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249: US Elections: Could Trump Surprise Us On Climate?

With Ian Bremmer

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About this episode

This week’s episode kicks off with Tom and Paul discussing the critical events shaping global democracy over the last week including Trump’s convictions, the first head to head debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer ahead of the July 4th UK elections and Modi’s unexpected election result. They provide thoughtful analysis of the question: how much is climate change impacting these global democratic events? 

We also feature a brilliant conversation Christiana had with Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media where they discuss Trump and what his possible re-election could mean for climate action. Could a second Trump administration surprise us on climate? 


Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Paul: [00:00:14] And I'm Paul Dickinson. And who's not here?

Tom: [00:00:17] Christiana is not here at the beginning, but she is here doing the interview. So she's part of this episode. And today we're going to talk about the election results in India, what's happening in the UK election, Trump's conviction. And we're going to speak to Ian Bremmer, CEO of Eurasia Group, friend of the podcast. Thanks for being here.

Tom: [00:00:45] So, Paul, so nice to see you this morning. It's 8:00 in the morning. We're recording this bright and early.

Paul: [00:00:50] Much too early.

Tom: [00:00:50] On Wednesday the 5th of June. Christiana is not around at the moment. She's out of service for a couple of weeks. But she did record a brilliant interview yesterday with Ian Bremmer, CEO of Eurasia Group, which will come to you later. But just before we do, I thought it might be quite good for us to kick off, obviously, the big news story of the last week has been Trump's conviction on 34 felonies, and that has all kinds of complex and nuanced implications, both for the world and for climate. But it's not the only political thing that's been happening, actually there's been some, as we've said many times, pretty consequential elections this year. And the big one, that we've had news of in recent days is the re-election of Modi in a rather diminished capacity as prime minister of India for another five years. What do you make of that? Load More
Paul: [00:01:37] Well, I think it's actually fantastically good news. I've had a sort of slight awareness of the nature of an increasingly authoritarian Modi, the importance of democracy as a sort of mechanism to avoid terror and horror is the thing. I never see democracy as a, as a, as a kind of political system. I see it as a way of avoiding unimaginable crimes. And we have to be very, very careful of, you know, our democracies being undermined in literally in numbers of voters. India is the greatest democracy in the world and.

Tom: [00:02:14] A billion people eligible to vote, it's just astonishing.

Paul: [00:02:15] Well, it's just a crazy number, you know, that's kind of like the EU and the US and Japan and Indonesia all combined, you know, and that's just registered voters, so I think that the people of India have recognized that increasing authoritarianism is not in their interests. And so whilst, you know, there are many great things that Modi's done for the country, the country has sort of said, no, no, we don't want, you know, somebody to kind of make themselves prime minister or president forever and kind of you know, push, you know, basically imprison journalists, imprison the opposition, you know, Modi wasn't the worst of them, but the direction of travel was pretty clear. So I think it's a good day, for those of us. But I think as we dig into the discussion about Trump and about democracy in general, we're going to see that these are pretty scary times, but I think this has been a, you know, essentially a good moment for democracy.

Tom: [00:03:03] Yeah, no, 100%. And, I mean, any time and this obviously goes, you know, climate is fundamentally connected to this, but it's a broader political issue as well. Any time we see the voters issue a check on the ambitions of would be despots or potential people who are trying to accrue more power to themselves has got to be good for global democracy. It's also interesting, you know, to just point out how much of an issue the heat was in this election. I mean, this is, as we said, a billion people. This is a six week process of voting. And it took place amid this unbelievable heat around the country, in some of the northern states, there were over 30 people, including poll workers who died as complications from the heat, according to some different government authorities, and there's actually been quite a bit of analysis that has come out to suggest that there won't, elections are traditionally held in the summer in India, but this year, you know, there's been these impacts. It's been over 52 degrees in Delhi. That's 127°F at the end of last month, and that has been a bad enough issue for the voting itself. But we've seen so many complications associated with increased heat across climate, particularly affecting the nearly 800 million people who still generate their livelihood from working the land in India.

Tom: [00:04:21] We tend to think of India now as this resurgent technology based economy. And that, of course, is true. But it's also true that most of the poorest people still work on the land. And we're seeing changes to groundwater, changes to crop yields. That's complicated by the government's policies to set prices for crops so that if the price is set and the yield drops, that has a very detrimental impact on some farmers. So climate change has been this weird, sort of like sometimes named but often not named, but kind of, sort of malevolent presence in India throughout this summer as we've gone through a voting process. And at some point, it'd be really interesting to get an Indian domestic affairs analyst on to talk about how much of that has led into the impact that we've seen, which has returned Modi, but with a minority government. And I think it's, consensus opinion that he significantly underperformed. Was climate change a factor in that, today I don't feel qualified to say, but that's a fascinating issue we should get into.

