Trump’s Existential Threat

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Col. Lawrence Wilkerson tells Paul Jay that while some Republicans acknowledge climate change and see the national security threat, most don’t believe it’s caused by human activity and see no reason to regulate or phase out fossil fuels

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

This is the Wilkerson Report and now joining us is Larry Wilkerson. Larry is the former chief of staff for US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William and Mary and a regular contributor to the Real News Network.

Thanks for joining us again Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me Paul.

JAY: The Trump administration is reason for great concern on a lot of accounts. Whether it’s the potential attack or aggression against Iran. Whether it’s who knows what in Syria, oppression of political rights in the United States, targeting of Hispanics, Latinos. All of these things are potentially horrendous but perhaps the most threatening is virtually an existential threat is the attitude towards climate change and climate change denial and the idea that any attempt even though it was pretty modest to begin with by the United States to deal and to live up to the Paris Accords and really it was necessary to go further, 7 of the leading climate scientists prior to the Trump victory said that by 2050 we would already reach 2 degrees of warming from preindustrial rates which is a rather critical threshold. What’s your take on where this White House is on the issue of climate change and where the republican party is because so far, certainly all I’ve heard from almost all the republican party is more climate denial.

WILKERSON: I think we’re making some progress in that regard Paul. I think a president having signed the national security memorandum connecting national security with climate change was a major move forward, as was Paris. I agree with you that we aer playing with a loaded deck here because these temperatures have been set and so forth, even if we were to meet them, might not be sufficient in the long run. But I think we’re making progress. We’re going to make more progress at Marrakech, I think. The Paris Accord is coming to being a lot faster than people thought. So, Marrakech is really going to be a rush.

JAY: But the Paris Accord itself was certainly not sufficient. This number I said about 2% by 2050, if all governments had pledged –

WILKERSON: A lot more sufficient than what we had in the past though. Copenhagen was a joke. Paris was at least a step forward.

JAY: No, I agree. I’m not saying it was nothing. I’m saying the report led by the scientists by Robert Watson, the former chair of the IPCC, was that if all the governments that pledged in Paris, lived up to all the pledges, we’re still hitting 2% by 2050. Like 30-40 years from now.

WILKERSON: 2 degrees.

JAY: 2 degrees I’m sorry. Yea. How does one see, certainly that’s not happening now with the Trump victory. You’ve been on the hill talking to some republicans and others about climate change. What are you hearing?

WILKERSON: I’m hearing that the republican party has some people who are [inaud.] of this issue, particularly on the national security front, understand that it has ramifications like for example, the largest shipyards on the east coast, the ones that host Ford class aircraft carriers and so forth, are going underwater. They understand that in the recent North Carolina flooding, there were US army units who couldn’t deploy, who couldn’t move because the roads were flooded. They understand that Langley Airforce Base couldn’t take off it’s fighter aircraft for periods of time when it’s runways were underwater. So these national security ramifications of climate change particularly sea rise, are putting these people in the know, if you will, about what climate change pretends from a national security point of view.

From that point of view, I think we’ve been able to make some progress in changing some minds about what’s happening. What we have not been successful in with all of them so far is to convince them that humans are actually by their actions, CO2 emissions and so forth, contributing to this change and therefore we have an ability to mitigate as well as to just adapt to what’s happening naturally. But that’s coming. I’m somewhat optimistic about the fact that I’ve been across the country and seen what we’re doing in the states regardless of Washington. Regardless of what Trump might say or what Pence might say or James Inhofe from Oklahoma who’s a luddite on this issue because he gets money from Exxon Mobile.

We’re not really caring out there in the inner land, what Washington says or does. They’re actually doing it. I was for wind power and solar power right now and in another few years they’ll be completely off the grid. Other states are doing other things. Particularly coastal states where a majority of the population is and where a lot of the military instillations are. Take New Orleans. New Orleans should’ve moved. It should’ve picked up and moved after Katrina. If we have another category 4 or god forbid a 5, New Orleans will have to move.

These sorts of things are going to be profound and they’re going to take the James Inhofes of the world and rub their face in climate change. So I’m not saying we’re going to do it fast enough, but I am saying we’ve got some momentum going now and I do hope that momentum continues. I don’t see Donald Trump being stupid enough to ignore this completely. Not when Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has made billion dollar decisions based on it’s understandings of where we’re going with climate change and other private concerns like Shell.

So I know there’s a lot of opposition. I know the mercers and the Koch brothers and others are funding that opposition. But I think the scientists and the facts are winning ultimately, I just hope it’s in time.

JAY: Yea I mean Robert Mercer who’s daughter Rebecca is on the Trump transition team and was the guy who installed Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in the Trump campaign that essentially saved the campaign and made Trump president. Mercer’s a major funder of climate denial institutes. As far as I know, he’s about second to the Koch brothers in terms of the amount of money spent on climate denial. They’ve had some effect.

