Hi there,

If you think Democracy Now!’s reporting is a critical line of defense against war, climate catastrophe and authoritarianism, please make your donation of $10 or more right now. Today, a generous donor will DOUBLE your donation, which means it’ll go 2x as far to support our independent journalism. Democracy Now! is funded by you, and that’s why we’re counting on your donation to keep us going strong. Please give today. Every dollar makes a difference—in fact, gets doubled! Thank you so much.
-Amy Goodman

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.


Fmr. Secretary of State George Shultz and Environmentalist Paul Ehrlich on Global Warming, Global Warring, China, Al Gore and the Environment

Media Options

Democracy Now! broadcasts from Stanford University in California, where the Society of Environmental Journalists is holding its 17th annual conference. On Wednesday night, the Aurora Forum held an event titled “Clean, Secure, and Efficient Energy: Can We Have It All?” Among the panelists was the still-highly influential George Shultz. He was President Reagan’s secretary of state, as well as the head of Bechtel, and is now a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution. We play excerpts of Shultz speaking at the panel, and we speak with Stanford University professor, environmentalist and author, Paul Ehrlich. [includes rush transcript]

Related Story

StoryMay 22, 2024Will Biden Undermine His Own Climate Goals with New Tariffs on Chinese Electric Vehicles?
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, today. The Society of Environmental Journalists is holding its 17th annual conference here this week. Today, we’ll discuss global warming, the solutions on the table, how both are being covered in the media. Last night, I moderated an event put on by the Aurora Institute with the Society of Environmental Journalists called “Clean, Secure, and Efficient Energy: How Can We Have It All?”

Among those who were on the panel was author, environmentalist Paul Ehrlich, as well the still-highly influential George Shultz. He served as President Reagan’s secretary of state for nearly his full two terms in office. He was also the president and director of the engineering multinational Bechtel and is now a distinguished fellow here at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

This Sunday, in a book review on Vice President Cheney, The New York Times writes, “As the Republican Party was settling on its presidential nominee seven summers ago, no less venerable a statesman than George Shultz was assuring skeptical conservatives that George W. Bush had the potential to be another Ronald Reagan. One reason for his confidence was the 'Stanford shuttle' between Palo Alto and Austin, which carried such Hoover Institution luminaries — and White House veterans — as Martin Anderson, Michael J. Boskin and Condoleezza Rice (Shultz’s own protégé) on regular treks to Texas.” This, again, The New York Times Book Review.

Well, George Shultz is now speaking out about climate change. He penned an op-ed in Wednesday’s Washington Post called “How to Gain a Climate Consensus,” and he drives a Prius. At last night’s event put on by the Aurora Institute, I asked George Shultz about the connection between global warming and global warring.

GEORGE SHULTZ: During the Reagan administration, we confronted the problem of depletion of the ozone layer, and we developed a treaty called the Montreal Protocol that has not solved the problem but has done a great deal. It’s really an environmental treaty that worked. And it resulted — and it had the characteristic that it was universal.

The Kyoto Protocol is a total failure. It just doesn’t come close, because it doesn’t cover everybody. You’ve got to get something that covers everybody. Then you’ve got to set some goals, to be sure, but you’ve got to have things that people actually do, actions to take, and pledge people to take those actions. Then something starts to happen. And then you start to focus.

And this wasn’t in my article, but I’m a great believer that if you focus on something really hard, it’s amazing what comes out of that. If you start — really start to focus on how to save energy and do a better job of using energy in our homes, in our companies and wherever we are, there is so much low-hanging fruit, there’s fruit all over the ground to pick up that will make you much more energy-efficient.

So that was the pitch in this article: Let’s get going, and let’s get going on a track where people actually will do something, not just talk about it, do something.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a connection, Secretary Shultz, between global warring and global warming?

GEORGE SHULTZ: Say that again.

AMY GOODMAN: Between global warring and global warming. And what I mean, specifically, when we talk about global warming, fossil fuels, this whole push for using more and depending on oil, what do you think about the connection between the Iraq War and this issue of global warming at home?

GEORGE SHULTZ: I don’t think the Iraq War had anything whatever to do with it. The Iraq War and — whether you agree or not with the invasion of Iraq, the problem is there is a radical movement that uses the weapon of terror, and we have to confront it. And we have done that successfully in some respects here. And that was the object of the Iraq War. It had nothing to do with oil at all.

