Point of no return? Passed that already.
August 5, 2015 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. [...] London reached 98ºF during the hottest July day ever recorded in the UK. [...] In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

More:
- Hansen et al's latest study, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2ºC global warming is highly dangerous, which includes ongoing discussion (the paper was not peer-reviewed prior to publication, but is being publicly peer-reviewed in real time).
- Hansen offers some hope for mitigation.
posted by Athanassiel (144 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
 


Report: Global Warming May Be Irreversible By 2006
Although the report represents the collaborative efforts of several thousand scientists, some observers expressed doubt about the objectivity of the study.

"I think the report is a bit reactionary, and perhaps even politically motivated." said Arthur Bainbridge, a climate policy specialist based in Washington. "Plenty of alternative models have estimated 2008 or even 2010 as the absolute point of no return."
posted by Rhaomi at 7:39 PM on August 5, 2015 [25 favorites]


I guess what I wish I knew is - how the fuck are any of us supposed to react to news like this? I'm not a scientist, I basically don't know anything, and still I am starting to have these crazy gut reactions to things like garbage trucks going down the streets and lights being left on and watching hundreds of people in cars and every single time I have to fly somewhere for work. Not to mention the flash thunderstorms, the cold weather and the hot weather and the unpredictable weather, and the predictable new records set every season.

Articles like this make me feel - maybe like the scientists in it - past the point of hope and past the point of panic. I'm thoroughly in the category of (not panic but) dread, and bone-deep rage, and wholesale lamentation at the beautiful things that aren't going to be around for my children and their children.

Even forgetting civilization. Even forgetting human life, which is not something I want to fatalistically give into. Even forgetting the practical consequences of all this. Nature and this planet are just so fucking complex and gorgeous. It doesn't even have to be divine or mystical. It has intrinsic value.

And I feel so fucking helpless and inconsequential. I'm screaming little words into a friendly space on the internet. The people who made this happen are going to be dead before the shit really, really hits the fan, not 2015-hits-the-fan. And what are the rest of us going to do? Will we be too busy worrying about survival to scream and cry about all the dead plants and animals, all the beauty that's just not there anymore?

Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 7:59 PM on August 5, 2015 [88 favorites]


I guess what I wish I knew is - how the fuck are any of us supposed to react to news like this?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Turn off the goddamn air conditioner, drive less, live closer to work, have one child or less. Same as all the scientists have been saying for the last 40 years or so. "Oh I don't know what I'm supposed to do"...sorry, but like a middle school student claiming they didn't know they had homework, that excuse just sounds more and more like selfish lazy bullshit.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:06 PM on August 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


I guess what I wish I knew is - how the fuck are any of us supposed to react to news like this?

For starters, don't have children. If you do have children, don't have any more and encourage the ones you do not to have any themselves.

If you live in the developed world, not having children is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce your resource footprint: "[I]n the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs."

As a side benefit, from the fatalistic viewpoint, not having children means not condemning them to a world in which "conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse [have made] the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization."
posted by jedicus at 8:07 PM on August 5, 2015 [88 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

We organize. We fight. We raise hell with the people who are supposed to pass laws to stop this shit, and, if they don't, we throw them out and pass the laws ourselves. We get state and national carbon taxes in by the end of 2015. We quit driving as much and eating as much meat. We talk to our neighbors and our families and anyone else until we start to work in concert and get some motherfucking change. No despair. Not yet.
posted by RakDaddy at 8:07 PM on August 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have long been a fan of the beautiful documentary Home.

Its last quarter tells us that "it's too late to be a pessimist" and provides some wonderful looks at free education, carbon-neutral energy sources, and environmental restoration projects.

I am a pessimist. We humans are too good at doing, and bad at undoing. All of the tidal generators you can fit onto a beach we haven't already crowded with portable ice cream wagons cannot solve the ramping damage.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:07 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

Convince every people in the world to stop burning fossil fuels, and then kill 6 billion of them. You can't, it's already happened.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:09 PM on August 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Oh I don't know what I'm supposed to do"...sorry, but like a middle school student claiming they didn't know they had homework, that excuse just sounds more and more like selfish lazy bullshit.

Actually I'm trying my damnedest to avoid fatalism; I think that won't get anybody anywhere. And I hear what you're saying - I agree with you that we don't get to stop doing small things just because the problem is bigger than any of us. But genuinely trying to start a conversation about what individuals (who aren't, you know, politicians or CEOs) can do to mitigate this disaster is, I think, the opposite of selfish lazy bullshit.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 8:12 PM on August 5, 2015 [23 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

It is decidedly not my own original insight, but perhaps a better question is:

'How do we wind down our civilization, which has some very, very bad toys, in such a way it does not render the Earth barren except for some colony jellies and roundworm species?'
posted by mrdaneri at 8:17 PM on August 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

Fundraise (in a big way) for politicians who will prioritize this.
posted by salvia at 8:19 PM on August 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Turn off the goddamn air conditioner ...

