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debt without growth?
January 2, 2012 1:33 PM   Subscribe

So when the Heartlanders react to evidence of human-induced climate change as if capitalism itself were coming under threat, it’s not because they are paranoid. It’s because they are paying attention. [via the excellent Do the Math]
posted by fantabulous timewaster (133 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yep. At the risk of sounding like a broken record; any economy - or any society, for that matter - that hitches all its wagons to the concept of growth, is going to eventually run out of resources and collapse. All variants of capitalism, no matter how liberal or reactionary, share the fantasy that growth is always possible. It's not. So the long-term solutions will not be found in capitalism. They got that part right.
posted by zomg at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2012 [42 favorites]


Oh, don't be fooled, there's a healthy dose of paranoia, too.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


At the risk of sounding like a broken record; any economy - or any society, for that matter - that hitches all its wagons to the concept of growth, is going to eventually run out of resources and collapse.

This may be true on geologic timescales, but there are a lot of reasonable people around (myself among them) who has seen enough of history, science, and technology to be of the opinion that there is a LOT of room for growth. We haven't even begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Where we're scraping, I'd wager, is the lid.

That doesn't give us carte blanche to be profligate, inefficient, and just plain stupid with resources, though.
posted by chimaera at 2:01 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


The science supports terrible pollution, deforestation, an anthropogenic extinction event. It does not support anthropogenic climate change. I believe the global warming movement does have good intentions but will do irreparable harm to environmentalism and the general public's trust in science.
posted by karmiolz at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When it comes to technology, there is of course the prevalent belief that we are indeed merely scratching the surface of wondrous technologies that will arrive quite soon to fix all of our problems posthaste, so no need to worry. Paul put it wisely: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen."
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:09 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


When it comes to technology, there is of course the prevalent belief that we are indeed merely scratching the surface of wondrous technologies that will arrive quite soon to fix all of our problems posthaste, so no need to worry.

That's not really what I said, but I can see why you drew that conclusion. Specifically, I'd put it more like this:

We are indeed merely scratching the surface of wondrous technologies. If we put adequate socioeconomic and political resources to the task, history indicates that biotech, energy, and nanotech technologies will be developed which will permit a great deal of continuing future economic growth (likely for centuries to come). All indications are that entrenched capital power on the one side and pearl-clutching technophobes on the other will combine their resources to stifle the science and technology at every opportunity, so there is plenty of need to worry, and if we fall into a new dark age, it will be because we undervalued science and technology rather than overvaluing it.
posted by chimaera at 2:17 PM on January 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think things will continue more-or-less as they are (increasingly frustrated left, increasingly frustrating right, increasingly chaotic climate and worse pollution) until an overwhelmingly devastating event, on the order of millions killed and displaced, occurs "somewhere that matters", ie in the USA, Europe, or the manufacturing areas of China. At that point there will be political will to do something about it, and what will be required at that point will be the wholesale shutdown of polluting industries, by force if necessary. It is part of the cycle between democracy and dictatorship; each arises to solve a problem that the other simply can't cope with.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:24 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


The science... does not support anthropogenic climate change.

This is not my understanding of the science. Can you go into more detail here?
posted by incessant at 2:27 PM on January 2, 2012 [23 favorites]


Sorry, but while this article is full of insightful analysis and observations, the central thesis us bunk.

Anthropogenic global warming is not a threat to capitalism.

Americans live off an average per capita energy feed of 12kW.

The Swiss make do with 5kW, and are working on bringing that down to 2kW.

And they are hardly communists. Nor are they suffering.

Cap&trade and carbon taxes are both ideas that originated from RIGHT OF CENTER economists (cap&trade is what Bush Senior implemented to address acid rain caused by sulfur emissions, and carbon taxes are a straight adoption of ideas from the writings of Pigou, the right wing economist who set the pre-Keynesian economic consensus.)
posted by ocschwar at 2:37 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


there is of course the prevalent belief that we are indeed merely scratching the surface of wondrous technologies that will arrive quite soon to fix all of our problems

Karl, is that you?
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:41 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That science does not support anthropogenic climate change is an understanding of the science that nobody holds who has actually cared to pay attention to it. A good simple place to begin is here.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:42 PM on January 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


Where we're scraping, I'd wager, is the lid.

Yes. And scratching that lid is bringing us to the point of another mass extinction (Nature 471, 51–57 (03 March 2011)). Perhaps you guys that want to continue doing so should find yourselves some other planet, mkay?
posted by c13 at 2:51 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I do believe that the fear of climate change being real is really the fear of traditional methods and values being made obsolete. Global issues require massive consensus, though, which must be built over decades. It's shocking now because the web has made sharing and understanding the climate problem easy for those who wish to educate themselves voluntarily. But voluntary self-education is the exception; voluntary ignorance is the rule. Until the facts stare these folks in the face, they will search or alternatives, and make what excuses they can.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:53 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Strictly speaking, scientific methods hardly ever tell us the cause of anything. They only tell us that, when X happens, Y tends to occur with ZZ% reliability, in Q conditions, and so forth.

That said, we do have very good evidence that the atmosphere has far more carbon dioxide than ever before, and we do know that various common industrial processes, oil refining in particular, tend to produce a lot of CO2. It's not like we can get another Earth and see what would have happened without those things, so we can't exactly establish that there's no other possible cause, but all attempts to provide some other possible cause have come up short.

So anthropogenic climate change isn't the scientifically proven explanation, it's just the reasonable one. It's unproven in the same sense that the theory of evolution is unproven.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:56 PM on January 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


At the risk of sounding like a broken record; any economy - or any society, for that matter - that hitches all its wagons to the concept of growth, is going to eventually run out of resources and collapse

As David Harvey points out, one of the fundamental problems with capitalism is that it sees natural limits as barriers and simply juggles its crises rather than adressing them.
posted by clarknova at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


More interesting things about lid scratching can be found in this lecture.
posted by c13 at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2012


l think we undoubtedly will come up with some new technological solutions, the problem I continue to have with the technocentric perspective is that they will be partial solutions, they will come to late to solve all the problems and they will never solve them for everyone. In the meantime, many people will die, many people will suffer and the environment will suffer and be permanently damaged. People will be worse off for the abuse of resources and the lack of proper stewardship. History is full of examples of technological solutions that solve a problem only after millions have died, which solve a problem only for the wealthier countries, yet we ignore them when considering this. There seem to be a lot of people around who think so long as we come up with something which will let some fraction of the global population go on driving round and using home appliances at our convenience without breaking the bank, then that is a solution.

I do believe that the fear of climate change being real is really the fear of traditional methods and values being made obsolete.

It goes deeper than that I think, there is a machiavelli quite about the nature of change that is sadly too long for me to bring up in conversation but is apt here. "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it."
posted by biffa at 2:59 PM on January 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


All indications are that entrenched capital power on the one side and pearl-clutching technophobes on the other will combine their resources to stifle the science and technology at every opportunity

I think I live in a different world of some sort, for I can see no such "technophobes" anywhere that would have any meaningful influence in the world today, at least not in contemporary Western countries. And "entrenched capital" has no desire to stifle technology, in fact technological innovation is one of its main drives, so this very opposition seems to me very peculiar. And history in no way indicates that technology is the magic that will relieve all problems coming from environmental degradation, as demonstrated even by well known things such as the Jevons paradox.

But I wanted to say something different - that utopian dreams of a technocratic future are often used to dismiss those who look to current practices to criticise the status quo in political and social matters. Klein's paper is about relations between social and economic matters and industrialisation. But immediately, one of the very first comments represents the conviction in the unseen which is already perceived as more real than the present.

It was someone here in Metafilter, and only quite recently, who put it very well - that the greatest irony in this debate is that it is always the believers in the unseen things hoped for who manage to depict their opponents as having lost contact with reality.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


There are a few interesting fantasies current just now. One is that we are entitled to go on growing unsustainably. For many of this article's subjects, the beef with climate change is that it might threaten their "prosperity" and "freedom".

Another fantasy is that, climate change being a major long term problem we can't just undo at any moment in the future, we can deal with it by building global and national public policy founded on responsible stewardship.

One more is that technology will solve everything if we just let it.

Peak energy is the fly in the ointment for all these fantasies. Rising energy costs–caused by remaining reserves of our major energy source petroleum being harder to extract—is causing an economic contraction. Our economies, governments, and households are not equipped to endure contraction, because the modern mythology takes constant growth as a given.

Only when we accept that everything these heartland people consider their god-given right is derived from our being on the upside of the energy curve will we begin to see the damage we've done to our civilization's core institutions and begin to repair them.
posted by maniabug at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


Let's be clear: these are knaves, not fools, cheerleading the limitless fungibility of our planet. Informed and engaged capitalism, as represented by insurance companies, is clear as vodka on downside risk.

Scoffers at climate science must have at the back of their scoundrel minds the conviction that, no matter what happens to the world at large, they and their near-and-dear will be comfortable and secure, perhaps in an Antarctic condominium beyond a pale of Blackwater thugs.
posted by 0rison at 3:01 PM on January 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


The leadership of the Right exploits the fears of its base constituents in order to seek power.

The leadership frequently believes some of its own propaganda. It is identical to a religious organization in that respect. Those whose faith is weak know enough to keep their mouths shut.
posted by Xoebe at 3:04 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading the Klein article is like looking down the tunnel and not seeing daylight. I don't see the metaphorical train rushing at me either... but that's most likely because I won't be around in 30 or 40 years, when things genuinely head south.

