Don't Look Away Now, the Climate Crisis Needs You!
March 7, 2015 1:22 AM   Subscribe

If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worth of Marshall Plan levels of response, it will be.

Extract taken from the Introduction to THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein.

Bonus: Time To Act National Climate March today in London [Facebook event link]
posted by ellieBOA (79 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I was a child, I was convinced that I would die in an radioactive firestorm. After all, the atomic doomsday clock, or whatever it is called, was only five minutes from midnight and seemingly edging towards catastrophe, so it was only a matter of time before the world erupted in a big explosion.

Then world population hit five bililion people and there were images of dying children in Africa on TV. It was common knowledge at the time that the world can never sustain 8 or 10 billion people, so it was only a matter of time until much of the world population would be wiped out by hunger. Yet even with increased population, extreme poverty seems to be a thing of the past.

Remember peak oil? We should have run out of oil already, but apparently that's not a thing anymore and oil is cheaper than 10 years ago.

There are also the little doomsday scenarios. Remember Y2K? Wasn't the world supposed to break down due to malfunctioning computers in January 2000? Or what about all those mini-crises of budget debates spelling economic doom? Has that ever happened?

I am not denying climate change, but I'm just feeling a bit of doomsday fatigue to get all excited or terrified by it.
posted by sour cream at 1:59 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]




- 'extreme poverty seems to be a thing of the past.'

- text is linked to article that says over 1 billion people live in extreme poverty.
posted by colie at 2:18 AM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am convinced that climate change represents a historic opportunity on an even greater scale. As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up.

No, getting our emissions down would be really painful and everyone would be poorer. Poorer is better than dead, but it's no good pretending we can have it all ways with no down side.

And every time you link this with equality and democracy, people on the right think "See, I knew this was really about socialism!" And that really isn't helpful.
posted by Segundus at 2:27 AM on March 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


- text is linked to article that says over 1 billion people live in extreme poverty.

Point taken.
Nevertheless, it seems that things are improving although not too long ago the prevalent narrative was that they should soon be becoming worse. Much, much worse.
posted by sour cream at 2:30 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are also the little doomsday scenarios. Remember Y2K? Wasn't the world supposed to break down due to malfunctioning computers in January 2000?

I think Y2K is an awesome comparison to make to climate change. The reason there was no disaster when the clocks ticked over is because everyone undertook a crash campaign to update critical systems in the late 90s. Lots of people took it down to the wire, because that's what people tend to do, but they made it, because ultimately it was just a matter of software.

The critical way in which Y2K differs from climate change is that, of course, the environment is not a software problem. In the 90s, we knew how to go in to those old systems, update the ancient COBOL, RPG, C, Fortran, whatever, and make it work with dates with 4 digit years. Programming COBOL sucks, but at least it's possible. Relying on our incredible human propensity to pull it out of the fire at the last possible second, working full blast to the edge of adrenal exhaustion, doesn't look like it's going to cut it here. The physics are not amenable to trivial manipulation. The atmosphere does not have a REPL.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:58 AM on March 7, 2015 [51 favorites]


Nevertheless, it seems that things are improving although not too long ago the prevalent narrative was that they should soon be becoming worse. Much, much worse.

It's almost as if knowledge of impending consequences causes people to (hopefully) change their behavior in ways that might mitigate or avert those consequences.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:47 AM on March 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


No, getting our emissions down would be really painful and everyone would be poorer. Poorer is better than dead, but it's no good pretending we can have it all ways with no down side.

The single most important factor in happiness in societies, for both rich and poor, appears to be equality of wealth and opportunity. It seems plausible that this might work on a global scale. And even if it doesn't make rich people like me happier, it's still the right thing to do.

And every time you link this with equality and democracy, people on the right think "See, I knew this was really about socialism!" And that really isn't helpful.

Only in the US. And, let's face it, nothing short of revolutionary change is going to reform the American political structure sufficiently to enable America to be anything but anything but a massive hindrance to the changes needed to avert disaster. Might as well be honest about it.
posted by howfar at 3:58 AM on March 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think we're only one more (probably unconnected but whatever) catastrophic weather event away from climate change going the way that gay marriage has in America. Even if they have to stop denying it the Republicans will still impede any actual reform that harms corporate bottom lines, especially in Texas, of course, but at least it will have to be under the table rather than strident.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:10 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


You've got mass psychosis everywhere in the shape of the deniers, plus the very worst excesses of capitalism in control of all human relations and the production process. This is the combo that will finish off our species, most likely within 100 years.
posted by colie at 4:11 AM on March 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


*debbie downer trumpet*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:12 AM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Personally I'm quite upbeat about it. Bring on the new beings. We blew it.
posted by colie at 4:22 AM on March 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Climate change key in Syrian conflict – and it will trigger more war in future.
And (for me) more localized news; as the Amazon’s ‘flying rivers’ dry up so São Paulo, a city of 11 million already has unofficial rationing and an increase in Dengue fever, so the world experiences the first modern day failing of a megacity.
Brazil relies on hydroelectricity for 75% of its needs so as a direct result of drought and political ineptitude our electricity bills here in Rio go up 30% at the end of this month.
posted by adamvasco at 4:42 AM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


sed -i 's/climate change/capitalism/g'
posted by ennui.bz at 4:53 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, getting our emissions down would be really painful and everyone would be poorer. Poorer is better than dead, but it's no good pretending we can have it all ways with no down side.

