Anarchy or the 25th?

The 25th Amendment: The quickest way Trump could be stripped of power, explained

Aides weigh resignations, removal options as Trump rages against perceived betrayals

Every Trump Loyalist Is Complicit in the President’s Incitement of Sedition

Thirteen days are left after the Capitol onslaught to determine how we get rid of the Frankenstein monster the Republicans have created. Impeachment is too complicated and will take too long. We tried that once. The 25th Amendment would permit Mike Pence to become acting president for the rest of Trump’s term. It requires a majority (8 of 15 people, the Cabinet secretaries) to sign off on his malfeasance and strip him of all presidential powers. And it requires Pence to initiate it.

There has now been a lot of talk about invoking this power. How feasible it might be to get Cabinet secretaries, all Trump appointees, to sign off on this drastic measure is an open question. My thinking is that if they don’t sign off, we’ll have 13 more days of anarchy with continual threats and prevarications thereafter.

A lead story in the Post reports:

A deep, simmering unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.

Preliminary talks seem to be underway, and let us hope they bear fruit. Chuck Schumer, many Democrats and a few Republicans seem to be behind these efforts. If they fail, it will be up to senior Republicans to be responsible for restraining Trump and restoring what we used to call democracy. Putting any faith in these people, however, has never brought less than an impasse or more than a rejection.

The Vile Eight—those loyalist toadies in the Senate who have endorsed Trump’s lies even after the attack on the Capitol—and the 147 Defectors from Democracy in the House all deserve to be voted out of office. But we are not holding our collective breaths, are we?

The results have been predictable.

By declining to brand Trump a liar, Republicans ensured that their voters would give credence to his claims. This morning [Jan. 6], Ted Cruz anchored his demand to delay the election’s certification by citing a poll that 39 percent of the country believed the election had been rigged. First they spread his lies, then argued that the lies must be respected because they had spread.

Will Mike Pence now have the balls to upend this situation, which verges on anarchy? Can he find it in himself to exercise the authority the Constitution grants him? After four years of desperate fawning his reward is to become Trump’s mortal enemy. The test is at hand.

Disbelief and Ignorance, Blindness and Monomania

The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter

After this I am really going to stop with the Trump posts. But the Washington Post did us all a great service by running the above piece documenting Trump’s most stunning breakdown. It’s long, so I summarize and comment here on the salient points. Also, I’m going to take a few days off from this blog, back after the New Year. We’ll hope for a much happier one this time, of course.

Trump’s incredible mishandling of the Covid pandemic in all likelihood cost him the election. The recent Post article documents not only his failure but his administration’s. However history comes to record the pandemic, it will be seen as a gigantic breakdown in presidential responsibility.

The catastrophe began with Trump’s initial refusal to take seriously the threat of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But, as officials detailed, it has been compounded over time by a host of damaging presidential traits — his skepticism of science, impatience with health restrictions, prioritization of personal politics over public safety, undisciplined communications, chaotic management style, indulgence of conspiracies, proclivity toward magical thinking, allowance of turf wars and flagrant disregard for the well-being of those around him.

Contradicting his task force
As he refused to accept the reality of the pandemic, it became clear to Trump’s advisers that, despite frequent attempts, they could not penetrate the president’s delusions. They would contradict him at their peril. The Fauci-Birx taskforce made no real impact and was frustrated from the beginning.

Trump’s repeated downplaying of the virus, coupled with his equivocations about masks, created an opening for reckless behavior that contributed to a significant increase in infections and deaths, experts said.

Communications failures
From the beginning, the team had no strategy and no consistent messaging. They were attempting to put out fires with untrained people and ill-advised tactics. Jared Kushner got some ventilators dispatched but his volunteers played whack-a-mole with other problems. They faked models for disease propagation, punted on the involved question of testing, and ultimately turned their backs on properly dealing with the states.

They did not communicate in any effective way with the public or with the private sector that tried to help. The Post tells us about a failed plan to enlist the country’s underwear makers, like Hanes, to make and distribute masks nationwide. This was at the beginning of what could be called the mask debacle, which Trump and his blind administration continued to foster.

Paul Offit, a member of the FDA vaccine advisor council called Trump “a salesman, but this is something he can’t sell. So he just gave up. He gave up on trying to sell people something that was unsellable. . . . What the Trump administration has managed to do is they accomplished — remarkably — a very high-tech solution, which is developing a vaccine, but they completely failed at the low-tech solution, which is masking and social distancing, and they put people at risk.”