The article increases the empty feeling I have that nothing will really change til a generation of deniers die off, AND then something convincingly awful enough happens.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:06 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


A lot of the right-wing objection to global warming is pure conservatism: they don't wish to change, no matter what the indicators, rational thought and science might show. While cap & trade might have originated from right-of-center economics, the tone and polarity of American political debate has shifted so far to the right that cap and trade is now percieved as socialism. Right wingers are convinced that it's the first step to a global taxation system, a "one world government".

What the last five years have revealed are the failures and limitations of capitalism. The left hasn't capitalised on those losses: outside of OWS, there's been no deep questioning of the essential tenets of the system. Instead, the response has very much been "let's patch it and move on".

But the reality is that pollution, animal populations and climate are not aware of national and political borders: 30% of the pollution in San Francisco comes from Chinese coal and iron factories. Overfishing and waste dumping off the Somali coast led directly to the piracy that is now rife in the area. Global warming is affecting everyone, in different ways: 9000 temperature records broken across the United States in July 2011, Chilean glaciers melting at unprecedented rates, massive flooding in South-East Asia.

This interconnectedness does threaten traditional concepts of nationalism and the powers and limitations of capitalism. At the same time, the science is undeniable: I've heard more and more right-wingers refer to "climate shifts" or "weather weirding" as a way of avoiding association with AGW while conceding that it is, in fact, happening.

Capitalism holds some of the answers, primarily in cap and trade and the technological innovations we're going to need to cope over the next decades. But the left has contributions too: "whole cost" accounting to help set the actual cost of goods and services; communal needs of food, water, and health services. That responsive, socioeconomic hybridization is one of the major challenges that global warming has set for us.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:15 PM on January 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


There might be effectively perpetual growth in efficiency and/or technology though, zomg, which might look like capitalism, albeit much more cut throat with small companies replacing large companies much more frequently.

Imagine if startups and small market cap companies were the only growth sector, while all large market cap companies lost shareholder value. We've perhaps reached that half point now where shareholders artificially elevate the few obvious growth prospects they observe, like Google, Facebook, etc., while behemoths like GE sink under the mountains of debt the acquire to hold back the swarm of smaller competitors.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:24 PM on January 2, 2012


I honestly think that politicising this stuff is destructive…obviously, there are people who don't want to change what they're doing. But then there are other people who are going to take advantage of the situation to further their own interests (and come up with false solutions that waste resources and generally make things worse).

It seems very clear to me that green moralism is about the advancement of middle-class interests, generally at the expense of the poor, who can be relied upon to go along with whatever gets decided between big business and the bourgeouisie once they've finished wrestling.

There's no bigger sword to hang over people's heads than the threat that, if you don't do what I tell you to do, the world's going to end. Personally, I'm stubborn and I just don't care for threats. The conservation movement is a political ideology with close historical ties to fascism, and much of what I hear said about these issues reminds me of how the National Socialists got into power in the first place (I noticed the other day that an urban farm near my home is using a Nazi slogan in its promotional material). Fascism is a middle-class revolution, and much of it revolved a return to some imagined ideal state of natural existence, within a state-controlled utopia.

The only reasonable solution is to consider the needs of everyone involved, even the folks you don't care for. It's always easier to ask other people to make sacrifices.
posted by chrisgregory at 3:32 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish that climate change were some nefarious Communist agenda, intended to deprive us of our freedoms. Instead of the, you know, inevitable screaming and dying and species extinction.
posted by angrycat at 3:37 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


LogicalDash: "So anthropogenic climate change isn't the scientifically proven explanation, it's just the reasonable one. It's unproven in the same sense that the theory of evolution is unproven."

Not to derail, but evolution is as scientifically proven as things get.
posted by brundlefly at 3:43 PM on January 2, 2012


Solar will become cheaper than coal in the not too distant future. Things will be fine.
posted by blargerz at 3:51 PM on January 2, 2012


Not to derail, but evolution is as scientifically proven as things get.

That's the point. I think it's kind of a self-defeating point - to try to ensure perfect epistemological correctness by acknowledging that in terms of philosophy of science the evidence is not genuine proof, when talking to people who happily throw around the word much more casually, in a context in which such casual use is more appropriate.
So it's a perfectly correct thing to say even though in another sense it's also quite wrong :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:52 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think I live in a different world of some sort, for I can see no such "technophobes" anywhere that would have any meaningful influence in the world today, at least not in contemporary Western countries

You don't live in an area with a high percentage of old people with time on their hands, do you?

After hearing several complaints about possible health hazards and invasion of privacy, the state Public Utilities Commission has opened an investigation into smart meters installed in more than 500,000 homes in Las Vegas.

[...]

Angel De Fazio, founder of NV Energy Stop Smart Meters, said the units transmit electromagnetic radiation and are harmful to people with physical impairments. De Fazio told the PUC it had a duty “to protect the disabled.” This is not a federal mandate, she said and homeowners should have the right to “opt out” in having a meter.


Here is a bunch of people protesting against electric smart meters using bad science or no science. They've managed to cry loud enough to get tax dollars wasted to open an investigation into these meters, and are trying to halt deployment. There are a many more articles where that came from in that newspaper covering the many old people clamoring against this - if you have time search their site and you'll read about people complaining about headaches and toothaches since the meters were installed, even though I'm sure they never experienced such symptoms before. When one complainant was asked for evidence to support his assertion that the meters were harmful he protested, saying he didn't want to give the electric company the evidence because he didn't want them to get their hands on his information.

That said, the prime obstacle of the 21st century is going to be overcoming entrenched interests. This becomes difficult when money and power are as intertwined as they are now. When Chevron the oil company owns a prime battery patent that prevents NiMH batteries suited for automotive use from being used in the development of hybrid and plug-in vehicles, we face a future with less innovation. Its why Occupy, overturning Citizens United, and putting in strong campaign finance reform is essential to American innovation and leading the world forward - to prevent entrenched interests from postponing or preventing future progress through government policy. Why do you think they're trying to hard to destroy the EPA? Because once pollution controls and enforcement are gone, the price of energy will fall and kill the momentum clean energy currently has. We'll have the 1970s all over again - all this money went into renewable resources and getting off oil but died off when the prices crashed and no one cared because it was so cheap.
posted by SirOmega at 3:53 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Talking about proof in science, when you aren't using it as a synonym for evidence or as a term of art as in the case of mathematics, is a losing proposition to start with in my view.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:02 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people mentioned in the Nation article are a threat to the future of humanity and should be treated accordingly.
posted by wuwei at 4:04 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Under what scenario does all the oil not get burned? The more some (people, countries, even large groups of countries) conserve, the cheaper the price for someone else. Either we hope for a cheap alternative to arrive or figure out how to live with the final CO2 concentration.
posted by 445supermag at 4:07 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this may actually be one of the first honest progressive takes on climate change I've read in quite some time.

Because the author is right: any serious attempt at doing something about carbon emissions absolutely requires radical intervention in the economy. Think we can double the fuel efficiency of every single combustion engine in the country? Which would, in and of itself, be a massive economic dislocation? Great: you've cut carbon emissions by... 14%. Hmm. Don't have the numbers in front of me, but I seem to remember estimates saying we need to do more like 70-80% to get back where we were. You'd need to cut the electrical power generation industry, transportation, and general industry emissions by 50% to actually make a real difference.

So don't you fucking tell me that this isn't a huge deal for the economy. It absolutely is. The all-too-common progressive trope of saying we can fix this thing marginally, by increments, is completely self-defeating. If we could do that, things wouldn't be that bad, so we probably wouldn't really need to in the first place. The only way you can sustain the argument that we need to do anything about the climate is if there's really huge negative consequences around the corner, because the costs of doing so are really huge and really negative in terms of jobs and economic stability.

Maybe the science really does support the proposition that climate change is a BFD. Until the majority of environmentalists can, with a straight face, tell me that this is serious enough to warrant serious intervention, I just can't think of any compelling reason to listen, as the resulting position is implausible on its face. It's asking for inadequate but still fairly expensive solutions to a problem which cannot be solved that way, or it's asking for adequate but still fairly expensive solutions to a problem which we don't really need to worry about. So, in a sense, while the denialists may be wrong about the science, they aren't wrong in that the standard progressive position on climate change is incoherent. I think this author is exactly on the money. The correct response to the denialists' shriek "You just want to centrally plan the economy!" is "Damn straight."

Of course, if you happen to believe, as I do, that central planning of the economy is actually impossible, this makes opposition to environmentalists' goals at least somewhat rational. If the government can't actually make something like Klein's plan work, what's the incentive for giving them the tools to make a go at it?
posted by valkyryn at 4:10 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good point about the entrenched interests, SirOmega. I agree completely that economic interests and political powers are the problem, for they guide the direction technological innovation takes, and that direction is not straight towards a fix for environmental problems, unless something very drastic happens.

When I think about technocratic utopianism, I'm reminded of a a great but neglected book, The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov, in wich they are digging the foundation for a massive building to house all of the proletariat. The leader of the diggers paces back and forth with convinced steps, and declares that "Historically, happiness comes inevitably."
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:13 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think we can double the fuel efficiency of every single combustion engine in the country?

