Starr Forum: Racing to the Precipice: Global Climate, Political Climate

Starr Forum: Racing to the Precipice: Global Climate, Political Climate


[applause] MICHELLE NHUCH: I know
you’re not clapping for me. But anyway, on behalf of the
MIT Center for International Studies, I’m Michelle,
Director of Public Programs, and would like to welcome you
to today’s Starr Forum, which I’m delighted to see that
everyone got the memo. First, however, I’d like to
mention a few housekeeping items. We have several
upcoming events that we hope you’re able to attend. The most recent one
will be on April 6th, with the former
Foreign Secretary of the UK, Jack Straw. He will speak on Brexit,
Europe, and Trump. Yes, we’ve got a whole lot of
good events in store for us. On April 11th, we have an
event on Digital Innovation and Africa, which will explore
the consequences of Africa’s leap-frog into new technologies. And on April 12th,
we have a book talk with Ambassador Celso Amorim. He’s Brazil’s former Minister
of Foreign Relations. His book is entitled Acting
Globally, Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy. Details for these
talks and others are available on our
website, or you can pick up a flyer on your way out. Today’s talk will conclude
with a Q&A from the audience. For those asking
questions, we really need you to line
up behind the mics. We also ask that you
are considerate of time and of others who
want to ask questions, because this is a question
and answer session, not a personal statement session. [applause] Finally, it’s truly an
honor to introduce a man who needs no introduction. Please join me in
welcoming Noam Chomsky. [applause] NOAM CHOMSKY: First question,
as always, is can you hear me? Yeah, OK. For quite a few years,
I’ve been intrigued by an interesting
debate that took place about 25 years ago between
two great scientists, Carl Sagan, Ernst Mayr. They were discussing
the likelihood of finding extraterrestrial
intelligent life. And Sagan, who looked at
it from the point of view of an astrophysicist,
calculated the number of planets more or less like Earth and
concluded that the chances are quite high. Mayr, looking at
it as a biologist, said, look, we have
only one test case, namely Earth, which has had
about 50 billion species. And we can raise
the question what are the criteria for
biological success on Earth, with 50
billion cases to look at. And he pointed out that there
is a striking regularity. The species that are successful,
a lot of them around, basically, are those that
mutate quickly like bacteria, or those that have a
fixed niche like beetles, and they just stay there
no matter what happens. And as you move up the scale
of what we call intelligence, biological success declines. So there are not many mammals. There are very few apes. The only reason
there’s a lot of cows is because we domesticate them. But by and large,
biological success declines as
intelligence increases. Humans look like an exception,
but that’s a statistical blip– just a tiny moment of
evolutionary time– last couple thousand
years, actually. So his conclusion is
that, I’ll quote him, “The history of life on
Earth refutes the claim that it is better to be
smart than to be stupid.” What it shows, in fact,
is it’s much better to be stupid than smart. That’s the conclusion. He also points out that the
average lifespan of a species is about 100,000 years. We’ve doubled it. We’re about 200,000,
and so we’re a little beyond the
expected extinction point. Well, that’s the question
I want to consider today. Is it better to be
smart than stupid? It was addressed recently by
a very good Indian writer. Amitav Ghosh has a book called
The Great Derangement, Climate Change and the Unthinkable. And in fact, our failure
to address the most awesome challenge of human history– with the possible exception
of nuclear weapons– is indeed a true derangement,
and painful evidence for the plausibility
of Mayr’s thesis that it’s better to
be stupid than smart. Well, these are the two
existential challenges that overwhelm anything
else, completely overshadow all other discussions. And their severity
and their imminence is illustrated graphically
by the famous Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin
of American Scientists. It was initiated in 1947, right
at the dawn of the Nuclear Age. In 2015, and again in 2016,
the hand was moved forward. Midnight means we’re finished. The hand was moved forward
to three minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it
had been to midnight since the early 1980s, when
there was a major war scare in the early Reagan years. The reasons that they gave
were the mounting threat of nuclear war and the failure
to deal with climate change. I’ll quote– what they
said is, “At the time, the probability of global
catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to
reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” That was 2016. At the outset of the
Trump term, they found– I’m quoting– “the danger
to be even greater, the need for action
more urgent.” And they moved the clock to two
and a half minutes to midnight. The clock is ticking. Global danger looms. That’s the closest to
terminal disaster since 1953, when the United States and
Russia exploded their H-bombs. There is an important
difference between these two existential threats. If by some miracle, we
escape nuclear disaster– and anyone who looks
at the shocking record will realize that it’s a miracle
that we’ve gotten this far– but if by some miracle,
we do escape, at least we know in principle
how to end the plague, get rid of the scourge. Global warming is different. It’s inexorable. We might pass a point
of no return, when the damage that
we’ve done is simply uncontrollable, irreversible. And it might not be far off. The human species is, right
now, undertaking an experiment to determine the answer
to Ernst Mayr’s question, is it better to be
smart than stupid? And what I’d like to
do now is to examine the course of the experiment,
just by picking a few dates. So let’s start with today– could be any day, but
we’ll start with today. If you looked at this
morning’s newspapers, you see a report on how
we’re dealing with the two existential crises. One on the nuclear
threat, Christopher Ford, the National Security Council
Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and
Counter-proliferation under the Trump Administration– he advises that we should
reconsider the unrealistic goal of a world without
nuclear weapons that has been advocated, among
others, by extremist peaceniks like Henry
Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. And the reason for abandoning
this unrealistic goal of these utopians is Russia’s
increased aggressiveness, which is, incidentally,
a charge that’s dismantled quite effectively
in the current issue of a radical rag that’s
worth reading now and then, Foreign Affairs, the main
establishment journal. On global warming today, this
morning, the National Snow and Ice Data Center
reports that the Arctic has less sea ice at winters
end now than ever before. That means more dark ocean,
hence more absorption of solar energy, more warming. And we’re in a feedback loop. You know what that means. The mean temperature
for November was 23 degrees above normal. And at some points in the
last couple of months, it went to more than 35
degrees warmer than normal. That’s today’s good news. Let’s go back to yesterday,
quote from The Washington Post. Water temperatures at
the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near south
Florida are on fire. They spurred a historically warm
winter from Houston to Miami. In the Gulf, the average
sea surface temperature never fell below 73 degrees over
the winter for the first time on record. Galveston, Texas has tied or
broken an astonishing 33 record highs since November 1st,
while neighboring Houston had its warmest winter on record. Both cities have witnessed
precious few days with below normal temperatures
since late fall, and on and on. I apologize if this
is unfair, but I can’t refrain from quoting
one of the comments by a reader on this news report. He says, “The Republicans
have all this under control. The plan is to have Jeff
Sessions and Ted Cruz’s dad stand at the shoreline
with Bibles in hand. As the sky darkens
and the water rises, they will raise their left
hand, holding the Bible, and command the seas to settle. And if that fails, Plan
B is to run like hell, and to blame Obama.” [applause] Couldn’t say it better. It’s a classic. And it captures the spirit
of the times very accurately. There was a second
report yesterday in the business press,
Bloomberg Businessweek. The headline was, “The
Oil Boom is Back.” And I’ll quote it. “The number of oil and gas rigs
drilling in the United States has almost doubled
since bottoming out at the lowest level in more
than 75 years of records. While two dozen nations
are coordinating to cut oil production and rein
in the global supply glut, US producers are moving
in the opposite direction. Over the last four
months, output increased by half a
million barrels a day. And if that rate of
expansion continues, the shale boom will break new
production records by summer. The US now produces 9
million barrels a day. We are way in the lead. This illustrates a very crucial
fact of current history. The world outside the United
States is taking steps– halting steps, but steps– towards facing the existential
challenge to survival. Meanwhile, the United
States, virtually alone, is racing towards destruction
with enthusiasm and dedication, which is quite a
remarkable fact. Now of course, the
oil industry has plenty of help in
helping and moving as quickly as it can to
destroy chances for survival. The IMF reports that the
fossil fuel industry extracts a $700 billion annual
taxpayer subsidy, which is not in the crosshairs
of Mike Mulvaney, I’m sure. And the industry
doesn’t take chances. In 2016, it spent $117 million
in campaign contributions while fielding 720
lobbyists in Washington to make sure that
Congress gets the message. And apparently it does. There’s a recent
Washington Post article which reports that many