PAUL EHRLICH: I disagree totally. If you go back in history, our entire presence in the Middle East has been entirely focused on seeing to it that we can keep some kind of control over the fossil fuel supplies. You go back to Churchill and the destroyers, you go back to Roosevelt, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Red Line Agreement, the Gulbankian agreement, we created — Churchill created Iraq because of the oil wells at Kirkuk and at — I can’t remember what the other one was at the moment, but it doesn’t make any difference.

I think Stanford Professor Gretchen Daily said it very well: if you think we’re invading Iraq — or, would we be planning to invade Iraq if their major export were broccoli? We would just have left it. I’m not saying that this was in George Bush’s head. God knows what was in his head. But certainly everybody who knew the history knew what would happen. We’re now in a situation where the knowledgeable people haven’t got a clue what to do, even though every person I know personally, Republican and Democrat, were opposed to the idea to begin with. Now we’re in a mess where we’re waiting for General Petraeus to come back and see if he’s going to betray us [inaudible].

GEORGE SHULTZ: It’s perfectly correct to say that we are understandably preoccupied with an area that contains a huge proportion of the oil reserves of the world. That’s a different statement from saying that the reason we went into Iraq was the oil. Those are not connected.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Secretary of State George Shultz speaking at the Aurora Forum last night. Yes, we’re broadcasting from Stanford University, where the Society of Environmental Journalists is having its annual meeting. Also, you were listening to and watching Paul Ehrlich, the environmentalist and author, a professor here at Stanford University, president of the Center for Conservation Biology, professor of Population Studies here at Stanford, co-founder of the field of coevolution, author of several books, his most recent one, One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future.

I had hoped to have both Secretary of State George Shultz and Paul Ehrlich here in the studio. I think it was a little early — we’re broadcasting at 5:00 in the morning here in California — for the former secretary of state, but Paul Ehrlich has agreed to be with us. Thanks so much for joining us on so little sleep.

PAUL EHRLICH: It’s my great pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: We just played the clip of last night’s forum, where you and the former secretary of state were going back and forth on the issue of global warring and global warming. Can you expand further on the issue of oil, Iraq and how it fits into this very dire picture on the environment?

PAUL EHRLICH: Well, first of all, you’ve got to remember that our entire military structure is built around trying to keep the flow of oil coming in. The estimate that various people have made — I think it’s right — is that about half of our military budget is aimed at making sure that we keep the empire’s oil flowing towards us. This is the biggest resource war that we’ve had since the war between the Arabs and the Israelis over water in 1967, and there’s going to be lots more. There’s a great book by Michael Klare on resource wars. This is a typical resource war. What you’ve got to remember is that we’ve had a long history of dividing up the Middle East in ways to try and get control of the oil. We, the West, but the United States in particular, has been involved in that. We now have an entire military command aimed at that.

And, of course, we’re very, very nervous about the Chinese. When you see, for example, the amount of money we’re dumping into the military budget, besides the huge waste in Iraq, where we’re putting the money into recruit more people into al-Qaeda, basically — an incredibly stupid move — when you look at the amount of money that’s coming in, why do you think that we’re building these wonderful jet fighters and so on? It’s not to fight al-Qaeda. It’s to fight the Chinese, because the Chinese are looking towards the Caspian, which is one of the places where there’s a huge amount of oil available compared to what there is in the United States or even, you know, in most other places.

But we’re really stuck in a terrible position, because we’ve now made this horrendous mess in Iraq trying to get a fuel we shouldn’t be burning. In other words, we should be getting away from burning all fossil fuels. And they made such a mess, we don’t know what to do about it, because in the short term, for example, if we pull out or if bomb Iran and start it and the Middle East oil gets cut off, yeah, we’ll suffer in the United States some, but poor people, for instance, in Africa who have to have kerosene to cook their food or they starve, because their food can’t be eaten raw — they don’t have any firewood left in many areas — they won’t be able to afford the kerosene. In other words, if we pull out suddenly and leave a mess, we’re in trouble. If we stay, we’re in trouble. Everybody who had any sense knew we never should have done it, but we did.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Professor Paul Ehrlich here at Stanford University. When we come back, we’ll play more clips of the Aurora Forum, including the former Secretary of State George Shultz on the effectiveness of Al Gore taking on the issue that Shultz is concerned with, global warming, and we’ll talk about China. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Stanford University, where I moderated a forum last night put on by the Aurora Institute. This, on the eve of the beginning of the Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting that’s taking place here. I wanted to play another clip of the former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is a distinguished fellow here at the Hoover Institution, speaking at the forum on Clean, Secure, and Efficient Energy. This is Mr. Shultz talking about China.