We could then afford to travel more, or buy another car, thereby upping our consumption back to the original level of expenditure. It's the Jevons paradox that I already mentioned.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:16 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The conservation movement is a political ideology with close historical ties to fascism, and much of what I hear said about these issues reminds me of how the National Socialists got into power in the first place (I noticed the other day that an urban farm near my home is using a Nazi slogan in its promotional material).

Well that settles it, then.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


So don't you fucking tell me that this isn't a huge deal for the economy. It absolutely is.

Yes, it absolutely is. But so is not changing the economy to address climate change. And on balance, the latter may be the more costly.
posted by biffa at 4:23 PM on January 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


-harlequin-: "That's the point. I think it's kind of a self-defeating point - to try to ensure perfect epistemological correctness by acknowledging that in terms of philosophy of science the evidence is not genuine proof, when talking to people who happily throw around the word much more casually, in a context in which such casual use is more appropriate.
So it's a perfectly correct thing to say even though in another sense it's also quite wrong :-)
"

If we're going to discuss whether things are "scientifically proven", then I don't think the more casual use is more appropriate at all.
posted by brundlefly at 4:24 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Until the majority of environmentalists can, with a straight face, tell me that this is serious enough to warrant serious intervention,

If you take the time to think about it, it's easy to see there is no part of the world economy that doesn't depend upon the climate existing as it was in the first half of the 20th century. Agriculture, trade routes, coastal cities: all of these will be seriously disrupted. There is no way you can, with a straight face, tell me this isn't a big fucking deal. Serious scientists have been saying for decades that taking steps to prevent human-caused climate change would be cheaper and less uncertain than coping with the consequences. We could have had a far more effective Kyoto-like program modeled on the Montréal Protocol in the nineties. But the almighty profit motive proved to be triumphant.

So, yes, I agree with you. Any kind of a free market is just going to fail in this important task.

Separately: even if the Jevons paradox doesn't prove to be always true, there is no way any amount of technological progress can match exponential population growth. It is a bound-to-lose proposition from the beginning.
posted by zomg at 4:27 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well that settles it, then.

Yes, I guess it does. The twentieth century left us with a rich history of totalitarian regimes to study and to warn of dangerous paths to tread. If we don't learn from the past, what's the point?
posted by chrisgregory at 4:42 PM on January 2, 2012


We could then afford to travel more, or buy another car, thereby upping our consumption back to the original level of expenditure. It's the Jevons paradox that I already mentioned.

Most of you won't have access but there was a meta-survey of rebound effects for different sectors and applications in Greening, Greene & Difiglio which is heavily cited (Energy Policy, Volume 28, Issues 6-7, June 2000, Pages 389-401), which suggested that in nearly all cases the recound was considerably less than unity. For example, for domestic consumers the rebound was 10-30% (26 studies), for space cooling 0-50% (9 studies), space heating 10-40% (5 studies), residential lighting 5-12% (4 studies), cars 10-30% (22 studies). Small and Dender suggest that the rebound effect for cars has been dropping in the last quarter century as a result of rising incomes and falling real fuel costs (2007 paper so this may have seen some turnaround). Gavankar and Geyer (pdf) have a more recent overview paper which sums up a general estimate of around 30% direct rebound and potentially a further 15-30% indirect rebound. Some estimates suggest the overall long term rebound may only total 15%. (previously)

Thus there is a general agreement that we will not see comsumption rise back to the original level of consumption.

The UK Energy Research Centre has done quite a bit on this recently if anyone wants to read further.
posted by biffa at 4:44 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


So don't you fucking tell me that this isn't a huge deal for the economy. It absolutely is.

The costs of energy are going up. The only thing that has managed to hold them in check is recession. Even if you ignore climate completely, there is massive and ongoing economic (and other) gain in widespread energy efficiency increases, meanwhile you're only tallying the costs. Yes, it's a BIG change, with BIG numbers, but some of those big numbers are offsetting other big numbers.

That economic gain can be used by some in the jevons paradox to vastly increase one's standard of living for no extra expenditure, or as push comes to shove, it can also maintain what we've got while using less, in the face of increasingly difficult times, likewise it could be used French-style, to work less and enjoy life more without any corresponding lowering of standard of living. And so on. Big change isn't necessarily bad change, and the reality is that big change is coming, even if you could flip a switch to remove all human concern about environment, change is still coming even if no-one wants it, and everyone fights it. It's a BFD.

And the way the USA is failing to future-proof its economy, I expect things are going to get rough for regular people trapped here. It's already getting rough for regular people here compared to a lot of other countries, and things have only barely begun to bite. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 4:49 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Until the majority of environmentalists can, with a straight face, tell me that this is serious enough to warrant serious intervention, I just can't think of any compelling reason to listen, as the resulting position is implausible on its face.

They're doing that to the degree thier disciplines allow them. If you think scientists are going to shift thier tone from measured pessimism to Beckian shrillness you don't understand how science works.

Unless by by 'enviornmentalists' you meant political activists, in which case they're absolutley screaming, but you can't hear.

there is no way any amount of technological progress can match exponential population growth.

Universal empowerment of women and open access to birth control is the tehcnical solution to that problem.
posted by clarknova at 4:49 PM on January 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


Interesting piece, but I think Klein does capitalism and govts something of a disservice.

Whilst many opponents and proponents of climate action both want to link it inextricably with some kind of mass shake-up of Capitalism As We Know It, the reality is that there is still plenty of lee-way in modern governance within capitalism to achieve significant reductions.

For historical precedence, the speedy action around CFC's shows how quickly and effectively a toxic atmospheric gas can be reduced. Granted, carbon is more ubquitous than cfcs were, but as a global template for action it's very effective, and it's important to remember that technology is not the main stumbling block to climate action. We have the technology; it is a governance problem.

Going for something more similar in scope, perhaps, the government actions in World War Two show exactly how much can be accomplished in a capitalist, democratic framework. Significant climate action would require nowhere near this level of disruption and legislative change.

Further, in the shakey economic territory the world now sits in, a new boom of one form or another would do much to promote growth and I sincerely believe that a green boom is coming. Whether it will be the next boom or not, I don't have the confidence to say, but already in countries like Germany you can see growth in the carbon reduction industry that is very very healthy. The only way for this, for the forseeable future, is up.

There is nothing wrong with politicising climate change, per se. Everything is politicised, and climate change has been co-opted by special interests for quite some time - both for and against. However, I feel the idea that effective action must come through political ruction and/or partisan politics buys into two popular denialist memes we can already see in this thread, namely: 1, that successfully reducing carbon emissions is going to be huge, painful, disruptive and costly; and 2, that climate change is a leftist plot to gain power and if you're not leftist, you don't need to worry about it.

Neither of these things are true, and I feel like - at the moment - the real climate change battle is getting people to take it as seriously as it needs to be, and carbon dioxide is a bit of a honey badger: it just doesn't give a shit if you're left or right etc. Upping the contrast will not be productive for promoting action.
posted by smoke at 4:53 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


incessant Sorry it took awhile for me to get back to you. CO2 has a lower solubility in warmer water, that is why CO2 has historically had a correlation to rising temperatures. The Ocean is an enormous CO2 sink, when the temperature rises it releases massive amounts of CO2. That is why the famous "Hockey Stick Graph" which predicted runaway warming with the levels of CO2 we currently have has in fact not come to pass. Basic causation vs. correlation confusion.
posted by karmiolz at 4:54 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


We could have had a far more effective Kyoto-like program modeled on the Montréal Protocol in the nineties. But the almighty profit motive proved to be triumphant.

If you have a look at the events leading to the agreement of the Montréal Protocol then you will see that it was the profit motive which actually really drove the change. When the ozone hole was initially discovered there was little political support for change. It was only when Dupont in the US and ICI in the UK came up with more profitable alternatives to CFCs that their governments started to support the ban on CFCs. Similarly, Germany and France only got on board when their respective industries came up with their own alternatives, with the bone of contention being which class of chemicals should replace CFCs, the UK/US option or the French/German option. There are some good oversights of the process, including one by Mostafa Tolba who was Executive Director at UNEP and heavily involved in the negotiation process.

The Montréal Protocol is often held up as an exemplar of what might be achieved as regards Climate Change, but in reality what it probably indicates is that no-one has yet made a sufficiently convincing case that the short-medium term commercial opportunities of signing up for a hard hitting climate change treaty outweigh the immediate costs.
posted by biffa at 4:56 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, the rebound effect as it applies to efficiency is premised on the idea that increased efficiency lowers costs. Good energy policy actually employs the same logic in reverse, by using e.g. taxation to artificially increase resource costs in ways that make people seek efficiency gains in order to avoid increased expenditure.

In other words, good policy is about manipulating costs in the service of an efficiency goal, not manipulating efficiency in the service of a cost goal.

If taxation is what's used as the cost lever, the net result is that money formerly spent on wasting resources is now available for more useful things, such as helping fund cutovers to more efficient technologies.
posted by flabdablet at 4:56 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is why the famous "Hockey Stick Graph" which predicted runaway warming with the levels of CO2 we currently have has in fact not come to pass.

The "famous Hockey Stick Graph" is not a prediction. The "blade" of the stick is a summary of real instrumental temperature measurements. Such controversy as there has been has had to do with the shape and position of the handle.
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 PM on January 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


If we don't learn from the past, what's the point?

Whatever the hell it is, it sure as fuck doesn't involve conflating "seeing an urban garden with what you took to be a fascist slogan" with "environmentalism is fascism."