In a recent Yale study, when people were asked do they think there’s global warming, 70% said yea but only 53% of those thought it was caused by humans. When asked how urgent it was, only 16% thought it was urgent and would effect them and their family directly.

I think this also explains why this wasn’t so much of a priority for the Obama administration even though they did something. It was far from what the scientists said needed to be done. And they just didn’t think it was politically expedient to make such an issue out of climate change and then Hillary Clinton mentioned it but that’s all it ever was, a mere mention. Never with any seriousness. It seems to me that if there’s some forces out there that are getting it, they better speak up. There’s not a lot of time left here.

WILKERSON: Well I think there’s quite a bit of time left. I’m not as pessimistic as you are. I was until I saw what was going on all across the country and what we’re doing already and I understand what other countries are doing in that regard too. I’m not as cynical and as pessimistic as I was. We do have time and we have time to do this in a better way right now. In other 10 or 15 years, we’ll probably be up and against the gun. What does that mean? It means in essence that the anecdote I’ll describe to you that happened over in Norfolk recently is going to be the profound waker upper. It’s the women who when I was talking about this, rose in the back of the theater in Norfolk and said, ‘Tell me about it. I know about it. The water’s in my backyard.’

Well when the water’s in everybody’s backyard as it was in Cedar Raids recently, as it was in North Carolina recently, then we’ll be seized of the issue. The question is, will it be too late?

JAY: Well why are you saying we’ve got a lot of time when scientists are saying prior to the Trump administration the models they were getting and this is two different scientific institutes, not just this one of 7 leading scientists, I’m talking about another climate science institute in of North Carolina, these first group came up with 2050, the other came up with 2051, hitting 2 degrees. The 2 degree threshold is pretty critical because it’s not just the effects of how serious climate change effects droughts, flooding, severe weather and such. Crossing the 2 degree threshold means its very much more difficult not to get to the 3 and 4 degree threshold. The warmer it gets, the more difficult it is to pull back.

Now there’s predictions of 4-6 degrees by the end of the century and some even higher than that. Those are catastrophic if the scientific predictions of what happens there. The recent report that I’m citing here which is called The Truth About Climate Change, if people want to look it up and look up Robert Watson is connected with it. They’re saying there’s no time and this is prior to Trunp. They’re already talking about the need to havfe a serious look at geo-engineering which they themselves acknowledged is very untested and untried. But still the situation is so dire, so grave, so threatening, they’re saying we’re going to have to have a very serious look at geoengineering, plus they’re saying if we want to stop getting to 4 and 6 degrees by the end of the century, we by 2065 have to be 0 fossil fuel and we’re nowhere near on that route. With this administration we’re going backwards not forward.

Geoengineering in the situations that we’ve run proved rather catastrophic whether you’re doing the aerosols in the atmosphere or you’re doing the giant [inaud.] or whatever. We don’t want to get to the point where we’re so desperate as we did in one simulation that Center for Naval Analyses ran where we’re 2050-2060 and we’re actually so desperate that we’re doing these things that rebound on themselves and actually create more problems than we’re solving.

So geoengineering I don’t the not right now the technology I’ve seen is the answer. But again I don’t mind a 2 degrees 4 degrees and so forth as being inevitable. If we begin to work and we begin to work at least somewhat in accord of what was decided in Paris and I assume will be furthered in Marrakech.

We do have a chance. This science is not perfect. The models are not perfect. The scary thing about the models is when they show their imperfections, they generally show them in a negative way, not a positive way. That is to say, the ice melt or the sea rise is faster, not slower than the model predicted which is somewhat frightening. But basically I think we still have an opportunity to do something about what’s happening to us.

We’re going to have a period year poll where North America is in fine shape. We’re going to have longer growing periods, we’re going to have higher yields we’re going have more food, more profits, we’re also going to have a lot more water and the flooding’s to be difficult to deal with, challenging. But we’re going to raising crops year round in the southern parts of the providences of Canada. Crocks year round probably as far as midway in places like Saskatoon and British Colombia, and Manitoba and so forth.

What’s going to be the problem there our models tell us is that in the south particularly in western Asia where you’re seeing right now with the 200 thousand Syria farms who had no water for 2 years in and contribute to this conflict that’s so bloody in Syria today. What you’re going to see there is these massive migrations. So what we see in our models is that the peer power is along the northern hemisphere. The United States being prominent amongst them. We’re meeting our boarders with machine guns and walls, Donald Trump come true. Because these millions of people who have no food or water are on the move looking for food and water and we’ve got it.

So, there are plenty of dire scenarios in this and they again as you said take shape around midcentury, that’s in my grandchildren’s lifetime so it’s not out there where I don’t have to worry about it. Everybody has to worry about it. But I come back to my original point. When the water’s up to your knees, everybody will be seized to the issue. I just hope that’s not too late.

JAY: Alright thanks for joining us Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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