Jeff Goodell, environmental author and Rolling Stone contributor with a tendency toward climate apocalypticism, joined fill-in Amanpour & Co. host Bianna Golodryga on Monday for a segment that extrapolated wildly from the hot Texas summer (stop the presses!) to find an “existential threat” in a world-wide “climate crisis.”
The host opened by linking every harmful recent weather event to “climate change.”
GOLODRYGA: Hardly a day goes by without yet another dire reminder of how the climate crisis is impacting our planet….monsoon floods in India have killed at least 22 people with daring rescues….The globe is also seeing record-breaking temperatures. And a new report shows 62,000 people died from Europe’s summer heat wave last year. “The Heat Will Kill You First,” by Jeff Goodell looks at the terrifying long-term effect of these soaring temperatures, and he joins me from another hot spot on the earth, and that is Austin, Texas….
Host and guest goaded each other into more fearsome language.
JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR, “THE HEAT WILL KILL YOU FIRST”: We’re seeing pictures of the flooding around the world, you know, pictures, and we all know about droughts and sea level rise and things like that, and all of those things are driven by the extreme warming of our planet….
GOLODRYGA: You don’t like the term global warming, you consider it too soothing. Would a more alarmist term actually lead to more effective change?
GOODELL: Well, I don’t think it’s a question of alarming, I think it’s a question of coming to grips with the reality that is happening around us. I mean, my problem with the phrase “global warming” is that it sounds like, you know, a better day at the beach kind of thing, and that is not what we’re dealing with right now. We are dealing with a planet that is changing rapidly because of the burning of fossil fuels that is adding CO2 to the atmosphere that is pushing us towards these extremes. And whether you use the phrase “climate crisis” or I don’t know what the sort of right phrase is to capture the scale and the immensity of these changes that we’re facing, but global warming is just sort of a little too gentle and a little too cute.
Golodryga later forwarded some unchallenged suppositions from an international body. There was no skepticism offered to challenge the jeremiads of her guest, not even in a “devil’s advocate” format, and certainly no opposing view on the show which airs on CNN International and tax-supported PBS.
GOLODRYGA: Well, another consequence of all this is migration. And we are seeing that in record numbers. The World Bank expects there to be 260 million climate-displaced people by 2030, that’s just in a few years, and up to 1.2 billion by 2050. Just economically, talk about the impact that could have on the world.
Goodell raised the stakes, suggesting extreme heat was causing the border surge in the United States:
GOODELL: Well, migration, is, you know, a huge issue when we think about these temperature changes that are happening and these other extreme events….that has profound implications throughout the world, both in the sense, the obvious sense of people fleeing hot areas and moving into other countries, the whole problems that migration and immigration are causing. We see it on the Mexican border, here in the U.S.
Goodell even threatened COVID, Part II:
So, these extreme heat events are increasing the risk of another pandemic and another virus being sort of unleashed on our world.
Golodryga assented, noting “clusters of malaria” in Texas and Florida and thanking Goodell for making the “correlation.”
Goodell’s 2017 book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World was a year-end “Best of” pick by both The New York Times and The Washington Post.
This panic-button segment was sponsored by Mutual of America Financial Group.
A transcript is below, click “Expand” to read:
Amanpour & Co.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we know that there is nothing cute about the heat wave that millions of Americans are facing, including where you are in Texas.
And listen, I sympathize. I grew up in Houston, my parents are there. We are well accustomed to hot temperatures, even, you know, over 100 degrees.
And yet, when you have a heat dome sitting over you for weeks with no end in sight, I listen to the forecast and it doesn’t appear that that’s comingto an end anytime soon, what does that tell you? I mean, how rare is it to experience a heat dome like that when you are right now?
GOODELL: Well, you know, I mean, obviously a place like Texas has been — it’s always been a hot place, but what we’re seeing now is sort of a movement towards new extremes, and these heat waves that are hotter and hotter and lasting longer and longer. And they’re also, you know, kind of appearing in places that we didn’t expect heat waves to occur before, like the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in 2021 was a great example of that.