This species drives me nuts.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:04 PM on January 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, yes again. Seeing an enviro-park that 'educates' children using a Nazi slogan does concern me. It doesn't concern you?

I said that there are historical ties between fascism and conservatism. The degree to which the one influences the other is contentious, but you seem to suggest that acknowledging any connection is unacceptable?
posted by chrisgregory at 5:15 PM on January 2, 2012


Hey chris there's some kind of historical connection between fascism and the right wing as well I understand - whoulda thunk it??

There's a historical connection between fascism and dapper shoes, too. Let's stick with the facts, and the now, please.
posted by smoke at 5:17 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


chrisgregory: "Well, yes again. Seeing an enviro-park that 'educates' children using a Nazi slogan does concern me. It doesn't concern you?"

It might concern me, if it were clear that this was widespread, but at this point you've presented one anecdatapoint, and haven't actually told us what the quote was.
posted by Sportbilly at 5:20 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seeing an enviro-park that 'educates' children using a Nazi slogan does concern me.

Just curious, what was this Nazi slogan that these urban farmers were using?
posted by no mind at 5:22 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry it took awhile for me to get back to you. CO2 has a lower solubility in warmer water, that is why CO2 has historically had a correlation to rising temperatures. The Ocean is an enormous CO2 sink, when the temperature rises it releases massive amounts of CO2. That is why the famous "Hockey Stick Graph" which predicted runaway warming with the levels of CO2 we currently have has in fact not come to pass. Basic causation vs. correlation confusion.

You are confused. The "Hockey Stick" paper (original paper by Michael Mann and collaborators, since reproduced dozens of times in independent studies and meta-studies, cf. Real Climate overview) is not a prediction, its a paleo-climate reconstruction. It is a statement about the past.

The ocean's CO2 content is rising, not dropping (cf. Wiki on ocean acidification).

Look, I presume you're posting in good faith, but this is a noisy derail.
posted by bumpkin at 5:22 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Personally, I'm mostly concerned with the connections between fascism and the Volkswagen Beetle, various BMW automobiles, Krupp's steel, and Hugo Boss socks (I'm wearing some right now, shit, am I a fascist?).

On a serious note, I'm starting to come around to the position that due to "harsh political realities" nothing is actually going to be done to avert this oncoming catastrophe. I've moved into thinking about mitigation strategies.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:23 PM on January 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


The leadership of the Right exploits the fears of its base constituents in order to seek power.

The leadership frequently believes some of its own propaganda. It is identical to a religious organization in that respect. Those whose faith is weak know enough to keep their mouths shut.


I completely agree with that.

What I disagree with is the implication that the leadership of the Left somehow fails to follow this pattern as well.

What we need is less leadership, less followership, and more clear thinking.
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


chrisgregory: The conservation movement is a political ideology with close historical ties to fascism

This is a line of reasoning currently being promoted by groups of people who are so far off the radar that "extremist" doesn't do them justice. Unfortunately, they make climate change denialists seem like socially responsible citizens.

If you were being honest, you'd have said right off the bat that the conservation movement was invented by the Nazis, because that's their claim.
posted by sneebler at 5:26 PM on January 2, 2012


Just curious, what was this Nazi slogan that these urban farmers were using?

I'm also dying to know. Hopefully chrisgregory will get back to us (and it's not like, Gramsci or something).
posted by mek at 5:28 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In case you're wondering, my mitigation strategies at this point are at the level of "we need a space elevator," so mostly I'm just planning on not having children and dying young.

I've lived in lots of places up and down the east coast and every single one of them was facing its own unique problems caused by human impact on the environment, from the disappearance of coastal marshland and the consequent erosion of beaches and waterfront property in Florida to the poisoning of waterways in the disappearance of fish and other food supplies off the NE coast.

Something is happening, it's not having a positive impact on our society, and denial at this point strikes me as the worst kind of magical thinking. There may be room for disagreement over the mechanism of the disease but I don't see room for disagreement over its symptoms.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what else the Nazis loved? Highways.
posted by wuwei at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


@smoke Fascism was a left-wing movement in the beginning, hence the name 'National Socialist'. The connection between the right and authoritarianism comes from Adorno's later work on authoritarian personailites and has been criticised for being culturally biased…the Nazis had the first ministry for the environment (can't remember what they called it) - see a book like The Green and the Brown by Frank Uekotter…the one was born from the other, in may ways, and the relationship is like that of father to son rather than similar footwear.

If someone says something you're not familiar with, maybe look it up on Wikipedia before you dismiss it outright.
posted by chrisgregory at 5:30 PM on January 2, 2012


To me this has always been the dirty truth in all these debates "Under what scenario does all the oil not get burned?".

All it takes is one "bad actor" state to make up for any efficiency gains in other countries. And I realize that easily sounds like an apologigist..

It seems that there is one way it doesn't all get used; Alternative energy sources would have to become so radically cheaper than hydrocarbons, as to force the extraordinary change to stored electrical from liquid fuels. This relies on that magic technology wand to poof away the problems. But, even if all of the western world (including energy backwards U.S.A.) legislates a higher hydrocarbon cost, all it takes is one high population country to keep on burning. (And good luck getting the large oil producers to pass along the secondary costs. As long as they can keep building 300 story skyneedles...)

Maybe we can slow down the burn enough for the technology to catch up? Or, maybe we'll just keep smoking, right through the hurricanes and sandstorms and floods and famines. Like a cigarette smoker who dies from lighting up with the oxygen mask.

(You folks making them solar panels and what not, we're all counting on you)
posted by PissOnYourParade at 5:35 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marx was probably right, although not in the sense that the Heartland Institute's bogeyman, but rather in the sense that the logic of capital constantly tends towards increased velocity of circulation. That's basically the same whether or it's free market or state capitalism. FWIW, I don't see any reasonable alternative, either, apart from maybe somehow commodifying social status with regard to lower resource consumption (i.e. actually use less, rather than use more green crap).
posted by carter at 5:35 PM on January 2, 2012


chrisgregory: "Yes, I guess it does. The twentieth century left us with a rich history of totalitarian regimes to study and to warn of dangerous paths to tread. If we don't learn from the past, what's the point?"

If what you've learned from that rich history is that evidence-based concern about the state of our environment leads to fascism, I would suggest finding a different study guide. If anything, disregarding scientific fact because of political concerns is far more dangerous.

"I said that there are historical ties between fascism and conservatism. The degree to which the one influences the other is contentious, but you seem to suggest that acknowledging any connection is unacceptable?"

By "conservatism" I assume you mean the conservation movement, correct? Could you elaborate on this connection? This sounds suspiciously like the supposed "ties" between Nazism and Darwin's theories. That is, "true" in an extremely pointless, abstract sense but not indicative of the merits of either.

Fascists are also rather fond of trains, but that doesn't mean Ayn Rand was a fascist. She was a completely different flavor of asshole.
posted by brundlefly at 5:37 PM on January 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


mostly I'm just planning on not having children and dying young.

Not having children is sound, and it's also quite enough of your birthright to be giving up without also planning to die young.

Being the social creatures we are, though, it's not really practicable to stop giving a shit about what happens to the kids.

Having decided in 1995 that 5.7 billion people left me no room to make any more, I'm a foster parent now. I hope I'm a good enough one to make a similar choice attractive to my kids. Because it really does seem to me that population reduction by natural attrition is the only way we're going to come out of all this with an ecology bearing any resemblance to the richness of the one we grew up with.
posted by flabdablet at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


The phrase was: 'Re-enchanting the world' and something along the lines of 'recapturing the sense of wonder, wholeness and authenticity previously attained through religion and shattered by modernity'. That last bit's the National Socialist version. In English, obviously.
posted by chrisgregory at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2012


Of course, a cursory googling also notes it's a common Unitarian phrase. The Unitarians might be fascists too, though.
posted by mek at 5:46 PM on January 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


Fascism was a left-wing movement in the beginning.... If someone says something you're not familiar with, maybe look it up on Wikipedia before you dismiss it outright.

Okay!
Fascism was founded during World War I by Italian national syndicalists who combined left-wing and right-wing political views, but Italian Fascism gravitated to the right in the early 1920s.[18][19] ... There is a running dispute among scholars about where along the left/right spectrum that fascism resides.[25] [26][27][28] (from)
Can I dismiss it outright now?
posted by en forme de poire at 5:51 PM on January 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hey now, mek. Don't let something like that get in the way of the perfectly good conclusions we've already come to.
posted by brundlefly at 5:51 PM on January 2, 2012


I am genuinely stunned that someone would think that using language like that would imply a connection to fascism or Nazism in general. I hardly even know what to say, but it reminds me of the conspiracy theorist habit of seeing Masonic symbolism as a connection to plans for a New World Order. People from all over the world, from all walks of life, throughout history have felt that the ongoing march of progress leaves them feeling disconnected from nature and have sought to reconnect with it. Wow.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:55 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


@brundlefly Yes, conservationism. Dumb typo. I am stupid to have mentioned it at all. I used the words historical and contentious to indicate that I was putting these things out there tentatively. And while there may well be crazy extremists who think all greenies are fascists, that doesn't mean that there aren't some similarities and historical links and, often enough, shared beliefs.

I think that everyone is done a great disservice by treating fascism, and the roots of fascism, as a taboo subject. These things should be discussed openly and, ideally, rationally. Historians have a very different perspective on the subject, thankfully. Here's as good a place to start as any: http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521612777&ss=ind
posted by chrisgregory at 5:56 PM on January 2, 2012


Also, the last bit of that phrase seems to be from a work describing Nazi cinema -- not, at least based on the limited information Google has to offer, an actual quotation from Nazi propaganda.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:56 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Honestly, if the choice is between destroying the world or paying more taxes, fuck the world. Life is already hell. I can't imagine trying to do it with no spending money.
posted by planet at 5:58 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be honest all the equivocating about whether global warming/peak oil are "real" or "worth doing something about" betrays real ignorance. In conversations with people in the defense/intelligence community, a couple of things have come up:
1. They're very concerned about global warming and how it will cause population migrations due to crop failure. This destabilizes regions, etc.
2. Under the Bush administrations, various elements of DoD were ordered not to ever use the phrase "global warming" despite analysts extremely serious concerns about impacts on national security.
3. The Air Force at least, is taking peak oil seriously enough to be researching alternative fuels for jet fighters. Even if peak oil doesn't pan out, the fact remains that most of the oil out there is under places with seriously unstable regimes that aren't big fans of the USA. It just doesn't make sense to be dependent on these areas.

Frankly, the reason I started taking global warming seriously was listening to analyses from DoD and think tanks that are closely linked to same. These are problems we have to deal with, and they DO threaten the national security of the United States. It is absolutely unconscionable to oppose dealing with this problem.
posted by wuwei at 6:08 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Honestly, if the choice is between destroying the world or paying more taxes, fuck the world. Life is already hell. I can't imagine trying to do it with no spending money.

I dunno. Money tastes terrible.
posted by bumpkin at 6:11 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


chrisgregory: "I used the words historical and contentious to indicate that I was putting these things out there tentatively. And while there may well be crazy extremists who think all greenies are fascists, that doesn't mean that there aren't some similarities and historical links and, often enough, shared beliefs."

You're making claims about the connections between fascism and conservation as part of your criticism of the later. Whether you couch it in tentative terms or not, you can't be surprised when people call you on it and ask for elaboration. Elaboration that you still haven't really provided.

"I think that everyone is done a great disservice by treating fascism, and the roots of fascism, as a taboo subject. These things should be discussed openly and, ideally, rationally."

True, but disingenuous. It suggests that someone who disagrees with you on this is being irrational and thinks that the roots of fascism should not be discussed. Open discussion is awesome, but I'm not seeing how what you're saying is illuminating about either fascism or conservation.

"Historians have a very different perspective on the subject, thankfully. Here's as good a place to start as any: http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521612777&ss=ind"

As I don't have that book in front of me, can you elaborate? Is there anything to it beyond "Nazis advocated for conservation"? That would fall into the "pointlessly true" category that I mentioned before and wouldn't suggest anything at all about the merits of environmentalism and conservation. A reference to an offline source is not particularly useful here.
posted by brundlefly at 6:33 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


These things should be discussed openly and, ideally, rationally.

Is that what you're doing? From my perspective, comparing a single incidence of somebody using a single phrase in a single context that has a very vague history in fascism is godwining.

Nudism also has its roots in fascism, so maybe I should start thinking about the parallels when I get out of the shower.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:37 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I honestly think that politicising this stuff is destructive…obviously, there are people who don't want to change what they're doing. But then there are other people who are going to take advantage of the situation to further their own interests (and come up with false solutions that waste resources and generally make things worse).
Which, of course, is why the oil and coal companies politicized it.

I mean, come on politicization is a two way street. If politicizing global warming would make it less likely that it carbon caps would be imposed, then of course the people who want to do everything they can to prevent it are going to, you know, do that.
It seems very clear to me that green moralism is about the advancement of middle-class interests, generally at the expense of the poor, who can be relied upon to go along with whatever gets decided between big business and the bourgeouisie once they've finished wrestling.
Tell that to all the poor people in Pakistan and Thailand who have had their homes wiped out by flooding.

The idea that somehow the burden of climate change mitigation would fall on 'the poor', but not the burden of climate change itself is mind-bendingly insane. The middle class and rich will just move. It's the poor who are going to get screwed here.

Which is exactly why many wealthy and powerful people don't care that much. They can always move their factories. Or better yet, simply order stuff from other suppliers, and let the ones reliant on ill-situated ones go bankrupt.
We could then afford to travel more, or buy another car, thereby upping our consumption back to the original level of expenditure. It's the Jevons paradox that I already mentioned.
Well, not if you price carbon emissions, people will still 'consume' the same amount of stuff, but that 'stuff' would now include carbon credits.

If you look at Acid Rain, for example, once people actually pay for the damage they were causing, it was optimized away.
"Well, yes again. Seeing an enviro-park that 'educates' children using a Nazi slogan does concern me. It doesn't concern you?"
Is it "Blood and Honor"? or maybe "Kill all the Jews"? The actual slogan matters here. Mitt Romney has been running around saying "Keep America American", a slogan once used by the KKK, supposedly. Does that mean he's a secret cross-burner?
@smoke Fascism was a left-wing movement in the beginning, hence the name 'National Socialist'.
You know who thinks this? Glenn Beck, and other idiots. Also there is no reason to use an @ sign on metafilter when addressing people.
All it takes is one "bad actor" state to make up for any efficiency gains in other countries. And I realize that easily sounds like an apologigist..
Right now the U.S. puts out far more CO2 per capita then countries like China and India. China just passed us, but, poor nations put out far, far les CO2 then we do. As far as China goes, they are an export-lead economy. If you don't like what they're doing, slap on some tariffs.
posted by delmoi at 6:40 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Other Nazi things we should be avoiding: Hugo Boss, anything made by Volkswagen, German Shepherd dogs. Because you know who else liked snappy uniforms, fuel efficient cars, and dogs? That's right...
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:44 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


... Jack Lemmon in The Great Race.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:48 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that somehow the burden of climate change mitigation would fall on 'the poor', but not the burden of climate change itself is mind-bendingly insane.

And fortunately for us, this is a subject in which a lot of research is being done: just google "climate justice" for a number of resources on the higher impact of climate change on developing nations (and on the poor in developed nations), and policy initiatives to reduce carbon footprints while simultaneously enhancing quality of life.
posted by mek at 6:51 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, if you happen to believe, as I do, that central planning of the economy is actually impossible, this makes opposition to environmentalists' goals at least somewhat rational.

On a note of clarification, some variants of capitalism such as our current corporatist system involve a high degree of centralized planning, and many non-capitalist economic models involve very distributed economic decision-making.

Most socialist economic models, for example, do not involve centralized planning. Even communism, the most famous modern proponents of which have employed central economic planning, does not necessarily entail central planning. Communism is more characterized by the lack of money or similar medium of exchange accounting. Rather, economic decisions about production, distribution, and allocation of services are made politically. But the political system used could range from totalitarian/oligarchic systems (eg. China, USSR) to direct, participatory democratic systems (eg. many smaller scale communes around the world that have been running for decades, and larger scale experiments that have been shorter in duration). A communist economy with decisions made by directly democratic, highly decentralized local communities or affinity groups would not be a centrally planned economy. Most non-communist socialist economic models use some form of markets to help allocate production, distribution, and services, but change the incentive structures so that, eg., workers who have a stake in the long-term financial sustainability of a business, or people who live in a community that would potentially be affected by environmental pollution, are the ones making local economic decisions.

Within the capitalist context, the current model of capitalism that our economy is operating under entails much of the economy controlled by a small number of very large multi-national corporations that have deep pockets to lobby for beneficial regulations, little competition due to the extremely small number of sizeable corporations in any given economic sector, and generally very controlled planning within each corporation.

I'd agree that centralized economic planning is a negative thing in general, because I think that any concentration of power (economic, political, etc.) tends to lead to abuse. I'd argue that Walmart is a counterexample to the assertion that centralized economic planning is impossible, though. Walmart is the largest or one of the largest and most financially successful corporations in the world in part due to a highly centralized planning process for its internal economy. The Walton family, at least, has benefited hugely from centralized planning.

Now, Walmart has had rather negative effects on local communities and on the environment through the manufacturing practices of its suppliers and such. But I think the example of Walmart leads not to valkyryn's conclusion, but rather to the conclusion that less centralized economic control and more power in the hands of individuals actually affected by climate changes (and other economic ills) would go farthest in furthering environmentalists' goals.
posted by eviemath at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Sorry it took awhile for me to get back to you. CO2 has a lower solubility in warmer water, that is why CO2 has historically had a correlation to rising temperatures. The Ocean is an enormous CO2 sink, when the temperature rises it releases massive amounts of CO2. That is why the famous "Hockey Stick Graph" which predicted runaway warming with the levels of CO2 we currently have has in fact not come to pass. Basic causation vs. correlation confusion.

Reposted to emphasize the point that the future of thousands of species, including ours, depends not only on people hell bent on maintaining the status quo for their own gain but, arguably, on much larger number of people who can't read a fucking figure legend, let alone comprehend something as complex as climate science. Which in no way prevents them from spouting factually wrong pseudo-scientific bullshit (CO2 release concurrent with ocean acidification).
posted by c13 at 7:10 PM on January 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


From the article:

While Heartlanders like to invoke the specter of communism to terrify Americans about climate action (Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a Heartland conference favorite, says that attempts to prevent global warming are akin to “the ambitions of communist central planners to control the entire society”), the reality is that Soviet-era state socialism was a disaster for the climate. It devoured resources with as much enthusiasm as capitalism, and spewed waste just as recklessly: before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechs and Russians had even higher carbon footprints per capita than their counterparts in Britain, Canada and Australia. And while some point to the dizzying expansion of China’s renewable energy programs to argue that only centrally controlled regimes can get the green job done, China’s command-and-control economy continues to be harnessed to wage an all-out war with nature, through massively disruptive mega-dams, superhighways and extraction-based energy projects, particularly coal.