Republicans in Congress do recognize the severe
threat of climate change. But they won’t talk about it
because of funding pressures from the fossil fuel industry. That’s particularly true
since Citizens United opened the floodgates even
wider for a flood of corporate political
funding, which means you toe the corporate
line or you’re out. Well, that’s yesterday. These reports are quite
typical of the daily fare. Pick almost any day,
you find similar things. Let’s continue to
review the experiment that humans are undertaking. I’ll just pick a few recent
dates from the last few months. So start with November 8th. That was an important day in
history for several reasons. Several events took
place on November 8th. One of them was very important. Second one was
extremely important, and the third was
absolutely astonishing. The very important one was the
election in the United States. Plenty of coverage of that, so
I don’t have to talk about it. The extremely important
one took place in Morocco. In Morocco on November
8th, about 200 countries were gathering in what’s
called COP22, the International Conference under
UN auspices, to try to deal with the problem
of global warming. The goal of the conference
was to put some teeth into the Paris negotiations
the year before, COP21, December 2015. That conference had aimed to
establish a verifiable treaty. But it couldn’t do
it for one reason– the Republican
Congress would not accept any binding commitments. So therefore, the world had
to settle for something less, namely informal agreements. And COP22 in
Marrakesh, Morocco was supposed to carry this forward. Well, on November 8th,
the conference began. On November 8th, the World
Meteorological Association delivered a report
which, in their words, confirms that 2016 was the
warmest year on record– a remarkable 1.1
degrees Centigrade above the pre-industrial
period, sharply above the previous record
set the year before, and in fact approaching
the desired limit that was set in Paris as the goal,
and other dire reports which I won’t read. But you can pick them up on
the internet, if you want. That was the World
Meteorological Association. But then the deliberations
essentially ended. The election results came
in from the United States. The conference
essentially stopped– nothing more to discuss. The only question
was whether it would be possible to salvage
anything from the wreckage, with the world’s most
important country– the richest, most powerful
country in world history– having all three
branches of government committed to racing
to destruction. What could be done? And there was some hope. They looked at one country as
the possible savior, namely China. That was November 8th, the
extremely important event on November 8th. The conference went on, but
concluded without issue. Well, the third event was
absolutely astonishing, namely, the leader
of the free world is leading the
world to disaster. The world is looking
to China to save it. And what’s the reaction? Silence– not a word about it. Pick up the newspapers
on November 9th, listen to BBC on November 9th
and the days that followed, and you’ll see
nothing about this. Here’s one of the most
astounding events in history– the world’s most powerful
country, most powerful country in history,
extraordinary advantages, incomparable, racing to
lead the world to disaster, and the world is hoping
that maybe China can somehow save us. Can you think of an events
like that in history? Not a word about it. That’s the astonishing
fact of November 8th. That’s November 8th. Let’s move forward to March
1st, talk about both the world and the United States. In the world, a
study was released showing that tens of thousands
of miles of permafrost in Northwest Canada are
rapidly melting, along with accelerating decline of
permafrost in Alaska, Siberia, and Scandinavia. And it pointed out
that this could lead to massive, huge
release of greenhouse gases– CO2 and methane– which
is accelerated, of course, by the unprecedented
Arctic heatwave which gets radically
worse every year. That’s the world. In the United States, the Trump
administration, on March 1st, decided to help
the process along by rescinding the so-called
Methane Rule which limits release of methane from
oil and gas drilling sites on federal lands. So that’s a way of
accelerating the oil boom, and increasing the flow of
methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more
dangerous than CO2, even though it’s short lived. There was also, on
March 1st, announcements of sharp cuts in the
Environmental Protection Agency staff and programs, and also
an edict banning research. We don’t want to learn
about these things. That was March 1st. Let’s turn to March 16th. The world– a new study
was released on the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one
of the world’s greatest living structures, which is damage
that’s quite intensifying. And the report said
that it’s by far the most widespread and damaging
of recent mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, with
wide-ranging disastrous effects that most of you know about. Well, that was the world. The United States on March 16th,
the Trump budget was released. Environmental Protection
Agency is virtually dismantled. It’s now pretty much
run by Senator Inhofe and his associates. Inhofe, for years, has been
the leading climate change denier in the Senate. He is an extreme fundamentalist. And his position is that if God
is warming the Earth, so be it. It would be sacrilegious to
interfere with God’s will. That’s the view in
the most powerful, advanced, sophisticated
country in the world. And that’s the least of it. For action and
research on climate, the EPA is actually
a small actor. Far more important is
the Department of Energy. It’s now in the
hands of a guy who had decided to get rid
of it a couple of years ago, before he learned that
it controls nuclear weapons. So we’d better keep
it, but not entirely. The Office of Science,
according to the budget, in the Department of
Energy, is scheduled to lose $900 million dollars. That’s nearly 20% of its budget. Its $300 million
ARPA energy program is eliminated completely. That’s along with deep cuts in
research programs at the EPA and the NOAA, the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and also a 5%
cut to NASA’s earth science budget. The budget generally
is of unusual savagery, even for the Paul Ryan wing of
the Republican establishment, which is effectively
running the show now behind the Trump/Spicer/Twitter
facade that’s designed to grab the headlines every day. The budget, if you look
at it, is a vicious attack on the working
class and the poor, and lavishes even more
gifts on the wealthy and the corporate sector. And along with a process
which can only describe, I think, as the
talibanization of America in accord with the Bannon,
Sessions DeVos ideal of a society which
they’ve described based on Judeo-Christian tradition
of white supremacy, destruction of the humanities,
arts, public schooling, and on the side,
medical research. That’s the goal
towards which we’re aiming at home while we
race towards destruction internationally. Practically every issue
of science journals provides more grim forecasts. Those of you who read
the science journals regularly are
familiar with this. So one recent paper in
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics by James Hansen
and 18 other scientists carries out a comparison
between today’s climate and the climate of
120,000 years ago, which had approximately the same
temperatures or slightly warmer temperatures than today. That led, 120,000 years
ago, to a sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet, when much
of the polar ice disintegrated. The paper predicts in
the near future killer storms stronger than
any in modern times, disintegration of large
parts of the polar ice sheets leading to melting
of huge glaciers. That’s taking place rapidly,
especially in the Antarctic, where it’s the most dangerous. And they predict a rise
of sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s
coastal cities before the end of the century. Hansen says we’re in danger
of handing young people a situation that’s out of their
control, with precipitous rises in sea level not too
far down the road, other dire consequences. There are other studies that
indicate that climate change is occurring faster than at
any time over the last 100 million years, by some
estimates far faster. Last year, as you probably
know, atmospheric CO2 passed the symbolic level of
400 particles per million. That’s considered a
crucial danger point. That’s the first time
in four million years, and possibly irreversible. That’s only a small sample
of many such reports. They’re constantly in the
major science journals, sometimes making
it to the media. Meanwhile, the Republican
wrecking machine is systematically dismantling
the institutions that offer some hope for decent survival. And it’s not just Trump. It’s the whole Republican
Party leadership at the national level, also
much of the local level. And so in North Carolina, for
example, a couple of years ago, there was a
scientific study commissioned by the Coastal
Resources Commission. And it estimated that the sea
level will rise by 39 inches by the end of the century. There was a response by
the Republican-run state legislature. They passed a law that barred
state and local agencies from developing regulations or
planning documents anticipating a rise in sea level– rational reaction. There was a pretty good comment
on it by Stephen Colbert. He said, this is a
brilliant solution. If your science gives you
a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the
result is illegal– problem solved. That captures quite well the
mentality of the Republican Party leadership. A few years ago, Bobby Jindal,
the Republican governor who succeeded in
sinking Louisiana even deeper into the abyss. He warned Republicans that
they are becoming what he called “the stupid party.” The respected conservative
political analyst Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein of the