Paul: [00:05:15] I don't think you should ever remove the possibility of climate change being an impact, but how it shows up may be very, very strange in many, many different environments, from pushing people towards thinking about climate policies to pushing people into denial. It can go either way.

Tom: [00:05:29] Yeah. Now, of course, another election happening or unfolding at the moment a month away is the UK election. Last night, on the 4th of June was the first TV leaders debate between Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak. I watched a proportion of it, including the bit on climate change, Rishi Sunak doubling down on trying to make climate a culture war, saying that we will achieve net zero. But you shouldn't have to pay for this through your taxes. And really trying to create a false equivalence I think increasingly about the fact that actually the transition is expensive, which of course it is not. So the conservatives are continuing to, disqualify themselves as a credible party for office, managing the most complex issues of our time, and I do think that, you know, no one's perfect, but I think Labour are moving in a good direction to actually be much better at that than we've seen in the last few years in the UK. So fingers crossed, actually, that we will see renewed UK leadership on climate on the world stage. Anything to share on that?

Paul: [00:06:23] Yeah, I mean, just, just that you know, and we'll come on to this I think after the interview. But there is a growing, organization of wild people who are very angry. And, you know, some of them are are drawing on the comments of, of smart analysts who will say, well, you know, the UK is only 1% of global emissions, so it doesn't matter. And and, you know, you really got to challenge yourself on some of the absolute principles here. You know, it's like saying, well, it's only going to kill a few people. So it doesn't really matter. You know, there are principles of equitable duty of citizens to each other around the world that we're quite new to taking on board. But we have to.

Tom: [00:07:06] Yeah. And the other point I have to make, and I'm sorry for bringing it into this podcast, but Nigel Farage has announced himself as the arch Brexiteer who kind of created the Brexit moment in the UK all those years ago. He's announced himself as a candidate for Reform, which is the party that he created, used to be the Brexit Party and has now been renamed Reform. And one interesting piece of analysis that I saw on this, they've received £2.3 million from oil and gas interests and highly polluting industries and deniers since 2019, amounting to, what percentage of the party's donations would you say came from those sources?

Paul: [00:07:41] I'm guessing it's like 90%, right.

Tom: [00:07:43] 92% has come from those sources.

Paul: [00:07:47] I mean, it's you know, this is this is absolutely, just straight up political corruption by a big wounded industry.

Tom: [00:07:53] It's political corruption. Absolutely.

Paul: [00:07:55] And and, you know, I'm just waiting for the security services or someone to, like, step in here and sort of say you can't undermine democracy in the interests of a powerful, fading industry. In fact, actually, it was, do you know what, yesterday, I think it was, Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave a speech where he said that actually advertising from fossil fuel industries should be banned. I think that's actually a very, very good way of looking at how to begin to curtail the political impact of of these organizations.

Tom: [00:08:23] I 100% agree. I mean, to have a political party that is anti net zero and is agitating in that regard and is 92% funded by those interests. I mean, it's just ridiculous.

Paul: [00:08:33] At the very least it should be called the Fossil Fuel Party, not the Reform Party.

Tom: [00:08:36] That's true actually. We should try and rebrand them and come up with that. On to the issue du jour, Mr Trump.

Paul: [00:08:41] We're recording very early in the morning because I'm on jury service, and, juries are very important parts of a legal system. I have noticed that the UK legal system appears to be chronically underfunded. I'm sure there's some ambition by some people to say, well, let's just give the police special powers.

Tom: [00:08:56] And you're allowed to talk about jury service on a podcast?

Paul: [00:08:58] I'm not allowed to talk about a case, but I'm allowed to talk about the fact I'm on it I think, but but genuinely, you know, we depend upon this, this brilliant system, it was wonderful to be told by a judge that we decide, and that's the that's a very important legal principle, but a jury in the US, in New York has convicted Trump on multiple counts. How this affects the election, will be interesting, hugely or not at all would seem to be the general consensus, but we wanted to reach out to an expert. So who are we going to reach out to Tom?