... become a nudist. Just sayin'.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:20 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]




Realistically, I think we'll have to wait until Miami drowns to get any real traction. Katrina style but worse, irrevocable. Millions of people in a first world country lose everything, and most importantly, some among those millions will be condo developers. When Miami becomes Atlantis, that'd be a big enough lever to move a Republican-led and Democrat-followed Congress. Nothing short of it will. Unless maybe the (re)insurance cos completely cut them off before they actually go under.

But other than that...I mean, walruses? Who cares? An invisible "dead zone" in the middle of an ocean 7,000 miles away from anything? Our monkey brains are not good at pricing those risks. Après Miami, the deluge. Not before.
posted by Diablevert at 8:29 PM on August 5, 2015 [51 favorites]


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Turn off the goddamn air conditioner, drive less, live closer to work, have one child or less. Same as all the scientists have been saying for the last 40 years or so

Do this, if you want to and it makes you feel good, but please don't buy the neoliberal myths that this is an issue of individual choice and responsibility. It is a cultural, systemic issue, and you address it by working to change the system, not by separating your bottles. Political action and supporting political action is what will generate a response.

And please, don't fall for that whole don't have kids thing. Again, this is a systemic issue, not one of individuals, and as a rich westerner, any kids you have are in a great position to do more to hinder, or help, climate change fights than some poor kids in Bangladesh.

I get it, I recycle, I drive a prius, all electricity in my home is one hundred percent renewable. But that won't change anything. The one letter I wrote to my mp will have more impact. You need to move the levers of power, this hair shirt ennui schtick is really tiring to me.

Likewise, I don't like these pieces locking on to freak events. It's like denialists pointing out snow. The trend is more important and the headline grabbers distract from the consistent reality, regardless of weather.
posted by smoke at 8:32 PM on August 5, 2015 [174 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

Man hands on misery to man; it deepens like the coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can, and don't have any kids yourself.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2015 [22 favorites]


This would definitely be the part in Alpha Centauri when I turn every-turn-autosaving back on. Sea levels.
posted by mrdaneri at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Here's what you do:
1) nothing, because it's not happening
2) nothing, because the libruls are exaggerating how bad it is
3) OK, it's not good but Jesus will save us
4) OK, maybe not Jesus, maybe God Himself?
5) Um, Lord Dagon perhaps?
6) Burn The Heretic! Seize their water!
7) man, dying from a gut-shot sure takes a long time
posted by aramaic at 8:41 PM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Turn off the goddamn air conditioner, drive less, live closer to work, have one child or less. Same as all the scientists have been saying for the last 40 years or so.

Sure, but that's minor compared to what we really need to do. We need to make major political change. By and large existing western (and other) governments are too subservient to capital to enact meaningful change (stiff carbon taxes, invest whatever it takes to get green energy less expensive than fossil fuels, incentives to grow local economies, ensure populations have safety nets to protect them from the vicissitudes of global capitalism, etc.). I take solace in the fact that when change comes it can come quickly.

On preview, what smoke says.
posted by Lyme Drop at 8:49 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


"You sound like you're saying it's hopeless."
"Yeah."


"Are you going to get in trouble for saying this publicly?"

"...Who cares??"
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:10 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


A significant comet loading the atmosphere with dust could help, or a small to medium asteroid strike maybe, or a couple of Pinatubo-sized volcanos, or a Maunder-length and depth sunspot minimum.

Or a plague that kills 80% of the human population.

But we'll probably do most of what we are able to get done with wars.
posted by jamjam at 9:13 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


We can pelt all climate change opposing politicians with rocks and garbage whenever they venture out of their bubble dome.
posted by benzenedream at 9:18 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


To paraphrase Carlin: The planet is fine. It's gone through far worse shit than us. The people on the other hand are fucked.
posted by Talez at 9:20 PM on August 5, 2015 [55 favorites]


We're just going to have to wait for global climate change to give in.
The American way of life is not negotiable.
posted by Auden at 9:21 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I consider myself extremely lucky, because I work in climate change advocacy. So I deal with this reality every day, but unlike climate scientists, I also get to see the victories every day. The massive number of coal plants that have been shut down or canceled in the last few years, for example. The coal and oil export terminals that have been scuttled up and down the west coast.

Is it enough? Not yet. For it to be enough, every person who sees these forecasts and is filled with dread and rage has the moral obligation (yes, I said it) to demand action from your elected officials. Not Congress, because right now, they are less than worthless. But I promise you, there is a climate battle worth fighting in your own city/state/province. Turning your lights off or driving few less miles a day will only take us so far - but real change comes on the institutional (city/state/university/corporation) level - and it will only happen if we organize and demand it.

If anyone wants help finding their local fight, please feel free to memail me and I will do what I can.
posted by lunasol at 9:25 PM on August 5, 2015 [79 favorites]


smoke: Likewise, I don't like these pieces locking on to freak events. It's like denialists pointing out snow. The trend is more important and the headline grabbers distract from the consistent reality, regardless of weather.