And every time you link this with equality and democracy, people on the right think "See, I knew this was really about socialism!" And that really isn't helpful.

Except it is about equality and democracy. The wealthy and powerful on the right can continue to deny the existence of climate change precisely because they already have enough resources to survive it. They don't have to care because they can just pay more for their food/water/gas, move to higher ground, hire private security guards, and mostly continue their way of life unaffected.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:55 AM on March 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


Could rebuilding power infrastructure be an economic opportunity - similar to the way building military infrastructure revived the US economy before and during WWII? Of course, Roosevelt had a hell of a time getting the nation to develop the political will to act in the face of a threat of war, which is more likely to inspire mobilization that , and that was in the face of an obvious threat rather than the more abstract threat of climate change.
posted by tommyD at 5:02 AM on March 7, 2015


There was an excellent critique of Klein's book in Jacobin recently.

Anyone who thinks that successfully addressing climate change won't involve overthrowing capitalism is kidding themselves. Buying a Prius ain't gonna do it.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:22 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


> "It's almost as if knowledge of impending consequences causes people to (hopefully) change their behavior in ways that might mitigate or avert those consequences."

Not long ago some idiot talking head on a news show said something like, "Hey, remember how acid rain was supposed to be a big problem? Never hear about it now, yuk yuk yuk!"

Which, as some tried to point out afterwards, is because it was acknowledged as being a big deal so people actually DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
posted by kyrademon at 5:26 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


When I was a child

Oh, lulz, this bullshit again. Every time climate change gets posted there's one of you. Remember when they warned me if I didn't wear my seatbelt, I would die in a crash? Well, that didn't happen, so I probably won't die free climbing this skyscraper, either. Let's remember every single completely unconnected doomsday scenario that didn't come to pass (and conveniently forget that some, like the nuclear firestorm, very nearly did; I don't think we've heard the last of peak oil, either--the fracking boom, which is the only reason oil production has increased and is something of an environmental disaster itself, may go bust soon) and pretend like that has any bearing at all on whether this will. Honestly, it's such a predictable piece of "reasoning," I wonder what conservative pundit has made it a talking point cornerstone.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:26 AM on March 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


Remember peak oil? We should have run out of oil already, but apparently that's not a thing anymore and oil is cheaper than 10 years ago.

Only because the high price of oil drove exploitation of highly marginal resources (tar sands and shale); conventional light crude oil production peaked in 2005. This is basically the equivalent of an alcoholic rummaging through the rubbish to see if there are any beer cans with a few drops left. Without fracking and natural gas condensate oil production would have already peaked. The high oil prices of a decade ago in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis were the result of conventional production flatlining and demand continuing to grow, fracking has filled the gap since then. Which in the long run is probably a bad thing since it encourages business as usual and removes the most pressing incentives to change behaviour.

There are a lot of reasons to be pretty worried about climate change; things like the massive craters in Siberia from methane eruptions thanks to melting permafrost, for instance (methane is a much more efficient greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). A really massive methane release would be a Very Bad Thing, since they tend to be associated with the kind of climate change that accompanies planetary extinction events. We know that continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will increase temperatures and cause climate change, and we know that once that process reaches a certain point feedback loops kick in and things get a LOT worse very quickly. It seems pretty reasonable to think that just maybe we should be doing something to prevent that happening rather than going merrily along and assuming "meh, it's probably nothing to worry about!"
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 5:35 AM on March 7, 2015 [30 favorites]


...it [acid rain] was acknowledged as being a big deal so people actually DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Yes, they did. But in some locations, it was too late. When I was a child, I went to Walden Pond a lot, because I could get there on my bike. I snorkled, and saw all kinds of fish, and crawfish, and aquatic plants. It was alive. That was around 1960. Now, Walden Pond is a kettle pond with no outlet. Substances that enter the pond either evaporate, or they stay in the pond. The acid in rain didn't evaporate, so it built up, and by 1980, the pond was dead. There were still some fish, because the state stocked it for the fishermen, but the crawfish and plants were history. AFAIK, it's still that way.

My point is that even when our efforts lead to a 'successful' outcome, it doesn't mean there isn't any permanent damage. Even if we reverse Global Warming this year, those Pacific Islanders are still going to be displaced. We appear to be on the brink of a catastrophic event, and the people who oppose doing something to prevent it occupy a moral position analogous to war criminals. The rest of us are largely culpable by acquiescence.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:48 AM on March 7, 2015 [19 favorites]


the acute and painful realisation that our “leaders are not looking after us… we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.”

I also feel the cake they say they will let us eat is most probably a lie.
posted by yoHighness at 6:15 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


"No, getting our emissions down would be really painful and everyone would be poorer."