Tom: [00:09:31] So we're going to talk to Ian Bremmer. And Christiana chatted with him yesterday. Ian Bremmer, of course, former guest on this podcast, he is, you know, I think one of the world's preeminent political scientists and analysts. He, is President and Founder of Eurasia Group, leading geopolitical risk advisory firm and GZERO Media, it is really well worthwhile following him on Twitter and on podcasts and others. His analysis is always succinct and effective. Just before we go to it, I mean, one other comment I wanted to make based on what you just said is it has been really interesting. I've tried to avoid watching too much of this trial, but the bald differential between what is said in the media, both before and since the trial, and what had to be said in the courtroom, where you actually have burden of proof, is so wildly different. And it's amazing that the media in the US don't pick up on that. I mean, Trump says, you know, most famously, the election was a fraud, it was stolen. In court, we're not alleging fraud. We're not saying the election was stolen. So you hear what they really think when they have the burden of proof. And it is a failure of journalism. 

Paul: [00:10:33] When they're under oath and they can actually, you know.

Tom: [00:10:35] When they're under oath. Yeah. Yeah. And and it is a failure of journalism collectively that they're not held at least to some standard. It doesn't have to be a courtroom standard, but some standard of accountability when they go in front of the media. I mean, yesterday Trump came out, did an interview with Fox and Friends and said he'd never said lock her up about Hillary Clinton. Now, of course, you know, late night TV hosts have a field day with that, then splicing it between.

Paul: [00:10:57] I watched all of that actually.

Tom: [00:10:58] All of the moments where they say, lock her up. So so I mean it is.

Paul: [00:11:02] Don't blame the media, Tom. We're in a post-truth society and we should come on to talk about that.

Tom: [00:11:08] All right. So let's go to the interview. This is Ian Bremmer conversation with Christiana yesterday, 4th of June, and then Paul and I will be back afterwards.

Christiana: [00:11:21] Ian, thank you so much for joining us here in at such short notice on Outrage + Optimism. And, of course Ian, it's you are fully aware, as is everyone else, that a Trump election in November would be a disaster for global climate change efforts. So of course, we are following the political winds in the United States. As we all know, Trump has been declared guilty on all 34 felony counts, with a sentence coming down on July 11th. Ian, you are such a geopolitical guru, such a geopolitical strategist and understand this so well. Do you think that either the declaration of guilty or the sentence which we don't know what it is going to be, does the decision of the judge or of the jury, does it move the needle for November? Does it not move the needle at all, or is it too early to tell?

Ian Bremmer: [00:12:28] I think it only moves the needle a little bit, though it's a very close race, so a little bit might matter and, and, and I'm happy to answer that more fully. But but maybe I should I again, you do fantastic work on climate, and I know that that's your, your your beat, so maybe I can, I can respond just for a second at the, at the top here on, on whether or not a Trump administration is really a global disaster for climate. I mean, we all know that that Trump gets a lot of money, from energy CEOs, fossil fuel CEOs, and certainly he would be, he would have an administration that would be much more amenable, to regulatory capture from fossil fuel interests. I accept that, but I also know, that Texas today, red Texas is the leader in the United States in the production of renewable energy. And that was not true when Trump was president. But, but he is very interested in those votes and in those voters. And the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act misnamed, under Biden, created jobs across the country, but more jobs in red states than blue states overall, and a lot of them oriented towards transition energy, is something that Trump is not going to end. So, I mean, I do think that the the reality of these technologies becoming investable and cheaper at scale, including in the US, is a reality for a US driven economy that Trump will want to see succeed. So in that regard, Trump as president would probably be less disastrous for climate in his second term if he were to win, than he was in the first term. Just because the world is moving, and and I just think that we should keep that in mind, you know, if there's a silver lining in all of this for you, I'd be remiss not to mention it.

Christiana: [00:14:41] Well, that definitely is a silver lining. Thank you very much for starting there. But, but but let's go in a little bit into these benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act, from IRA and from BIL. It is a mystery to me, Ian, why, despite the fact that Biden is the president who has put forward the most far reaching policies on climate in the United States, despite the fact that those policies are, as you say, bringing new jobs, bringing energy security, basically bringing huge benefits, especially to those, those states that perhaps are the least expecting of those benefits. And however, Biden is not really getting political credit on any of this. In fact, he's not even getting political credit, even among young voters who should be scrutinizing what policies are being implemented by any government, what climate policies are being implemented by any government. Why is that, Ian?