right-wing American Enterprise Institute– they describe the party
or maybe the former party as a radical insurgency
that has abandoned parliamentary democracy. Perhaps a simpler
characterization is the utterly outrageous
charge that they are the most dangerous
organization in human history, dedicated to the prospect
to ending the prospects for human survival. That is outrageous, no doubt,
but the more interesting question is whether it’s wrong. I leave that to
you to think about. I already mentioned Paris
2015, COP21, Marrakesh 2016. Those are two crucial examples. The 2016 primary campaign
was quite remarkable in many respects, primarily
those that weren’t discussed, namely the attitude
of the candidates to climate change, which barely
got a word of commentary. Every single candidate
denied that what is happening is happening, with the exception
of the sensible moderates like Jeb Bush, who
said it’s uncertain, but we don’t have
to do anything, because we’re producing more
natural gas thanks to fracking, or John Kasich, who
was supposed to be the adult in the
room, who did at least agree that global warming
is probably happening. He’s Governor of Ohio. He said, we’re going
to burn coal in Ohio, and we’re not going
to apologize for it. That’s the sensible guy. As far as the media were
concerned, they ignored it. There was almost nothing
mentioned about this. After all, it’s only
the most important issue in human history. And you can’t really
blame the media for this, because
they’re following a concept of objectivity that’s
taught in journalism schools. Objectivity means
reporting accurately what’s going on within the
Beltway in Washington circles. So you got to report accurately
what they’re saying there. If you talk about
something else, it’s bias or opinion
or something. But it’s not genuine reporting. So since what’s going
on within the Beltway– including the Democrats,
incidentally– is denial or ignoring, or in
the case of the Republicans, flatly denying what’s
happening is happening, then you don’t report
it, because it’s not within the Beltway. It’s not objective. Well, even a sea
level rise that’s much more limited than
what’s anticipated is going to inundate
coastal cities, and more significantly,
coastal plains like in Bangladesh, where there
will soon be tens of millions of people fleeing, probably
in the fairly near future. These are flat plains which are
going to be inundated, and many more later. That’s going to make today’s
refugee issue a tea party. The chief environmental
scientist in Bangladesh says that these migrants
should have the right to move to the countries from
which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to
go to the United States. That just fits the current
mood in what has long been the richest and safest
country in the world, and also the most terrified. And those who think
it’s better in Europe can turn to a
recent poll showing that a majority of Europeans
want a total ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries. So the idea is first,
we destroy them. Then, we punish them for
trying to escape from the ruins that we’ve created. And we have a name for it. We call it a refugee crisis. Well, thousands of
people, desperate people, drowned in the
Mediterranean fleeing from Africa, where Europe has
a certain history with which you’re not unfamiliar. The same is true of the United
States and Central America, of course, and the Middle East. And in fact, the
so-called refugee crisis is actually a serious, severe
moral and cultural crisis in the West. Well, these two existential
crises are related. The Himalayan
glaciers are melting. And in the
not-too-distant future, that could threaten
the water supplies in South Asia, which are already
at dangerously low levels. So 300 million
people in India are reported to lack adequate
drinking water right now. That could very
easily spark conflict between India and Pakistan,
two nuclear-armed states constantly at the
brink of nuclear war. Right now, in
fact, a nuclear war would destroy
India and Pakistan, but much worse than that,
could very well lead to nuclear winter, meaning
global famine, which pretty much ends organized
human life on Earth, which is not very removed,
if you think it through. Well, that leads us
to one final date to look at, one of the
most important dates of human history, namely
the end of World War II. It was a moment of joy,
but also of horror, with the dawn of
the Nuclear Age. I can remember very well my
own feelings on August 6– horror at the events and
their constant implications, their import, and astonishment
that so few people seemed to care about it, either about
the enormity of what had just happened, or about the fact
that we had entered into what will be the final era
of human existence, the Nuclear Age, the moment
when human intelligence had succeeded in developing the
means to instantaneously destroy us all. 1947, shortly after, the
Doomsday Clock was instituted. And the hand was set then at
seven minutes to midnight. We’re now, remember,
at two and a half. Well, we have not only entered
the Nuclear Age, but also the so-called Anthropocene,
a new geological epoch in which human activity
is dramatically changing the environment. There have been debates
about the proper date for the inception
of the Anthropocene, but the World Geological
Society has made its decision. It settled on 1950 as the
beginning of the Anthropocene. That’s partly because
of radioactive elements that were dispersed
across the planet by the nuclear bomb tests
and other consequences of human action, including the
sharp increase in greenhouse emissions. So the Nuclear Age
and the Anthropocene basically coincide. These are epics of the
post-world War II period. We are also now well into what’s
called the sixth extinction. It’s expected to be similar
to the fifth extinction that was 66 million years ago,
when a huge asteroid hit the Earth, destroyed
75% of species, ended age of the dinosaurs. It opened a way
for small mammals to survive, and to expand, and
evolve, and ultimately become us about 200,000 years ago. For a long time, humans
had fairly limited impact. But by now, in the
post-war period, we’ve succeeded in
becoming the next asteroid, destroying species
at an enormous rate, perhaps ourselves not
too far in the distance. There are careful studies
of species extinction, and they have some
interesting results. They show that
this extinction is different from its predecessors
in an interesting respect. The earlier ones
were species-neutral. Species just disappeared
across the board. This one is different. It’s mostly larger animals
that are disappearing disproportionately. And that actually runs through
the history of proto-humans, our human ancestors,
early human ancestors, back around a million years. As they expanded
their territory, large mammals declined. And of the many species
closely related to us, only one survives, which
raises some questions that you might ponder. And that includes the
lingering question Ernst Mayr– is it better to be
smart than stupid? Now, we have a few years
to answer this question– not many. So how are we answering it? Well, one step was George
W Bush’s abrogation of the ABM Treaty
followed now under Obama– Bush and now Obama– followed by ABM installations
right near the Russian border, allegedly for defense against
non-existent Iranian nuclear missiles. You can believe that if you
believe the tooth fairy, which Russia doesn’t. They have good reason to regard
it as a first-strike weapon. Strategic analysts
understand missile defense to be on all sides. The next step was offering
NATO membership to Ukraine. Ukraine is the Russian
geostrategic heartland. That was George
Bush, but the efforts have been pursued by
Obama and Clinton. The Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty would at least end
nuclear tests, which would be a considerable step forward. But it can’t go into
force until it’s ratified by the few holdouts. Three are crucial– the nuclear
weapon states that refuse to ratify it– China, Israel, and
the United States. The major nuclear
powers, US and Russia, which have overwhelming
preponderance of nuclear weapons, are both
expanding and modernizing their arsenals in
quite dangerous ways. That includes
tactical nukes that can be scaled down
to battlefield use under low-level
command, could easily lead to a very rapid escalation
if there were any conflict. And any conflict between
Russia and the United States is essentially
terminal for everyone. That’s pretty obvious. The flashpoints are
becoming more serious. Right at the Russian border– notice, the Russian border,
not the Mexican border– that’s a fact worth considering. And it’s a result
of expansion of NATO right after the collapse
of the Soviet Union. This was in violation
to verbal promises to Mikhail Gorbachev,
verbal promises that NATO would not expand. The phrase was “one
inch to the east.” That meant East Germany. Nobody was thinking
about anything beyond– that NATO would not expand
one inch to the east if Gorbachev agreed to
unification of Germany. And a unified
Germany joining NATO, a hostile military alliance, is
a pretty remarkable concession in the light of the history
of the past half century, when Germany alone had practically
wiped Russia out two times. Well, that was the
agreement, but verbal. NATO at once expanded
to East Germany, then beyond under Clinton,
right to the Russian border. There is recent archival
work by a University of Texas young historian,
Joshua Schifrinson, that was published in the MIT
journal International Security, worth looking up. He very strongly suggests
that President Bush– number one, the statesman Bush– and Secretary of
State James Baker, who were the negotiators– strongly suggests they
were consciously deceiving Gorbachev, pretending to
make an agreement which they intended to violate,
and were very careful not to put anything on paper. So when Gorbachev
complained, he was told it was just a
gentleman’s agreement. And the unstated
implication was, if you’re stupid
enough to believe in a gentleman’s
agreement with us, it’s your problem, not ours. Well, Gorbachev did