The thing is, it's not one freak event. The last five years have been one freak weather event after another. Even if you weren't in a place that had a tropical storm or something, there has been bizarre unseasonable weather everywhere. It should be obvious to just about everyone that the weather is fundamentally different from what it was like when we were all growing up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:34 PM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


It looks like climate change is unstoppable at this point. It's so startling that it has happened so fast, really.

I think it's important to remain hopeful. When I was a kid there were no whales where I lived. Thanks to the whaling moratorium Humpbacks, Fin whales and even Blue whales have returned. In a human lifetime.

The challenges facing humanity are serious, but we are not necessarily doomed.
posted by Nevin at 9:34 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Same as all the scientists have been saying for the last 40 years or so.

If scientists have been saying something for the last 40 years, then it is 30 years too late.
posted by carping demon at 9:37 PM on August 5, 2015


Once again, I quote myself quoting David Brin's Earth:

“But what about Man? Who or what regulates us?”

She nodded appreciatively. There were scores of good books she could refer the young man to. But he must have already accessed the standard answers and found them unsatisfying.

We are an unregulated cancer, proclaimed many eco-radicals. Man must cut his numbers and standard of living by a factor of ten, or even a hundred, to save the world.

Some even suggested it would be better if the destroyer species — Homo sapiens — died out altogether, and good riddance.

Those pursuing the “organic” metaphor suggested the problem would be solved once humanity adjusted to its proper role as “brain” of the planetary organism. We can learn to regulate ourselves, pronounced the moderators of the North American Church of Gaia, as they pushed “soft” technologies and birth control. We must learn to be smart planetary managers.

There were still other opinions.

Everything would be fine on Earth if humans just left! That was the message of the space colonization movement, as they promoted plans for cities and factories in the sky. Out in space, resources are endless. We’ll move out and turn the little blue planet into a park!

To Madrid Catholics and some other old-line religious groups, The world was made for our use. The end of days will come soon. So why “regulate,” when it’s all temporary anyway? One unborn human fetus is worth all the whales in the sea.

A group based in California offered a unique proposal. “Sheckleyans” they called themselves, and they agitated — tongue in cheek, Jen imagined — for the genetic engineering of new predators smart and agile enough to prey on human beings. These new hunters would cull the population in a “natural” manner, allowing the rest of the race to thrive in smaller numbers. Vampires were a favorite candidate predator — certainly canny and capable enough, if they could be made — but another Sheckleyan subsect held out for werewolves, a less snooty, less aristocratically conceited sort of monster. Either way, romance and adventure would return, and mankind, too, would at last be “regulated.” Jen sent the Sheckleyans an anonymous donation every year. After all, you never could tell.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:16 PM on August 5, 2015 [24 favorites]


Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said

"Seriously. For the last time, I have had it up to here with the Heat 'jokes' from you guys".

I wouldn't be too surprised if the article was right, though. The weather has been seriously spooky this year.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:33 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 10:35 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's not just the heat:  The California Drought Is Just the Beginning of Our National Water Emergency

Paradise Burning: Why We All Need to Learn the World ‘Anthropogenic’
The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden. In this season of drought across the West, there have been far bigger blazes but none quite so symbolic or offering quite such grim news. It isn’t the size of the fire (though it is the largest in the park’s history), nor its intensity. It’s something else entirely — the fact that it shouldn’t have been burning at all. When fire can eat a rainforest in a relatively cool climate, you know the Earth is beginning to burn.
Michael Hoexter: Climate Defeatism is as Much a Threat to Human Survival as Climate Denial – Part 1

Looks like we have some Choices on Global Warming: moderate disaster or major disaster
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:43 PM on August 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


So that Newsroom link above led me to this Mother Jones fact-checking of that scene (tl;dr: fairly accurate) and to this Guardian interactive feature telling you how much higher the global mean temperature will be when you're old. It doesn't look good for anyone born after 1950 if current trends continue. But if we do cut emissions radically, we stand a chance. (After you enter your birth year, keep waiting for the arrow in the bottom left to appear, then click it to see the full range of scenarios.)
posted by maudlin at 11:09 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]




Meanwhile, while Rome burns:

Malibu's Broad Beach Residents Plot New $20 Million Plan to Stop Sand Erosion

From Coast to Toast:
At opposite ends of the country, two of America’s most golden coastal enclaves are waging the same desperate battle against erosion. With beaches and bluffs in both Malibu and Nantucket disappearing into the ocean, wealthy homeowners are prepared to do almost anything—spend tens of millions on new sand, berms, retaining walls, and other measures—to save their precious waterfront properties.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:26 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


To follow up on mrdaneri's comment, you get maybe a week or so after the lights go out for good to get out of the area that will be blanketed by the radiation plume of nearby nuclear power reactors, for a value of nearby that may stretch 50-100 miles or more.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:26 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

It has already happened. There is no mitigation. The die is cast. The only thing you can do is adapt.