Ian Bremmer: [00:15:49] I think there are two reasons for that Christiana. One, is that, the United States for decades now, has been used to functionally zero inflation and and the inflation that the United States has experienced now, post pandemic, is, you know, not not only unprecedented in the lives of young people, but has a has a particularly negative effect on the psychology, of, of lower and middle class Americans. You know, you can get 5% extra, 10% extra in your wages. And you believe, well, that's because I deserve it, and I'm working harder. But then when you go to the store and everything is more expensive, you're blaming the government for that. And so inflation is particularly pernicious in this regard. It has increased and has not come down as quickly as was expected in the US. It's one of the reasons that rates still haven't been brought down by the FED, and, and definitely that's a big piece of why everyday Americans feel like the economy is not doing as well as you would you would see in the stock market levels, for example. That's one reason. A second reason, and I don't have a strong view of which of these reasons is more important, is that the United States has become so politically divided and polarized that the best way to understand how you view the economy is, if I ask you where you vote, because if you vote for Trump, then you thought the economy was doing well when Trump was president and then suddenly was doing worse when Biden was president. If you vote for Biden, your views were exactly the opposite.

Ian Bremmer: [00:17:33] That's strange. And that doesn't track with the the impact of inflation on you. It doesn't track with whether you're poor or middle income or wealthy, but it does track with how people relate to the economy. And so in that regard, the first group of people, it's understandable why they're not giving Biden political credit. The second group is less so. And again, those were people that, you know, weren't necessarily giving Trump credit, during his administration, if they were Biden voters. You and I both know Biden voters that were prepared to say that Trump did literally nothing right. Well, I remember having a debate with Evan Osnos, who was a very smart guy from The New Yorker and a Biden biographer and who two years into the Trump administration, in an interview that I was doing with him, said that there was literally nothing positive that Trump had done literally nothing. And, I mean, so I, I came up and I gave him like six things, that were some of which were big, some of which were small. And you could tell that he just none of that was on his screen because it was inconceivable that someone who was so incapable and incompetent from his perspective, so evil, from his perspective, could actually do something useful. I fear that, people in the United States are so, so dug in to the notion that their political adversaries are evil, are trying to destroy democracy, that they're incapable of giving them credit for anything. And that is a very bad place to be. And it also transitions nicely into what we're what we're talking about today.

Christiana: [00:19:14] Well, this confrontation, politics by confrontation, right, instead of politics by analysis or by recognition, and and that is that is so true. And it has definitely plagued climate as well as it has plagued so many other issues, and I want to just put your two answers to the last two, questions together, Ian, and ask you the following other, square that doesn't, or circle that doesn't square for me, which is this is no doubt a massively consequential election with Trump's at least threat of pulling out of NATO. We don't know whether he would or not. To your point, the threat to US democratic institutions, the threat to democracy itself, gender issues, human rights, on and on and on. The list is long. But we cannot forget that in many ways, this election in the US is actually a climate election, not only because of what you've just mentioned, that oil and gas industry is substantially funding the Trump campaign, but also because if we take the big picture lens, if we take the arc of history lens, and we look at the future of humanity as a whole, not just one country, one issue big as they are, the most consequential issue that will be addressed one way or another by the next president of the United States is climate change, as Biden has done, and as anyone will have to do over the next four years. And the two candidates are outspokenly and predictably diametrically opposed. But Ian, here, here is the mystery to me. Climate does not rise to the top as an electoral issue at all, at all, despite the fact that it is the most consequential issue. Why is that?

Ian Bremmer: [00:21:29] No. Well, I mean, first I, I see climate as one of the most consequential issues in any country going forward for the foreseeable future. I and I wrote that in my last book, The Power of Crisis. I'm not sure that I consider it number one. I might consider artificial intelligence, number one, I see it in some ways as more of an existential threat and opportunity and also coming a lot faster, and with people much less capable of dealing with it, not having the tools. But but certainly I having said that, I would put climate as number two, and there's no question in my mind that anyone should be, should consider it really impactful. But but right now, I think that the level of attention in the United States is, is fully captured by nearer term issues, nearer term issues that feel.

Christiana: [00:22:26] Such as my perception of the economy right, what I perceive the economy to be doing.

Ian Bremmer: [00:22:29] That's right, what you perceive the economy to be, abortion, the, the migration issue, as well as, the state of democracy in the United States and frankly, Biden's age, these are I mean, these are five issues that regularly are considered more important. I think if you're in Mexico right now, they just had elections, 38 candidates in those elections assassinated right. You and I can say, well, climate change matters a lot more for Mexico than, you know, sort of talking about security. But the reality is that overwhelmingly for the Mexican population, security was a much bigger issue than climate. Now, I mean, climate is moving up in the league tables as we see greater impact on people's lives around the world, and, you know, you see that in Delhi with temperatures at 125 degrees in the last week, and you see that with massive floods that are going to be significantly, enormously expensive to pay for in Brazil. I mean, you know, you see it every day. It's your life. But in this election in the United States, which is, frankly, by far the most divided and dysfunctional election since the 1870s, since the reconstruction period after the Civil War. I understand why the average American who doesn't spend their their life reading the news and doesn't spend their time thinking about the future of the planet. They have, you know, more prosaic day to day family, community, local neighbourly and personal concerns why climate's not at the top of that list. That makes a lot of sense to me. It's, you know, it's Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and last time I looked at it, climate wasn't on top, you know, I mean, Solzhenitsyn writing about the Gulag, what didn't wasn't thinking very much about what was happening outside those walls.