Maybe not! Burlington Vermont goes 100% renewable:

"And contrary to those who insist that renewably generated electricity is an expensive luxury that only a bunch of Phish-loving Vermont hippies will pay for, Ken Nolan of BED told NPR that the switch to renewables was initially driven by economic concerns and will likely save the city $20 million over the next decade.

“Greenhouse gas reduction is a major thing that we’re concerned about and we are always trying to improve on,” he said. “But in looking at whether to buy renewable power, we really were focused on an economic decision at the time. Our financial analysis at that time indicated to our—actually, to our surprise–that the cheapest long term financial investment for us with the least amount of risk was to move in this direction.”
posted by xarnop at 6:19 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was common knowledge at the time that the world can never sustain 8 or 10 billion people

Is that knowledge less common now? We haven't been anywhere near "sustainable" since something less than 5 billion, never mind 8 or 10. Climate change is only one of the myriad ways the planet is getting fucked up by human industry, and dealing with it in the long run will require an end to and a reversal of population growth. The sooner it happens, the less catastrophic things will get. Obviously it is not so easy to do anything about, but neither is climate change even if you do ignore this more fundamental problem.

Which demonstrates the other difficulty in getting humanity to do something about climate change: Even if we did all agree it's a serious problem deserving maximum effort, there is still a high level of disagreement on how that effort should be directed. I'm weird enough to think it most important to find some politically, morally, and socially acceptable way of mitigating our global over-population problem (starting with high-CO2-emissions parts of the world might be best). Naomi Klein apparently believes that the answer involves "blocking harmful new free trade deals". Google engineers tend to think it's more about relying on technology, profit margins, and capitalism to solve the problem. And then there are the people who like the concept of geo-engineering.

There are some things everyone rational can agree on, but so far they seem insufficient to have much of an effect.
posted by sfenders at 6:45 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Peak Oil isn't a thing any more? Did fossil fuels suddenly become an infinitely inexhaustible resource?

No.

The fracking boom and the tar-sands exploitation trend have temporarily given us more fossil fuels to burn, and we seem intent on burning them as quickly as possible. Climate-change-wise this is the stupidest thing we could possibly do. Fracking, Mountain-top removal, and tar-sands exploitation are contributing more to greenhouse gas production per kwh than conventional methods have. Gasoline is only temporarily cheap. That bubble is going to burst and it's going to be very, very painful for most people when it happens. We're scraping the bottom of the barrel. What happens when we're done scraping that?

We should be developing renewables. When that miasma of incandescent plasma in the sky runs out of fuel, yeah, we're fucked. But we're a couple billion years away from Peak Sun. Why we're still blowing things up to pump shit out of the ground to burn has to do more with money and politics than with practical application of science and technology.

The world could be 100% powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050. The barriers to that happening are not scientific or technological. They are political.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:11 AM on March 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


Jesus fucking Christ on a goddamn crutch people, population growth at the global level is solved and pretty much over: get women to a level of economic and social development that they can access birth control. This is happening right now. We can see it in the fecundity stats. There is no effing population bomb.

It always reads vaguely racist, honestly. And stuck in the 70s. Like hyperinflation.

I would find it quite plausible that abundant fossil fuels, tho quite full of delicious hydrocarbons with which to juice up an industrial revolution or two, have smothered energy technology development. I also suspect the negative welfare effects of transition to a zero emissions regime would be a lot less than we all think. Addict always knows he's gonna die without his fix.
posted by PMdixon at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


If every product sold somewhere had a distance tax based on the distance from the origin to the destination, it would discourage the currently favorable economics of mass disposable consumption.
posted by Brian B. at 7:22 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


population growth at the global level is solved and pretty much over: get women to a level of economic and social development that they can access birth control. This is happening right now.

Yeah, just like climate change due to increased carbon dioxide is also solved and pretty much over: Build clean renewable energy like solar power, and stop burning coal. This is happening right now.
posted by sfenders at 7:26 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


If every product sold somewhere had a distance tax based on the distance to the destination, it would discourage the currently favorable economics of mass disposable consumption.

Except that distance from production to consumption doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how much end-to-end emissions are released.
Recent studies, however, have found that local foods are often neither better for the environment nor for the poor. Shipping produce from across the world often emits less greenhouse gases than the same local produce grown with more resource-intensive methods.

Corn grown in vast farms in Iowa and shipped to Alaska will always be more cost-effective and environmentally sound than corn grown in a small greenhouse in Anchorage, for example. According to a 2008 Carnegie Mellon University study, more than 80% of emissions occur before food even leaves the farm. Contrary to the "food miles" perspective, the study found that transportation contributes little to overall environmental impact.
The entire article is worth reading.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, just like climate change due to increased carbon dioxide is also solved and pretty much over: Build clean renewable energy like solar power, and stop burning coal. This is happening right now.

The difference between fertility rates and emissions is that a) people have a much smaller personal hit from releasing some co2 than a baby b) one of those rates is actually declining. Giant chunks of the world live in countries with fertility below replacement rate.