propose a vision of what he called a common
European home, Brussels to Vladivostok, security system
with no military alliances. That’s a fading dream. George Kennan and
other senior statesmen had warned right away
that NATO expansion is what they called “a
tragic mistake, policy error of historic proportions.” That’s Kennan. And it’s now leading to
rising and serious tensions on the traditional invasion
route through which Russia was virtually destroyed
twice during the past century by Germany alone. The risk of terminal
nuclear war is not slight. And that’s one of
the two reasons why the hand of
the Doomsday Clock is moving so close to midnight. With some justice, European
historian Richard Sakwa writes that NATO’s
prime concern now is to manage the risks created
by its existence, which is quite accurate, I think. And it bears on Ernst
Mayr’s conclusions. That’s how we’re dealing
with one of the two crises. What are the others? How about global warming? Well, we’re answering
Mayr’s question by unilateral withdrawal
from the world’s efforts to address the crisis– not just withdrawal, but
replacing their efforts with a dedicated
race to the precipice even more rapidly, by sharp
increases in fossil fuel use– that includes coal– and
refusing the promised subsidies to poorer countries to
develop renewable energy, and dismantling the
regulatory apparatus so that profits can boom,
along with threats to survival. And we can’t stress too strongly
the enormity of the fact that the United States
is alone in the world in this respect
since November 8th, and the no less astonishing
fact that this extraordinary development barely registers
in the so-called information system. Should have regular
screaming headlines, and be the most
prominent issue in the academic and
intellectual world, which is more evidence about
the great derangement. And no less astonishing
is the fact that, while the richest
and most powerful country in world history,
with incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to
intensify the likely disaster– while that’s happening, efforts
to avert the catastrophe are being led worldwide by what
we call primitive societies– the First Nations in Canada,
tribal and aboriginal societies elsewhere. So for example, Ecuador,
which has a large indigenous population sought aid
from European countries, rich European countries to allow
it to keep its oil reserves underground where
they ought to be, even at a cost of
considerable profit. The aid was refused. Ecuador revised its
constitution in 2008 to include what are called
the “rights of nature having intrinsic worth.” Same in Bolivia with
an indigenous majority. And quite generally,
the countries with large and
influential indigenous populations are well
in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. While the countries
that have driven indigenous populations
to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing
towards destruction, which is perhaps something
more to think about. Outside of the world center of
devastation and destruction, which is right here, some
things are being done– not enough by any means,
but not negligible, and an indication
of what can be done. So Denmark is aiming to reach
100% renewable electricity within 20 years, and
in all sectors by 2050. Germany, which is the most
successful state capitalist economy, has tripled renewable
energy for electricity in the past decade, aims to
increase it by almost half by 2025, more than 80% by
2050, and by then, to have reduced greenhouse gas
reductions to 80% or 90% of 1990 levels. China, which is still
a huge polluter, is well in the lead in
production of solar panels, and also development of
advanced solar technology. It claims to be phasing
out coal plants. In the United States,
Hawaii passed a law mandating that all the
state’s electricity will come from renewable
sources no later than 2045. And right here, several
Massachusetts Democrats have filed a bill that’s SD
1932 if you want to look it up, which requires that the
state use a 100% renewable energy by 2035, and
mandates elimination of all fossil fuels
in the state by 2050– so 100% renewables. San Diego is the
first large city to have a plan to run on
100% renewable energy, and cut greenhouse gas
emissions in half by 2035. And that’s, incidentally,
a bipartisan effort. The Republican Mayor endorsed
the climate action plan that was unanimously approved
by the Democrat-controlled city council in December. That’s San Diego. And in fact, at a period
when the federal government is in the hands of
bulls in the china shop, states and cities can
still do quite a lot. And the federal government could
also do so, in the right hands. So one of Hillary
Clinton’s programs was to shift all households
to total renewable energy in four years. It’s quite feasible–
would create many jobs, along
with weatherization and other forms of conservation. And federal regulations
in recent years have had some positive
effects, unfortunately, counterbalanced by support for
greater fossil fuel production. There’s a final assessment
by the Obama administration that was published in
Science, the journal Science a couple of months ago. It reports that in 2015,
total energy consumption was 2.5% lower than
it was in 2008, while the economy grew by 10%. Now the reduction is
by no means enough, but it does remind us that
growth is not, in itself, a menace to the environment. It depends on what
kind of growth. So for example, development of
a rational mass transportation system, or development
of renewable energy, or growth in education and R&D– that’s growth. And it can all improve
prospects for addressing the crises, while also
significantly improving lives. The Obama assessment reports
that about 2.2 million Americans are employed in
the design, installation, manufacture of energy efficiency
products and services, as compared with half
that number employed in the production
of fossil fuels and their use for
electric power generation. And the current oil boom,
which I mentioned earlier, creates almost no jobs, because
it’s almost all automated. Again, it’s nowhere near
enough, but not insignificant, and more important, an
indication of what can be done. And there’s good
reason to think it can. Harvey Michaels is Research
Director of Energy Management at Sloan School here. He’s shown, I
think persuasively, how ambitious but feasible
measures beyond those now contemplated internationally–
that’s internationally apart from the Republican US– such measures
could meet the goal of keeping global temperatures
below 2 degrees Centigrade. That’s considered the
major danger point. Ernie Moniz, now back at
MIT, has produced figures about declining costs for
clean energy technologies that lead him to
conclude, I’ll quote him, that “Climate change may have
inspired the energy revolution, but price makes it Inevitable,”
and maybe even in time, at least with enough effort. Replacing fossil fuels
by renewable energy is the major issue. But it’s not the only one. The UN Economic
Program summarizing recent scientific studies
estimates that industrial meat production contributes
about 10% to 25% of total greenhouse
gas emissions– not so much CO2 as methane and
nitric oxide, both greenhouse gases. The variation in the
estimates depends on whether the figures take
into account deforestation and other land use changes
associated with livestock. Livestock is about 80% of
agricultural emissions. This is mostly industrial
meat production, which is quite vicious, as you know. It’s designed to
maximize profit, with animals treated
as efficient production elements– awful
effects on animals, but also a significant increase
in greenhouse gas emissions. Actually, pre-capitalist
animal agriculture didn’t have those problems. Quote from the UN report,
“Under natural conditions, which were maintained
for thousands of years and still widely exist
around the world, there is a closed
circular system, in which some animals
feed themselves from landscape types which
would otherwise be of little use to humans. They thus convert energy
stored in plants into food, while at the same time
fertilizing the ground with their excrements. Although not an intensive form
of production, this coexistence and use of marginal
resources was, and still is in some regions,
an efficient symbiosis between plant life and
animal life and human needs.” But the capitalist industrial
production and profit maximization has
changed all that. I mentioned that with the
federal government now turned into a wrecking machine, states
and cities can do quite a lot. And that same is true
for every one of us. There are major issues of
education and organizing that have to be faced. And again, some of these
are unique to the United States in the developed world. One of them is the extraordinary
power in the United States of fundamentalist
religious doctrines. So about 40% of the
population dismiss the threat of global warming
on religious grounds. They regard it as either
certain or highly probable that within a few
decades, the Second Coming will put an end to the problem. Well it’s important to
remember in this connection that the United States is a
kind of a cultural outlier in some respects. Prior to the Second World
War, the United States was by far the most
powerful economy, but it was not a major center of
scientific or general culture. So if you wanted to be a
physicist, you’d go to Germany. If you wanted to be
a writer and artists, go to Paris, and so on. I had personal experience
with the residue of this when I was appointed to MIT in 1955. One of the teaching
assignments was to help scientists and engineers
fake their way through reading exams in French and German. That was a residue of the
fact that before the war, that’s where the
scientific literature was. It took a while for
this to be phased out. By that time, it was
almost all in English. But by 1950s, it
was an anachronism. The changes are very
real, but they’ve affected only part of the country. Much of the population
is still pretty much where it was pre-World War II. And that’s a major task
for the educational system. And the prospects
