While smoking out climate change deniers can offer a little light relief, it’s important not to lose sight of what exactly is on the line here. For this, I am grateful to Joe Romm over at ThinkProgress for the following reminder:
The above ‘wheel’ graphic was developed by scientists at MIT to try to visualise complex options. The ‘No policy’ wheel’ is on the left, and that’s the wheel we are collectively now rolling. The wafer-thin blue segment at the very top represents the scale of likelihood of global warming not exceeding the catastrophic tipping point of +2C. Mid-range projections swing between 4-6C and there’s a one in four chance that the heating will be 7C, 8C or even more.
The UK’s Hadley Centre put it in a different but equally comprehensible graphic format. The red arrow, labelled “business-as-usual” is not the worst-case scenario by any means, but it exactly matches current (and for the foreseeable future) global approaches to ‘managing’ emissions, i.e. we’re simply not even going to try to save ourselves.
Laying this out on a global map of the 2090s, you get the scenario below. If you look carefully, you will note that the entire Arctic and sub-Arctic region heats up most spectacularly, by on average 12-14C. This will certainly destroy the Greenland ice pack, melt the entire permafrost zone from northern Canada to Siberia, releasing billions of tons of methane in the process. These processes will drastically alter global sea levels and unhinge global climate systems not in a millennium, but in the coming decades.
If I sometimes get a little hot under the collar about people who piss around with humanity’s collective future, perhaps it’s that I spend a fair amount of time studying the data, and come away more, not less, shocked and frightened every time. Yes, there are “climate crazies” out there. These are the folks who can look at data like this, shrug their shoulders, decide it’s all a bit of a fuss about nothing and go right back to whatever it is they were doing five minutes earlier. Ignorance may be bliss, but it isn’t safe and frankly, it isn’t sane either.
George Carlin once said “Germany lost WWII, but fascism won”.
I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: the fate of the species. Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will.
This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the US , propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.
If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the “religion” that markets know best – which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8tn housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.
All of this, and much more, can proceed as long as the Muashar doctrine prevails. As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.
Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left.
The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible
Brilliant posting. The system that came to control world affairs since c.1950 is corporatist, transnational and utterly ruthless, blind even to ultimately destroying the very means it (and the rest of us) must depend upon for our well being, indeed, our survival. Individual conscience has been efficiently expunged from this rampaging profit machine.
Those who serve it do so blindly, obediently, trustingly, greedily. It will destroy the natural world, yes. It will destroy most of what we now call human progress, certainly. But it will also destroy the entire cancer cult of corporatism with it, and in that sense alone, some good must come of the unspeakable fate that draws ever closer towards us.
I think this is really important
“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”
Access to the media is vital. That means RTE … we need to break down the memes.
We need to stop putting our savings into the financial industry. Start investing locally. Build something different. Equities are f***ed anyway. Cuba is going to come out the other side in a much stronger state than Ireland.
Hedge funds target France
They’ll make money out of ecocide too. Who cares what’s left over?
Don’t think you’re wrong about too much of this. I did a piece in the IT a couple of years back on Cuba and how it coped and ultimately thrived through its Special Period (after the Kremlin pulled its energy plug):
Here’s a short extract, with a little ex-post facto tweaking:
“The Caribbean (Atlantic) island idyll was almost wiped out by the collapse of its ally, the Soviet Union, in 1990, (cheap oil imports in the mid 2010s) which wreaked havoc on the Cuban (Celtic) economy. As oil imports dried up, industry and agriculture ground to a halt, and food and electricity supplies faltered.
Facing the prospect of mass starvation, Cuba (Ireland) abandoned its highly mechanised monoculture and turned instead to market gardening and organic farming. Since food security was now a key national imperative, farming became a high-status occupation.
Cuban (Irish) society suffered real hardships during this so-called Special Period, but it emerged more resilient and independent. Lack of fuel for private cars led to public health improvements, as a fitter, thinner population learned to get around on foot, bike and bus.”
As for the hedge funds, they remind me a little of Hazel O’Connor’s belter, ‘Eighth Day’ from c.1980. For our younger site visitors, the ‘machine’ man had constructed to make his life an idyll (today we call it ‘the markets) runs amok, destroying its creator, and everyone and everything else besides. If anyone can think of a better analogy to explain corporate capitalism, please send on your suggestions.
St. Steve of Jobs
“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
I prefer Joni Mitchell
You don’t know what you want til it’s gone.
These are the folks who can look at data like this, shrug their shoulders, decide it’s all a bit of a fuss about nothing and go right back to whatever it is they were doing five minutes earlier. Ignorance may be bliss, but it isn’t safe and frankly, it isn’t sane either.
One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of “crap.” ― Neil Postman
NY Review on energy in the US