Oceans Rise, Empires Fall: Why Geopolitics Hastens Climate Catastrophe

Oxford Univ. Feb. 2024. 264p. ISBN 9780197693261. $29.95. POL SCI
Toal (geography, Virginia Tech; Near Abroad) examines the continuing rivalries of dominant nations during an ecosystem crisis. The title of this book takes its name from the musical Hamilton. In Toal’s case the phrase refers to “the clash between earth system dynamics and world power structures.” Geopolitics is traced from late 19th-century writings by British and German imperialists. At stake have been territory, resources, and influences leading to survival of the fittest nation. Modern national primacy demands steady economic growth and vast amounts of energy to supply industry and armed forces. Toal outlines the militarization of land, ocean, atmosphere, and space. Meanwhile more of Earth is due to become uninhabitable. He notes that global collaboration is essential to reduce emissions, moderate global heating, and limit ecological damage—not top priorities for the most powerful nations. He says they have failed to reduce their own emissions as they exploit remaining hydrocarbon sources.
VERDICT A thorough, recommended critique of geopolitical business-as-usual and its effects on emissions. The book also contains some guarded optimism about the rapid global spread of renewable power generation.
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