right now, at least, don’t look good, not with
the DeVos, Sessions, Bannon conception of education. The Trump administration
has to do something for its huge evangelical
popular base. That involves driving the
United States even farther off the spectrum
of the modern world with the talibanisation
project that’s now under way. There are major
challenges, no doubt. There are also quite
a few rays of hope. I mentioned some of
the measures that are being taken by
state, local governments, even national governments
around the world to address the crises– not enough, but not negligible,
indication of what’s possible. And there are other
reasons for optimism. One of them has just
been reported by, of all places, Fox News. They ran a poll on popularity
of political figures. And in first place, by a huge
margin, was Bernie Sanders– even more among the young, who
are the hope of the future. There are ample opportunities,
but you have to grasp them. And all of this takes us back
to Ernst Mayr’s question, is it better to be
smart than stupid? It’s a question for you
to ponder, and like it or not, for you to answer, and
without too much of a delay. Thanks. [applause] MICHELLE NHUCH: [inaudible]
mics for your questions. AUDIENCE: Hello. Thank you very much,
Professor Chomsky. With all these sort
of existential crises, if you were to put
yourself in the body of a 20-something-year-old
growing up today, how would that shape your
life decisions with these two crises? NOAM CHOMSKY: If I
was 20 years old? AUDIENCE: Yeah. NOAM CHOMSKY:
Pretty much the way I did when I was, what
was it, 16 years old on August 6th, 1945. I happened to be a junior
counselor in a summer camp. And the news was reported
in the morning, broadcast to everyone– atomic bomb wiped out Hiroshima. Everyone went on to
their next activity– a baseball game or
whatever it was. I didn’t know how to react. I just left, and went
off into the woods, sat there for a
couple hours thinking, what does all this mean? And afterwards I
decided, look, you just have to devote
your life to this. And I think that we’re
in a worse situation now. And there’s plenty
that can be done. The opportunities
are far greater now than they were
in the past, thanks to what’s been done by people
like you in earlier years, like MIT, say. You could never get an audience
like this 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, in the 1960s, MIT was
a very conservative campus. Almost nothing was going on. About a dozen
undergraduates just changed the place
enormously, and it’s been very different ever since. And that’s happened
all around the country, which means that you have a
legacy that you can build on– plenty of challenges, but
plenty of opportunities. And the question is, do you
decide to grasp them or not? AUDIENCE: So thank you. I’m wondering, Noam,
how much emphasis you would place on the
possibility of finding solutions addressing
the problems you’ve laid out,
outside the framework of the current political
system in the United States? And how much emphasis
you would give to the necessity of taking
this political system head on and changing it? And what do you
think we need to do to change the system to
open up the possibilities that you’re talking about? NOAM CHOMSKY:
Well, I think there are good grounds for
changing the nature of the political system
pretty radically. I mean, a system of organization
of production, let’s say– just keeping to that– which is geared towards
profit maximization, not use, is inherently
destructive. A system of institutional
organization in which the basic functioning
institutions are totalitarian, like a business,
top-down control. You fit somewhere in it,
take orders from above. Given below at the
bottom, you rent yourself. That’s inherently, I
think, humanly and socially destructive. So there’s plenty of
changes that could be made. And we can think about them. And in fact, you can try to
build within the existing society pieces of what might
be a more democratic and humane future society. It’s even being done. But you can’t change the
political system radically unless the great mass
of the population comes to a recognition that
we’re in a situation where the changes that have to
be made can’t be made, and will be resisted
within the current system. And we’re nowhere near that. So I don’t think the question
arises as a practical question. It does arise as a question
to have in mind in choosing tactics and strategies. AUDIENCE: Hi, Professor. So as we all leave this
lecture hall today, what do you want us to
take away from your talk? I mean, I know you left us
this one question to ponder about, but beyond that? And the reason, in
the last few months, there have been many
talks on climate change on the political climate here– speakers including former
Secretary of State John Kerry and also a Nobel Laureate, Mario
Molina who discovered CFCs. But beyond discussions,
in terms of actions, what do you want all of us,
and also people watching through Facebook, to do? I came from a city called
Duisburg in Germany. And it used to be part of the
heartland of the German coal and steel industries until
recent past couple of years ago, they implemented new energy
policies to basically shut down all these factories that were
harming the environment to such a radical degree. And even though it practically
crippled the German economy in terms of coal and steel
production, ultimately, the environment benefited
a lot from that. NOAM CHOMSKY: From benefit– AUDIENCE: From the
energy policies that crippled the economic force
which was coming from the steel and coal industries in Germany,
in West Germany, near the Rhine [inaudible]. But here in America,
even though we’re having so many
discussions about what can we do in terms of the economy. NOAM CHOMSKY: What can we do? Lots of things. AUDIENCE: I feel like we have– it’s more of a
question of balance. How much do we want to
sacrifice of our economy in order to save
the environment? But then some of us, it’s
just not a matter of action, but more of a matter of
discussing things and talking about it. And I just– I guess the question is– NOAM CHOMSKY: What can we do? AUDIENCE: Exactly, what is the
bigger point of your lecture? other than to ponder
this question? NOAM CHOMSKY: So you people
here, what can you do? All sorts of things– I just mentioned, in
fact, a number of them. Say, for example,
the bill that’s pending in the Massachusetts
state legislature. If it was passed, it
could have a big impact. It could put the
state on a direction in the near future
towards a 100% renewable energy, which San Diego’s
already moving towards. And San Diego is not exactly
a bastion of liberalism. If that can be done there,
it can be done here. But it’s not going to
happen unless there’s plenty of pressure for it. I think there are three
legislators who put it through, and virtually nothing
is known about it. So one thing that people
can do, out of thousands, is try to work to get
measures like that passed, not only in the
state, but even in, say, Cambridge, like San Diego. Another thing you can do
is move very directly. Even simple things like
replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs has a
pretty significant impact on energy production. And that can be done. To do it on a
significant scale takes organization and activism. But that’s one thing you can do. As I mentioned, the most popular
candidate and political figure in the country happens to be
Bernie Sanders, overwhelmingly among young people. That popularity– he calls
his opposition a revolution. But that’s an indication
of how far the country has shifted to the right. In fact, his policies
would have been quite acceptable to Eisenhower. In fact, if you go back and
read Eisenhower’s comments on the New Deal, he said
anyone who questions New Deal policies doesn’t
belong in the political system. That’s just about
everybody by now, except Sanders is calling
for New Deal policies. Eisenhower’s comments
on the significance of unions, labor unions, are
almost unimaginable today, but correct. And that’s the
right wing in 1950s. So yes, we can shift the
spectrum back to the days when social democratic policies
were considered legitimate, and you can go way beyond that. There is an election
coming up in 2018. The Democrats, among
their failures, have been essentially
the Obama Democrats, basically destroyed the party. There’s nothing,
almost nothing left except at the
presidential level. The Greens have
the same fallacy. They’ve focused on
the presidential, the quadrennial extravaganza,
haven’t built the party at the local level– school boards, state
legislature, city councils, governors, the
whole system, which has to be in place if
anything’s going to happen. The Koch brothers
understood this. The right wing
has understood it, and in fact, built such a
system even on a minority base. Hasn’t been done on a majority
base, but it certainly can be. There’s the beginnings
of establishing, say, cooperatives, or
worker-owned enterprises, run by their own members. These are things that
not only can be done, but are being done. There’s a whole range
of possibilities that can be pursued
if you choose them, if you choose to do it. There’s just no
shortage of things. AUDIENCE: It’s an immense
pleasure to listen to you. I’m a little bit
off topic, but I don’t think I will have a
chance ever to ask you that. What do you think
about the meddling, the Kremlin in our election? NOAM CHOMSKY: Sorry,
I didn’t hear. Could anybody– AUDIENCE: The
meddling of Russia, the Kremlin, in
our 2016 election. NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m sorry, but– I don’t– AUDIENCE: The
meddling of Russia, allegedly, in our election. NOAM CHOMSKY: Oh, the meddling
of Russia in our elections. That has most of the world
cracking up in laughter. [applause] Literally, suppose
every charge is correct. Let’s say the most severe
charges are correct. That’s not even a
joke as compared with what we do constantly. [applause] Just take a minor example– what we do with
Russian elections. In the early ’90s, when
Yeltsin was Clinton’s favorite, he was supposed to be