When Trump stepped in to replace Pence at the task force briefings, it was a signal of defeat, as the president proposed bleach and other nonsensical remedies. He looked at Covid as some kind of bothersome issue you could defuse with a TV advertising approach. He was like the Ron Popeil of Covid. “What he’s saying there is, ‘I’m going to will the economy to success through mass psychology. We’re going to tell the country things are going great and it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy,’ ” Offit said of Trump.

The Accomplices
Mark Meadows lied to the press, confused every issue he discussed, and still couldn’t please Trump. Birx and Fauci hung in there on the periphery but basically gave up, though Fauci continued to broadcast his sentiments. Scott Atlas, the phony doctor, preached a line that pleased Trump because it let him off the hook. That is, promote herd immunity, forget testing, keep up the anti-mask façade, advance the economy over basic CDC safety, etc. Then there were the rallies and the continuing White House super-spreader parties, all basically mocking the potency of the disease.

Yet it is impossible to mock the 324,000 deaths that have occurred to date. Theatrics are basic to Trump’s reality and, unfortunately for us all, there’s no business like show business—until the curtain comes down.

Climate Amnesia: How We Misperceive Chaos and Change

The scariest thing about global warming (and Covid-19)

 Proving the ‘shifting baselines’ theory: how humans consistently misperceive nature

David Roberts opens his impressive Vox piece this way: We lost 2,800 souls to Covid just last Thursday, more than died on 9/11. Instead of jumping to respond to “an unbearable collective national tragedy,” we adjust mentally to it and give it a kind of tacit acceptance. There’s no real national mobilization; half the population goes maskless; millions travel for Thanksgiving. Almost 3,000 deaths? Business as usual.

We’ve adjusted to the virus like we adjust to the inscrutable nature of climate change. Our acquiescence puts the lie to the commonly accepted notion that some horrible sequence of climatic events will shake us out of our torpor. It may be a new normal that the world could not adequately recognize the terrifying apocalyptic fires in Australia last year.

We are victims of what researchers call shifting baselines. Meaning that “our ‘baseline’ shifts with every generation, and sometimes even in an individual. In essence, what we see as pristine nature would be seen by our ancestors as hopelessly degraded, and what we see as degraded our children will view as ‘natural.’”

Roberts explains the behavior this way:

Consider a species of fish that is fished to extinction in a region over, say, 100 years. A given generation of fishers becomes conscious of the fish at a particular level of abundance. When those fishers retire, the level is lower. To the generation that enters after them, that diminished level is the new normal, the new baseline. They rarely know the baseline used by the previous generation; it holds little emotional salience relative to their personal experience.

And so it goes, each new generation shifting the baseline downward.

When the fish finally goes extinct, “No generation experiences the totality of the loss. It is doled out in portions, over time, no portion quite large enough to spur preventative action. By the time the fish go extinct, the fishers barely notice, because they no longer valued the fish anyway.”

Look at the opening sequence of this video for another way of putting it. I remember fishing in Florida in the late 1950s, and the fish were indeed very much larger and more prevalent than they became.

This is about climate amnesia, which operates on both an individual and generational level. We lose our cognizance of the past without being aware of the loss. Roberts asks how in the world can

Americans simply accommodate themselves to thousands of coronavirus deaths a day? As writer Charlie Warzel noted in a recent column, it’s not that different from the numbness they now feel in the face of gun violence. “Unsure how—or perhaps unable—to process tragedy at scale,” he writes, “we get used to it.”

This climate and cultural amnesia is such a common human failing that it’s hard to imagine a way to surmount it. Roberts thinks that finally “there is no substitute for leadership and responsive governance. . . . The most reliable way to stop baselines from shifting is to encode the public’s values and aspirations into law and practice, through politics.”

Well now, since Trump has totally disabled our political system, many have lost hope as well as any coherent sense of the past. I watched Biden on CNN Thursday night, and he did demonstrate a sense of competence and a willingness to look toward the past for solutions. We will need that from him and more.

Ducking the Climate Question

The Climate Won’t Let Us Forget

 Why People Aren’t Motivated to Address Climate Change

 ‘There Is a Real Opportunity Here That I Think Biden Is Capturing’

Climate change is the most overpowering issue of our times—and the least discussed. I searched several leading publications and found it displaced (as you might suspect) by these subjects: Covid, the election outcomes, the new Biden administration, Trump’s ongoing lunacy, sports, celebrities, and politics.

