26 Pieces for COP26: Fire

For the duration of the conference, in place of our Paper Cuts newsletter (though just as timely), we’ll be sharing writing about waterearth, air and fire from the LRB archive. Naomi Klein’s piece here will be kept in front of the paywall, as will a piece from each of the other collections.

Burning Up the World: ExxonMobil

Luke Mitchell, 8 November 2012

Forecasters in ExxonMobil’s strategic planning department predicted in 2005 that the only thing that would prevent growing demand for oil (and, not incidentally, growing profits for ExxonMobil) would be an unprecedented global carbon tax, and for that to happen, in Steve Coll’s summary of their findings, ‘the world’s governments would have to reach a unified conclusion that climate change presented an emergency on the scale of the Second World War – a threat so profound and disruptive as to require massive national investments and taxes designed to change the global energy mix.’ The forecasters assumed this would not happen. 

Diary: The golf course is burning

Karl Whitney, 2 June 2016

With underground fires, cause and effect are split in an unnerving manner: you know that your garden (let’s say) is on fire, but you don’t know how long the ground beneath it has been burning, or who or what sparked the blaze.

El Diablo in Wine Country

Mike Davis, 2 November 2017

Californians are notoriously solipsistic about their disasters and tend to save their sympathy for themselves. Yet even here we are so narrowly focused that the worst fire disaster since San Francisco in 1906 has probably generated fewer bytes than serial celebrity molester Harvey Weinstein. And who in the media has connected the dots between the burning wineries, the evacuation of Montana and the fires in Greenland?

Smoked Out: Travels in the Apocalypse

McKenzie Funk, 7 February 2019

Disasters like the conflagration that consumed Paradise, California, in November, killing 81 people – the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history – do happen. But the climate disaster facing millions of other residents of the American West is more insidious.

All the News Is Bad: Our Alien Planet

Francis Gooding, 1 August 2019

‘We have already exited the state of environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place,’ David Wallace-Wells writes, ‘in an unsure and unplanned bet on just what that animal can endure. The climate system that raised us, and raised everything we now know as human civilisation, is now, like a parent, dead.’

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