Christiana: [00:24:28] Yes. No, and that and that is the conundrum of climate, right. It's always the perception or the reality is that it's always far away from me geographically. It's far away from me in time, and everything else pops up as so much more of a threat, despite the fact that, the threat is so much greater if you understand the, the, the, the long arc of history. But we are so wired to be looking at simply what is right in front of our nose. And and I shouldn't say even simply because it is quite understandable that that that's the way that we are wired. Now, I wonder, Ian, if you would make the same argument outside the United States as well, internationally, because this is the year in which we're going to be having more elections than ever before. Half, half the world goes to elections. Just this week we had two elections, one in Iceland with our good friend Halla Tomasdottir, who is a very climate savvy, new president in Iceland. And then, just even more recently, Claudia Sheinbaum, who is a. 

Ian Bremmer: [00:25:49] Sheinbaum in Mexico, climate scientist.

Christiana: [00:25:51] A climate scientist, although we still don't know what her policies are going to be, but, but she's, has quite a trajectory in climate science, for sure. And so those are two, two very interesting results that, frankly, we are, we are heartened by. But do they portray the rest of what we will see this year, or are we up for many surprises?

Ian Bremmer: [00:26:20] Look, first of all, very few elections are are such massive surprises. I mean, Indonesia, 120 million people voting on one day got you pretty much what you expected. Modi, largest democracy in the world, looks like he's underperformed a bit with expectations, but is still going to be in charge for another five years. The European Union's parliament is not likely to see dramatic change. I mean, these are big elections, and and, you know, I wouldn't say massive surprises. You are right, that, you know, Mexico is a country led by AMLO, same party, as, Sheinbaum, but but his focus has been much more on, you know, subsidies for Pemex, national, you know, national national orientation, trying to make sure that they can produce, they can refine, and not someone who's very interested in talking about, climate change. Sheinbaum, I mean, to the extent that she is different from, AMLO and she she's generally very, very aligned and incredibly loyal and wants to carry out what he calls his fourth transformation, and she'll be very fiscally responsible. She just reappointed the finance minister, under AMLO will be her own. So, I mean, we'll see. We'll see that consistency. But I think that an effort to try to make sure that real money is spent is invested in transition energy, is going to be a high priority for Sheinbaum, and she'll want to get some credit for that on the global stage. It's something she knows about. It's something she cares about. She'll want to attract that investment from the rest of the world as well. That's a good thing.

Ian Bremmer: [00:28:00] Look, I think that the biggest positive story in the near term on, on climate, in terms of leadership has been the fact that the Chinese government, is all in on electric vehicles and on, critical mineral supply chain to support that, which are vastly better than anything produced in the US or Europe. They're all in on nuclear, they're all in on wind, they're all in on solar, and I mean, look, I know that you said that, you know, Biden is a transformative climate president, but I just saw Biden a week ago announce 100%, tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles. Because what it's what's more important to him than climate change, at least in the near term, revealed preferences, are labour union and auto union voters, that, that want to make sure that Chinese EVs aren't a threat now, I mean, if the United States, in its wisdom, wants to ensure that the US doesn't transition quickly to EVs, and when they do, they have expensive, inefficient ones. We're capable of making that decision, but I'm not sure it's a very smart one long term for the country or for the planet. By the way, Trump then came out and said, 100%, I put 200% tariffs on Chinese EVs. Do I hear 300%, right. I mean, you know, I'm just saying that like there are good stories out there, but the reality is that politics, domestic politics and international politics are interfering with the ability of people around the world to make intelligent investments for the future of their kids and their planet.

Christiana: [00:29:48] So, Ian, that's interesting that you're concluding that because you started by arguing that, that the political economy, that the superiority of the technologies and their decreasing prices was actually what was going to move forward, the decarbonization of the economy. Not that you said it in those words. Sorry to put to put words in your mouth. 

Ian Bremmer: [00:30:11] No, but that's right, that's right.