GEORGE SHULTZ: Per capita, the world has been mired in poverty and a lack of progress for decades and decades. And in the last couple of decades, somehow they’ve been getting their act together following more sensible economic policies. And so you see China, India — all around the world, the low-income per capita is basically — those countries are growing. And when they grow, they use energy. And so, we’re saying you want to approach this on a global basis. If all that happens is we do things here and in Europe and Japan, that’s not going to get you to the end that you want, because it’s a global problem.

So you’ve got to reach out to the countries that have low incomes and are finally starting to grow and say, “How are we going to get them aboard?” That’s what we did in the Montreal Protocol. And you have to set that as one of your major problems in this global warming exercise. And I think you want to persuade them that it’s to their advantage to get their emissions under control, but you also have to come forward with some ideas about how to do it. And in many cases probably you have to help them do it, by providing some resources that will help them do this instead of that.

So it’s a hard, difficult negotiation, but if you do it right, I think you can get them on board, because, to take the China example, in most of their cities they’re choking to death. You don’t have to tell them about pollution, because they see it all around them and they’ve got to do something — they know they have to do something about it. So you’ve got a lot to work with. So it isn’t just China, it’s a whole group of countries that you have to work with, and you have to figure out how to get them in with you in working on this problem and by all kinds of different ways.

AMY GOODMAN: George Shultz, who do you think is tougher to get on board on taking global warming seriously: China or ExxonMobil?

GEORGE SHULTZ: Well, I think people are seeing the problem more and more, and everybody is on board, but the question is how. You go to China, and you say, “Well, what am I going to do? You tell me it’s terrible to burn coal. How am I going to get the electricity?” So you’ve got to have an answer to that question. And so, there are some answers that you can develop and you can get at it, but that’s the way I would go about it. As far as your little provocative question about Exxon and China, I’m not going to bite on that. Thank you very much. And that’s enough.

AMY GOODMAN: And with that, the former secretary of state pulled off his microphone.

Paul Ehrlich was part of the Aurora Forum discussion last night, population studies professor here at Stanford University. This issue of ExxonMobil is particularly relevant here at Stanford because of the program Global Climate and Energy Project, the GCEP project, that is here at Stanford, established a few years ago with, I think it’s something like $225 million from four major companies: ExxonMobil, Toyota, General Electric and Schlumberger. Can you talk about the very oil company, ExxonMobil, the wealthiest in the world, the company that funds think tanks to deny the issue of global warming, being such a major funder here at this academic institution?

PAUL EHRLICH: Well, let me say, first of all, I had nothing whatever to do with that program, so I can say something sort of neutral about it. I think that universities like Stanford simply have to take money from corporations if they’re going to get their research done. I also am absolutely certain — I know the people who run the GCEP program very well at Stanford — that there is no shaping of the research by the corporation. It wouldn’t be — people would just throw whoever did it out at Stanford. The faculty wouldn’t stand for it.

On the other hand, although I think you can take dirty money and do clean things with it, I, just from a PR point of view, would never have accepted money from ExxonMobil — because, as you say, they fund these thoughtless tanks in Washington, where they get idiots to get up and say, “Oh, well, there’s no problem with climate change,” and so on and so forth — any more than I would have taken money from Dow Chemical during the Vietnam War. Some money is so dirty you can’t really wash it. And even though there are some good people in ExxonMobil, overall they have been an utter disaster.

AMY GOODMAN: The same controversy has gone on at Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley, which some are calling now “BPerkeley,” because British Petroleum poured tens of millions of dollars into UC Berkeley.