The best way to adapt is to sell your house if you own one, get a passport, learn a few languages, develop your employable skills, and be prepared to live a nomadic lifestyle, choosing cities that are doing okay and leaving cities as they fail.

The second-best adaptation is to buy land and homestead for maximum self-sufficiency. The difficult part in this is figuring out where the water supply will be good. Weather weirding is going to change rainfall patterns. Arable land today could be barren tomorrow.

Correction: the best best way is to be a billionaire. But it's probably too late to achieve that.

The scariest thing, IMO, is that climate change goes exponential. Things are going to very rapidly become much worse.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 PM on August 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

A Princeton study from 2014 found:
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. (Excerpt from this BBC article)
It seems we should all organize with our business colleagues and get the economic sectors we participate in to start talking about why controlling climate change is essential to their business interests.
posted by salvia at 11:39 PM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


Thanks for that, maudlin. I feel much better about my superannuation now, since turns out I probably won't have long after I retire to reap its rewards before everything goes utterly pear-shaped. Glad I didn't have kids. Do feel sorry for my nieces and nephews though.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:52 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


"The people who made this happen are going to be dead before the shit really, really hits the fan, not 2015-hits-the-fan. And what are the rest of us going to do?"

"The rest of us" are the majority of the people who made this happen.

The biggest problem being... too many people, using too much dirty energy, producing too much CO2, creating too much pollution, exhausting too many resources, unsustainably eating, deforesting, and crapping their way through the entire ecosystem.

It's the reason why you do an order of magnitude more damage to the environment than someone who lives in India.

You have the power to change that... and, by doing so, you will stop supporting an unsustainable system. But there will be sacrifices, of course.
posted by markkraft at 12:48 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It looks like climate change is unstoppable at this point. It's so startling that it has happened so fast, really.

Haven't seen the phrase "commitment to warming" anywhere in this thread yet, so I'll start with that.

This hasn't happened quickly. The temperature rises and chaotic weather systems and other symptoms we are currently experiencing from climate change are the result of the greenhouse gasses we pumped into the atmosphere 30-40 years ago. Everything we've added to the atmosphere in 2015 will have its effect around 2040 or so. Everything we've added in between will have its effect between now and then, and will only exacerbate the coming expected effects of what we've added in 2015.

We could miraculously cut all fossil fuel use to zero globally starting tomorrow and we're still fucked.

And yes, the scientists have been talking about this since the 1970s. I remember being taught about man-made climate change and its destructive effects in elementary and middle school in the 70s and 80s. Remember when Carter got into office and made climate a factor of his presidency? (Not always with the best strategies outlined, but he was at least trying to do something about a problem that was being spoken about even then.) And then Reagan came into office and undid everything. And then it stopped being talked about.
posted by hippybear at 12:56 AM on August 6, 2015 [26 favorites]


Reading this makes me angry, not depressed. This is what the 1% is doing to us - forget about all the social issues: they are killing us (not the globe, but us humans). They are killing us with the irresponsible policies they are buying the politicians to continue.

It's true, most of us should change our lifestyles, and some of those changes are tough and we need fundamental infrastructural changes to make it work. But it's not as if we would need to return to the middle ages, or kill off half the world's population. The thing is: there is a vested interest in making us believe there is nothing we can do. This morning I was listening to a radio debate show about the climate issues, and I had to turn it off because it made me so angry. One thing was the conservative person on the show who was echoing Bjørn Lomborg about priorities and mitigation and hordes of colored people.
Another was the radical vegan person who was going through her cupboard where every goddam item had been sailed across the globe in a container ship - "organic quinoa", "organic soy sauce", "organic almonds" (from California no doubt) - yeah right! How organic do you think that all is after a trip with Maersk Line??? And anyway, she still felt she has the right to fly to Goa on holiday.
And the end of the day, the show was nonsense, we can all conclude we are fucked and there is no need to do anything.

(now breathing..) Social issues and policies are a huge part of this, of course: ready access to jobs, food and water across globe and for everyone is an important part of managing this. Refuge and relief for those who are about to loose their homes across the globe. Family planning options in Africa, (and the very few other places with population growth today). New sustainable planning and housing forms with focus on less dependency on fossil fuels. But we are not getting anywhere close to that as long as the Kochs and their friends are ruling the world.
posted by mumimor at 1:08 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


fast ein Maedchen: "how the fuck do we stop this from happening?"

Margaret Atwood on How to Save the World
posted by mannequito at 1:09 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]




"It is a cultural, systemic issue, and you address it by working to change the system, not by separating your bottles. Political action and supporting political action is what will generate a response. "

When you separate your bottles so they are recycled, you change the system by reducing demand for new bottles. When you eat less meat and eat local produce, you reduce demand for meat production, reduce animal waste in our rivers, stop the spread of dead zones in our ocean, the deforestation for animal herds and animal crop production, the CO2 production of livestock, the pollution caused by shipping food around the world, and you reduce the largest use of our available fresh water.