The difference is, it turns out that when you put an individual woman in charge of how many baby she wants, she tends to have fewer than the historical pattern. If you put an individual person in charge of how much emissions they want, they will burn all the things. This is why one is a collective action problem and the other mostly not.
posted by PMdixon at 7:35 AM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


However difficult these problems our, innocent children who will be brought into this world of suffering deserve the adults to... well... adult the fuck up and stop making excuses for doing everything they can to tackle this even if it's hard and it involves very real difficult sacrifices or devotion to being willing to radically changing how we do things.

I think stating how hopeless it all is, is either a pathology or actively excusing us from trying to fix this.

Industry feeds off of people who buy it's products. I think we both need to be putting pressure on large scale infrastructure changes, and also on building and using localized production/power/and living supplies using local resources and clean production methods to offset the power of large industries- as well as improving public transit and ensuring that work/housing/shopping options are in walking distance more often.

"Shipping produce from across the world often emits less greenhouse gases than the same local produce grown with more resource-intensive methods."

It would seem choosing native plants or plants that grow well in the region is another option to minimize resource intensive methods. Wildscaping and forest gardening are pretty cool and don't require as much upkeep. I'm cool with a balance of different options, but I think bringing things local gives people greater power over their food access and to resist unethical business practices they don't want to participate in.
posted by xarnop at 7:35 AM on March 7, 2015


I'm weird enough to think it most important to find some politically, morally, and socially acceptable way of mitigating our global over-population problem (starting with high-CO2-emissions parts of the world might be best).

Or we could reduce consumption in those areas. No morally acceptable means of reducing population (which is what would have to happen) can possibly act fast enough to prevent a climate change catastrophe. Our urgent problem is not population, it's consumption, and fixing the problem with consumption in the developed world is not what "might be best", it's what must be done. The only way to address our current crisis through population control would be killing a lot of us wealthy Westerners.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but proposing population control as a solution to our current climate crisis is not part of the reasoned disagreement between rational people about ways and means; it's a complete red herring distracting us from things that might actually be some use.
posted by howfar at 7:44 AM on March 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


The difference between fertility rates and emissions is that a) people have a much smaller personal hit from releasing some co2 than a baby b) one of those rates is actually declining.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by (a) or how it's relevant if I get the correct gist. Claiming success in putting an end to the problem based on declining but still too-high fertility rates as in (b), while population continues to increase for the foreseeable future, is rather like measuring success in fighting climate change by the rate of carbon "emission intensity" per unit of GDP or some such thing, which is also declining.

Human population reduction is not a quick fix and I suppose there are many less-intractable problems for everyone to deal with. But something about the nature of climate change makes me think long-term.
posted by sfenders at 7:53 AM on March 7, 2015


RonButNotStupid: "Nevertheless, it seems that things are improving although not too long ago the prevalent narrative was that they should soon be becoming worse. Much, much worse.

It's almost as if knowledge of impending consequences causes people to (hopefully) change their behavior in ways that might mitigate or avert those consequences.
"

I have this theory of... situational blindness. It's a problem of short term thinking. It's a problem of invisibility.

I think its more important than ever to understand it now than ever, precisely because we have improved so much via rules and regulations. We, intuitively, understand "weather" but not "climate".

We saw acid rain, it was right there. There were curmudgeon special interests fighting against rules about sulfur dioxide and other acid-rain inducing pollutants, of course, but people did see the effects. After a long fight, we got cleaned up the air (wasn't that signed by Poppy Bush?) Now that we have a reduced amount (between the legislation reducing it, and offshoring so much manufacturing, and thus pollution, to China), we SEE less. Now that we see less, we act as if it never was a problem. We act as if we don't have issues with hard to see particulate matter, or with ozone concentrations at ground level, problems for people with Asthma, etc... And we certainly act as if we don't see the problem with the Climate, cuz James Inhofe brought in a snowball, so disprove THAT, sucker socialists!

In the meantime, other factors have been ameliorated to a certain degree. We ended slavery. Ah, but Jim Crow! OK, we got rid of Jim Crow. Ah, but institutional racism. We now have Affirmative Action, and you see a black guy got "your" (because of COURSE the manager told you he hired the black guy, but he *really* would have hired you, (wink wink)), so you think - see! Not only are things better now, they've swung the opposite way! (in this case). Or you think - racism doesn't exist. Cosby had a show, we have rap as the main music form. yada yada. We don't have slavery, we don't have lynchings (as much) anymore. Yeah, but you're racist if you point out other ways that racism exists, not the person saying it doesn't exist.

So anyways, my point being, there's something about the human experience, being an immediate experience, where we have a very hard time to appreciate that which isn't directly in our midst. And so to make up for that excuse, we will attribute it to things like a deity, or deny it exists. A god of the gaps. But it's a blindness, more than anything, these gaps.

So my point is - once the gap is closed enough to appear to a certain degree "fixed", people believe there is no problem, and thus the special interests in favor of reducing restrictions start to hammer away and people start believing there never was a problem. Because, they act as if the way it is now (with the Clean Air act, for example) is all we've ever had, and so since we don't have a problem now, it's certainly not a possibility of being a problem in the future.

