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It won’t be business as usual for very much longer.  The mantle of world power is quite possibly changing hands within my life time.  Lovely.  Alfred McCoy tackles the large geopolitical issues that we will all be facing in the future.

 

The Bipartisan Nature of U.S. Decline

America’s decline started at home as a distinctly bipartisan affair. After all, Washington wasted two decades in an extravagant fashion fighting costly conflicts in distant lands, in part to secure the Middle East’s oil at a time when that fuel was already destined to join cordwood and coal in the dustbin of history (though not faintly soon enough). Beijing, in contrast, used those same years to build industries that would make it the world’s workshop.

In 2001, in a major miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization, bizarrely confident that a compliant China would somehow join the world economy without challenging American global power. “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” wrote two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.”

A bit more bluntly, foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer recently concluded that “both Democratic and Republican administrations… promoted investment in China and welcomed the country into the global trading system, thinking it would become a peace-loving democracy and a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led international order.”

In the 15 years since then, Beijing’s exports to the U.S. grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion annually. By 2014, its foreign currency reserves had surged from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion — a vast hoard of cash it used to build a modern military and win allies across Eurasia and Africa. Meanwhile, Washington was wasting more than $8 trillion on profitless wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa in lieu of spending such funds domestically on infrastructure, innovation, or education — a time-tested formula for imperial decline.

When a Pentagon team assessing the war in Afghanistan interviewed Jeffrey Eggers, a former White House staffer and Navy SEAL veteran, he asked rhetorically: “What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth a trillion? After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.” (And keep in mind that the best estimate now is that the true cost to America of that lost war alone was $2.3 trillion.) Consider it an imperial lesson of the first order that the most extravagantly funded military on Earth has not won a war since the start of the twenty-first century.

Donald Trump’s presidency brought a growing realization, at home and abroad, that Washington’s world leadership was ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. For four years, Trump attacked long-standing U.S. alliances, while making an obvious effort to dismiss or demolish the international organizations that had been the hallmark of Washington’s world system. To top that off, he denounced a fair American election as “fraudulent” and sparked a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, functionally making a mockery of America’s long history of promoting the idea of democracy to legitimate its global leadership (even as it overthrew unfriendly democratic governments in distant lands via covert interventions).

In that riot’s aftermath, most of the Republican Party has embraced Trump’s demagoguery about electoral fraud as an article of faith. As it happens, no nation can exercise global leadership if one of its ruling parties descends into persistent irrationality, something Britain’s Conservative Party demonstrated all too clearly during that country’s imperial decline in the 1950s.

The COP26 Summit, like other climate initiatives will be remembered as yet another paving stone laid on the path of collective good intentions by the nations of the world (excluding Russia and China…).

GLASGOW, Scotland — Climate activist Greta Thunbergsaid Friday that the COP26 climate summit is a failure, lambasting the U.N.-brokered talks for turning into a public relations exercise.

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Thunberg said.

“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

Well, there looks to be a little substance behind all of the green washing:

Here’s a reminder of what has been happening today at COP26 – where there has been a focus on energy.

  • More than 40 countries agreed a pledge to shift away from coal but some of the world’s major coal burners, including the US and China, did not sign up
  • Critics said that because of that, the announcement fell short of what is needed
  • However the US, Canada and the UK were among the signatories to a joint statement on ending international public financing for fossil fuels
  • COP26 president Alok Sharma said coal was “no longer king” but admitted more needed to be done
  • The influential International Energy Agency said that promises made at the conference would keep the world to a 1.8C degree rise in temperatures
  • However that would depend on all promises being kept and delivered – which experts say is far from certain”

Glad to see all those promises being rolled out.  I think that a lukewarm response is justified as such promises, once they hit the reality of country’s national politics and ‘interests’ will be quickly ignored and the business will return to usual.

 

I think many, including myself, are now entertaining their own Dr.Strangelove moment.  Presently, renamed to How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Climate-Change.

The forthcoming changes to our way of lives will simply happen.

We will have arable farmland until after the nth season of drought, thenwe will not.

We will have polar vortex events consistently through Canada’s winter at a great pace.

We will have affordable energy and energy infrastructure, until well, we don’t.

 

Various climate switches are being, and have been thrown, across the world.  For instance in the US the involuntary test and stress of its resiliency is already happening –

“Trevor Riggen, the head of the American Red Cross’s domestic disaster program, said the agency is “testing the limits” of its network. This week alone, more than 2,000 staff and volunteers have deployed across 10 states. Many of them are on their second or third crisis of the summer.