Christiana: [00:30:11] But that's what you were arguing. And so now we see these two things sort of being confronting, confronting each other right. 

Ian Bremmer: [00:30:18] Yeah.

Christiana: [00:30:18] So when you see these two things, the political economy of the unquestionable superiority of new technologies and confrontational politics, and both of them on a race to eradicate the other. Where do you come out with that?

Ian Bremmer: [00:30:39] Well, I mean, a couple of ways to think about that. First is saying that on climate, Biden's not as great as you think, and Trump isn't as bad as you think, because politics actually play out in both cases. At a global level, I'm long-term optimistic, very optimistic that the scale of these technologies will win, but I also know that the politics, which have prevented, meaningful progress for decades now, still is managing to thwart us in reducing efficiencies and fragmenting globalization, all of the rest. And so what that means is we're not on a track for 1.5. We're not on a track for 2.0. We're on track for 2.5, 2.7, and if we're lucky, we'll end up at 2.2, 2.3 degrees over, over where it should be centigrade. That's not a great place, but it's not the 4 or 5 six degree doomerism that was being talked about in many respected circles even ten years ago before we saw the impact of these technologies at scale. So, I mean, I'm sorry if that's nuanced and it's not like a clear activist message, but I mean, you know, the reality when you look at the politics and you look at the technology is this stuff is messy. It doesn't it doesn't lend itself to a billboard. It lends itself to a lot of fighting, a lot of challenges. And ultimately you get to a better place than you were in. But it's not the process, you don't want to see the way the sausage is made. That's the way politics is.

Christiana: [00:32:25] Ian Bremmer, thank you so much for joining us on Outrage + Optimism. We're going to let you go so you can dash to your plane.

Ian Bremmer: [00:32:31] Christiana, always good to see you.

Christiana: [00:32:33] Good to see you. Thank you so much.

Ian Bremmer: [00:32:35] Cool.

Tom: [00:32:42] So how interesting to get that analysis from Ian. I mean, I have to say I learned a great deal. He's such a sort of sober, calm, thoughtful perspective. He always brings to these things. What what did you take away from it, Paul?

Paul: [00:32:54] Yeah no, I mean, I think that's exactly right. It's funny, you sort of like you want a political expert to give an opinion, and then you hear one and you're kind of like, huh, it's like, it's like getting some second opinion on some terrible sort of medical condition. And the second doctor saying, yeah, yeah, what the first doctor said was right. It's like, oh, really. I do think that there's, something absolutely extraordinary going on. And I'm going to confess to have being a bit influenced by a book I'm listening to, called Doppelganger by Naomi Klein, and the premise of the book is that, she was getting a bit confused for somebody else called Naomi Wolf, who has become an extreme right wing pundit, with Steve Bannon. So it's much more really about Steve Bannon and this increasing movement. We were talking a bit about populism and Modi at the start. But, Nigel Farage is an incredible example. Bannon, Farage, they all talk about recruiting armies. They're trying to get people men typically they're quite male in their in their outlook.

Paul: [00:33:57] They're trying to get men to show up at, I don't know, meetings. And anyway, where am I going with this? I think there's a gigantic movement of unbelievably concerned people suffering economically suffering maybe from from identity issues. And they've entered into this, they're at a sufficient scale now whereby the bifurcation of politics that used to be something that was an exception is becoming a force. We're being pushed apart. And Ian spoke about that I think at the very start of the interview, very effectively we're being pushed apart and it's not by accident. It is to do with a whole bunch of structural issues, and it's to do with unbelievably and increasingly effective populists of the extreme right and of the extreme left noticing they're getting more and more supporters. So in the middle of all of that, I think Donald Trump's, conviction serves as to sort of energize both sides. We become more and more contemptuous of this. And when I say we I mean people like me and you, Tom, we become more contemptuous of this convicted felon. Whereas to.

Tom: [00:35:05] And of people who, who, who still follow him, that's the track.

Paul: [00:35:08] Whereas tens of millions around the world, you know, maybe, you know, even hundreds of millions if you think of all the populists around the world who maybe see Trump as a as a standard bearer, they see, someone standing up to the state that is doing nothing for them. And that's the dynamic. If we don't get to the bottom of that, we're in real trouble because they are recruiting Nigel Farage, talking about recruiting an army. They're all talking about recruiting people in getting ready to fight.

Tom: [00:35:35] Yeah, okay. So I mean, that's concerning enough. And I'm, I'm totally with you.

Paul: [00:35:41] Sorry to dump all of that on you Tom.