Nobody is saying to not be political, but you also need to adopt personal changes, and do things to get your friends and family on board, rather than expect the government to modify systems to the degree possible in order to help allow you to continue living your utterly unsustainable lives.
posted by markkraft at 1:10 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nearly as bad as the catastrophe will be the MSM narrative: if only we'd known we could have done something! Oh, well, best not to assign blame to one party. We might get labeled as liberal!

When that happens, I'm going to start handing out t-shirts with a picture of Jim Inhofe on the Senate floor with a fucking snowball.

No, we assign blame to the Republicans for blocking everything we tried to do.

I blame our gutless media nearly as much as the Republicans. Better to sacrifice truth than to be seen as partisan. Fucking cowards.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:27 AM on August 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's hot, yes. It's getting hotter, yes. Is there anything I personally can do about it? No, not really. What helps me get on with my life is, in part, geology. (I am not a geologist. I don't even play one on TV. I am very interested in scale, though.)

It was much hotter than this, and not all that long ago, in geological time. There's a graph on that page (if you believe Wikipedia, which is a fair point) that suggests that the peak global temperatures during the Eocene were 14°C (25°F) higher than 1960-1990's global average. The Eocene was 66 million-34 million years ago, post-dinosaurs; mammals were around, horses and whales had just emerged.

Aside from that, microbes have been found miles deep in the crust, and in utterly inhospitable conditions. Life is hard to kill. Even if we manage to wipe out everything on the surface with heat, turning the planet into Venus isn't the only possible outcome. I like to think that life would eventually re-emerge and adapt to the new circumstances. It just won't look much like us.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 1:40 AM on August 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is all so much bullshit. Emissions keep rising. Planetary conditions keep worsening. Politicians keep standing around telling each other they must collectively address climate change. But the reality is that nobody wants to carry the true cost of addressing it. Nobody wants to pay the true cost of gasoline. Nobody wants to pay the true cost of manufactured goods made with clean energy. Most of us couldn't afford to pay for those goods at the level of consumer excess we live with now as our wretched due, and as a population that is what we find terrifying.

Holy fuck, we can't even agree to ban plastic bags in any state except California.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:55 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Won't mean a goddamn thing. Indeed, if the energy to recycle something is more than to make from feedstock and that energy is from a carbon source, it may be better to throw it in a landfill and buy new than recycle.

Turn off the goddamn air conditioner

Minor, at best. Depends on what your energy source is. If you live on completely nuclear/hydro/solar/wind, it's already zero carbon.

drive less, live closer to work,

Better.

have one child or less.

Better still. Less people = less problem. People are the big amplifier here.

And, of course, what you've given is the classic White First World Answer. Live like a white guy in the city and hey, the world's problems will disappear! To bad that, oh, 99% of the world doesn't live in a place where you can do any of that. Well, mainly because most of them don't have air conditioning to turn off.

Still, fundamentally? It's way too late. When China and India ramped into the billion plus range and demanded industrial level power plants, it was *over*. We'd already lost, and we didn't even know it. The rest of the entire world could have run on nothing but sunshine and happy dreams, and those two countries alone would have killed the world, because they were going to get power, and they had coal, and they couldn't have nuclear, and they burned the coal instead. Just like we did. But they had a billion people *each*. And so they burned far more than we ever did. And they burned the world.

And there's nothing at this point we can do. And you guy have kids.

I'll be dead. That's my comfort. When this world goes really to shit, I'll be dead. I don't have to watch this. You might. Your kids? Your kids will. Your kids are going to die in this.

That's what climate scientists are saying. That's why they're all so fantastically depressed. They know what these numbers are really saying. Yeah, the fact that entire industries hate them and are out to destroy them is annoying. But what they know is that every time they collect more data, what they see is.

1) Massive warming that is...
2) ...accelerating...
3) ...faster than they predicted.

Margaret Atwood on How to Save the World

Taking advice from Margaret Atwood on how to save the world is like taking advice from Climate Scientists on how to write a compelling novel. She is a brilliant novelist, and that makes her absolutely know fuck-all about the problem set here.

Shit like this is exactly why we are dying. We're not going to wean ourselves off oil. We simply don't have the time. The world is going to be fucked before we even begin.

Holy fuck, we can't even agree to ban plastic bags in any state except California.

This isn't going to solve the problem.

Literally, to solve the problem is going to involve on the order of a 70% cut in the standard of living for most of the world, because you have to *stop the carbon burning cars and power plants now* and I have a better chance of giving birth to Jesus Christ reborn than that, and that may not even do it, but that's the only chance.

This is why the problem will not be solved. The disruption costs are far too high. If you try to make people pay them, you will either be thrown out of office or you will be killed, and that's not an exclusive or.

Nearly as bad as the catastrophe will be the MSM narrative: if only we'd known we could have done something! Oh, well, best not to assign blame to one party. We might get labeled as liberal!