In the same way this narrative of "things are improving" (or, have been good for so long we forgot that if we didn't make an effort to remedy it, that it could get worse)... I think that's detrimental, because it acts as if these improvements are a force of nature beyond human ken, beyond the collective effort of humans to do something about. It ignores systemic effects.

And I think, too, systemic thinking is the huge blind spot, frankly. The human scale, while systemic from a lower level, looks whole and integrated to us: Bodies, Buildings, etc... But when we go to larger scales, we don't see the whole, we see abstractions. A city is a label or a name on a map. Of *course* we say we know it's a bunch of people living in the same region with a collective form of governance, and somewhat of a shared ethos. But when we think city, we think initially, in the abstract. If we say the particular city, we might think more particular location, or we might conjure up stereotypical images. The map is still not the territory. When we're in the territory, the presence of being isn't on the larger scale it's merely the immediate presence of being in that locus. And the abstractions of "building" become concrete entities "Bank building" "Police station" "House". But we can't conjure up these concrete entities on the large scale, because they are 1) not visible to us directly in the immediate experience and 2) stunningly vast to bring forth mentally. Billions of people, trillions of buildings, and dollars and the sheer scope and size is just stunning, and we haven't even left the planet. So we abstract. We see a star, and we think it's a twinkling light, but it's a raging inferno of atomic energy and magnetic fields pulsing and whirling about. It's just.. "out there". So we pretend that the scale is the truth. That abstraction, that dot. Sure don't look like climate change to me, it's a dot. On a chart. and we know charts are made by humans, and humans can lie. And humans can be wrong. But the weather? I can see it with my damn fist. And besides, the weather man can't even tell me what it's gonna be like 5 days from now, so what does he know?

Because people can't think systemically. And when the systems improve to a degree of homeostatic comfort?

We pretend it was always comfortable, and we pretend it will never change, and we pretend that "there's no problem here, move along".
posted by symbioid at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


But something about the nature of climate change makes me think long-term.

Climate change is an immediate term problem. We're likely somewhere around the point that turning off every internal combustion engine and power plant tomorrow would not be sufficient. We need to have negative emissions, within the next decade.

Or China will do some crazy geoengineering moon shot. Maybe India, they've presumably got major concerns about Bangladeshi refugees. Presumably this branch ends with us blotting out the sun or turning the Pacific into a giant algal bloom.

This assumes no clathrate gun sitch. We probably all die horribly then.

Climate change is no longer long term. In terms of hysteresis points, climate change is now.
posted by PMdixon at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Except that distance from production to consumption doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how much end-to-end emissions are released.

It's not just about emissions, but gaining some local control over the variables. As a local or state tax, exceptions can be easily made for sound reasons, or the tax used to develop alternate strategies. If candy was cheaper to ship than to make locally, it would also make the point.
posted by Brian B. at 8:04 AM on March 7, 2015


It's not just about emissions, but gaining some local control over the variables.

Local control over the variables is exactly the opposite of how collective action problems get solved.
posted by PMdixon at 8:06 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok, so population control is not an option. Regulating China and other far east countries is unlikely to be effective. So even if the USA and Germany pushed alt fuels to eliminate the use of oil based power the curve would continue upward.

Should we be that concerned about changing coastlines? Weep for the lost vacation homes. Ports can change, expensive but it can be done. Change, violent population reduction, drought, flood, can all be survived, well by a few of us.

A few bees and vanishing species? Is that a concern? Not the fuzzy animals that get attention as memes and tv donation ads, but the ugly messy worms and ichy bugs, that coincidentally may be key for a thriving ecosystem.

TOTAL ECOLOGICAL COLLAPSE?!?

Not to be a crazed ranter but is that a possibility? Certainly a possibility. Lots of "possibilities". Is a sudden crash of the food chain a possibility? No fish, just jellyfish? The experiments isolating folks in a dome have not been too optimistic, as in they have not lasted a year without help. Is the science of ecology a total washout? Is there any understanding about real options?
posted by sammyo at 8:08 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


A heavy investment in more nuclear power would be a good start to reduce emissions.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:10 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


We honestly don't know what, if anything is going on because there is literally no way to determine the percentage of human climate impact vs. natural climate change. Anyone who tells you different is a huckster.

So, any and all proposed solutions are based on guesses. Chance that the 'cure' could be worse than the unproven problem? How can you fix something you barely understand? Exactly.

Have fun at the march though -- those giant puppets are dope!
posted by gsh at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2015


Local control over the variables is exactly the opposite of how collective action problems get solved.

Local control is more freedom, and free trade is fine if it is trade between free countries.
posted by Brian B. at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2015


We honestly don't know what, if anything is going on because there is literally no way to determine the percentage of human climate impact vs. natural climate change. Anyone who tells you different is a huckster.

This is true in the same sense that there is literally no way to determine whether I'm a brain in a vat, whether lung cancer is caused by smoking, or whether there is, in fact, something instead of nothing.

You rock on with your radical skepticism, dude.
posted by PMdixon at 8:16 AM on March 7, 2015 [17 favorites]




^ Anti-nuke organization hates nukes, yeah we know. Anybody more interested in their own bugaboos or pet philosophies like locovorism instead of being focused on the practical ways to reduce emissions is barely helping any more than a denialist.

We honestly don't know what, if anything is going on because there is literally no way to determine the percentage of human climate impact vs. natural climate change. Anyone who tells you different is a huckster.

Oh, climate scientists! You fooled me again!
posted by Drinky Die at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


We need to have negative emissions, within the next decade.

Setting impossible goals like that seems no better than declaring the whole thing hopeless and inevitable. That would be way beyond the "Marshall Plan" level of difficulty. What's the idea? Tens of millions of artificial trees powered by nuclear fusion which we'll need to perfect before the end of this year, in addition to convincing the whole world to instantly adopt every measure the U.N. have been contemplating?
posted by sfenders at 8:59 AM on March 7, 2015


I didn't say it was possible. Personally, I'm pretty sure we're boned.
posted by PMdixon at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This all seems to be about 40 years too late, as far as I can tell. Our global commitment to warming, that is the future effects of the carbon we are pumping into the air right this very minute that won't be fully felt for another 30-40 years, are such that we could cut our global emissions to zero RIGHT NOW and we'd still have something like 3 degrees C of warming worldwide to look forward to.

The linked article states that we've had 0.8C of warming that we're feeling the effects of now. So, even if we cut all carbon emissions right now to zero, we already have 4x that much built into the system that we can't do anything about unless we develop a carbon capture technology that is so powerful that we're literally capturing as much carbon per day world-wide as we are putting out today and extracting that from the zero emission fantasy Now that I just created.

It would be awesome if there were some sort of major governmental effort by countries across the world to actually address this issue. Klein's use in this extract of the Marshall Plan (not gone into in detail) as a model seems odd to me, because we're not trying to rebuild Europe after a devastating war. We need some sort of transparent multi-governmental Manhattan Project, with the best and the brightest being employed by the government to do crash development on technology.

But even that is really all just pipe dreams. Every day we as a species worldwide pump X amount more carbon into the atmosphere, extending our commitment to warming just that little bit further, just one more day's worth of extended warming. And at any point, even if by some miracle global emissions were cut to nothing at all, we'll still have 30-40 years of climate change that we are committed to that we have no current technology to counter.

I feel like I bring up commitment to warming in nearly every climate change thread, but that's because I rarely see anything mentioned in the linked articles. It's always "oh, we can fix this now if we just decide to do something about it". But we can't. The fix should have started 40 years ago, and it didn't (despite plenty of drums being beaten about it), and now we are where we are now.

And simultaneously, we are also 40 years in the future where we are living with 4x the amount of warming that we have today. Because what happens today, right now, commits us to that future.
posted by hippybear at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


It wasn't Greenpeace that ended the use of whales for fuel, it was oilmen; just like it was coal miners, and not the Sierra Club, that ended the use of firewood for fuel.

When renewables are cheaper -- not through taxes and confiscation, but through real market lower cost -- and equivalently reliable as fossil fuels, fossil fuels will be forgotten.

What does it take to get there? Better batteries and charging for transportation. Better mass storage batteries and better transmission (probably cheaper superconduction or near-super conduction) to enable solar and wind to be better distributed through the grid. More efficient electrical heating technology for buildings. Conversion of portion of coal-fired power plans to biomass for summer standby and winter baseload.

What can we do to get there which isn't a government-picks-the-winner intervention? How about 100 year patents for any invention which contributes to delivery of motive or heating power to the end user at lower than the blended average fossil fuel cost for the same, subject to a compulsory licensing regime after 20 years at a nice hefty royalty?
posted by MattD at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nukes are too expensive and too slow.

The main public policy change that's needed is an inexorably rising carbon tax, preferably levied at all points of fossil fuel extraction and import, with all revenue raised paid back directly to households as compensation for the knock-on effects of a general increase in energy prices. The market will sort out the rest.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Every solution is going to be expensive and slow.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:21 AM on March 7, 2015


Aw man we are so boned.

Sorry daughter, we broke the planet.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is an excerpt from Klein's full book, This Changes Everything, which I found to be both a terrific read and terrifying. I would argue that trying to do something about climate change is a better use of our time than cheap nihilism, which appears to be the popular alternative.
posted by ent at 11:54 AM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh yeah, you have to try. But you gotta understand the thing you're trying to do, which is to basically persuade all of the people currently on top of the heap as well as all the people who want to be on top of the heap to be good little global citizens and forswear nice juicy hydrocarbons. Keeping in mind that most of the actual people on top will be dead before things reach a point money can't help you. I'm sure that there probably is some completely feasible carbon sequestration method to be found. The problem is not the science, it's the politics.

People are fuckers, basically.
posted by PMdixon at 12:23 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Klein's use in this extract of the Marshall Plan (not gone into in detail) as a model seems odd to me, because we're not trying to rebuild Europe after a devastating war.