Tom: [00:35:41] No no no no no no, I agree. I share the analysis. What do you think about Ian Bremmer's assertion that a Trump two would not be as bad for the climate as Trump one, because he sort of said, look, you know, the economics have shifted fundamentally since he was last in power. You now see Texas charging ahead with wind. We now see like actually many of these jobs are being created. This would not be the Trump of before because the economics have shifted in the last eight years.

Paul: [00:36:06] I mean, let's just say a little tiny bit about Texas. It was, oddly enough, an enlightened public utility commission in Texas quite a long time ago that managed to kind of change the rules slightly so that so, you know, what was in the best interests of citizens prevailed. So there were bits of luck. I do actually agree with Ian's analysis. I do think that, Trump in 2016 was in a position to roll back the achievements of the Paris Agreement. I think, you know, Paris shocked the oil and gas industry, and I think they circled their wagons and they helped get Trump in the White House. The chief executive of ExxonMobil was made the secretary of state for the United States, just to.

Tom: [00:36:47] I mean, it's just like it's like a fairy tale now, you think back.

Paul: [00:36:51] It was, it was a way of communicating to the world, you know, like, forget it. You know, we're back right. So but now I do think, Ian Bremmer is right, that, you know, particularly with the actions of China, the Chinese government's industrial policy, there's all sorts of things you can say about the government of China, but their industrial policy is pretty dramatic, their investment in renewables and electric vehicles, which sort of equals the rest of the world combined, give or take, means that we are at a tipping point now, the you know, the zero carbon technologies are better, but it's all about time. And that was the point that came up repeatedly, in our interview with Tom Steyer and others. But no, what about you, I mean, do you do you think that I would be less worried about what happens to climate change than what happens to democracy?

Tom: [00:37:37] So, I mean, 100% on democracy concerns, and I think on climate, I agree and I disagree. So I agree that the energy transition with renewable generation and electric vehicles is now moving apace in certain parts of the world, to the point where it's unstoppable. And we still have a question of scale that can be accelerated or decelerated by policy, as we've seen dramatically in the last few years with the Inflation Reduction Act and other things. And so we shouldn't discount that. But I do think the transition is is is unstoppable. However, I also feel like there are a range of other very consequential things that also need to happen in order to have I mean, this, you know, changing everything is going to be required, right. So you have hard to abate sectors, and you need thoughtful policy and subsidies that can actually accelerate that. You need shift to plant based diets or alternative proteins that can change fundamentally our relationship with land. You need investment in early stage technology in things like air travel. There are you know, we're not done with the suite of public policy requirements to get us through this fundamental transition, despite the progress we're making. And if you have an administration in the US, this is the first of the two reasons I'm worried, that is fundamentally opposed to that.

Tom: [00:38:50] Then you can really create a chilling effect. You can't stop it, but you can really slow it down. And and as we know on climate change, winning slowly is the same as losing. And I think that that's where I'd be worried. The second thing is on the example it sets around the world the first time around, you know, we were very pleased that when Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement and we thought other countries maybe would do the same. They didn't. And everyone else kind of stayed the course but a second Trump presidency at a time when economics are more challenging post pandemic, you know, we're seeing countries with more fiscal challenges than they did have a few years ago. I would be concerned that if Trump were to come in with the devastating effect it will have on the formal climate finance to support the least developed countries, that there would be a tendency amongst other countries to say, you know what, screw it. We're not going to do this mitigation stuff anymore because the US isn't serious. So I think in those two ways, I think the bit Ian talked about, I wouldn't be so worried about with the energy transition. But all of the other stuff in the US and the international example, both could be really devastating with Trump back in the White House.

Paul: [00:39:55] Yeah, I mean, it's like, more or less devastating than the impact of him winning in 2016.

Tom: [00:40:02] So it's, you know, it's an unfortunate analogy, yeah.

Paul: [00:40:07] Devastating A and devastating B.

Tom: [00:40:08] Exactly. I mean, the fine degrees of I mean, the shock at that time was so bad this time there's a sort of, you know, a sort of I mean, sadly, a bit of a resignation amongst many people I talk to, although I don't think the polls are so conclusive that he's definitively got a lead. But you know it, I would remain really worried, of course, as we all should be on just the, the eroding of democratic institutions and the direction the government is going, the change in subsidy, you know, there's an endless list of things that would be really catastrophic for us.