I wrote something that touched on this avoidance about a week ago. The focus was on the distractions that keep us from dealing with climate. Let’s look at it a little differently today. My premise is that the Covid pandemic has skewed how most of us not only live American life but evaluate it.

For instance, consider a recent Politico newsletter headline: “Wall Street rocks as food lines grow.” And further,

Those of us lucky enough to work in jobs we can do remotely have done mostly fine during the pandemic, though perhaps not psychologically. Underneath, Americans are suffering in terrible ways with food lines growing and unemployment claims still at record levels (which they will likely hit again today).

In the face of all our competing interests, who thinks about those dreadful food lines, much less about climate change? We psychologically rank our interests in importance, proximity and potency. And climate is still something remote for many of us. It’s an abstraction to most people and most people don’t deal well with abstract subjects.

Biden appoints a new climate czar in John Kerry, and the news coverage focuses on his background in diplomacy and long-time efforts for climate action. Instead, a friend and I talk about his wife Teresa Heinz, the ketchup heiress. No, we didn’t discuss his policies or Biden’s on climate. People gravitate to what they are exposed to in the media—and their susceptible interests.

Joe Biden very much seems to be making climate a top priority. He has drafted an elaborate $2 trillion over ten years proposal that could be remarkable—if it ever gets through Congress. Climate seems often to be put in a totally political frame. Instead, we would do better to consider it, as many have said, an existential threat.

The Covid pandemic could frame the climate threat for a majority of people, I think. If nothing else, it has made us all disease conscious. Texas Professor Art Markman linked disease to climate in a Harvard Business Review piece two years ago. When I confront climate skeptics, he said,

I ask whether they would be willing to forgo something today to invest in a disease that has a one in five chance of affecting a grandchild. And if so, then I ask how taking climate change seriously is different. You don’t have to be a skeptic to try this logic on yourself. Consider what you’d be willing to forgo today knowing that in one generation there will be serious, catastrophic consequences because of inaction.

The perspective of incipient disease is immediate and powerful. Comparing climate to a catastrophic disease and its long-term effects on a loved one might be one way to cut through the fog of denial.

The Climate Won’t Let Us Forget

There Is Only One Existential Threat. Let’s Talk About It.

Tropical Storm Iota Deals Devastation to Central America Still Recovering from Eta

What Keith Richards Can Teach Us about Beating Our Donald Trump Addiction

The election naturally commanded our public thoughts; now it’s done. Trump perpetually has commanded our attention; finally the fixation may be waning. COVID more than ever forces itself on our presence; a quarter of a million people have now died from it in the U.S.

But the issues of climate change, more formidable than ever, keep bearing down on the world with dreadful frequency and energy. For many, climate issues have recently gotten displaced by politics, but nature is not about to let us discount her power.

Those who live in California won’t soon forget the massive fires that swept their state and are still a threat. Two massive hurricanes a week apart just pummeled Central America, saturating the same areas (an unheard-of event) in Honduras and Nicaragua, “seriously affecting” some 3 million people, and causing many deaths. Hurricane Eta alone in a few days “cost Honduras the equivalent of around twenty per cent of its gross domestic product.”

The campaign and the election have turned into a major distraction from climate change. The political media, the voters and the candidates all gave climate short shrift. Biden was the exception. He has offered a $2 trillion clean energy plan, and proposes to incorporate climate into most other policy areas. If any of this gets done, at least through regulation (if the Senate is a nonstarter), it will be a good beginning.

New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo puts it in context:

But passing a climate plan wouldn’t be a partisan win for Democrats—it would be a win for human beings. Climate change isn’t a policy issue—it’s a reality that every other political question hinges on: jobs, tax policy, national defense, and the size and scope of the welfare state. As climate change becomes increasingly damaging, we will have to think about all of these issues through the larger response to a changing planet.

It’s just too easy to compartmentalize our thoughts about climate. The enormity and extent of what it represents are simply daunting, maybe beyond the ken of most of us. Moreover, our political culture, the media pundits, and of course social media all tend to trivialize and downplay the issues of climate in favor of the latest political sensation.

Well, clearing the ground by getting rid of the Trump addiction might be a first step. John Harris of Politico had some thoughts on this and used the old drugmeister Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones as an example of how to get clean and kick the Trump obsession. Keith learned not only to ignore the junkies around him but to sit back and enjoy their performance.

Harris puts it this way: Trump learned early on

that once you provoke someone into an emotional response they are in a contest on your terms. So he learned how to surprise, to entertain, to confuse and distort, to offend. As he moved to the political arena, Trump exploited one more psychological reality: His supporters are attracted to him precisely because he so easily outrages his opponents.