PAUL EHRLICH: Well, again, if the people there are honest, I’d much rather have them pouring it into that than, say, more exploration to get oil that we shouldn’t be burning. So, again, it’s a tricky public relations issue for a university.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, we often, as journalists, follow the money. So you see this huge amount of money, and does it go into suppressing, actually, research. But we can also look the other way: what effect Stanford University can have on ExxonMobil, when you have a corporation of this size and effect all over the world that pours money into what the established scientists, what the scientific consensus of 2,000 scientists, saying global warming is a dire threat to the earth today.

PAUL EHRLICH: Well, I think you can get good feedback into corporations. I also think, by the way, for instance, when you have absolutely no leadership in Washington, except leadership going in the wrong direction in the administration, we’ve got to industry around, because industry has to get the job done, industry has to be able to plan over a longer horizon than the politicians, who only plan for the next election. And so, it’s really important to bring industry on board. And a lot of people are working on that. But you have to be very careful that you don’t get results that industry dictates.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ehrlich, I want to play for you President Bush’s recent comments on his record on climate change. He’s currently in Sydney, Australia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. This is what he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I know some say, “Well, since he’s against Kyoto, he doesn’t care about the climate change.” That’s urban legend. That is preposterous. As a matter of fact, the United States last year reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions and grew our economy at the same time. In other words, we showed what is possible when you deploy modern technologies that enable you to achieve economic growth, so your people can work, and at the same time become less dependent on foreign sources of oil and at the same time be good stewards of the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking in Sydney, Australia, at the a APEC summit. Last night at the Aurora Forum, I asked the former Secretary of State George Shultz about the whole issue of the Bush administration so seriously downplaying global warming.

GEORGE SHULTZ: I think that the administration, as I have watched it from here — I’m not in Washington, I don’t go there much — but there has been a gradual change, just as we’ve been talking about industry people. And my sense is right now that the view of this issue today in the White House is rather different than it was five or six years ago, or when President Bush took office.

I might say that he has somehow been identified with killing the Kyoto treaty. That was done by our negotiator in Kyoto, who signed the treaty after the Senate had voted unanimously to tell President Clinton not to have a treaty concluded that didn’t have any obligations of developing countries. That’s what sunk the Kyoto treaty.

So it’s been a mixed-up picture, but I think, like the country, in general, there has been a gradual shift that we’ve been talking about here. And my guess is that that’s been happening in the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Al Gore helped make that change?

GEORGE SHULTZ: Well, I’m supposed to be in full disclosure that I’m a Republican, and I was glad that Bush beat Gore. And — is that what you want me to say?

AMY GOODMAN: You said you —

GEORGE SHULTZ: I don’t know why — Do you want to have a partisan discussion here now about this? Is that what you’re trying to do?

AMY GOODMAN: No. I was serious, because you talked about that change. Do you think Al Gore has been a key part of that change?

GEORGE SHULTZ: I don’t know if he’s been a key part, but I think he’s played a part.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Secretary of State George Shultz was secretary of state under President Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush and played a key role in George W. Bush also becoming president in 2000.

Professor Ehrlich, this issue of the Bush administration and its role in the global warming debate.

PAUL EHRLICH: Well, first of all, what Bush said was preposterous, but almost everything he says is preposterous, so why should we worry about that? Shultz is also dead wrong on the way — I think it’s true that attitudes have changed slightly in the White House, because they now see a political issue, but they have worked very, very hard to suppress the science on global warming. For instance, they sent some junior jerk to try and keep Jim Hansen, who’s one of our very top climate scientists, from saying what he thought.

AMY GOODMAN: A government scientist.

PAUL EHRLICH: Government scientist. They have taken — as a matter of fact, their whole operation against science has been so dreadful that the scientific community has literally gone and tried to get them to change. In other words, the scientific community went to John Marburger, who was hired as a science adviser and then demoted and became Bush’s lapdog, and said, “You’re nuts! You know, you guys have got to stop distorting the science. It’s not related to global warming.”

They took all the condom stuff off the websites, and so on, even though every scientist knows that we have too many people and that we should be reducing population size and that it’s good for people, and women in particular, and for the environment to have smaller families and to save lives and AIDS. And they took it away. They reinstituted the Mexico policy that Ronald Reagan, his great hero, put in that’s killed hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of women already.

AMY GOODMAN: How seriously has the Bush administration set back global warming science?