It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.

posted by eviemath at 7:20 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


"...real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level"

Yeah this is what I disagree with. I feel like her distinction is artificial and displays an ignorance about current solutions and where the sector/world is at. Those solutions aren't bad, but neither are they de facto the best, or "real".

Other solutions are just as real or - in the cases of things like Smart Grids and more broadly power generation in general - realer (in that it wouldn't be possible for a smart grid or powerplant to be meaningfully local).
posted by smoke at 8:03 PM on January 2, 2012


I'm sorry but a lot of this terminology is just really confusing.

What's a "leftist?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:44 PM on January 2, 2012


"Yes, what if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing."
posted by webhund at 8:52 PM on January 2, 2012 [22 favorites]


I dunno. Money tastes terrible.
Yeah, but the mass starvation happens later, if at all, and it might happen entirely to people who aren't me. Never going to choose higher taxes over that, duh.
posted by planet at 8:55 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The twentieth century left us with a rich history of totalitarian regimes to study and to warn of dangerous paths to tread. If we don't learn from the past, what's the point?

One side wants to put up solar panels, the other side wants to turn the Earth into a giant fucking oven.

I know which side my money's on for fascist idiots. Using, you know, history and shit.
posted by formless at 9:26 PM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mitt Romney has been running around saying "Keep America American", a slogan once used by the KKK, supposedly.

A story so out there that Al Sharpton said MSNBC did the right thing by apologizing for reporting it.
posted by Jahaza at 9:30 PM on January 2, 2012


Al Sharpton is a big fucking prick and an apologist for hire who once stage-managed a wife beater.


And yet i caucused for him in 2004


And i shook Ollie North's hand in the vestibule of Rev. Fallwell's church.
Politics in America is the death of a thousand cuts.

posted by clarknova at 9:47 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Solar will become cheaper than coal in the not too distant future.

Next Sunday, A.D.?
posted by eddydamascene at 10:18 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


chrisgregory's argument is one I've seen before a number of times. It's rather common among certain segments of the far left and has been picked up on by the Randian/free-market libertarian right, and what every version of it I've ever seen essentially boils down to is this- there is a Romanticist element to environmentalism; there was a Romanticist element to Nazism; because there was a Romanticist element to Nazism, all Romanticism is functionally equal to Nazism; therefore, environmentalism = fascism. To me, the logical fallacy there is flagrantly obvious- it's the same kind of thing as the right-wing argument (if it rises to the level of being an "argument") that universal health care is a socialist policy, Stalinism was socialist, therefore if we establish universal health care in the United States, it's just a matter of time until we have gulags, bread lines, and show trials.

It's true that there was something of a "green" element to some areas of Nazi policy which did derive from the Romanticist aspect of it (and ultimately, I don't think the Romanticist element of Nazism was truly the core of it- much Nazi ideology was very modernist), though I think the prevalence and importance of it is much overstated- for one thing, can a regime that creates a giant industrial war machine ever really be considered "green"? Also, the mention of the Nazi fondness for highways above is quite on point, as much Nazi propaganda about the autobahn had a distinct "behold the glories of German technology mastering brute nature" message to it, which is hardly very green if you ask me. And fundamentally, Romanticism does not automatically equal fascism any more than socialism automatically equals Stalinism. The language chrisgregory quotes- "recapturing the sense of wonder, wholeness and authenticity previously attained through religion and shattered by modernity"- is very capital-R Romantic, but there's nothing inherently Nazi about it at all. Aside from the sort of absurdities guilt-by-vague-association arguments like this inevitably lead to (along with environmentalism, we can also condemn Unitarians, nudists, highways, Volkswagen beetles, and the discovery that smoking causes cancer as being fundamentally fascist), I think that broadening the definition of what's inherently fascist/Nazi in this way will only make real fascism seem less harmful and dangerous, not more so. I mean, I can't speak for anyone else, but if I were to be convinced that my own concern for the natural world was something inherently fascist, my first thought would not be "I'm so glad someone told me this, now I'm going to stop recycling, buy me an SUV, and start shooting endangered species for sport", it would be "if that makes me a fascist, then fine, I guess I'm a fascist then." Fortunately, those are not our only two options.
posted by a louis wain cat at 10:34 PM on January 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


I found the following passage in Klein's article to be the most disturbing:

those with strong “hierarchical” and “individualistic” worldviews (marked by opposition to government assistance for the poor and minorities, strong support for industry and a belief that we all get what we deserve) overwhelmingly reject the scientific consensus.

You know why? Because we all get what we deserve was an actual Nazi slogan.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:59 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nazi derail completed. Return to home base, Heartland over and out.
posted by benzenedream at 11:05 PM on January 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


You know why? Because we all get what we deserve was an actual Nazi slogan.

Well, that's a sentiment she associates with the anti-scientific, post-fact reactionaries opposed to climate action in the sentence you quoted. What is it that you find disturbing? That she's trying to tar them as fascists, instead of the environmentalists?
posted by mek at 11:36 PM on January 2, 2012


Yeah, that was a masterfully executed derail. IHBT. Awesome, I've always wanted to say that.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:36 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's a "leftist?"

Anybody despised by a right winger, of course.
posted by flabdablet at 11:46 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now ask me what a right winger is. Go on. You know you want to.
posted by flabdablet at 11:47 PM on January 2, 2012


"Under what scenario does all the oil not get burned?".

Well, in virtually any scenario there will be some oil left in the ground. This is because as extracting oil becomes more and more involved, you hit a point where the EROEI isn't positive anymore. Although I think oil extraction might actually still be profitable at some slightly negative EROEI value (1 kwh of oil might actually be worth 1.2 kwh of some other form of energy, because oil is so energy-dense and easily transportable), at some point it's just no longer profitable to pull the stuff out.

At that point, the remaining oil doesn't get burned; not because anyone necessarily cares about the environment but just because it doesn't pay anymore.

But we could be very much screwed, climate-wise, long before we get to that point -- and exactly what point it will no longer make sense to extract the remaining oil isn't necessarily fixed. It depends on the cost of carbon-neutral primary energy sources, as well as energy storage systems which replace petroleum products in the supply chain.

Although I am personally very pessimistic about incrementalist approaches to solving the carbon problem (and any solutions at at all that aren't in reaction to some catastrophe), it should be noted that every incremental improvement to carbon-neutral energy sources which makes them more economically feasible will result in more oil and coal being left in the ground. It just might not be enough to matter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:48 PM on January 2, 2012


Alright, what's a right winger flabdablet?
posted by formless at 11:49 PM on January 2, 2012


A member of the genus flabdablet that only has wings on one side of its body.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:06 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is it that you find disturbing? That she's trying to tar them as fascists, instead of the environmentalists?

Well, it was a joke, actually. I was trying to un-derail an earlier derail by derailing in the opposite direction. I'm not sure that ever works.

But it got me thinking. Klein opens the article with the anecdote about the guy who asks "To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?" and how that qualified as a rhetorical question for the audience of climate change deniers. Klein's twist, of course, it that to some degree it really is but that this is a Good Thing. So how do you ever begin to propose the kinds of political changes she advocates. If you even begin to bring it up in the U.S. you will be attacked as "Communist" and/or "Socialist", which are kneejerk negatives. How can you make any progress towards necessary and urgent change when the slightest hint of that change will me be met by a horde of angry monkeys flinging poo?

The standard response of clear-headed people everywhere is to try to meet these objections through appeal to reason; to try to stand one's ground while batting away the incoming poo. But the climate change deniers are winning. As she mentions, in the last two years the number of Americans who believe that the continued burning of fossil fuels causes the climate to change has gone from a majority to a minority, and I think the poo does have something to do with that. Klein hopes that "an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people, and a capacity for deep compassion", as evidenced by the Occupy movement, will change culture enough to overcome the monkeys. I don't think the culture change will happen fast enough to reduce the dangers of climate change.

So I propose flinging poo back. Climate change deniers are Nazis. I'm sure substantive comparisons could be made. Greedy, power-hungry, white males who allow millions to die as they dominate the resources of the world are Nazis. Yes. It is so.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:18 AM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


So I propose flinging poo back.

And what we're forgetting is that rage-filled, jingoistic sterotyping of the right actually worked in the anti-war movements of the 60s and the labor movements of the 20s and 30s.

But the opposite worked in the civil rights movement so maybe History's lessons are ambiguous there.
posted by clarknova at 1:57 AM on January 3, 2012


We might as well wrap this up, guys. Climate change has been disproven by a noted paleontologist.
posted by brundlefly at 2:16 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Several time while I was in school I was shown the result of hundreds of fruit flies sealed in a glass jar with a piece of apple. Buzz buzz buzz b...

It would be good for a video of this experiment to go viral. The glass jar is a metaphor for the predicament we've gotten ourselves into, too transparent for some to see.

Waiting too long is not an option. Soon the adults are going to have to take charge and cope. Democracy is all fine and good, until it's broken.
posted by Twang at 2:31 AM on January 3, 2012


Soon the adults are going to have to take charge and cope. Democracy is all fine and good, until it's broken.

