31 Bill McKibben, “The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment,” Rolling Stone, 22 February 2013; Stephen
Lacey, “Do the Math: Mr. McKibben Goes to Washington,” Climate Progress, 19 November 2012; Justin
Gillis, “To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios,” New York Times, 4 December 2012.
32 Desmond Tutu, “We Fought Apartheid. Now Climate Change Is Our Global Enemy,” Observer,
20 September 2014.
33 Mike McGinn, “Let’s Prevent This Crisis: A Letter to Harvard’s President Faust,” Office of the
Mayor, City of Seattle, 17 October 2013.
34 Antonio Blumberg, “Union Theological Seminary in NYC Unanimously Votes to Divest from Fossil
Fuels,” Huffington Post, 10 June 2014; Paul Brandeis Rauschenbusch, “Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategy
Passes at United Church of Christ Convention (UCC),” Huffington Post, 2 July 2013; Emily Atkin, “Group
Representing Half a Billion Christians Says It Will No Longer Support Fossil Fuels,” Climate Progress, 11
35 McKibben, “The Case”; Gillis, “To Stop Climate Change.”
36 McKibben, “The Case.”
37 “Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets,” Carbon Tracker, 2013.
38 Aaron Task, “Al Gore: ‘Carbon Bubble’ Is Going to Burst – Avoid Oil Stocks,” Daily Ticker, 18
October 2013; “Climate Action Could Halve Energy Firms’ Worth – Bank,” Dailyclimate.org, 4 February
39 Tom Randall, “Oil’s Future Draws Blood and Gore in Investment Portfolios,” Bloomberg, 18
40 McKibben, “The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment.”
41 Ilaria Bertini, “US Academics: Fossil Fuel Divestment Reduces Long-Term Financial Risks,” Blue
and Green Tomorrow, 5 December 2013.
42 John Schwartz, “Rockefellers, Heirs to an Oil Fortune, Will Divest Charity of Fossil Fuels,” New
York Times, 21 September 2014.
Dwain Deets, "Can Civilization Survive the CO2
Crisis? Review of David Ray Griffin' Book,"
Global Research, January 28, 2015
Sandy Dechert, "A Complete Field Guide to Climate
Clean Technica, 9 February 2014
Joel S. Hirschhorn, "Planetary Suicide"
Countercurrents.org, 11 February 2015
Jay McDaniel, "No Turning Back: Climate Change
as the New Normal: In Appreciation of David Ray
Griffin's Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive
the CO2 Crisis?"
Process Philosophy for Everyone
Paul Craig Roberts,"The Social Costs of Capitalism
Are Destroying Earth's Ability to Support Life,"
Counterpunch, 30 March 2015
Chandra Muzaffar: "David Griffin Paints Bleak
Picture of our Climate Crisis"
www.star2.com 22 May, 2015
Reactions to the recent Paris climate accord have been broadly positive, although with many
reservations owing to its structure and lack of binding commitments. Elizabeth Kolbert, whose book
The Sixth Extinction I review in books in brief, wrote in the New York Times that it was probably the
say it was a triumph and those who insist it was a sham - like James Hansen - are both right. Private
Eye humorously summarises the drift in its latest issue, remarking that ‘there were standing ovations
all round in Paris last night, as 194 world leaders applauded themselves for having agreed on what
they all agreed was the most historic agreement ever agreed in the history of the world.’
In his latest book, David Ray Griffin brings his meticulous scholarship and critical acumen to a
completely new field, with 75 pages of notes covering every aspect of climate change that one can
think of. He originally made his name in philosophy and religion, especially with respect to
Whitehead, and he has also written on parapsychology. More recently, he has written over 10
books on 9/11, most of which I have reviewed in these pages. It is an extraordinary achievement to
have mastered the climate change literature so thoroughly and produce a highly acclaimed book
asking if civilisation can survive the CO2 crisis. At the beginning of the book, he quotes Nobel prize
winner Sherwood Rowland as saying: ‘what’s the use of having developed a science well enough to
make predictions if, in the end, all we are willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come
true?’ This quote effectively frames Griffin’s analysis.
