Video: Professor Kevin Anderson on fossil fuel subsidies, regime resistance and optimism

Second part of the recent interview with Professor Kevin Anderson,

touching on (false) optimism, fossil fuel subsidies (IMF 5.3 trillion subsidies),  regime resistance and coping strategies.

Lissa Johnson’s article about optimism.

That Machiavelli quote –

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.

— Niccolo Machiavelli

Article – “When the end of Human Civilisation is your day job


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Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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6 Responses to Video: Professor Kevin Anderson on fossil fuel subsidies, regime resistance and optimism

  1. Ian Brown says:

    Some say we shouldn’t tell the truth about Climate Change; it might cause people to panic. Well, panic might be a good thing; panic might help us to make decisions in our personal lives which could improve the situation. We could decide to fly less, or not at all, install Solar Panels, eat less meat, drive our car less, or not at all. Above all, panic could persuade us to lobby our politicians to take actions against Global Warming; for it it the politicians, and their friends in the fossil fuel industries, who are the biggest culprits in this fight for a liveable future on our one, and only, Planet. We should panic, but not despair. “If I spend my energy on despair, I won’t be thinking about opportunities to minimize the problem.” The article long but you read long books, don’t you, and this is more important than some fictional tale.

  2. Greg Robie says:

    Kevin assumes we are rational creatures. Motivated reasoning suggests otherwise, especially when a contradiction exists that a rational resolution of requires one to turn away from a trusted paradigm/homeostasis. Here, in the US, CapitalismFail is functionally an unconstitutionally established state ‘religion’ due to this dynamic. Given what this nation has done relative to the UNFCCC and COP, particularly COP15 – COP21, any way ‘forward’ that the United States would be part of would need to conform to CapitalismFail’s ‘religious’ tenants. This is exactly what Todd Stern and his staff pulled off starting with the deconstruction of two decades of negotiations in Copenhagen, and right through to the corrected “typo” of “shall” to “should” on Saturday morning in Paris.

    Scientifically the Paris Agreement is the capstone of a game theory strategy that has been played brilliantly…& science is out (even if it is also–sort of–back in). BAU has been greenwashed. In the face of abrupt climate change, Wall Street and the fossil carbon energy companies got all that could be imagined by them and then some. Money, in the US, is free speech. Corporations are people. These have spoken. (And I imagine your Square Mile is pretty excited about the Paris Agreement as well.)

    CapitalismFail is incompatible with a livable planet. As a functional ‘religious’ meme, we who ‘worship’ it will protect our feelings concerning it, well, religiously. Because of our neurological process of motivated reasoning, the kind of change the math of 2°C requires is, as is now transparently clear, not going to happen. Irrationally, BECCS is embraced because it leaves our economic ‘religion’ intact. The political adoption of the 2°C goal, when 1°C was the temperature science identified as the threshold for risking non-linear responses by the climate system in the context of an agreement to not harm the integrity of the planet’s climate, is another example of the irrationality motivated reasoning can engender. While there may be some who will honorably strive to try to change this condition, the condition, pampered and swaddled in pragmatism, has chosen death over growing up and being responsible. Freedom and sovereignty are lost.

    Going with the premise that less is more, I’ll close with thoughts about Machiavelli, today, and the dominate human condition within the dominate ‘developed’ world. His arguments about the ends justifying the means were made as European human rationality was struggling to break the irrational bonds of mysticism (& that, due to our present direction, ironically and insightfully, a likely thanks to Thomas Aquinas). The above quote is astute…but only if society is moving toward, not away from rationality. To the degree CapitalismFail is a functional mysticism, and we are moving deeper into it (further and further down a trusted rabbit hole of motivated reasoning) rational wisdom about change is irreverent (particularly to PC 2nd wave feminist liberals with Venusian predilections)…& when it’s too late (& I’m pegging that, in this country, as 1932 and FDR) Machiavelli’s insight about change will be irrelevant.