Which brings us back to the whole leadership thing.

I'm sure the right wingers* who started the Heartland Institute did so on exactly this basis.

*any person despised by a leftist
posted by flabdablet at 3:24 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that thermal depolymerization will continue to produce oil (possibly not gasoline?) well after Peak Oil hits.

To avoid being underwater we may actually need to fight wars to stop people from using the stuff. I mean, I don't know who would do that, I don't have that much foresight. Still: homebrew oil is around 10% cheaper than extracted oil today.

We may be underwater, but at least we got plastics!
posted by LogicalDash at 4:23 AM on January 3, 2012


I'd argue that Walmart is a counterexample to the assertion that centralized economic planning is impossible, though.

No, it isn't. Not really. You're equivocating.

True, Walmart and other megacorps involve a high degree of "planning". But said "planning" is only really directed towards a single end: maximization of revenue. There's not much of an attempt to change anyone's behavior, there's no particular preference towards which goods sell more than others, and there's no quota for how much of any given product gets sold. The planning here is not towards the achievement of any particular policy goal but towards permitting the company to rapidly respond to changing market conditions and towards minimizing their overhead.

This is not what most people mean when they talk about "central planning," and it's certainly not what we're talking about here. What is normally meant by the term, and what is needed here, is someone deciding "Okay, we're going to do [x], [y], and [z], come hell or high water," and then ordering people to be about it. Just look at the list in the article. We need to relocate the nexus of manufacturing from China to the US. This isn't some general condition like the maximization of revenue which can be achieved through any number of different ways, money being fungible and all. It's a specific, concrete goal, and though there may be a few different ways to encourage it happening, ultimately it depends on whether or not people move factories, and nothing else.

This is what the old totalitarian states did, and it was an unmitigated fucking disaster. Sure, they were able to bootstrap things like steel output for a while, but only for a while, and at the expense of completely trashing their economy inside two generations. The idea that we can sort of nudge things in a certain way by incentivizing behavior is not actually all that effective, only works if we can provide incentives which outweigh the disincentives, which can be pretty massive. This doesn't really count as "central planning" in the way most people use the term. Either way, it's exactly the sort of incremental approach which the piece suggests won't work. I'm inclined to agree.
posted by valkyryn at 5:31 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd disagree with valkyryn a little, in that we absolutely can nudge things by incentivizing, it's just that we don't always know what the effects will be. One can make a case that the current health care crisis in the US stems from when tax rates were very high, but "perks" like health insurance weren't taxed, and that seemingly small nudge compounded over years turned health insurance into the behemoth it is now.

Where I agree is that in a perfect world, central planning *IS* better. A perfect central planning committee will allocate resources and production and eliminate wasted effort. However, nobody is perfect and planners never get perfect information. So even if you ignore all the malfeasance of the centrally planned societies, they don't have as much information as a bunch of individually managed nodes would have. They might be more efficient with the information they do have, but it's nearly impossible for someone at the top of a pyramid to know what's going on at the bottom. Free markets, on the other hand, dispense with the pyramid altogether and make it sort of a mesh network. Everyone does their thing and the various signals of demand and supply propagate on their own. This is the best system for a lot of things.

The downside is that free markets don't do long term well. There is an information horizon where the noise outweighs the signal. A "can't see the forest for the trees" problem. Climate change just happens too slowly for a free market to correct for. Some kind of central planning and artificial incentive-changing is the only way I can think of to even attempt to fix the problems.

People, like water and electricity, find the path of least resistance. Sometimes you you have to build dams. Not because they are perfect, but because they are a little better than the alternative.
posted by gjc at 6:06 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that thermal depolymerization will continue to produce oil (possibly not gasoline?) well after Peak Oil hits.

Do the Math.

Lots of things will produce hydrocarbons well after their peak, just not enough of it or cheaply enough (with cheap referring to actual physical cost rather than economic - think energy and matter and not $£€) for it to prevent the peak's societal impact. Limits to growth, people.
posted by Bangaioh at 6:20 AM on January 3, 2012


"Lots of things will produce hydrocarbons well after their peak, just not enough of it or cheaply enough (with cheap referring to actual physical cost rather than economic - think energy and matter and not $£€) for it to prevent the peak's societal impact. Limits to growth, people.
posted by Bangaioh at 6:20 AM."

This is my problem with the antidotes the greens offer to try to counter or reverse global warming; "Lots of things will produce hydrocarbons well after their peak."

Good intentions, tighter regulations and legislated restrictions, notwithstanding, the market is going to decide what is cheap to burn and what is not. If the greens want to artificially restrict the supply of natural gas, oil and coal before the technology and/or infrastructure exists to provide a substitute for the world's energy needs, then they will create environmental conditions worse than what they intended.

Trees used to keep a lot of houses in the US northeast warm during the winter. Natural gas keeps a lot of houses warm in the northeastern US now. At some price though, trees are going to make economic sense if the supply of natural gas is artificially reduced before a substitute for natural gas is found.

Driving up the price of natural gas by limiting exploration and drilling is not going to spur investments in cleaner alternatives. The markets know that politicians cave, administrations change, and the natural gas or oil tap can be turned back on with the stroke of a pen. Who in their right mind would ever think of investing in the latest greatest solar panel effort when everyone knows cheap gas is in the ground and a permit is all that is needed to get at it.
posted by otto42 at 8:04 AM on January 3, 2012


If the greens want to artificially restrict the supply of natural gas, oil and coal before the technology and/or infrastructure exists to provide a substitute for the world's energy needs, then they will create environmental conditions worse than what they intended.

Before we start making doom and gloom pronouncements about "the world's energy needs", let's step back a little and make sure we understand that needs and present usage patterns are quite different things. At present, we collectively waste unthinkable amounts of energy doing things the stupid way; the world's most productive oilfield is under Detroit.

I know of no credible green thinker who advocates restricting the supply of fossil fuels. I can think of several who advocate artificially jacking up the cost of those fuels via taxation, and putting the proceeds toward improved energy efficiency in any number of ways.

Natural gas for heating is a case in point. It takes less gas to heat a well-insulated building than a less well insulated building. But even though installing extra insulation pays for itself quickly enough to be a very attractive investment, many people simply don't have spare funds with which to make that investment. But couple a government subsidy for doing just that with a rise in the price of natural gas to make the return on investment even more attractive, and people will do it. And if enough people do it, we've just reduced our natural gas consumption at no detriment to anybody - except, of course, for the companies who supply natural gas, who are going to take a hit via reduced demand.

The oil companies have been seeing this kind of thing coming for a good while now, and have been busily creating advertising depicting themselves as all kinds of green. But if all of a sudden e.g. BP Solar actually experiences demand, driven by rising costs attached (via public policy) to fossil-fueled alternatives, you just watch the speed with which the oil majors start recasting themselves as genuine general energy supply majors and turn their greenwash divisions into real profit centres.
posted by flabdablet at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not so sure it is that simple, BP solar were in business for 40 years and global demand has been going up by a minimum of 25% p.a. in recent years and they announced withdrawal from the market just before Christmas. It's a pretty competitive market and there is no guarantee of being able to keep up with the rash of competitors.
posted by biffa at 9:25 AM on January 3, 2012


Being suspicious of environmentalism on the basis that Nazis were environmentalists is like deliberately delaying trains because you hate Mussolini.
posted by baf at 10:01 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know it sounds fatalist, but who thinks the human race will be here even for another 1,000 years? I want clean air and a good life for everyone, but its all going to end, sooner-rather-than-later.
posted by agregoli at 10:02 AM on January 3, 2012


This is my problem with the antidotes the greens offer to try to counter or reverse global warming; "Lots of things will produce hydrocarbons well after their peak."

Methinks you've missed my point.


If the greens want to artificially restrict the supply of natural gas, oil and coal before the technology and/or infrastructure exists to provide a substitute for the world's energy needs, then they will create environmental conditions worse than what they intended

The point being: it will most likely never exist, fossil fuels were an one-off and, as flabdablet said above, needs != wants. Fossil fuels will go away, global warming or not, and the important choice is what to do while they last - either spending a huge fraction of them forcing a transition to the inferior alternatives as smoothly as possible (building the infrastructure using the technology we already have, not the imaginary kind that is somehow competitive with petroleum), or letting the market decide, which judging by the past 3 decades means burying the head in the sand and maximising short-term comfort.

The discussion seems to have mostly centred on Klein's article from the FPP but IMO the Do the Math one tackles the real issue here: it's not as much left vs right as faith in eternal progress vs reality.


I know it sounds fatalist, but who thinks the human race will be here even for another 1,000 years?

I do, I don't expect humanity to go extinct anytime in the next hundred-thousand years, barring some real catastrophe one can do nothing about (asteriod impact, etc). Remember, this agriculture business is only 10,000 years-old. What is threatened by climate change (and many other environmental problems which are just as worrisome but don't get nearly enough the same airtime) is modern civilisation, not human survival.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd disagree with valkyryn a little, in that we absolutely can nudge things by incentivizing, it's just that we don't always know what the effects will be.

True. But I'd object to calling this "planning". It's really not the same thing at all. And I'd argue that we never know what the effects will be, because the system is too large and complicated, with too many unknown and unknowable variables.