Well, in slightly good news, the MSM will die right along with the rest of us.
posted by eriko at 3:04 AM on August 6, 2015 [37 favorites]


The too-many-people-drama is a scare-tactic and a distraction. There are a lot of people on the globe, but we have enough food to feed us all, and as people grow richer and healthier, they get less children.
China is taking climate change seriously, perhaps more so than the US. Not least because pollution is killing the Chinese.

But if we believe that the main problem is too many brown people who are beyond our control, we won't hold our own politicians accountable.

As for standard of living: Yes, we will probably have to give up the 4WD, and the green lawn in the desert and a lot of the meat and foreign foods we've been eating, but that doesn't necessarily mean our perceived standard of living will be worse. Lots of people I know are voluntarily staying in smaller homes even after they can afford that large suburban house - because they want a better life/work/transportation balance. They are tired of sitting all morning and all night on the freeway. Others are working from home, for the same reason. (And among them are quiet a few of my conservative friends and family who were formerly very attached to those cars and lawns).

Shipping/transportation is a huge source of CO2 - which leads to interesting opportunities - what if foreign goods were taxed to match the CO2 cost of their journey - maybe that would change the pace and form of globalization!

In different parts of the world, humans have lived through man-made ecological catastrophes more than once. And sometimes, our ancestors got wiser, and improved their ways. Sometimes they didn't, and they were wiped out. We have a choice.
posted by mumimor at 3:35 AM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


something i read once that freaked me out: that in the waning hours of the Roman Empire, apocalyptic tales were widely told. Kind of like we've been telling about our creations going awry since Frankenstein

i'm a misanthrope and be kinda all 'the planet will survive as the Rat Kings evolve and build their own civilization" but for the fact that humanity has done a lot of good along with its bad.

I think I'm hanging my hat on "alien race saves us at nth hour because they got a radio transmission they thought was kind of amusing." Sure, I'll be an alien pet, just save the great works of the last few centuries.

Because otherwise it's all "and the rest is silence" and that (along with all the screaming and dying) is a true bummer.
posted by angrycat at 3:41 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll be an alien pet

Possibly not the most likely scenario ahead.
posted by colie at 3:50 AM on August 6, 2015


100% renewable power generation and 100% electric vehicles seems like a useful and feasible goal.

per Wikipedia, "Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy Program says producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible and that existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050. Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic". Jacobson says that energy costs today with a wind, solar, water system should be similar to today's energy costs from other optimally cost-effective strategies.[5] The main obstacle against this scenario is the lack of political will.[6]" (Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II: Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies)

Write to your political representatives, and keep writing. Persuade as many people as you can to do the same. Do what you can to keep people politically engaged and united. Participate in advocacy campaigns and protests. Act, don't just decide to act.

I also think it's important in a structural sense to keep fighting to dismantle destructive, exploitative elites and disengage their selfish grip on the reins of power. If you believe that idea is true and important, then proclaim it, work against it, don't let the very idea of it be relegated to the fringes or be compromised and diluted into uselesness.

FIGHT!
posted by Drexen at 4:11 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm so frustrated that the "Family Values" party is also the party of climate change denial (generally speaking). It's not just "Fuck you, I've got mine," but "Fuck my very own grandchildren, I've got mine." So horribly short-sighted and greedy.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:11 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


Okay, non-rhetorically, guys, how the fuck do we stop this from happening?

Overthrow capitalism. Carbon emissions track global GDP growth pretty closely. A system premised on infinite growth will only continue the upward trend, which is the opposite of what would be desirable.

A daunting task, yes, but at least I'm not blowing smoke up your ass about ineffective, individualized solutions like taking buying a Prius or some shit. Collective problems require collective solutions.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 4:24 AM on August 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan

We've got melting arctic ice, more species going extinct, weird weather patterns, drought and heat waves killing people everywhere, faster than expected sea level rise and ocean acidification, dire predictions of dangerous feedback loops... I don't see anything unusual in there, this passes for normal in the 21st century. 2001 and 2007 are still way ahead.
posted by sfenders at 4:28 AM on August 6, 2015


At the very second I type these words, a huge asteroid hit and/or super volcano could stop the clocks, hit that huge red Reset button. Our lovely planet has had five extinction events that humans have been able to pinpoint thus far, and those are the likely causes.

That big honkin' volcano in Yellowstone Park tends to do its deal right at every 600,000 years, and the last time it did its deal was -- yep, you guessed it -- 600,000 years ago. Our lovely companion planet, The Moon, I love to see it rising, full and orange, but I'd not have wanted to have been here when it was created. I expect cell phone reception was knocked out when that asteroid hit, for at least a few minutes.

So an extinction event can happen any second, for no reason at all. Toss the dice.

But I'd bet that we -- you, me, my parents, yours, my people and yours, going back in time 300 years and absolutely continuing today -- we are likely to be the cause of Extinction Event Number Six.