“It’s no longer, ‘We have a big event and then there’s time to recover,’” Riggen said. “Disaster has become a chronic condition.”

But the extent of damage wrought by climate change will be determined by how the nation plans for it, and how the communities rebuild.

Almost half of public roadways are currently in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers — making events like the deadly collapse of a Mississippi highway during Hurricane Ida more likely. The location and condition of some 10,000 miles of levees in the United States are unknown. Chronically underfunded storm water systems are unable to cope with record rainfall. Many electric utilities have not taken steps to ensure the grid keeps functioning amid worsening hurricanes and wildfires.

Communities need to start preparing for the unprecedented, Fugate said. Coastal cities should develop alternative evacuation plans to avoid getting caught off-guard by rapidly intensifying storms — for example, building comfortable, well-equipped shelters for people who don’t have time to flee. Levees and storm-water systems must be built to withstand floods that would have been impossible in a cooler world. Amid unstoppable wildfires, homes at the edge of forests can be made safer with flameproof building materials.

Social systems are also in need of repair, said Arcaya. During heat waves, early warning systems and check-ins from neighbors have been proved to save hundreds of lives. After hurricanes, research shows, people with strong connections to their neighbors experience less trauma and are better able to get back on their feet.

The country will need a robust support system to help thousands of displaced people navigate the bureaucracy required to obtain federal assistance, Arcaya said. And since disasters often destroy affordable housing, the nation will need to invest in building more places for people to live.

These changes will be expensive, Fugate acknowledged. But the cost of responding to disasters already totals more than $81 billion per year. “It’s a choice between spending now or spending more in the future.”

   I’m not going to go out on a limb here and state that we are going to choose to spend now aaaand spend more in the future as we try to correct the fuck ups of the present day.

   The saving grace of the entire situation is that when the truly calamitous events start, I most likely will be dead.   Strangely reassuring I suppose, but honestly, I think it’s the only way the exploitation driven economic system we have ends.  When it starts fucking over the ‘important’ people – then and only then – will we move as a collective to ‘save the earth’.  Vastly too little too late, but at least the effort will be genuine then.

 

 

 

The power to make decisions in society must remain primarily in the hands of a democratically elected government. In private hands, there is only one concern, and that is the bottom line. We have too much ‘bottom line’ directed policy as it is.

“There’s a striking difference between physicists and economists. Physicists don’t say, hey, let’s try an experiment that might destroy the world, because it would be interesting to see what would happen. But economists do that. On the basis of neoclassical theories, they instituted a major revolution in world affairs in the early 1980s that took off with Carter, and accelerated with Reagan and Thatcher. Given the power of the United States compared with the rest of the world, the neoliberal assault, a major experiment in economic theory, had a devastating result. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out. Their motto has been, “Government is the problem.”

That doesn’t mean you eliminate decisions; it just means you transfer them. Decisions still have to be made. If they’re not made by government, which is, in a limited way, under popular influence, they will be made by concentrations of private power, which have no accountability to the public. And following the Friedman instructions, have no responsibility to the society that gave them the gift of incorporation. They have only the imperative of self-enrichment.

Margaret Thatcher then comes along and says there is no such thing as society, just atomized individuals who are somehow managing in the market. Of course, there is a small footnote that she didn’t bother to add: for the rich and powerful, there is plenty of society. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, ALEC, all kinds of others. They get together, they defend themselves, and so on. There is plenty of society for them, just not for the rest of us. Most people have to face the ravages of the market. And, of course, the rich don’t. Corporations count on a powerful state to bail them out every time there’s some trouble. The rich have to have the powerful state — as well as its police powers — to be sure nobody gets in their way.”

-Noam Chomsky interviewed on Tom’s Dispatch

  It would be strangely terrible if the beginning of humanities decline was prefaced with something known as the “Big Burp”.  The methane in the arctic is a super green house gas, and if the facts are correct, it is going to over salt our soup sooner than later.