This means that Trump’s power—just like Keith Richards’ drug transactions—requires two sides to work. His hold on supporters will wane at the same time his hold on political foes and the news media does. Just say no and watch their faces.

This is not like Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no.” It’s the satisfaction in watching a performance that you no longer need to participate in. Maybe that would be a first step to reclaiming the climate values that so drastically need our attention.

A Culture of Ignorance

Anti-Intellectualism Is Killing America

 The GOP’s Murderous Anti-Intellectualism

 Will Trump’s Broken Promises to Working-Class Voters Cost Him the Election?

With Trump the country’s ignorance has reached a kind of apocalyptic summit with the notion that reason must take a back seat to absurdity and dementia.

We learned today that the administration’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, bypassed FDA’s restrictions and ordered some 23 million hydroxychloroquine tablets to be released in June to the public. This despite the warnings long associated with the drug. It’s only the latest incident in the lackeys’ support of Trump’s lunacy.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, Trump Jr. recently claimed that COVID death numbers are down to “almost nothing.” Epidemiology has never been his strong point.

The intriguing question, as always, is why so many have bought into the lies and deceptions the administration puts forward. One explanation is that the brainwashed are snookered by a long tradition of American anti-intellectualism. Politically, it’s the residue of a once-viable populism. Now, it’s responsible for much of our social dysfunction:

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value.

How many of these absurdities must we continue to bear? Bruce Bartlett writes in TNR:

There are many other ways in which the anti-intellectualism of Republicans and conservatives is life-threatening. They tend to be highly skeptical toward the existence of global warming, which will have catastrophic effects on weather systems, sea levels, and flooding. They also frequently associate themselves with those who won’t allow themselves or their children to be vaccinated, and refuse to accept any evidence linking gun ownership to mass shootings. They even delude themselves that public opinion polls showing a forthcoming defeat for Trump and Republicans in Congress are simply wrong based on nothing except faith-based disbelief.

The culmination of faith-based disbelief has been to accept the president’s stark denial of the potency of the COVID virus. And you can’t simply write off the mindlessness of his supporters as a backlash against the economic structures that have been in place for so long. Says E.J. Dionne:

It is of a piece with a more general frustration with elites following decades of globalization, deindustrialization, and rising inequality. The policies that produced these outcomes, advanced by technocrats, think tanks, and politicians in both parties, damaged communities around the country—particularly in the Midwest states critical to the outcome of the 2016 election, but also in parts of solidly blue America—while often failing to deliver their promised benefits.

What has happened in the rust belt states is not limited to them. It’s at the heart of the economic malaise that occupies so much of the country. Dan Kaufman has written a most worthwhile piece outlining these “broken promises” that have transformed the human and industrial landscape of Michigan and America.

Workers without a college degree “represent more than sixty per cent of the American workforce.” These people have been betrayed for years. Finally, feeling displaces reason. And this election may cause some of them to take up arms.

The history of how we got to this mess of conspiracies and paranoid madness informs Richard Hofstadter’s still relevant 1963 book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which won him a Pulitzer, and The Paranoid Style, 1964. In a short summary the historian Sean Wilentz finds

a fundamental strain of anti-intellectualism that runs throughout our history and crosses the political spectrum. Some of it comes out of evangelical Protestantism, which we can certainly see today, but in a sense there is an anti-intellectual quality latent in democracy itself, such as a distrust of elites and people who think they know better than others as well as more than others. Hofstadter believed that intellectual values, including an appreciation of skepticism and nuance, and a rejection of absolutism and dogma, were crucial to a democratic society.

We very much need to recover these values. More than ever, they are crucial.

Trump’s Heil Hitler Rally

I write this on Friday, the day before the big event in Tulsa. We are so looking forward to this gathering of the faithful. These idiots have to sign a release to hold harmless the Trump campaign if they get the virus. Some 19,000 jammed-in super-spreaders will foist their viruses on each other, hollering and spraying droplets. Masks are optional. And—who knows?—the population of Trump fans may take a big hit. Tulsa is presently having a surge in virus cases and the rally may soar them to a new record.

I have no sympathy for these people. Any empathy I may have had went out the window a long time ago. Their ignorance about the virus and its capability is matched only by their general mental incapacity. Why would anyone choose to cram together in an enclosed space to listen to the mouthings of the amoral charlatan revealed in Bolton’s book? It’s like a Wagnerian opera with Bolton writing the libretto. Or the Nuremberg rallies of 1933. Will they raise their right arms in salute?