What's a good logo -- EEVI -- that has a nice look to it. EE#6 looks so amateurish. EE6? Maybe. But I think I like EEVI the best; given the right font and a good color scheme. Why, we could print up some commemorative t-shirts, and hats, have them shipped here by container ship, from China maybe.

~~~~

I'm 60. Even if I make it to 100 -- and I'd rather like to -- chances are that I won't see the worst of it. But I do think I'm going to see a lot of it -- it is happening fast, and as noted above, it does seem to be at an exponential rate now that things are starting to move.

It's like most of my lifetime I've been on the roller coaster but up til just recently here the roller coaster was on its way up to the top of the hill but just now the first cars are over the top, and the people in those first cars see the dropoff and start to really hold on tight while screaming their heads off.

~~~~~

One of my best friends lives in Livingston Texas, about 90 minutes NE of Houston. Pines country. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi -- if you like deep pines country, you can find your share of it there. I like it quite a lot. It's East Texas, with a capital E on the East, same as West Texas has a capital W. He's got some land there, my friend does, and a huge garden, he sees it as good a place as any to take a stand.

My question to him: Water.

His place is less than 1/4 mile to Lake Livingston, that's his answer. But Lake Livingston isn't a lake, it's a fake lake; like all "lakes" here in Texas, it is in fact a dammed-up river. So what it's going to come down to is: who is in control of the dams? Who has their hands on those levers?

Matthew, he's 64, he's thinking it's not going to be in his time. He has children in their 30s and 40s though, a grandson maybe 21. They're going to feel it. They are going to get thirsty.

I live on a fake lake myself, here in Austin. Town Lake. They've dammed up the Colorado river all for me, so I can take a canoe for a spin, or a nice bike ride around the lake on the nice hike/bike trail. It's sweet.

But wait -- some of the *other* fake lakes on the Colorado, upstream from Austin here, well, people who had waterfront property don't have it any longer. Whoops! It's comical -- but not at all funny to the people who live in those homes -- there they are, the docks for the boats, sitting on dry land. When it first happened the boats were laying there in the mud, and then in cracked dirt. A sad sight.

I've missed a lot by not having children. I'd love my children same as all parents love their children. I am glad that I am not leaving any of mine to die of thirst.

~~~~~

Big plastic (IE big oil) fights campaigns to make sure people can buy water in shitty plastic, water no better than they can get from their tap, often worse. Big plastic wants to make sure people buy cokes in plastic bottles, and wants to make sure that no city or municipality charges a $1 deposit when you buy that coke -- landfills would magically get a lot less full. The city of Scottsdale Arizona has a lake, a man-made totally stupid lake, which they dump water into all day long, which is then evaporated off all day long. The grass on golf courses, it's more plush than a childs huggy toy. And none of this is going to change until people cannot get a drink.

~~~~~

Buy a Prius if you want. Recycle your plastic. Hell, pre-cycle your plastic -- try not to buy it. (Good luck with that one. It is incredibly disheartening to me to see my plastic footprint, and that is with trying hard to not use plastic. I have prescriptions, I'd love to re-use the bottles -- nope, they tell me it's against the law. I'm brandishing the bottle, it's got their label on it, I'm all like "Wait -- it's me, it's my bottle, you filled it last month!" They're all like "Getthefuckouttahereasshole.") Quit eating beef. Quit drinking cokes. Eat organic dirt, live in a yurt.

Do any of that, or all of that -- same-same. No difference. We've crested the top of the roller coaster ride. It's time to hold on tight. Start screeching.

Alternately: adjust your deck chair, complain about the bad wait staff, don't notice the iceberg that's tearing (torn, actually) through the hull.

~~~~~

I'm really glad I got to be here at all. And extraordinarily glad that I got to be here when I have been, the period in Time I got to be here. Life is so, so beautiful. And life with awareness, though it causes us some hurts, it's given us those images from the Hubble -- a fair trade. I've had some love given to me, and given some love away, too. I expect I'll have more love given to me. I know for a fact that I'm going to pass some out.

~~~~~

The earth -- it's fine. It is doing fine and is going to do fine, it has adapted and always will adapt. But our species, and other species who have the misfortune to share time with our species -- we're all fucked.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:33 AM on August 6, 2015 [34 favorites]


But if we believe that the main problem is too many brown people who are beyond our control, we won't hold our own politicians accountable.

Yes, that's badly written on my part, and I apologize to China, India, and Metafilter for that. I was rushed because I had to get to the airport (and I'm being rushed again...) and I realized on the train that I probably just accused them of causing Global Warming. Nope. It started long before they industrialized. They just kicked it from bad to worse.

Me maxima culpa there.

The reason China and India ended up building all those late coal plants is that, well, they industrialized late, that's all. But because of their very large populations, they went big. They reason they did was both wanting to reach western standards of living, and of course, building western products. Since the west wants all the shiny toys but refuses to pay for the standard of living and such to build them, we ship them offshore to places willing to do to the work for cheap, because they don't.

