The Age of Climate Authoritarianism Is Upon Us
As climate change worsens, the world’s most powerful states will become even more dominant through a concentration of political power, military force, and energy resources
An excerpt from Climate Leviathan by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainright.
A rapid — and massive — change in the geographies of energy production and consumption is currently underway. In a bid for energy security and new streams of profits, some of the world’s largest consumers of energy are turning to “friendlier,” and, ideally, domestic suppliers. Big Oil’s gaze has turned north (to the Arctic), deeper (offshore), and dirtier (tar sands). While the Middle East still holds most of the world’s oil reserves, it accounts for only about a third of current global oil production.
Meanwhile, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has generated a massive push into “unconventional” hydrocarbon resources. Despite persistent talk of peak oil, the world is awash in fossil fuels. For the major energy corporations, demand is a bigger problem than supply.
These centripetal forces are reconfiguring the world’s political geography, spurring at least two profoundly significant developments. First, the “winners” of this geopolitical game, already the world’s most powerful states, are likely to become even more dominant through a concentration of political-economic power, military force, and energy resources. The United States and China have developed two of the largest fracking industries, and both have potentially enormous reserves of shale gas. Second, this shift signals the end of any hope for meaningful carbon mitigation. Fracking and related extractive processes are much more carbon-intensive than drilling Saudi oil, and the explosion in unconventional hydrocarbons guarantees increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Further still, the geographic and political-economic distribution of these resources deepens the global division of wealth and power, exacerbating geopolitical inequalities and further destabilizing what little ground international negotiations have cleared for cooperation on climate-related concerns.