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Noam Chomsky: The Future of Organized Human Life Is At Risk Thanks to GOP’s Climate Change Denial

StoryNovember 05, 2018
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Just weeks after the United Nations warned that humanity has only a dozen years to mitigate global warming and limit the scope of global catastrophe, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. He says, “We have to make decisions now which will literally determine whether organized human life can survive in any decent form.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we want to turn to an issue that you have written about, that so many are so deeply concerned about, that hardly gets any play in this country, even in this critical midterm election. It’s the issue of climate change. Noam Chomsky, a new study has found that the world has massively underestimated the amount of heat absorbed by our oceans. The paper, published in the journal Nature, has concluded that for the past quarter of a century about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally has been deposited into the seas, 60 percent more than previous estimates.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This comes days after leading meteorologist Eric Holthaus issued a dire warning following Jair Bolsonaro’s election win in Brazil. He tweeted, quote, “This is worth repeating over and over. The most horrific thing Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has planned is privatization of the Amazon rainforest. With just 12yr remaining to remake the global economy and prevent catastrophic climate change, this is planetary suicide,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, in a report issued earlier this week, the World Wildlife Fund found that human beings have wiped out 60 percent of all mammals, birds, fish and reptiles on Earth since 1970. This is WWF executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett.

MIKE BARRETT: What’s absolutely clear at the moment, looking at the declines of nature that we’re currently seeing, is that the planet does need to be put on life support. And frankly, the solutions we’re coming up with at the moment are merely sticking plasters. So, this is now at the point where, as people, we’ve got to take a choice: Are we going to let this continue? Are we going to do something about it? Globally, at the moment, we are completely failing to tackle the loss of nature on the planet. And that’s got to stop now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Mike Barrett of the World Wildlife Fund. Noam, you are deeply concerned about this issue—and, of course, you’re not alone—climate change, the issue of climate change.

NOAM CHOMSKY: We can add to the list of your dire warnings, as if it weren’t horrendous enough, a few more examples. A couple of weeks ago, the IPCC, the international group of scientists monitoring climate change, came out with a very ominous report warning that the world has maybe a decade or two to basically end its reliance on fossil fuels if we’re to have any hope of controlling global warming below the level of utter disaster. And that, incidentally, is a conservative estimate. It’s a consensus view. There are—repeatedly, over the years, it has been shown that the IPCC analyses are much less alarmist than they should be.

Now comes this report in Nature that you mentioned, a couple of days ago, which shows that there has been a serious underestimate of the warming of the oceans. And they conclude that if these results hold up, the so-called carbon budget, the amount of carbon that we can spew into the atmosphere and still have a survival environment, has to be reduced by about 25 percent. That’s over and above the IPCC report. And the opening up of the Amazon to further exploitation will be another serious blow at the prospects of survival of organized human society.

I should—at the same time, the Trump administration, right now, is opening up new areas of the West for fracking, for increasing the use of fossil fuels. You’ve probably seen maybe discussed one of the most amazing documents I have ever seen. The Trump department of highway standards, whatever it’s called, just issued a long report, hundred-page report, urging that all regulations on automotive emissions should be ended. And they had a very logical argument. They said if we extrapolate current trends by the end of the century, the climate will have warmed several degrees centigrade, meaning a huge rise in sea level, which they underestimate. So, basically, we’re going over the cliff anyway, and automotive emissions really don’t add much to this, so there’s no point cutting them back. The assumption of the department is that everyone in the world is as criminally insane as we are, and isn’t going to do anything about it. And since—on that assumption, yeah, let’s just rob while the planet burns, putting Nero into the shade—he only fiddled while Rome burned. I can’t think of anything like this in human history. You just can’t find words to describe it. And at the peak of the monstrosity is, in fact, the Trump administration.

We should recall that Trump himself, as I mentioned, is a firm believer in global warming. Recently, he applied to the government of Ireland for permission to build a huge wall, one of his famous walls, this one to protect a golf course of his in Ireland, which, as his plea indicates, is threatened by sea level rise as a result of global warming. You take a look at the big banks, JPMorgan Chase and the others. They’re increasing their investments in fossil fuel development. The energy corporations are working all over the world to try to find new resources that destroy the environment.

The media are focusing on real outrages, like the ludicrous military preparation for this wave of mothers and children planning to invade us and destroy us—you know, they’re concentrating on that, but take a look at their coverage of these things. So, there was a big report, long front-page report, in The New York Times a couple days ago about the opening up of the West to further fossil fuel extraction. Discussed everything you can think of. Did mention some of the negative consequences, like it might harm water resources. It might make things harder for ranchers. Not one phrase, one phrase in this long report, on the effect on the environment. In the political campaign going on, every—all kinds of issues are not discussed, but not the two existential threats that human beings face, threats that have never arisen in human history.

We have to make decisions now which will literally determine whether organized human life can survive in any decent form. You can just imagine what the world would be like if the sea level rises, say, 10 or 20 feet or even higher, which is within the range—easily within the range of predictions. I mean, the consequences are unimaginable. But it’s as if we’re kind of like the proverbial lemmings just happily marching off the cliff, led by leaders who understand very well what they’re doing, but are so dedicated to enriching themselves and their friends in the near future that it simply doesn’t matter what happens to the human species. There’s nothing like this in all of human history. There have been plenty of monsters in the past, plenty of them. But you can’t find one who was dedicated, with passion, to destroying the prospects for organized human life. Hitler was horrible enough, but not that.

AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned linguist, dissident, author Noam Chomsky. You can visit our website for Part 1 of the interview, where Chomsky talks about U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, the migrant caravan, the crisis in Gaza and the white supremacist attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue.

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