Which is the source of a lot of conservative objections to environmental regulation. The costs are well known, as they're generally the "nudge". The benefits? Completely hypothetical. Asking people to absorb a large known cost for the possibility of a benefit of unknown magnitude at an unknown time in the future is a tough sell.
posted by valkyryn at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2012


I just can't imagine humans lasting much longer. Disease though, is the likely extinction event for us.
posted by agregoli at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2012


I just can't imagine humans lasting much longer. Disease though, is the likely extinction event for us.

Risking derail, this is 'likely' why? What's your evidence for this assertion that humanity is likely to be wiped out by disease in the near future? Even a pandemic on the scale of the plague is not going to be an 'extinction event'. This just sounds likely hollywood-movie stuff.
posted by modernnomad at 10:53 AM on January 3, 2012


All I've ever read about human extinction points toward disease being a likely culprit. My only point is that while yes, it would be great if we could slow this global warming, no one ever seems to acknowledge that the human race cannot go on indefinitely.
posted by agregoli at 10:56 AM on January 3, 2012


agregoli The coelacanth has been around for 400 million years. There is no reason to assume any species "cannot go on indefinitely."
posted by ambulocetus at 2:15 PM on January 3, 2012


True. But I'd object to calling this "planning".

I'd agree that merely creating incentive structures doesn't quite count as planning. However, there is a difference between "planning" and "central planning", as Klein was discussing in her article. Klein was promoting planning, including planning applied to some aspects of the economy, not just changing economic incentive structures. But she was definitely not promoting central planning (at least, as I understand it, to mean the planning decisions get made by a rather small group of people, no matter whether they are invested with that power by a representative democracy or by a less democratic system), but rather planning coordinated through distributed, participatory democracy. As I said above, I agree, and my impression is that Klein does as well, that central planning, concentrating too much power in too few hands, is a very bad idea. That's mostly irrelevant to Klein's argument, however.

Going back to the Walmart example, they do have to allocate production and distribution, coordinate employment and service provision, etc. In that sense, Walmart has an internal economy. Yes, the goal of this economy is entirely to make profit for the Walton family. But an economy is just a distribution and allocation system, so could be applied to quite a wide variety of goals. In Walmart's case, the economic decisions are made centrally, by a very small number of people in fact, so there's the centralized part. My understanding is that there is actually a very high degree of structure and "planning" as well. Of course the planning has to take into account uncertain forecasts about market demand, as well as uncertainty around resource availability and other supply issues. Any economic planning does. I certainly disagree with the goals of Walmart's internal economy, but it is still an example of a centrally planned economy.
posted by eviemath at 2:20 PM on January 3, 2012


All I've ever read about human extinction points toward disease being a likely culprit.

Then you should take some comfort from the fact that the worst pandemic of recent memory - the Spanish flu of 1918 - didn't even get close. It infected a quarter of us and killed one in twenty.

Species that go extinct generally do so not as a result of disease, but of habitat destruction. And given the human ability to colonize such an incredibly wide variety of environments, I can't see that happening to us, even if we do end up being the last Man standing. Humanity is the most effective and adaptable predator the globe has ever seen. We'll always find enough to eat to support some number of us.

The only real question is whether or not that's going to include each other.
posted by flabdablet at 3:41 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My take is very similar to Bangaioh's. I used a longer pull quote from Klein's article, but the issue is discussed with less politics and more depth by Tom Murphy at Do The Math (and not only in the linked post, but also here, here, here). It's very hard to argue that the modern energy intensity of one to ten kilowatts per person is anything but a historical aberration. And that raises serious questions about the future of our modern civilization, which is very heavily invested in the fact that, most years, there is a little more to go around than there was the year before.

The question isn't necessarily one of human extinction --- humans are pretty tenacious. The question is whether the transition away from the current model can be done intentionally and end in a good place, or whether the transition will be violent and destructive. I don't know the answer. I don't really like the question.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 3:57 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ceolacanth? I love that fish too, but what does that prove? It says nothing about the survival of humans, and it's not like the ceolacanth will be around forever either.

The idea that humans will be around, well, forever (as far as I can tell from most people's statements), is so bizarre to me, a willful denial of our fragility in the world. I don't take comfort in the idea that humans will be around for infinity - it's absolutely not possible, for one, and for another, I DO take comfort in the cycle of the earth, growing and booming and dying, again and again and again. Humans are but a blip, and we're no more important biologically than any other creature that's ever existed...meaning, we too, will fall. Apologies for the derail.
posted by agregoli at 5:29 PM on January 3, 2012


Humans are but a blip, and we're no more important biologically than any other creature that's ever existed

Well, that's modest, but simply false. If we manage to trigger a major extinction event all by our lonesome, we will be the most important species, biologically, in all of Earth's history. But maybe not in the way that you meant!
posted by mek at 6:24 PM on January 3, 2012


The idea that humans will be around, well, forever (as far as I can tell from most people's statements), is so bizarre to me, a willful denial of our fragility in the world.

Forever is clearly a very long time. I don't subscribe to the view that the human race as we currently know it is going to be around forever.

However, language is one of those evolutionary tricks that looks like a keeper, if for no other reason than that it allows for more rapid and flexible adaptation to circumstances than any other single feature with the possible exception of bacteria's ridiculous reproductive rate. It seems likely to me that when our descendants are as far down the line from us as chickens are from dinosaurs, they will still be using language and reason. Whether or not that makes them count as "human" is mostly a dictionary game.
posted by flabdablet at 1:11 AM on January 4, 2012


LogicalDash: homebrew oil is around 10% cheaper than extracted oil today.

The company that thought so has apparently gone bankrupt, and no longer operates that thermal depolymerization plant. As with any biofuels company, it pays to be a bit skeptical of their claims about what can be delivered. The idea probably does have some potential, sure. There's no shortage of companies trying to make it work, so if it does become actually profitable it'll grow quickly to supply whatever modest share of energy production there is convenient feedstock to support.

Rothschild: red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?

I wouldn't call it "Marxist" at all, but there's no doubt that some well-intentioned policies that have come out of governments looking to at least create the appearance of doing something about climate change have been crazy and offensive in one way or another. In the US, the CAFE rules are ridiculously complicated, filled with exemptions, credits, arbitrary rules that seem designed to protect one special interest or another. The ethanol thing is (was? did they really put a final end to that blender tax credit? they still mandate its use) destructive in a fairly stupid way. The consumer tax credits for electric cars can be seen as arbitrarily picking a winner at the expense of other potential technologies that might end up being better. Cap and Trade schemes around the world are full of controversial problems involving which industries are covered and how the credits are issued; most implementations have gotten it plainly wrong in one way or another. In Europe apparently some countries set an arbitrary cap on passenger car engine size, beyond which additional taxes apply, regardless of how efficient that engine is or how much pollution it actually emits. In Japan they've long had (if there have been recent changes then I've not kept up with them) the weight class thing that ends up having the perverse effect of making cars heavier so they can make it into the next higher level and therefore have a less-difficult emissions target. All the stupid legislative mistakes involving cars are well-known and much-hated in the car enthusiast community at least.

So yeah, if you're at all sympathetic to the tenets of so-called capitalism, there is plenty not to like about various government responses to climate change, and not only the fact that they haven't been particularly effective.

Politicians ought to keep things simple, not give so many convenient handles for people to latch on to and have some justified arguments for calling these things unfair. Take all your bullshit government regulations and throw them out. Impose a carbon tax at the point of sale on all fossil fuels. Handle edge cases like concrete production or land use changes with more complicated rules only where strictly necessary. They really need to get it together and stop giving the deniers so much ammunition.
posted by sfenders at 4:52 AM on January 4, 2012


Impose a carbon tax at the point of sale on all fossil fuels.

Personally I'd favor having a tax imposed at points of fossil fuel extraction and import rather than point of sale, simply because there are fewer extractors and importers than users. WTO rules should be modified to allow member nations to impose a fossil fuel import tax at the same rate per tonne of fossil elemental carbon as their local extraction tax. Fossil carbon exports would attract a tax credit equal to the tax paid on extraction or import of that same fossil carbon. Yes, this would act as a perverse incentive to export fossil fuels as opposed to e.g. hydrogen or electricity, but it should cause enough squabbling between the fuel-mining sector and other intensive-embedded-energy exporters to derail any effective opposition campaign.

The tax so collected should simply be handed out to the populace at large in the form of unconditional direct payments; every citizen would get the same amount. And every year, the tax amount per tonne of fossil carbon should increase by 5%. That should be fast enough to price fossil carbon out of the domestic energy market in reasonably short order while still giving people enough time and money to adjust their energy source and consumption rate choices.

This scheme should be far simpler to legislate and cheaper to administer than cap-and-trade or point-of-sale tax, and should give businesses far more predictability for ongoing investment decisions.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't call it "Marxist" at all, but there's no doubt that some well-intentioned policies that have come out of governments looking to at least create the appearance of doing something about ____________ have been crazy and offensive in one way or another.

Therefore governments should never attempt to create policy!!!
posted by mek at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2012


What were the crazy and/or offensive policies that have been proposed (by governments, not random nut jobs)?

And even if humanity is wiped out by disease in a thousand years or evolves into something else 400 million years from now, that doesn't change the fact that we've got to deal with the problems of climate change right now. I can't believe that anyone is happy to ignore global famine in their lifetime because, what the hell, eventually their great-great-great-grandkids would die anyway. If it comes to that, I'm going to die anyway, but I'd prefer to do it in sustainable comfort at a ripe old age, not during a war for water or oil in 20 years time.
posted by harriet vane at 10:41 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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