The post WW2 deal was that America could take over as the world-running empire from Britain, since Britain had run out of cash. Socialism was in danger of catching on basically everywhere and absolutely had to be killed off. That was all the USA was interested in. In Europe the devastated nations with grumpy young workers had to be dealt with. No morality or planning or sense or idealism in any of it.
posted by colie at 12:37 PM on March 7, 2015


When renewables are cheaper -- not through taxes and confiscation, but through real market lower cost -- and equivalently reliable as fossil fuels, fossil fuels will be forgotten.

Right it's just so unfair that renewable energy might get federal subsidies against those poor oil companies that can't get any tax breaks, access to cheap land, free infrastructure or ridiculously friendly settlements for environmental destruction.
posted by one_bean at 12:52 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The cynicism and learned helplessness that so many of us demonstrate--for totally understandable reasons--is as much of a problem as the very real political structures that people feel helpless about. Deciding that we can't win and just giving up only strengthens the oligarchs.
posted by overglow at 12:52 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Alan Rusbridger : explains as to why the Guardian is putting the threat to Earth front and centre.

So, in the time left to me as editor, I thought I would try to harness the Guardian’s best resources to describe what is happening and what – if we do nothing – is almost certain to occur, a future that one distinguished scientist has termed as “incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community”.
posted by adamvasco at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


persuade all of the people currently on top of the heap as well as all the people who want to be on top of the heap to be good little global citizens and forswear nice juicy hydrocarbons.

I guess that's reasonable if by "top" of the heap you mean the top two-thirds or so. Although it's not as if any of those at the bottom already have the net-negative carbon emissions it's said that we need. There are a few countries in Africa that have close to zero, but doing something about climate change is not a problem for the global 1% elite or something. Sure those at the very top tend to do a bit more polluting, but not by so much that if you eliminated only their contribution it would do much of anything. China, Britain, and Iran all have about the same level of per-capita CO2 emissions, and the Wold Bank broadly-defined "high income" group of countries generates less than half the world total. It's a relatively egalitarian feature of human nature, this propensity for oxidizing stuff.
posted by sfenders at 2:51 PM on March 7, 2015


We are nicely shaping the planet for those who are meant to lord over it. There's a reason no one has responded to our radio signals yet; they are waiting for us to die.
posted by Renoroc at 3:42 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess that's reasonable if by "top" of the heap you mean the top two-thirds or so. Although it's not as if any of those at the bottom already have the net-negative carbon emissions it's said that we need. There are a few countries in Africa that have close to zero, but doing something about climate change is not a problem for the global 1% elite or something. Sure those at the very top tend to do a bit more polluting, but not by so much that if you eliminated only their contribution it would do much of anything. China, Britain, and Iran all have about the same level of per-capita CO2 emissions, and the Wold Bank broadly-defined "high income" group of countries generates less than half the world total. It's a relatively egalitarian feature of human nature, this propensity for oxidizing stuff.

What on earth are you on about? If everybody had the per capita carbon emissions of folks in the "bottom," we would be fine. Net negative does not mean "humans don't emit carbon dioxide" it means we emit less carbon dioxide than heterotrophs consume every year. America has per capita emissions somewhere around 170 times an average "developing" country. No, that's not comparable to wealth inequality, but it is most certainly not egalitarian.
posted by one_bean at 3:46 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


When renewables are cheaper -- not through taxes and confiscation, but through real market lower cost -- and equivalently reliable as fossil fuels, fossil fuels will be forgotten.

But the so-called "real" market is not always efficient. The existing market for energy is a good example of market failure. Fossil fuel use has massive external costs. External costs distort markets. In order to achieve an *efficient* market, we need taxation and regulation. And if we were to properly internalize the external costs of our various sources of energy, wind energy would already be competitive with energy from fossil fuels.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 3:57 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


What on earth are you on about? If everybody had the per capita carbon emissions of folks in the "bottom," we would be fine.

Well, it had very little to do with the lowest on the list of emissions. They are irrelevant to the problem except in that they suffer from it. Just saying, it isn't confined to "the top" either. It's primarily a matter of the gigantic rotund middle. Although until there's some evidence otherwise I do think it safe to say that net-negative is still something that happens practically nowhere, no matter how you measure it.

Incidentally, I think you're probably confusing the per-capita emissions figure for "an average developing country" with the one for "the least developed countries" or something, because you're off by at least an order of magnitude there.
posted by sfenders at 4:21 PM on March 7, 2015


We honestly don't know what, if anything is going on because there is literally no way to determine the percentage of human climate impact vs. natural climate change.

Except we kind of DO know. We have this awesome thing called "science". Which has given us some other awesome things called gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy that allow us to measure the molecular composition of the atmosphere, both at present (which the US NOAA has been doing since 1958) and in the past (through ice core analysis). We know that CO₂ in the atmosphere has increased by 90 parts per million since 1958; we also know that it's increased by around 130 parts per million since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. We know that all of this increase is caused by human activity because there's this thing called the carbon 12/carbon 13 ratio; plants preferentially absorb the lighter isotope of carbon (carbon 12), and fossil fuels come from ancient plant material. The carbon 12/carbon 13 ratio has decreased (there is less carbon 13 relative to carbon 12) very dramatically over the past 150 years or so, in line with the release of CO₂ from the burning of coal and oil and natural gas. So we absolutely know that the change in the carbon ratio, and the increase in atmospheric CO₂, is because of human activity.