    To affect social change in an irrational time, the means to do so is ‘religious’ (& this insight is not mine, rather Indigenous Elders at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992). It is, however, an insight I’ve pursued. I’ve learned that we have no story for a threat that arrives full blown two generations before it can be felt. Consequently we have no concept for such, and no language to talk about it. If anyone can tell me of a story that does this, I’d love to hear it.

    We are, at heart, a people of stories. Without stories for understanding both our condition and how we came to be in it, social change is precluded and we become living proof that “…the Cosmic Baker took us out of the oven too soon…” (“Fruitcakes”, Jimmy Buffett), and we go extinct. For me, as another of the not-too-long-ago-Brits (a descendent of the guy who chartered the Mayflower and Speedwell) it is my story and remains a matter of honor and religious duty to work for as non-violent an extinction as is possible…which does mean researching geo-engineering assuming, as Kevin frames it, that it won’t work…AND with a compact that it “shall” not be used as a Hail Mary pass. Regardless, THE MIRACLE WILL BE OUR EMBRACING METANOIA AND GROWING UP, even if that means putting ourselves back in the cosmic oven. Life on earth is not just about us.

    From the 5 shilling desk of Governor Bradford, Greg Cushman Robie

  3. Response to Greg,

    If rationality is such a bit-part player, then I’m not sure how we should take your series of carefully constructed, sequential and ‘rational’ arguments? Moreover, you imbue Todd Stern et al with levels of understanding, insights and rational thinking that have enabled them to play Paris and years of COPs “brilliantly”.

    I agree with much of what you have to say, but to explicitly throw out the rational baby with the more murky bath water whilst implicitly nurturing the former is a little disingenuous.

    Formal ‘rationality’ is an important part of the story, as are numerous narratives and alternative (& competing) paradigms – but understanding this is itself a form of rational thinking.

    Thanks for your comments – and as I say, I agree with much of what you have to say.

    Kind regards


    • Greg Robie says:

      The intent of my initial comment in this thread is not conceived within a dualistic construct./?

      But first a HUGE thank you for your tireless efforts to be a voice of rational reason in the “murkiness” of the status quo of CapitalismFail. So many of us who labor to craft paradigm-shifting rationales are, well, relative ‘rational freaks’ within our species. To my sense, you affect the whole package within this paradigm’s visual, broadcast-centric ‘communication’ meme. For this I am grateful.

      My bias: Western thinking is predominately dualistic, and perhaps more to the point, the thinking in the US is all but inherently dualistic. Game theory thinking is not dualistic. The meme of CapitalismFail self-selects for short-term thinking as a dominate force driving the judgement/perception of things within it, and strongly informs decisions about it. Factoring in the roles of neuropeptides, such is, within the dynamics of motivated reasoning, is, predominately, feeling-as-thinking. Game theory thinking exploits and leverages this condition but is long term.

      Conclusion: The Paris Agreement is, relative to the laws of thermal dynamics, and a best-case-scenario regarding natural feedbacks and abrupt climate change, greenwashed BAU. Motivated reasoning informs the “logic” of this relative to all the inane assumptions rationalizing both the 2°C goal and track. Todd Stern et al, are, at best, lost to the motivated reasoning to which you offer well intended countering critiques. The “logic” of Todd Stern et al is, as an implementation of game theory strategies, informed by some long-term thinking, and regardless of what that is, post-Paris Agreement, what now politically delimits all future policy decisions. (FYI, during the lead up to, if I recall correctly, Cancun, Todd Stern was reported to say that the 40% reduction in 1990 emission levels by 2020, as framed by science, was both not necessary and not going to happen. This is what was necessary and it didn’t happen. Instead, BAU has been greenwashed and CapitalismFail has been ‘saved’ to finish collapsing within its Anthropocene.

      Is this differentiation/expansion helpful?

      Policies crafted by the United States, which, in the short-term, benefits the most from its relationship to the de facto global reserve currency of the unconstitutional Federal Reserve will, logically, be policies that are game theory based. Perhaps your cultural bias makes this less than obvious.

      Long before there was a formal field of game theory studies, the British Empire ‘intuitively’ exercised its concepts in both the expansion and control of “the Empire on which the sun never sets.” Limits to growth were exceeded, the choice to think differently–& more to the point that I’m attempting to argue concerning motivated reasoning, feel differently–was exercised in the negative. A dominate perception of how things were in that paradigm ended…but the paradigm didn’t.