Now Trump has threatened that anyone who shows up to protest will be fair game for the cops:

Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!

You lowlifes don’t know what you’re in for with the Tulsa cops. The city set a curfew (then rescinded it) for Friday and Saturday nights. The jails have emptied in anticipation of a host of new occupants. The tear gas and pepper guns are loaded.

The original date of the rally was Friday, “Juneteenth,” the holiday marking the freeing of the slaves in 1865. Who knows what genius in the campaign set that date? Was it to provoke more of the protests still billowing in waves across the country? The campaign finally changed the date to Saturday, which hasn’t cooled any tempers in the protest community. Nor has it helped defuse the still raw wound of the 1921 Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa.

According to one account,

As the rally approaches, tensions in Tulsa are boiling. On Friday night, the Rev. Al Sharpton is planning to discuss the state of race and policing in the country. Other activists said they were dreading the weekend.

We’re all dreading it. Sharpton is scheduled to speak at a Black Lives Matter rally. Just what we need—another inflammatory speech by the grandstanding anti-Semite. Why can’t the Black community find another voice? This is one of the most painful times in U.S. history. Tensions like this will not be defused until Trump leaves office. But the anti-Black racism embodied in his administration won’t go out with him.

Let’s Raise a Statue of Trump

Trump might go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy

 Confederate Statues Are the Easy Part

 On Monument Avenue, Liberal Illusions About Race Come Tumbling Down

The idea’s no more ridiculous than the statues we have of Confederate heroes. Trump represents the same values as these now-deposed clowns. Like Jefferson Davis, Trump may go down in history as the last president of the confederacy. So suggests Eugene Robinson in yesterday’s Post. Trump therefore needs a statue. What will happen after its erection is up for grabs.

The statue should go up in Tulsa, where El Cheeto had scheduled a Juneteenth rally. Tulsa, we should remember, was the scene of perhaps the worst massacre of black people in U.S. history. The statue will be safe from desecration there. Juneteenth is the holiday marking the end of American slavery, a perfect day for the president to announce the monument to himself. Too bad the optics forced him to back down.

I had some opinions about the Confederate statues in a piece written shortly after the Charlottesville episode. “For many people in the South the Civil War never ended, and the statues remind them of that. For others like myself, the statues were a small part of the town’s broader culture and history. I walked past them and never read much of the Conflict into their presence.”

My response was like that of Politico’s John Harris who once lived in Richmond. He felt that “the statues depicted a history that seemed functionally dead. They also seemed like a joke—and the joke was on the very racists who had erected them in the first place.”

But their history and potency are not dead, as the George Floyd protesters testify. Tearing them down will not defeat racism, white supremacy, or Donald Trump. Yet the statues are still cogent symbols, monuments to Jim Crow (as Harris calls them) and segregation—both of which are very much alive.

I sold their symbolic power short when I wrote about Charlottesville. But I shared the viewpoint of one Clay Risen who wrote at the time that the monuments were simply “low-hanging fruit. . . . Removing the legacy of the Confederacy is harder than toppling a few statues.”

Maybe we’ve finally learned that the symbols of Confederacy and white supremacy are ingrained in the South. Risen says a majority of Southerners still

cling to the idea that the memory of the Confederacy is about “heritage, not hate.” For most, I’m convinced, it’s like a slight stink in the air. Unpleasant, perhaps, but everywhere, and so it’s something you don’t think or do much about, and don’t understand the fuss when someone does.

The stink has long pervaded the Trump administration. Soon, perhaps, it will be time to fumigate the White House.

Defying the Gods of Nature

How Climate Change Is Contributing to Skyrocketing Rates of Infectious Disease

The Covid-19 ‘Infowhelm’

 There Is Still No Plan

This is a picture of plastic on the sea floor, a rape of nature and another instance of hubris—that ultimate kind of human arrogance—here putting the stuff out of sight, out of mind.

Some of our oldest and greatest human stories involve hubris—meaning, for the Greeks, “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods.” I like writing about hubris because it never goes unpunished, at least in the Greek myths. Pride always goeth before a fall, and our fall could be a long drawn-out catastrophe.

We are now in the process of committing one of mankind’s greatest acts of hubris ever in challenging the gods of nature. Climate change may be the final act in response to man’s defiance of the natural world. The punishment is going to be severe beyond our imagining. COVID-19 is a signal warning, its spread enabled by climate change.