We also know (thanks to ice core and tree ring analysis) that the current record global high temperatures are warmer than anything in the past few thousand of years (for instance, the average global temperature excursion above the long-term baseline in the past few decades is significantly warmer than the so-called "Medieval Warm Period").
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 5:32 PM on March 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


No, you don't understand. Complexity, um, hubris, something something arrogance, can't possibly know!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:42 PM on March 7, 2015


OK. So what do I, as an individual, actually do here? Thinking about climate change makes me want to puke in fear. I have kids, I want their world to not be an awful dystopian nightmare. I want to stop it. I read the article hoping she would tell me what I'm actually supposed to do now, today.

GIVE ME ACTION ITEMS. I am happy to be a foot soldier but I need a place to march.
posted by town of cats at 8:23 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Deciding that we can't win and just giving up only strengthens the oligarchs.

Right, which is why it's so nice to know that we are winning because the oligarchs who can see opportunity when it's put in front of them will inevitably out-compete those who can't.

GIVE ME ACTION ITEMS.

First action item is to contact your local political representative - in person is best - and make sure that they understand that this issue is something you're prepared to base voting decisions on.

Do not attempt to argue with them on the science. Politicians generally don't care as much about science as they do about votes.

You might get somewhere by pointing out that there are always going to be more jobs in installation of mass produced rooftop solar PV and domestic battery storage than there could possibly be in mining and centralized power generation, but the main purpose of your being there is simply to be somebody your rep is spending time with who is not a shill employed by existing fossil fuel interests.

Study them before you turn up, and do your best to present yourself as somebody like them. Nobody takes any notice of people they can easily write off as a wild-eyed ideologue or smelly hippie.

Next action item is to persuade your friends and acquaintances to do the same thing.

It has become very fashionable to believe that political representatives are so totally in the pockets of professional lobbyists that they no longer actually represent anybody else. But aside from straight-up bribery (which generally comes out, one way or another, so it's rarer than most people suspect) the main way that a professional lobbyist can influence a politician is by promising them votes. You don't need to be a professional lobbyist to do the same thing.

Also: organize.
posted by flabdablet at 9:12 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


One more thing about the supposed end to acid rain:
Rising acid levels in oceans imperil region’s shellfish (Boston Globe)
CO2 in water makes carbonic acid. So, we may have stopped making sulfuric-acid rain, but we are still making acid rain.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:46 AM on March 8, 2015


To be fair, the acidification of the oceans is not at all related to acid rain. It's the sea water dissolving CO2 directly at the surface that is causing that.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 AM on March 8, 2015


I'm back in the thread late, and so glad flabdablet answered town of cats' very important question so well.

If you're in Florida, by chance, memail me and I will let you know about some specific organized citizen advocacy efforts that are going on.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2015


Practical action is indeed important, but it must be accompanied by a commitment to a set of values. Are you willing to take responsibility for this planet and all its inhabitants, human or otherwise? Or are you going to remain committed to the values that see nothing wrong with despoiling the earth, and then waiting for some science fiction deus ex machina: the singularity, an interstellar ark, robot successors?
posted by No Robots at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stop pushing your anti-robot agenda here!
posted by Drinky Die at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2015


To be fair, the acidification of the oceans is not at all related to acid rain. It's the sea water dissolving CO2 directly at the surface that is causing that.

Can you document that? Why would rain falling through CO2-laden air not pick up some of that CO2 and deposit it in the ocean?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:10 PM on March 8, 2015




"The solar singularity is nigh."
posted by No Robots at 8:06 AM on March 9, 2015


Why would rain falling through CO2-laden air not pick up some of that CO2 and deposit it in the ocean?

Rain falling through CO2-laden air does pick up some of that CO2 and deposit it in the ocean, but the amount that is transferred to the ocean this way is minuscule compared to the amount of ocean surface that is in contact with the air and that is dissolving CO2 directly into the water.

Here's a short piece from NOAA that talks briefly about this.
posted by hippybear at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2015


Actually, that NOAA piece does not even mention rain. I suspect that would have complicated their model, or maybe they were only interested in the results, or something. Historically (and prehistorically), rain that's acidified by atmospheric CO2 has had some fairly major effects. It only stands to reason that more CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to greater acidity of rain.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:56 AM on March 9, 2015


It only stands to reason that more CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to greater acidity of rain.

Yes, but it is the surface of the ocean in contact with the atmosphere where most of the transfer of CO2 into the water is happening. Any rain that brings CO2 with it into the ocean is a trivial addition to the exchange taking place over 70% of the planet's surface.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2015


Florida bans term 'climate change'

Whelp.
posted by furtive at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whelp.
the way things are going, the Atlantic Ocean will do that for us (on my list of 'positive results of devastating climate change')
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:01 PM on March 9, 2015


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