In our Collapse of Western Civilization, Oreskes and I defined the “Carbon Combustion Complex as “The interlinked fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and combustion industries, financiers, and government ‘regulatory’ agencies that enabled and defended destabilization of the world’s climate in the name of employment, growth, and prosperity.”
According to this article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it appears that California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted an industry proposal that, in essence, allows our utilities to continue buying out-of-state coal power, and magically count it as “clean.” This renders the “cap” part of the state’s “cap and trade” system irrelevant, because it simply shifts emissions from California to the neighboring states it purchases power from.
This kind of “leakage” from the cap was anticipated in the original clean energy law, AB 32, and the law contains language designed to prevent it. CARB, as the article explains at length, has interpreted those restrictions out of existence.
The proper economist jargon for regulators doing the bidding of for-profit companies is “regulatory capture.” Capture is so common in the U.S. now that we felt the need to strengthen the concept as it applies to the fossil fuel industry. Thus the Carbon Combustion Complex was born.
I’m rather sad to see the California Air Resources Board joining the Complex. But I’m not at all surprised.
We’ve been aware for a couple of weeks that our book (the paper edition, at any rate) has been sold out of Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and at our press. We’re told that new copies will be shipping from the printer this week, so back orders should start being fulfilled around the end of August.
It’s been exciting to see so much interest in our work!
Yesterday Sony Pictures Classics announced that they have picked up the documentary based on our 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, for distribution. The film is a wonderful work by Robby Kenner, who also made Food, Inc. on industrial agriculture. We’re excited to finally see it hitting the big screen.
Here’s coverage of the announcement.
Coverage for Merchants of Doubt / Sony Pictures Classics Announcement
And it was fun!
Steven Cornelliussen of Physics Today noticed that the Times had published a round table interview that pursued the question “Will fiction influence how we react to climate change?” And in a very nice article, he pointed out that Oreskes and I had just written exactly what the panel was supposed to be talking about.
The Times’ writer had apparently never heard of us, so we weren’t invited to participate. Go read the Times’ piece here.
But there’s an obvious answer the entire panel missed. Fiction has already affected our response to climate change. Or, rather, it has prevented us from making any effective response. The adolescent fantasies of Ayn Rand have been powerful influences on climate change deniers. One need not look further than the biographies of Ron and Rand Paul to discover that fact. (Here’s a Washington Times article on them).
Anything that’s happened before can happen again, so since fiction has already influenced our (non) response to climate change, fiction can be influential in the future, too.
Cross-posted from Erik M. Conway’s home page:
Chris Mooney in Mother Jones: “How Western Civilization Ended.”
“You don’t know it yet. There’s no way that you could. But 400 years from now, a historian will write that the time in which you’re now living is the “Penumbral Age” of human history—meaning, the period when a dark shadow began to fall over us all. You’re living at the start of a new dark age, a new counter-Enlightenment. Why? Because too many of us living today, in the years just after the turn of the millennium, deny the science of climate change.”
Naomi’s Collapse interview on Living on Earth.
“Science historians Naomi Oreskes of Harvard and Erik Conway of CalTech’s new science fiction book, The Collapse of Western Civilization lays out how devastating our lack of action on climate change could be. Oreskes join host Steve Curwood to discuss how democracy, the free market and science are all failing humanity and the planet.”
Christopher Wright Tau in Climate, People, and Organizations.
“In this latest book, Oreskes and Conway explore the fundamental question of why Western liberal democracies at the apogee of their technological and scientific mastery have failed to respond to the greatest threat facing our species; anthropogenic climate change. Rather than a more traditional social science analysis, Oreskes and Conway frame their analysis as an essay written by a future historian from the year 2349 seeking to answer the question of why western civilization failed to respond to man-made climate change despite full awareness of the threat. This voice from the future is a narrative device that was also used to good effect in the film Age of Stupid where Pete Postlethwaite’s ‘archivist’ replays videos of our current hubris in the face of climate catastrophe.”
Joe Romm on Climate Progress.
“How would a historian in 2393 write about this century if we continue self-destructively ignoring climate science — and as a result modern civilization as we know it had collapsed 300 years earlier?”
“That’s the question answered by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their excellent and unique new entry in the emerging Climate-Fiction genre, ‘The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future.'”
Erik on the role of neoliberalism in the climate change debate.
I’m not fond of the article title–Collapse is a warning, not a prediction–but I didn’t get to vote on it. The author does nail this key point others have missed, though:
“Oreskes said the choice of China was also the outgrowth of an ongoing discussion between her and Conway — “the irony conversation.” The pair’s research indicates that one motivation for those who oppose climate action is fear that climate change might be used as an excuse for excessive regulation, harming democratic government and economic freedom. The novella, she said, highlights the irony of that position: Deniers are raising the risk of a disaster big enough to favor the survival of more authoritarian forms of government.”
Read the whole piece.