the hope for the future. When he destroyed the
parliament and overthrew the formal democratic
system, he was strongly supported by the United States. In 1996, when he was
extremely unpopular– for pretty good reasons,
because the shock treatment, the sort of free market policies
imposed by American advisers, just wiped out the economy
and led to the death of millions of people. It was highly destructive. It led to the rise of the
oligarchs, many of them former apparatchiks in
the Communist system who stole the resources. It was a total disaster. And Yeltsin was
the symbol of it. Clinton moved in quite openly. There was nothing
secret about it– very openly, with everything
from loans to advice to direct involvement
to try to make sure that our fair-haired boy won. That’s 1996. And these are minor examples. The kind of thing
we do constantly is just overthrow
the government, institute a military
dictatorship, and not in the distant past. It just happened under
Obama, 2009 in Honduras. There was a mildly
reformist government. The tiny elite of super-rich who
run the country didn’t like it. He was kicked out
in a military coup. The United States is one of
the very few countries that supported it, and claim that
the election taken place under military dictatorship
was legitimate. That’s basically
supporting a military coup to overthrow a
parliamentary government. Is that meddling
in the election? You know it just goes
on and on like this. So as I say, this is just
making the United States kind of a laughingstock in the world,
even if every single charge is correct. Most of them have no basis. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: So the silence
in the media right now regarding climate change, an
existential threat to humanity, is pretty deafening. And you provide an
explanation for that in your book,
Manufacturing Consent– that there are
certain filters that limit the range of acceptable
political discourse. I’m wondering, though– it seems
like in this recent election cycle that maybe
some of those filters are being circumnavigated by
increased use of the internet and more democratic
social mass media. Do you think that the
election of Trump, the insurgent primary
of Bernie Sanders, and the sudden outcry from major
media outlets about fake news and the end of truth are a
sign that maybe this propaganda system is breaking down? And if so, what does
that mean for the ability to sort of break the
silence regarding these existential
threats that we face? NOAM CHOMSKY: I think
that’s very important. If you take a look at
the Sanders campaign, it really hasn’t been discussed
as much as it should be, but it was a pretty
astonishing achievement. I mean, for well over a
century, American elections have been pretty much
bought, and the evidence is just overwhelming. The person who’s done
most of the work on this is Tom Ferguson, political
scientist at UMass, Boston, used to be at MIT. He’s got a book called
Golden Rule, which studies the role just simply
of campaign funding on outcome of elections and policies going
way back into the 19th century, right through the
New Deal, and so on. And it’s startling results. He has a recent paper that
came out a couple of months ago looking at congressional
elections from about 1980 up to the present, and just
comparing campaign funding with electability. It’s kind of like
a straight line. You don’t get results like
that in the social sciences. And it’s nothing new. I mean, back in 1895, there
was a great campaign manager then named Mark Hanna. And he was asked once,
what’s necessary to run a successful political campaign? And he said, well,
you need two things. The first one is money,
and I’ve forgotten what the second one is. That was 1895. It’s gotten way
more extreme since, and by now, it’s out of sight. After over a century of
this, somebody comes along who nobody ever heard of. He uses a scare
word, “socialist.” He has no funding, nothing
from the corporate sector, and nothing from wealthy people. Immediate totally against him,
almost either ridiculing of or dismissing him. He would easily have won the
Democratic Party nomination, if it hadn’t been for the party
shenanigans to keep him out. That’s a pretty
amazing development. And what it shows is that
the institutions are– they look powerful,
but they collapse as soon as the population
becomes engaged. They’re basically very weak. Actually, that’s an insight that
goes back hundreds of years. One of the first modern
works on politics is by David Hume, the
great philosopher founder of classical liberalism. He has a study called First
Principles of Government. And he opens it by saying
that there’s a strange paradox in governments. He says, in every government,
whether military run, more-or-less popular like
England at the time, he says, there’s a strange thing. People obey their rulers. And why do they? Because power is in the
hands of the governed. And if they want,
they can take it. And he says, by what
miracle is this achieved? He says, only by
control of opinion. If you can make people feel
that they’re powerless, and everything’s futile,
and they can’t do anything, OK, then they’ll obey. If not, they don’t have to obey. And that’s much more true in
pretty free countries like ours than, say, a military
dictatorship. But the paradox is real. And it’s in people’s
hands to overcome it. And the Sanders campaign is one
dramatic illustration of that. And what you say about
alternative media– it can be, too, if
it’s properly done. Also affects the major
media, because they have to respond to it. So the institutional structure
is basically quite weak, and can easily be changed. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Hi. I want to be hopeful about
our major institutions, our systems of governance, and
higher education in particular, and its ability to grapple
with the immense challenge of climate change and its like. But sometimes I
wonder if we really need something
dramatically different. When I think about higher
education, the world that I live in, mostly, do you
think that there’s completely new structures or
approaches that we should be trying to create
in order to deal with this? Because incrementalism
maybe isn’t doing so hot. NOAM CHOMSKY: I think any of us
could sit down at a coffee shop and think of much better
ways to run the world– better institutions,
more democratic ones, more just ones, and so on. But thinking of that
doesn’t really help. You have to get the great
mass of the population to be committed to creating it. And you can do
that incrementally. You have to work within
the system that exists. You can do a lot of
things within it. You can have a
vision of the future which people can take as a
guideline for further action. And maybe, as I mentioned
before, you can construct institutions of a future
society within this one, like cooperatives, for example,
like worker-owned enterprises. If they would extend, they would
change the society enormously. And those are things
that arise constantly, if you’re willing to
grasp the opportunity. So take, say, the 2008 crash. One of the things
that happened then, which was pretty
interesting, was that the government essentially
nationalized the auto industry– basically just bailed it out. It was going to disappear. So the government,
meaning the taxpayer, bought out the auto industry. And then there were
a couple of choices that could have been made. One choice is the one that
was made without discussion– namely, to turn it back
to the former owners, maybe new faces, but pretty
much same banks, and so on. So essentially turn it
back to the former owners and have it go on doing
exactly what it was doing– producing cars. There was another possibility– turn it over to the workforce. Let them run it
democratically, and have it produce what
the society needs, which is not more cars, but
rational mass transportation. That was another possibility. But in order for it
to be implemented, you had to have mass
popular support for it. There was essentially
none, so it didn’t happen. And things like that
happen even right locally in this neighborhood. A couple of years ago,
there was a small plant in the Taunton suburb
of Boston, which was quite successful– a plant
making sophisticated parts for aircraft. It wasn’t making enough profit
for the multinational who owned it to keep it
going, so they decided to put it out of business. The union, progressive union,
UE, offered to buy the plant and have it run by
the workforce, which probably would have
been profitable for the multinational. But for class reasons, they
don’t like that kind of thing. If there had been popular
support, they could have won. There wasn’t any,
so they didn’t win. Things like that are
happening all the time. These could lead to major
changes in the society. Are they incremental? In a sense, but their
long-term consequences could be very, very great. And that’s true of
all kinds of things. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Let’s go grab some of
those opportunities. MICHELLE NHUCH: I think we have
time for one more question. AUDIENCE: Hi, everyone. I have [inaudible]
question for everybody who is here, actually. Thank you so much. The first question is, how many
of you have a car in this room? NOAM CHOMSKY: Sorry? AUDIENCE: How many of you
have a car in this room? And how many of you run your
car at least five minutes to warm up while
you’re getting ready? How many of you use
paper or plastic plates? And how many of you replace
their cell phones every year? So being environment
friendly requires being aware of mistakes that we do. And I would like to
remind everyone here– change only comes in baby
steps of people who care. Let’s show that we care
about the environment. And let’s rethink about what
we buy and what we spend on. [applause] NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m sorry. MICHELLE NHUCH: There was no
question, I guess, for you. On behalf of the Center
for International Studies, I would like to thank everyone
for attending this event. And please join me in
thanking Noam Chomsky. [applause] NOAM CHOMSKY: Thank you.