A catastrophic loss in biodiversity, reckless destruction of wildland and warming temperatures have allowed disease to explode. . . . The diseases may have always been there, buried deep in wild and remote places out of reach of people. But until now, the planet’s natural defense systems were better at fighting them off.

The hubris embodied in our myth of perpetual progress and growth has led modern capitalism to this state. Our myopic focus on extraction, deforestation, paving, overfishing, carbonizing (the list goes on) has made us blind to what we are doing to nature and what this disrespect will lead to. One who does understand this is Amitav Ghosh, whose book The Great Derangement I reviewed here last year.

For Ghosh, the imaginative, psychological and cultural failures keep us from talking about climate change or confronting it. So does our concept of time as something linear, progressing, moving always forward. In fact, progress is the spurious idea behind modernity, which fostered the separation of mankind from nature.

It has become difficult to make sense of all this because we are deluged daily with data and information. With coronavirus we are met with “dizzying numbers of disease prevalence, fatalities, ventilators, unemployment claims; models predicting time to hospital overload, time to reopen for business.” Trump doesn’t even bother with a plan for getting the virus under control. Coronavirus has eliminated any safety net, and as many thousands of Americans die, Trump has set himself to take no responsibility—an act of utter hubris.

The consequence of the data dump also applies to climate change as the onrush of climate data provokes “everything from anxiety, numbing, and complacency to hubris and finger-pointing.” It’s overwhelming and so we proceed with business as usual. As Ghosh revealed, we are now meeting the limits of human understanding and our response is “out of sight, out of mind.” This, as the old stories tell us, cannot continue.

Hard Truths about Climate Change

Climate math: What a 1.5-degree pathway would take

How McKinsey Destroyed the Middle Class

Op-Ed: The McKinsey I hope the world gets to know

Do we really have any chance to come to grips with climate change? Like many of us, I go back and forth on that one. Some recommend throwing out the whole capitalist system. If that seems a bit unlikely, you’d need to know how to redirect the system and what it would really take to decarbonize global business.

A pretty convincing roadmap for that is provided by McKinsey, the firm some love to hate. The critics hate its high-pressure culture, its stress on process, its success. But the business of America is still business, and McKinsey’s leaders have recently tried to transform their firm’s role to reflect the totally changing world we’re living in. I almost went to work for McKinsey in 2006, which would have been to the delight of my capitalistic forebears, but that didn’t happen and I’m grateful.

Anyhow, McKinsey recently issued a report on Climate Math that challenges business to meet the demands for a 1.5-C degree warming limit. This is very much worth your reading so you can understand in some coherent detail the challenges in achieving that goal.

 . . . With further warming unavoidable over the next decade, the risk of physical hazards and nonlinear, socioeconomic jolts is rising. Mitigating climate change through decarbonization represents the other half of the challenge. Scientists estimate that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the odds of initiating the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change.

The report offers five necessary and difficult steps to get to that goal. “The good news,” they say, “is that a 1.5-degree pathway is technically achievable. The bad news is that the math is daunting.”

None of what follows is a forecast. Getting to 1.5 degrees would require significant economic incentives for companies to invest rapidly and at scale in decarbonization efforts. It also would require individuals to make changes in areas as fundamental as the food they eat and their modes of transport. A markedly different regulatory environment would likely be necessary to support the required capital formation.

The report traces five needed interdependent “shifts” in areas that we all know, with varying means and prospects of achieving reform:

    • reforming food and forestry
    • electrifying our lives
    • adapting industrial operations
    • decarbonizing power and fuel
    • ramping up carbon capture and carbon sequestration activity.

Each of these areas plays out in three scenarios the report envisions, not as predictions but as “snapshots” to get where we have to go.

All the scenarios, we found, would imply the need for immediate, all-hands-on-deck efforts to dramatically reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions. The first scenario frames deep, sweeping emission reductions across all sectors; the second assumes oil and other fossil fuels remain predominant in transport for longer, with aggressive reforestation absorbing the surplus emissions; and the third scenario assumes that coal and gas continue to generate power for longer, with even more vigorous reforestation making up the deficit . . . .

Relying so much on reforestation seems to me dubious at best, despite the report’s qualifications. The final pages state in bold type, “It is impossible to chart a 1.5-degree pathway that does not remove carbon dioxide to offset ongoing emissions. The math simply does not work.”

The challenges here are immense and the report does not shy away from them. But finally we are getting serious analysis of how feasible (or unlikely) the 1.5-degree goal is.