 

“Wadhams puts to rest the common criticism by many in the scientific community that say not to worry about ESAS starting a bout of dangerous runaway global warming (RGW) because subsea methane deposits oxidize and dissolve in the seawater as released and never make it into the upper atmosphere, to wit: “The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is exceptionally shallow — more than 75 per cent of its entire area of 2.1 million square kilometres is shallower than 40 metres — so most of the methane gas avoids oxidation in the water column and is released into the atmosphere.” (Wadhams, pg. 123)

With ESAS getting more and more active as of recent, it is important to evaluate the risks of further breakout. For example, Wadhams says that Natalia Shakova, the leading expert on ESAS, believes it contains up to 700 GT of CH4. The risk is rapid release, a big burp of 8% of the deposit or 50GT, which, in turn, would crank up worldwide temperatures by 0.6°C over two years. This would have an extremely negative impact on the overall global climate system with unknown but likely horrific results as temps crank up to, or beyond, the IPCC danger zone of 2°C much sooner than anybody expects. Wadhams believes this is society’s biggest climate threat because at 2°C above pre-industrial crop yields start going down, very rapidly. An ESAS big burp would do the job.

The risk of an ESAS methane big burp alone should be enough of a threat to motivate global governments to call an emergency meeting at the UN to do whatever it takes to halt excessive greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide basis as soon as possible.”

 

What a time to be alive!

 

 

We will need to fight against market fundamentalism and help our politicians remember that they exist to serve not only the economy, but the people of a country as well.

 

“As we have seen, cutting carbon with carbon pricing or regulation is not politically painless, so the main efforts from citizens should be directed at the political process by encouraging what Jaccard calls “climate-sincere” politicians. Since making real economic changes is politically difficult, politicians prefer ineffective window-dressing that does little except making voters think they are taking action.

“These might include funding for electric vehicle rechargers, a tax-break for wind power, training for electric car technicians, grants for biofuel producers, climate research, adaptation planning, an educational kit for schools … subsidies for home insulation … funding for urban transit feasibility studies…” writes Jaccard in a much longer list.

He calls such spending political sleight-of-hand to avoid real action and that merely demonstrates the politicians are not sincere at all. While Jaccard himself drives an electric car and heats his home with an electric heat pump, he says the most important place for concerned citizen to invest in stopping climate change is political action.

The trouble is changing your own personal behaviour by say, selling your car or refusing to fly, may make you feel like you are doing something useful, but the effect is tiny when all your neighbours drive SUVs and air travel continues to soar.  

In fact, rather than trying to assuage your guilt at flying or driving by buying carbon offsets as many are now doing, Jaccard recommends taking the money and donating it to a pro-climate group that can identify and support climate-sincere politicians and point a finger at the majority of those who are “faking it.”

Because in the long run, getting carbon out of world’s atmosphere cannot be completed by a few individuals doing good, it must instead be a project of people using politics to transform regional and national rules about carbon. Jaccard says those regions and countries will then combine to put carbon tariffs on the world’s free riders, not a project for 2020.”

Let’s hope we can get most politicians on board before it is too late.

 

 

So today Jason Kenney officially scrapped the Alberta Carbon Levy (which has been successful in reducing emissions and transition us to clear energy sources) while Edmonton is covered in smoke.

wrf2lyxoff131

A move so garish that even Kenney couldn’t go through with the planned celebrations and instead pretended to care about the wildfires for a minute. So ya, way to go UCP voters. You elected a government that promised to accelerate climate change and subsequently make these wildfires worse. I hope you choke on this smoke. I know your children and grandchildren will (while there is still trees at least).

Source: Edmonton Journal

We will soon be having a provincial election and I for one, do not want to return to the dark conservative backwater Alberta languished in for some 40 odd years.  We have a New Democratic Party Government that, when situated on the political spectrum, comes up centrist or slightly left of centre.  In Alberta this is pretty heady stuff.  The UCP (United Conservative Party) is the cobbled up zombie corpse of the old Progressive Conservative party and the rural wack-a-loon Wild Rose Party (*shudder*).  It has been stitched together by a greasy re-baked federal conservative pol named Jason Kenny.

The defining feature of the zombie UCP party platform is that it’s *NOT* the NDP and its debt inflating, male emasculating, poor people centring democratic socialism (not the “s” word…*faints*).   In other words, these gormless fucks have sweet FA with regards to policy and what they would actually do if (’til now) they were elected to govern Alberta.  Not much other than “not what the NDP is doing”.   Sorry folks, the lame restatement of an antithesis is political weaksauce at best – but it might be enough to sway our lemming centric conservative voting populace, considering the rightward political leanings in this province.  Apparently many Albertans have been longing for a return to the 40 year the conservative seppuku our province has recently emerged from.  Social programs?  Protections for workers?  Government for the people?  Climate responsibility?