52 thoughts on “Starr Forum: Racing to the Precipice: Global Climate, Political Climate

  1. Good mic here. Not anywhere near as mumble-sounding like in some of his other videos.

  2. Did I just find a Chomsky error?!?! At 6:35, Chomsky says the closest the Doomsday Clock had been to midnight was during the early 1980s. But from what I can find, the closest to midnight was in the early 1950s when the Soviets created nuclear weapons and when the Cold War began. I feel so proud of myself.

  3. Agreed with Chomsky. We have alot to learn from him.

    I am stunnishing about why we don't collectively listen anymore to those
    who have a better understanding of the social issues and
    environnemental issues. These day, we pretend to be more intelligent
    than never, but I think it is not so. Some of us have carry alots of
    informations, but are unable of critical mind which is the fondamental
    for intelligence in my opinion. Even in the scolar system it's not the
    purpose.
    I think it comes from the fact that media are there to make money and
    not to provide information anymore to make sure everyone is having a
    better understanding…
    Is it because it's more easier to control non intellectual people?…
    The anwser is obvious and maybe comes from basic cause of our economic
    system and gouvernance system. It's a fact now that our so called
    democratic system, which is not very democratic, just saying, encourage
    people to dismiss from political issues. Maybe it's time to have a
    serious talk about those issues… Having only Chompsky talking about it
    is not enough.

  4. Such a wonderful and desperately needed talk . . .some good questions at the end too. . .but such a shame about the "question time" time wasters; Prof Chomsky's time, mind and energy is so precious.

  5. so many good lines.
    "First we destroy them. Then we punish them for fleeing from the ruins." (definition of a refugee crisis in the 21st century)
    "The institutions, they look powerful. But they basically collapse as soon as the population becomes engaged. They are very weak"

    This entire seminar, 100% of it was very insightful and i would recommend it to anyone who is currently struggling to live in the 21st century

  6. We live at a time when we could use a computer for President .Using  security system (Science Channel) pattern that changes every second at least infinitely. All necessary information could be programmed into this computer and pertinent content  as well.
    If you don't stop your enemy  you – are the enemy. Out of respect for your enemy who is human do as they do only stop them from continuing .

  7. Back in the 90's Mr. Chomsky was making paper back books so the American people could actually become informed. Some of the people I spoke with at that time were very sadistic thinking he only wanted the money for his books. If one realizes that even Mr. Chomsky was truly risking his life by doing this even back then. People would have given and still should give him respect for understanding the absolute importance of the truth in life.  These could have cost him his life and I'm sure he was afraid and yet he prevails .  I hope at least some of us can see what basically he understands is we have to change all of this soon.

  8. Only cheap stuff can be bought with money…More than gold it is poverty, what's most expensive in the world…Facundo Cabral.

    The idea, that one should have more money that one can spend, is possibly rooted, in the idea that people that are supposed to be taking care of things, are fundamentally corrupt….And that is because they suspect, all of us, want what they have…..

  9. 400 billion barrels remain to be sucked out of the Arctic once the ice cover is gone. At only $50 a barrel… you can see why Exxon-Mobil has taken your country hostage.

  10. They've really got to start vetting the questions before they let people come up and ask them. Some people don't know what they're trying to ask and it wastes a lot of time. The last women didn't even ask Noam a question.

  11. I'm glad I have no children because at least i won't be leaving anybody to suffer as a result of our feckless destruction of the planet . There are days I feel we have reaching a tipping point where human extinction will become inevitable maybe the planet will be better off without humans .

    I often think of humans like a virus infecting the planet.

  12. I completely agree with what the last woman mentioned, about reflecting on your own actions, what you are doing in your individual lives to reduce your impact on the environment, instead of pointing fingers at everyone else and everything.

    I have been to many climate change conferences, including the UN, where people talk big, but do NOTHING to make ANY change. In fact, they resist making any change to their own lives, and expect everyone else to change! Introspection and self- evaluation is indeed very difficult. 🙂

    Kudos to her for having the courage and guts to speak up at an event with such an esteemed guest.

  13. We are doomed… greed and power will eventually destroy the earth and eradicate the stupid humans from this planet.

  14. it's always interesting to discover the ancient artifacts under the sheets of melting ice that has been there for 100 million and gazillion trillion years.

  15. Ukraine is strategic what to Russia? Ukraine is a country of 50 million people that have a chance to break free from the clutches of Mafia in Kremlin, but this senile marxist somehow forgets that, the bigger things are at stake – it is a cornerstone of his thinking – US is the ultimate enemy of the world. in this war of words he cares nothing to give Ukrainians a proper assessment, they really are just a strategic interest of Russia. Chomsky has become an ass.