PAUL EHRLICH: It set back all of science very significantly, but probably global warming about as much as any, because if we had the slightest bit of leadership from them, we could have turned off the so-called climate monkeys, the two or three or four scientists that they have hired — not good scientists, with one single exception — to get out there and create all of this uncertainty, which has been keeping — uncertainty only in the minds of the public, which has been keeping people from taking the actions we desperately need to do if our grandchildren and great grandchildren are not going to be living in a world that is totally miserable.

AMY GOODMAN: The headlines today, scientists announcing the Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unparalleled rate this summer, and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows. The Guardian newspaper reporting experts are stunned by the loss of ice. An area almost twice as big as England disappeared in the last week alone. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

PAUL EHRLICH: And, of course, if that happens, what it means is the planet’s going to heat even faster because the ocean absorbs the sun’s energy much more than ice does. Ice reflects it away. So this is what’s called a positive feedback. The more you do it, the worse it gets. And there are lots of those feedbacks showing up.

The scientific community has been — I’ve been writing about this for 40 years — the scientific community has been really scared for 20 years. Reagan started setting things back. Clinton didn’t do as much as he should have, but he did a lot more than Reagan did on the environmental issues.

And, by the way, climate change is not the only critically important environmental issue. We may get in much more trouble from the toxification of the planet; from the difficulties with the epidemiological environment, getting more huge plagues, all related to the size of our population; from land-use change.

And the Bush administration has fought every inch of the way to destroy the environment as hard as it could to make money for their buddies in outfits like Bechtel. In other words, this is not a ridiculous connection. There are huge influences in there. And after all, George Shultz spent 15 years pushing us to invade Iraq behind the scenes, in part because of his position at Bechtel.


PAUL EHRLICH: Because you can make a lot of money if you control the oil, if you invade a country, and then — as Kellogg Brown got most of the contracts. But, after all, we haven’t rebuilt Iraq, but we’ve taken the taxpayers’ money from Americans in gigantic quantities. While our bridges are falling into the rivers, we are paying this crooked company to try and rebuild Iraq, which it isn’t doing, but it’s getting the money. It isn’t rocket science. I mean, come on.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, Professor Ehrlich, The Guardian newspaper reporting experts are stunned by the Arctic ice loss, that, amazingly enough, an area almost twice as big as England disappears last week alone. At the same time, environmentalists criticizing the BBC for canceling a TV special on climate change called Planet Relief, with a very interesting quote of the Newsnight editor, Peter Barron, recently saying, “It is absolutely not the BBC’s job to save the planet.”

PAUL EHRLICH: I’m glad to hear that the BBC is very much like Fox News. You know, lie for money. I mean, who knows why they’re doing it. But, I mean, we need leadership in this world. There is no leadership coming out of Washington on any important issue that’s facing our country today. And, of course, you had old Blair over there in England.

In Australia, where Bush is now, of course, they have an even bigger idiot as their premier, John Howard. Howard’s building coal-fired power plants, while Australia is in the middle of one of the worst droughts in their entire history, and Australia has superb solar power scientists. And Anne and I have been trying to persuade them for 20 years to turn Canbury into a fully electric solar town and then sell the technology to the Chinese. George Shultz was talking about the problems of what do you do about the Chinese coal. If Howard and people like him had promoted solar power and showed that it worked in a place like Australia, they could very easily have sold that power system to the Chinese, and they could be deploying a solar system now, rather than trying to repeat the Victorian Industrial Revolution, which has led to a lot of the horrors we have today.

AMY GOODMAN: I bumped into Robert Kennedy on the plane yesterday, who wrote Crimes of Nature, and asked him about what he feels the solutions for climate change are. Interestingly, he said two issues. One is taking on media consolidation, and the other is campaign finance reform, not usually thought as a scientific issue.

PAUL EHRLICH: It’s a big scientific issue. As a matter of fact, if you’re looking at cultural evolution and how our society might get itself together to deal with these issues, I think campaign finance reform would be very near the top. That’s really important.

AMY GOODMAN: If you look at corporations like ExxonMobil and all the oil companies pouring in, well, well over $100 million into campaign coffers.

PAUL EHRLICH: Yeah, well, we get the best politicians money can buy.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but we’re going to continue to talk about the environment with two environmental journalists who are here for the Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting. I want to thank you, Professor Paul Ehrlich, who together with his wife Anne Ehrlich, their latest book is called One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

How Does the Media Cover Global Warming?

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation