energy industry when he becomes a
politician when he runs for office as a
congressman from Kansas his campaign is
funded by the Koch brothers and by other
energy lobbies to the tune of 1.1
million dollars and duly elected he
proposes that climate change is not real
when he’s confirmed as CIA director he
says that it’s a terrible mistake to say
that climate change is a problem for the
national security of the United States
however if we just look at his career a
little bit and if we look at the actual
challenges that he’ll have to confront
were the challenges that are in front of
us now we can see at a deeper level
how-how-how his his his own life shows
how false the position is so Lebanon for
example Mike Pompeo made his name by
criticizing Hillary Clinton on Lebanon
why was there a crisis in Lebanon why
was there an Arab Spring in the first
place because of the droughts because of
the droughts which created the bread
lines which created the riots
why were there droughts because of
climate change
Syria is a problem which mr. Trump can’t
wish away and which mr. Pompeo can’t
wish away why is there a problem in
Syria there are many reasons one of them
a horrifying dictator one of them is the
presence of the Russian army but one of
the root causes is that drought in Syria
destroyed what was once called the
Fertile Crescent leading to mass
migration to cities leading to civil
unrest which was one of the conditions
of the Civil War now why does this
matter because Libya and Syria are the
kinds of things which mr. Trump and mr.
Pompeo talk about and we’ll have to talk
about and the main way that US policy
could actually make a difference in
these parts of the world and in the
Muslim world generally is by having a
policy on climate change you see there’s
this odd coincidence which is that the
crescent of the world where more than a
billion Muslims live is also the place
where climate change is having the
greatest effect the fastest if one were
serious about unrest in the Muslim world
if one were really worried about
terrorism coming from the Muslim world
one would then then one would then
insist on having a policy about climate
if you think about foreign policy
as entertainment you’ll just let the
individual crises come you’ll drop a
bomb you’ll launch a missile you move on
to the next thing if you’re really
thinking about the Muslim world if
you’re really thinking about Muslim
terrorism as a growing threat then you
would think about climate change
the thing is climate change makes fake
problems real your your little
entertainment number becomes the real
world if you don’t address climate
change with policy Mexico is another
example right now it’s entirely
entertainment but if we continue to
desertified Mexico with climate change
there really will be waves of migrants
from the south if we continue to
desertified Mexico
Mexico City can
collapse as groundwater reserves are
taken out from under it and then there
really will be mass migration from
to the United States do you want
to head that off if you do then you have
to be in favor of a serious policy on
climate change now the relationship
between climate change and national
security is actually even more direct
than that so who are our rivals in the
world now who are the countries that are
in the headlines
Russia in China let’s imagine that you
think that Russia is an adversary
what’s imagine that you think that
Russia does things that are not in the
national security interest the United
States what’s the most effective policy
the most effective policy would be to
develop renewable energies because the
Russian regime and every regime like it
depends precisely on the world being in
a carbon economy you get past the carbon
economy there will not be a Putin led
oligarchy or regime in Russia China the
Chinese like everybody else know that
climate change is real the Chinese
unlike us are devoting a great deal of
state investment to renewable energy
precisely with the goal of being the
people who developed the technology
which get us around this Bend into a new
energy economy is that a technological
competition that we want to lose the
only way to maintain some kind of parity
technological parity with China is to
acknowledge a real problem and then to
invest in the real solutions but it gets
even more direct than that so let’s say
you’re not concerned about these
long-term things but say you just think
are our armed forces can run out to
various spots in the world and solve
whatever problem arises okay if you want
to send the US Armed Forces out to the
world to solve various problems where do
they leave from they leave from a naval
base in Norfolk Virginia what’s the
problem with the Naval Base in Norfolk
the rising tides the rise of sea level
because of global warming and the
melting of ice and the north and south
our own major Naval Base in Norfolk
Virginia will soon not be functional who
is saying that the United States Navy is
saying that right so even if you think
that these long-term things don’t matter
and the national security is just a
matter of sending soldiers and sailors
out to hot spots in the world we’re not
going to be able to do that unless we
get our minds around climate change so
in all these ways real national security
the things that we should really be
afraid of as opposed to the
entertainment industry around national
injustice national security the things
that were made to be anxious about day
after day real national security depends
thinking about everybody in the country
the country is a whole the country’s
future and that means caring about
climate change so if we if this whole
thing isn’t just a joke right this whole
thing isn’t just a performance by paid
lobbyists if the next Secretary of State
is really going to be someone who cares
about national security which one would
think would be the basic Job Description
it has to start with climate change
that’s that’s what the real national
security interest the United States are
going to have to do with thanks

Is It So Bad if the World Gets a Little Hotter? Uh, Yeah.

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by perhaps more than 10 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet.

This is a warming spike comparable in magnitude to that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction.

.. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was hundreds of feet higher than it is today.

.. in the coming centuries it’s not impossible that we might be headed back to the Eocene climate of 50 million years ago, when there were Alaskan palm trees and alligators splashed in the Arctic Circle.

.. “Lizards will be fine, birds will be fine,”

.. Huber says that, mass extinction or not, it’s our tenuous reliance on an aging and inadequate infrastructure—perhaps, most ominously, on power grids—coupled with the limits of human physiology that may well bring down our world.

.. “The problem is that humans can’t even handle a hot week today without the power grid failing on a regular basis,” he said, noting that the aging patchwork power grid in the United States is built with components that are allowed to languish for more than a century before being replaced.

.. By the year 2050, according to a 2014 MIT study, there will also be 5 billion people living in water-stressed areas.

.. “Thirty to fifty years from now, more or less, the water wars are going to start,” Huber said

.. “None of the economists are modeling what happens to a country’s GDP if 10 percent of the population is refugees sitting in refugee camps.

.. If people don’t have economic hope and they’re displaced, they tend to get mad and blow things up. It’s the kind of world in which the major institutions, including nations as a whole, have their existence threatened by mass migration.

.. Huber calculated their temperature thresholds using the so-called wet-bulb temperature, which basically measures how much you can cool off at a given temperature. If humidity is high, for instance, things like sweat and wind are less effective at cooling you down, and the wet-bulb temperature accounts for this.

.. Wet-bulb temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or higher are lethal to humanity.

.. Above this limit, it is impossible for humans to dissipate the heat they generate indefinitely and they die of overheating in a matter of hours, no matter how hard they try to cool off.

.. 7 degrees Celsius of warming would begin to render large parts of the globe lethally hot to mammals.

.. truly huge swaths of the planet currently inhabited by humans would exceed 35 degrees Celsius wet-bulb temperatures and would have to be abandoned.

.. “In the near term—2050 or 2070—the Midwest United States is going to be one of the hardest hit,” said Huber. “There’s a plume of warm, moist air that heads up through the central interior of the US during just the right season, and man, is it hot and sticky. You just add a couple of degrees and it gets really hot and sticky.

.. the Hajj, which brings 2 million religious pilgrims to Mecca each year, will be a physically impossible religious obligation to fulfill due to the limits of heat stress in the region in just a few decades.

.. “You want to know how societies collapse?” Huber said.

“That’s how.”