  16. Chomsky is truly one of the best persons to lead scientists and the world into the future.Trumps swamp dwellers must be replaced with persons of this intelligence.

  17. Chomsky is living in a dream world; where is the evidence that our CO2 is going to destroy the planet?
    He is an absolute goon and should not be spreading his invented BS to kids.

  18. Why are worrying about climate change? Food and water shortages, and various chemicals we gobble up will kill us well before it will be too hot to breath.

  19. we appear to be making the earth safe for machines to take over. If the earth becomes inhabitable for humans its not like we cared a whit for the planet in our civilizational phase.

  20. 🦊D’Fox & Friends🦊@🦊 http://FoCzNews.com 🦊 &
    🦊 http://StopYourEngines.com🦊 ask: Due our Greed the Non-Stop HeatRise continues and the Co2 count has gone past 410 PPM. The "Great Methane Escape" continues & leads to our near term extinction. Do we tell the kids? Yes?  No?

  21. Most of the U.S. population is, unfortunately, poorly educated with low IQs. They will never read any books by this man or watch any of the videos on him. No, they're too busy watching The Voice or Dancing With The Stars. Or thinking that the savior of the U.S. is a egominaical, narcissistic, jackass, f**king moron of a president and the Republicans. Plus the only real news is on PBS & C-SPAN which is not watched by the masses. The U.S. is leading the world to disaster & the elected officials say nothing & do nothing because it's more important to them to keep their jobs then protect this world for future generations.

  22. Noam mentions intelligence, smart and stupid but did not risk defining them. Since everybody has their own definitions of these words I guess he wants to be right and liked rather than risk upsetting his predefined audience.
    Here is mine (at great risk):
    *Intelligence is having the ability to ensure, your genes survive, helping your greater intelligent community to survive, and especially, that the planet survives. An extra special measure of intelligence is being able to deal with smart and stupid people especially when they are in the majority.

    *Smart is having lots of children, associating with lots of other smart people, and thinking that intelligence is trying to grab every resource on the planet available hoping that you and your genes survive.

    *Stupid is thinking that smart people are intelligent and trying to emulate them.

    My other upsetting disagreement with most people, including Noam, is how to save humankind on this planet.
    Every time in history that trees have disappeared so have all large mammals. It has happened at least 4 times according to experts but humans have beaten the odds over the last 200,000 years. Human Civilisations locally have collapsed and disappeared many times over the past 200,000 years but enough humans survived to leave those areas and travel to other areas and start the process again.
    WE HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO:
    Smart people are buying properties in remotes place such New Zealand, South America and even buying their own islands as though that will save them. The days are gone for moving to another area to start again. If humans cannot restore the ecology of where they live it is no use crowding into richer countries as in other times in history as climate change is global and we unless we have
    a plan to recover every inch of this planet then there is no place to hide from smart and stupid people coming to replace us.

    How can we restore the ecology of the planet, so that all countries can feed themselves and thrive. Cows, sheep, chickens and the land they need are the prime cause of climate change. The rainforest is important for its plant and species life but deciduous trees are more important for converting CO2 to Oxygen and rebuilding soils. We need to go back to what created the planet's soils and that is plant deciduous trees.
    This entails replacing all existing farming and especially of animals and setting all able-bodied people to planting trees. Food production and human health is getting worse because of the dramatic loss of minerals in the soil which is also causing human health to deteriorate. It is impossible to add the 70 or so minerals into the soil for plant and human health and so as the planet is reforested mile wide polytunnels can be used as firebreaks and all food grown in soilless cultivation. These plants are grown under LED lights programmed to emulate perfect light growing light. The 70+ mineral fertilizer needed for all super healthy food is available in seaweed but we need to take care of the oceans and farm them carefully.
    If you want meat it will have to be animals that can forage in the huge forests.
    All land will be taken over for trees that give us oxygen, timber for all construction and attract rain.

    The last problems intelligence has to deal with is, how many people can the planet maintain and how to deal with the smart and stupid?

  23. To the German Graduate student i believe he is suggesting to know the bills being introduced to make the environmental changes for the better , vote hold student meetings to contact congressmen &senators to vote for environmental protection . Do more than march on woman rights & all the things being introduced to side track the forth coming generation of have to deal with the aftermath of forced change on the people .

  24. This is all based on the assumption that the warming climate is man made. In fact we are reaching the end of an inter glacial warming period and if the climate was not warming it would be cooling as the next big freeze begins. The rate of sea level rise has declined sharply in recent centuries as has the rate of temperature rise. At the end of the last inter glacial warming sea level was several meters above the present level. At that time there was very little man made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    So an interesting lecture based on a false premise and leading to false conclusions.
    No doubt there will be shrill response to these comments by devout adherents of the global warming religion who follow in the footsteps of other religious frenzies.

  25. I think it's still called "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" and the sad thing about it is that the only hope for putting the fossil carbon industry out of business and then remedying the damage already done (by sequestering carbon dioxide probably in basalt) is world wide civilian nuclear power, of which that Bulletin is not very encouraging. By the way, NOBODY has been injured by "nuclear waste", and NOBODY has made nuclear weapons from it.

  26. Unfortunately for the threat of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere and poisoning the oceans (see Alex Cannara or NOAA on Oceanic Acidification) Bernie Sanders, with whom as a socialist I agree on everything else, is keen on dismantling perfectly good and safe and above all gaseous-emissions-clean, nuclear reactors.

  27. To be a success, the citizens of a democracy need true information. When it becomes contaminated by corporate capitalism, sadly the medium whereby the citizens get information tends to be funded by corporations. On PBS, even, the NOVA programs have as one of their funders the "Koch Fund For Science" and it was plain that it affected the content of their production "The Nuclear Option".
    As background to this, as early as 1948 the coal industry published for themselves a warning that civilian nuclear power could replace them. Now we know that we must do so.

  28. So, since China produces the largest amount of greenhouse gases, shouldn't it take the largest percent of climate refugees? afterall , it produces 10 billion tonnes of co2 a year. That's the European and USA CO2 amount together. India makes 4 billion tonnes a year and climbing rapidly(the same as Europe). Indonesia does it's contribution by burning it's forests and even Africa has major contributions and growing massively because of it's population. 36 billion tonnes of CO2 a year for the world and growing. So I say once again that implementation of carbon capture tech is a must do now. Not years from now when it's too late. Research should focus on making sure the bacteria released will produce CO2 instead of methane from the permafrost melt. It can do either based on whether it's making gases in aerobic or anaerobic conditions. (that means we could possibly control whether these newly revived bacteria produce CO2 instead of methane.)

  29. Shouldn't we be producing carbon capture units en masse to counter the increase in co2? (CO2 once made goes everywhere on the globe). i know everyone is waiting for the cheap 100$ per tonne threshold, but the tech is already here and has been for decades. Bangladesh, as a country, should be building sea walls to slow the onslaught of the rise. They aren't blameless either. Even the transports and food aid they receive has an energy cost. In fact, all transport of goods and food growing has an energy cost that is quite high. countries with large populations have their own large and growing larger burden to global climate change. Burning wood and coal are even more destructive than oil and gas. Still, I wouldn't want them to not come on line so carbon capture is the only real solution. The average person isn't going to cut back and the poor and rising people aren't going to cut back so this is the solution. Governments need to implement it now. They(the local governments) also need to implement local food sources(using hydroponics if needed) to stop this mass transport waste of energy to ship foods around to the needy also. Charity isn't the solution, only self sufficiency of countries for their people is.

  30. God the creator and sustainer of all creatures visible and invisible, has already provided a wonderful solution: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

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