Paul: [00:40:42] I hear you, and this is a climate change election. We've always wanted a climate change election. We've always said we want climate change to be an issue. And now it really is, you know, so there's all that kind of careful what you wish for thing. I'm going to take that kind of contrarian view which, which, which, which often you do. And I'm going to say, to what degree do the Democrats have to take responsibility for fielding a candidate who is so elderly. You know, I think that what's putting so much power into the into the Trump campaign is that that, you know, that I think Biden comes across as, as more his age, although they're both you know, they're only two years apart, I think. But, there's something, you know, massively ill advised about, actually, both of these important political parties in, shall we say, the most influential democracy in the world. They are both being controlled by, by people who I believe are 77 and 79. Now it's those two men and their age and their inability to sort of release some kind of strange lust for power that's playing out in all of this extraordinary complexity about massive chemical problem we've got with the sky called climate change. It's, you know, it's a very strange situation. I didn't expect to myself as a child to be thinking about that weird contest of problems.

Tom: [00:42:03] So first of all, I'm afraid to say that Joe Biden will be 82 by the time he is sworn in for his second term on the assumption he wins.

Paul: [00:42:09] You are, god oh god, my, really, bless you know.

Tom: [00:42:14] I mean, and I know we need to finish now, but just, I was in New York a few weeks ago as listeners maybe remember, and I was at an event, where Jane Fonda was speaking and obviously former guest on the podcast. Very inspiring. She actually took on this issue. She said she was very political in her speech. She said, look, some of you may say Joe Biden's old, you know, it doesn't quite work. There's Trump. He seems like a disrupter. It's not that different. And I don't like Joe Biden that much anyway. And then her comment to that was, you don't have to marry him. Actually, this is just someone who has got a strong record of doing big things with a great team around him. And I agree with you on the political narrative. It's not looking good. And if you actually see Joe Biden, if you're in the room with him, there isn't that sense of presence that you want from someone who is a powerful leader. And I agree, if if we end up in a situation where Trump wins again, the Democrats will have to take significant responsibility for having fielded a candidate that doesn't really seem like he's on top of the issues, but I actually feel like he's been a pretty good president, he's done he's done more on climate for than any other president. It's not been bad at all.

Paul: [00:43:18] Oh look Tom, don't don't misunderstand me, Tom. I would jump in front of a bullet heading for the elderly Joe Biden. I mean, I probably wouldn't, because I'm not that brave. But if I was that brave, I would, because.

Tom: [00:43:29] That's a great statement. If I was, if I was that brave, then I would take a bullet.

Paul: [00:43:32] Well, I mean, the point is, the stakes really are high and Biden does have to win. And of course, Jane Fonda is an absolute genius. And I support everything that, that she says. But I just want to sort of observe the objective facts that we're in a very odd situation here. You know, often, I think Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, defending the position is, is 44 or something like that. I'm not sure what age, you know, these people are materially younger.

Tom: [00:44:01] Yeah, half his age, yeah.

Paul: [00:44:01] And and you know Keir Starmer is sort of very, Blair was in his, I think reasonably early into his 40s when he became prime minister in the UK. This is sort of what you expect for somebody who needs a lot of energy to kind of rush around and do a job like that. And it's just there's something peculiar about these increasingly elderly leaders. And of course, this especially applies in the, autocratic states. The one party states, you know, Putin and Xi Jinping are not getting any younger. And, you know, something dysfunctional in our democracy seems to be putting older and older men in for longer and longer and longer. And it when I look at the record of men over the last, you know, 500,000 years, I don't think it's I don't think I don't think men should be in charge of things.

Tom: [00:44:41] It's not universally good, is it. 

Paul: [00:44:42] It's not universally good. No, it's not universally. But I'm going to give a very low mark out of ten for the men.

Tom: [00:44:47] I would agree. Right, I think that probably brings us to a close. PD, lovely to see you as ever, hope you enjoyed the episode. See you next week.

Paul: [00:44:54] Bye for now.

Tom: [00:44:55] Bye.

Clay: [00:45:01] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. Thank you for listening. My name is Clay. I'm a producer of this podcast, here to say goodbye because there's really not much to say at the end of this podcast. I do have a quick teaser next week on the podcast, we have an announcement about a listener survey and possibly something about the British Podcast Awards. But don't hold me to that last one. Stay tuned. But as for today, thank you to Ian Bremmer for joining us back again on the podcast. Great to have you back. All the links to his socials and work are in the show notes, as recommended by our hosts, be sure to follow him for his insightful analysis. Great person to be following online. Great follow. Okay, short and sweet. Not much to mention this week, but hit subscribe on this podcast so that you don't miss next Thursday's episode. And with that, we will see you next week. Bye!


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