The book is in three parts: unprecedented threats, covering extreme weather, heatwaves, droughts
and fires, storms, sea level rise, fresh water shortage, food shortage, climate refugees, climate wars
and ecosystem collapse and extinction. The second part addresses unprecedented challenges and
failures: climate change denial, media failure, political failure, moral challenge, religious challenge
and economic challenge. Part three spells out what can be done in terms of the transition to clean
energy, the abolition of dirty energy and mobilisation. In some ways, Griffin builds on the work of
Lester Brown and his formulation of Plan B, although he cleverly adds Plan C. Plan A is business as
usual, which is not really a plan at all, while Plan B spells out the necessary mobilisation process
and action that can avert environmental catastrophe. Plan C is the wait-and-see option which, in the
end, is not very different from Plan A. This leaves Plan B as the only truly rational and moral option,
but it requires a fundamental change of course that will not be initiated by our current political
Drawing on authoritative sources, Griffin spells out in the first part the catalogue of evidence for
climate disruption, focusing primarily on the US but bringing in evidence from other parts of the
world as well. Because we are used to thinking in linear terms, it is more difficult for us to
understand that global warming may be a systemic cause of many of the disruptions he describes.
Some of the later chapters illustrate the effects of the earlier ones when it comes to water and food
shortages. There is a separate chapter on climate refugees, which Sir Crispin Tickell was warning
about 20 years ago. Here Griffin gives a particularly interesting example concerning Syria. We
already know that the whole region is under pressure so far as water is concerned, and Syria
suffered a terrible drought between 2006 and 2011. This led to widespread crop failures and death
of livestock, reducing 2 to 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants to extreme poverty.
Government policy further exacerbated water shortages and it seems plausible that the government’
s failure to respond to this humanitarian crisis was a trigger of the uprising. At the end of each
chapter, Griffin spells out clearly the options of Plans A, B and C so that the reader becomes
progressively more convinced that we must find a way of implementing Plan B.
The second part opens with a discussion of climate change denial, which is largely linked to oil
interests, particularly Exxon Mobil. Griffin lists the principal scientists and institutions supported by
the industry, and has some eye-opening quotes from informed politicians. He compares the denial
campaign with that of the cigarette industry, and could also have cited the current tactics of the food
industry in relation to obesity. He goes on to document the failure of the media and politicians,
commenting on the huge gap between the public’s understanding of the situation and the scientific
understanding, which has actually widened over the last five years. The main reason for media and
political failure is a combination of the power of money and ‘economism’, which frames the whole
analysis in terms of the growth of the existing system, in spite of warnings from distinguished
academics like Lord Stern, whose views have become more urgent since the publication of his initial
study in 2006. Science has been overruled by politics and short-term economics and I’m sure
Jonathan Pershing is right to remark that the politics of negotiations do not speak in any way to what
has to be done. A very important factor is intergenerational justice, which reinforces the moral case
for immediate action. Griffin also shows how various apocalyptic theological perspectives do not
help the situation: if you rely on God to intervene or you are expecting the end of the world, then
climate change can fulfill these aspirations.
The third part goes into considerable detail about the possible transition to clean energy, using a
variety of technologies and showing that the world could be powered by such technologies by 2050.
German figures have already reached one third. Forecasts for keeping global warming within 2
degrees mean that we can only burn a further 565 gigatons of carbon, while the known reserves of
fossil fuels are 2795 gigatons. This means keeping 4/5 of these reserves in the ground. Needless to
say, the fossil fuel companies have no intention of doing this, so governments will have to act more
vigorously on the carbon front and by removing fossil fuel subsidies. Griffin shows that none of our
existing fossil fuel technologies are clean enough to make a difference. Like Lester Brown, he
advocates mass mobilisation to address the overall challenge. This gives a unique role to the
President of the United States, but equally the office is hemmed in by campaign funds given by
fossil fuel and other interests. Griffin spells out the clear and present danger that we face and
details a series of policies that reverse the trends. In doing this, he goes further than Brown by
showing what various sectors of society can contribute, including leaders at state and city levels.
So we come back to Paris and the agreement. Elizabeth Kolbert thinks that the media have a
special role to play in keeping world leaders up to the mark in fulfilling their obligations and
aspirations. We do not yet have a collective sense of emergency that is conveyed in this powerful
book, so the question becomes how this will come about. There is always wiggle room in associating
a systemic cause with a particular effect, so perhaps our best bet is to support every effort we can
not only to move towards clean energy but also to support projects that regenerate our ecosystems,
especially in relation to agriculture, and reduce our ecological footprint. This also means a major
campaign on contraception and women’s education so as to reduce family size as population and
consumption together determine our overall impact on the environment.
David Lorimer, “Paris and the Survival
Network Review, Winter 2015-2016
UNPRECEDENTED, by David Ray Griffin
Clarity Press, 2015, 515 pp., $34.95
(Amazon $28.93; Kindle $13.49).