An Interview With Noam Chomsky: A Livable Future Is Possible
This month will mark a critical juncture in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe. At the COP26 global climate summit kicking off next week in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators will be faced with the urgent need to get the world economy off the business-as-usual track that will take Earth up to and beyond 3 degrees Celsius of excess heating before this century’s end, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet, so far, the pledges of rich nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions have been far too weak to rein in the temperature rise. Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s climate plans hang in the balance. If Congress fails to pass the reconciliation bill, the next opportunity for the United States to take effective climate action may not arise until it’s too late.
For the past several decades, Noam Chomsky has been one of the most forceful and persuasive voices confronting injustice, inequity, and the threat posed by human-caused climate chaos to civilization and Earth. I was eager to know Professor Chomsky’s views on the roots of our current dire predicament and on humanity’s prospects for emerging from this crisis into a livable future. He very graciously agreed to speak with me by way of a video chat. The text here is an abridged version of a conversation we had on October 1, 2021.
Professor Chomsky, now 92, is the author of numerous best-selling political works, translated into scores of languages. His critiques of power and advocacy on behalf of the political agency of the common person have inspired generations of activists and organizers. He has been institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1976. His most recent books are Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance, with Marv Waterstone, and Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet, with Robert Pollin and C.J. Polychroniou.
STAN COX: Most of the nations that will be meeting in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference on October 31 to November 12, 2021, have made emissions-reduction pledges. For the most part, those pledges are wholly inadequate. What principles do you think should guide the effort to prevent climate catastrophe?
NOAM CHOMSKY: The initiators of the Paris Agreement intended to have a binding treaty, not voluntary agreements, but there was an impediment. It’s called the Republican Party. It was clear that the Republican Party would never accept any binding commitments. The Republican organization, which has lost any pretense of being a normal political party, is almost solely dedicated to the welfare of the superrich and the corporate sector, and cares absolutely nothing about the population or the future of the world. The Republican organization would never have accepted a treaty. In response, the organizers reduced their goal to a voluntary agreement, which has all the difficulties that you mentioned.
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.