Activists from the climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion take part in a protest march in St. Ives, Cornwall, on June 11, 2021, on the first day of the three-day G7 summit being held from June 11-13.Ben Stansall / AFP via Getty Images By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout Published July 29, 2021
Global warming is accelerating, bringing the world close to the edge of the precipice. Heat waves, floods and deaths are major news, and as Truthout has reported, “this summer’s record-breaking temperatures caused by a climate catastrophe that, until recently, even the most pessimistic climatologists thought was still two or three decades out.” Yet, as Noam Chomsky points out in the interview below, corporate media devoted almost as much coverage in one day to a space cowboy than it did the entire year of 2020 to the biggest crisis facing humanity.
Is the world losing the war against climate change? Why is there still climate crisis denial and inactivism? The choice is clear: We need global action to tame global warming or face apocalyptic consequences, says Chomsky, a globally renowned public intellectual who is Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is the author of more than 150 books on topics such as linguistics, international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, political economy and mass media.
C.J. Polychroniou: Climate emergency facts are piling up almost on a daily basis — extreme heat waves in various parts of the U.S. and Canada, with temperatures rising even above 49 degrees Celsius (over 120 degrees Fahrenheit); deadly floods in western Europe, with close to 200 dead and hundreds remaining unaccounted for in the flooding; and Moscow experienced its second-hottest June. In fact, the extreme weather conditions even have climate scientists surprised, and they are now wondering about the accuracy of prediction models. What are your thoughts on these matters? It appears that the world is losing the war against global warming.
Noam Chomsky: You probably remember that three years ago, Oxford physicist Raymond Pierrehumbert, a lead author of the just-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, wrote that “it’s time to panic…. We are in deep trouble.”
What has been learned since only intensifies that warning. An IPCC draft report leaked to Agence France-Presse in June 2021 listed irreversible tipping points that are ominously close, warning of “progressively serious, centuries-long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences.”
Last November 3 was a narrow escape from what might well have been indescribable disaster. Another four years of Trump’s passionate racing to the abyss might have reached those tipping points. And if the denialist party returns to power, it may be too late to panic. We are indeed in deep trouble.
The leaked IPCC draft was from before the extreme weather events of summer 2021, which shocked climate scientists. Heating of the planet “is pretty much in line with climate model predictions from decades ago,” climate scientist Michael Mann observed, but “the rise in extreme weather is exceeding the predictions.” The reason seems to be an effect of heating of the atmosphere that had not been considered in climate studies: wobbling of the jet stream, which is causing the extreme events that have plagued much of the world in the past few weeks.
The frightening news has a good side. It may awaken global leaders to recognition of the horrors that they are creating. It’s conceivable that seeing what’s happening before their eyes might induce even the GOP and its Fox News echo chamber to indulge in a glimpse of reality.
We have seen signs of that in the COVID crisis. After years of immersion in their world of “alternative facts,” some Republican governors who have been mocking precautions are taking notice, now that the plague is striking their own states because of lack of preventive measures and vaccine refusal. As Florida took the lead nationwide in cases and deaths, Gov. Ron DeSantis backed way (only partially) from his ridicule — eliciting charges of selling out to the enemy from party stalwarts and perhaps endangering his presidential aspirations. A shift which might, however, be too late to influence the loyal party base that has been subjected to a stream of disinformation.
Possibly the sight of cities drowning and burning up may also dent GOP-Fox loyalty to the slogan “Death to intelligence, Viva death,” borrowed from the annals of fascism.
The denialism of environmental destruction naturally has an impact on public opinion. According to the most recent polls, for 58 percent of Republicans, climate change is “not an important concern.” A little over 40 percent deny that humans make a significant contribution to this impending catastrophe. And 44 percent think that “climate scientists have too much influence on climate policy debates.”
If there ever is a historical reckoning of this critical moment in history — possibly by some alien intelligence after humans have wrecked this planet — and if a Museum of Evil is established in memory of the crime, the GOP-Fox dyad will have a special room in their honor.