You know, we had — at British Columbia, it got to — a town at British Columbia got up to 121 degrees, and basically kind of spontaneously combusted. We have heat waves in the ocean that have profound implications for our weather systems and for marine life there.
So, one of the things that’s happening now, what people always say, oh, is this a new normal? But it’s not a new normal. We’re moving into a new climate regime and no one quite knows what the rules are and how hot it can get, how fast, and where that heat will strike.
GOLODRYGA: The fossil feel industry is a lifeblood for the Texas economy. And yet, what’s striking is that renewable energy production is actually credited with saving the electricity grid and the electric grid from collapsing given this heat wave. Renewables reached, according to some figures, 35 to 40 percent during peak usage last week. Is this the sign that perhaps the tide is turning? Your focus on fossil fuels and the need to really tackle this issue. Are we seeing real-life examples of a state that relies so heavily on them actually making change?
GOODELL: Yes, I think it’s been a really, really important example of that, you know. Because one of the great fears — you know, a lot of people say, oh, heat wave, so it’s hot, so just turn up air conditioning and everything will be fine, right? So, first of all, there’s a couple of problems with that, one is that, you know, billions of people on the planet don’t have air conditioning. You know, we’re not going to air condition the wheat fields and corn fields where food is grown, we’re not going to be able to air condition the ocean.
But there’s also the problem of when you have extreme heat and people are cranking up their air conditioning of a power grid failure. And if you have a power grid failure during an extreme heat wave, a lot of people are going to die. And one of the things we saw on Texas was because we have so much solar power on the grid now, and solar power works really well in hot weather, obviously with hot sunny weather, not only is it more reliable than fossil fuel generation but it’s also cheaper. So, not only do we have a more — that it increased the stability of the grid, but it saved Texans a lot of money and their electricity cost also.
GOLODRYGA: Do you see this as just a temporary measure that perhaps once cooler weather comes finally that things will go back to usual or do youthink that this is a learning opportunity for some of — even these oil companies, these fossil fuel companies to move in a different direction going forward?
GOODELL: Yes. I mean, I think this is, you know, one of many kind of wake up moments that we’re having, that the fossil fuel industry is having, not fast enough. But I think that, you know, these changes that we’re seeing and these extreme climate events have gone from something sort of theoretical to something that’s happening in real-time.
And not only is it happening in real-time, it’s accelerating, it’s getting more extreme. And I think that, you know, there could not be a clearer call in our world to radically reduce fossil fuel emissions and keep us from pushing this climate even further, not just for ourselves, but for our future generations.
GOLODRYGA: Well, another consequence of all of this is migration. And we are seeing that in record numbers. The World Bank expects there to be 260 million climate displaced people by 2030, that’s just in a few years, and up to 1.2 billion by 2050. Just economically, talk about the impact that could have on the world.
GOODELL: Well, migration, is, you know, a huge issue when we think about these temperature changes that are happening and these other extreme events. You know, every creature, humans, and it’s not just, you know, humans that are moving, but animals and plants and everything else, we all search for our sort of thermal comfort zones. And when our thermal comfort zones change, we move.
And you know, that has profound implications throughout the world, both in the sense — the obvious sense of people fleeing hot areas and moving into other countries, the whole problems that migration and immigration are causing. We see it on the Mexican border, here in the U.S. We see it, you know, in the Netherlands, in Europe, throughout that.
But there’s also the questions of, you know, as animals move, animals that carry diseases are moving into new areas. So, we have something like mosquitoes, which are very temperature sensitive, carrying diseases like malaria and dengue fever and Zika, moving into places where they had never been before. So, these extreme heat events are increasing the risk of another pandemic and another virus being sort of unleashed on our world.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We’ve seen clusters of malaria actually pop up in states like Texas and Florida. So, I’m glad you made that correlation there between the two…