      The Bretton Woods Agreement and the Marshall Plan were that time’s quantitative easing miracle that made (using an [edited] blue collar metaphor): ice cream out of [manure]. A simple reboot of the previous dynamic’s of empire both was not possible, and not necessary. Concurrently with that agreement’s foundation of gold being the means by which national trade imbalances were resolved, fiat currencies began their current ascendancy. The capacity to issue credit became the means for the next iteration of Industrial Empire. Wall Street rose to the zenith of power it is at for the US, and The Square Mile has done pretty well for the UK as well. Frankfurt has pulled off its own complimentary miracle. But this iteration of Empire has done, in the short term, more wealth accumulation for the US. Its Pivot East policy initatives are, because scientifically insignificant actions can be propagandized as “strong”, very comparable to Chamberlin’s pronouncements about bringing peace in our time. Nature bats last, and klimakatastrophe is tearing apart the climate system upon which ‘civil’ society depends. The Anthropocene’s Blitzkrieg of abrupt climate change is sweeping out of the Arctic.

      It must be time for tea and biscuits!?!

      As an aside, when I was six my family was stationed at RAF Bentwaters where my father was base commander. Even on military pay my family had a lifestyle that included living in a 20 room summerhouse in Thorpeness, and employing maids there and in Holland. The US’ rise to military and economic global dominance after WWII, which these deployments were part of, was made possible by a failure of UK and European political leaders to avoid trusting motivated reasoning relative to external threats to an unsustainable status quo.

      A fiat-currency-enabled-debt-slave iteration of the Empire of CapitalismFail has grown to global dominance since WWII. As your efforts strongly indicate, it can’t, for the life of the non-economic part of itself (its host organism) fix the problem that it creates: the threats of abrupt climate change within the Anthropocene. To the degree I am correct that what we are functionally ‘religious’ about is that which tends to trigger motivated reasoning, what worked in the past to free Western thought from the delimits of mysticism (rationalism) will not, by itself, prevent a motivated reasoning informed trend back into economic mysticism.

      My comment’s content was not intended to discount the epistemological role of science’s rational thought and argument within our current condition, rather my intent was to broaden the conversation, and strategic thinking, into areas where your strengths may find a balanced yoking with other, more ontological, strengths.

      Since I see I’m grasping for words that are outside my vocabulary I’m going to pause. I’ve more to share, but only if there is interest and time (and this relates to anyone who finds there way to this thread). No matter what is said, talk is cheap. A change in religion is always the “leap of faith” of metanoia.


      From the 5 shilling desk of Governor Bradford, Greg Cushman Robie

  4. Thanks for your thoughts – plenty for me to chew on there; and I strongly echo your comments on the importance of an ontologically balanced yolk (I also really like the metaphorical image).

    On a different note, I lived in Leiston for an important part of my childhood, my Dad was a fitter at Sizewell’s now closed magnox nuclear station. We were at the other end of the accommodation spectrum – living in a very fine council house on Red House Lane (as I recall) – next to the common where I spent many wonderfully free hours cycling across to Thorpeness. I learned to swim at the Thorpeness pool and idled several childhood days away pottering around the Meare & its Pete Pan islands. I also visited the Bentwaters base on several occasions, my parents had some friends living there – and I fondly remember having a ride in a enormous American car, being introduced to massive water melons and huge Irish wolfhounds.

    Anyway – thanks again for your insights and for triggering some great memories from my early childhood way back in the 60s.

    Bye for now


    • Ian Brown says:

      My Grandfather once lived in Thorpeness, where he was based during WWI. Our family had a holiday there, when I was very young. A magical place, rowing boats and messing about on the mere, which was man made and only 3 foot deep; no danger of drowning. A far better holiday for youngsters than the artificial, Disneyland type places which are so popular today. I also used to go to the market at Saxmundham, I really enjoyed your interviews with Marc Hudson; most insightful and much sense spoken.

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