Fuck that pinko communist noise.

I digress.  The platform of the UCP is oozing out into the public’s knowledge and it isn’t pretty (see Ontario’s false populist doppelganger, Doug Ford for Kenney’s inspiration) .  Most of the platform portends a merry jaunt to back to lining the pockets of the rich while proclaiming austerity for the lucky ones and a relentless shitcanning for everyone else.

“Kenney said the UCP will hire people to draft orders in council for cabinet to adopt the week it’s sworn in if the UCP wins. One of the key elements of structural reform, Kenney said, “is to move quickly.”

“Speed creates its own momentum. It also makes it harder for the opponents of reform to obstruct it,” he said.

Kenney said he doesn’t want to get “bogged down” with public consultation, so his party is doing as much as it can now “on the big issues.”

You know all that legislation to protect the working class and benefit the poor.  It has to go.  Stat.  But more importantly we have to fuck the NDP’s social progress up with no debate, no consultation, and none of that fucking filthy democracy we fucking harp on when it comes to protecting business class interests and the rich.

“Kenney said the UCP would freeze minimum wage increases (the NDP recently increased it to $15 per hour). He would also consider restructuring the minimum wage to something that resembles the age-graduated system used in Australia, in which youth get paid less than adults.”

Because why pay young people reasonably?  Who thought up that shit?  Was it Stalin?  Because the young most certainly don’t need money to live or save toward pursing post-secondary education (which will most certainly be gutted during a UCP regime – we need more beer guzzling dullards not egg-heads for christ’s sake).  Screw the young people they vote for commies anyways, plus we can ratchet up poor peoples class antagonism so while they scrabble for the shiny pebbles we deem to throw their way, then we can continue the plunder-party for the corporate and business interests, as it rightfully should be.  Added benefit:  the poor will need to focus on mere survival instead of organizing for a just and equitable society…  so much winning for everyone.

“The UCP would appoint a minister tasked solely with decreasing regulations by one-third as part of an “aggressive process of … lightening the regulatory burden on the Alberta economy,” Kenney said. That minister’s work would be guided by a similar setup under former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.

“We’ll be constrained in how far we can go in terms of fiscal stimulus because of the $8-billion deficit and pending $60-billion debt, so we will need to over-compensate on the regulatory side,” he said.”

You know that idea about the government representing the best interests of the people of Alberta?  That is about as red as Lenin’s underpants.  Oversight and regulations are for weak kneed socialist chumps who don’t know the true power of the dark side reckless capitalist exploitation.

Climate change?  Unions?  Checks on corporate power?  That malarkey needs to go, so much so that we’ll set up a supercharged “Fuck You I’ve got Mine” government ministry to expedite the whole fucking process.

Awesome!

“Kenney doubled down on his commitment to a well-resourced government “war room” to defend Alberta’s energy industry here and abroad, setting up satellite offices if need be.

He also pledged to “stop the statutory shutdown of coal.” Federal regulations passed under Kenney’s former government in 2012 would shutter most of Alberta’s 18 coal-fired plants. The remaining six have to close by 2030 under a deadline set by Alberta’s NDP government.”

You know that economic diversification program the NDP has been going on about?  Trying to (after 40 years of conservative dithering) wean Alberta off fossil fuel extraction dependence?  Let’s tear that initiative down.  No..  let’s burn it to the ground with…*thinking*…  COAL!  Because no UCP government policy says ‘we understand the implications of climate science‘ more than’ lets ROLL COAL ALL DAY EVERY FUCKING DAY.

Awesome!

“Kenney said he would consider appointing a fiscal commission to make recommendations on how to get back to balance without raising taxes. A UCP platform would include a “positive vision” for artists and the cultural industries, he said, but “there will have to be a period of fiscal restraint.”

Arts?  Culture?  If its not drinking buck-a-beer while watching the idiot box then you’ve come to the wrong place effete liberal beatniks.  Your highfalutin cultural activities have no place in at UCP province.   We have no need to talk critically about our culture and converse about our place in the world, that kind of thinking promotes democratic ideals and free thought and that shit is bad for business.

Seriously folks, the UCP is ahead in fundraising and in the polls.  It feels like Alberta is about to head back into the insipid MAGA zone.  I don’t want that to happen.  We’ve had a taste of what governing for the people is like, and should continue to support a government that isn’t solely on exploiting everything for the sake of the rich and business classes.

So how about it Alberta, can we not head back into the political dark ages, just this once?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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