We are just as responsible, if not more so, for those plants as they are.

China is taking climate change seriously, perhaps more so than the US. Not least because pollution is killing the Chinese.

No. They are saying they are. If they were taking it seriously, they would have shut down those plants and be building nuclear plants, the one non-carbon plant they could build right now in mass scale other than hydro, which they've pretty much tapped out. They're not. They're waiting for other sources that may or may not be built in time. Which means they're not serious. But they're doing better than the US, where half the country flat out lies about it.

That's what we need. If it emits significant carbon, it needs to be turned off today. Not in a year. Not in a decade. RIGHT NOW. That's how bad it is. Every prediction that we make about the climate ends up missing cool nowadays. I used to be one of the "it's not that bad" guys, then I was the "It's kind of worrisome, but we're smart, we can fix this."

No. We can't. We are in for a world of hurt. This is WW II+The Black Death hurt, squared. This is extinction level hurt. And I'm honest enough to admit I'm enough of a coward to be glad that I won't be here for the worst of it.

100% renewable power generation and 100% electric vehicles seems like a useful and feasible goal.

But it's not feasible now. It will take way too much time. And it needs to be to get us off carbon now. And we need to be off carbon now to stop this -- and we won't. So it can't.

It's like electric cars. Electric cars are meant to let us keep living our current lives without change. No. WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE LIVE IF WE ARE GOING TO SURVIVE THIS. If you are thinking electric cars, you are not thinking this through. There probably won't be enough power for electric cars!

Massive economic disruption means less capital. Now you're not building new power plants. SO, anything *new* doesn't happen. Now, start planning based on that. How do you reduce carbon massively without building trillions of dollars of new stuff, because you don't have trillions of dollars

That's the scale. It's really scary hard.
posted by eriko at 4:36 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Remember, the average religious American is fully capable of believing both of these scenarios at the same time...

1. God is so angry at the state of the world that he is going to, on his whim, initiate an Apocalypse that will kill millions right off the bat, while the wretched survivors will straggle on in fiery misery until everything is gone. We're certain that this is imminent -- I mean, have you seen these gays?

2. God loves us so much that he would never allow the climate to change and disrupt our American way of life. We're certain that there's nothing to worry about, ever.

Both. At the same time.

Hey Christians! Do you think maybe, just maybe, death by global warming IS the Apocalypse you've been worrying about for so long?
posted by ELF Radio at 4:38 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


Overthrow capitalism.

I'll go beyond this and say that the people with the money and power have to be afraid of the masses again. Now they aren't. They can do whatever they want. Nations can vote for what they want, like Greece, and their governments will go ahead and do the bidding of the oligarchs. It's not actually Too Late. There are things that can be done to make sure humanity not only survives this but thrives doing so. But it will take an amount of political willpower that does not now exist. So far the solutions offered by most are technocratic, neoliberal band-aids. We have to change how we think about all sorts of things, whether we value human lives or money. If a CEO is afraid to defy environmental regulations because he'll go to prison for the rest of his life, then we might see change.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:41 AM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, my backup plan is Alaska. It's big, its full of food, it's mostly cold. If everything else falls apart somewhat, I'm fairly certain that Alaska will be able to break off and be its own nation for a few hundred years, wait while everything else rots, and then start over, while Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and some of them Baltic nations do the same.
posted by ELF Radio at 4:46 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The passive solution to global warming: use less, is not going to work. It ignores human nature. Also it is too late. An active solution is necessary, despite the cost. Suck the damn carbon out of the atmosphere.
posted by tgyg at 4:48 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess what I wish I knew is - how the fuck are any of us supposed to react to news like this?

Meditation and reaching awakening is one solution. Recognize that the human life is impermanent, the planet is impermanent, the sun is impermanent. All things pass away in time.
posted by theorique at 4:59 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


But it's not feasible now. It will take way too much time. And it needs to be to get us off carbon now. And we need to be off carbon now to stop this -- and we won't. So it can't.

It's like electric cars. Electric cars are meant to let us keep living our current lives without change. No. WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE LIVE IF WE ARE GOING TO SURVIVE THIS. If you are thinking electric cars, you are not thinking this through. There probably won't be enough power for electric cars!


I disagree, I don't think it's less feasible to achieve it quickly than building the A-bomb or sending people to the moon or building the highways and railways or enacting the welfare state or defeating the Axis. Whereas I think there are fundamental barriers to getting the human population to significantly "CHANGE HOW WE LIVE" to the extent that would actually make any difference, short of something like a global war or climate apocalypse scenario. I don't see any way that's going to happen soon, let alone "now", that could possibly cause less problems than changing how we use energy.

100% renewable energy production and 100% electric vehicles is something we have an established trajectory towards. It 'just' requires intense political will to achieve it. Will it fix everything? No. Will it do enough to mitigate the most serious harm we're headed towards? I have to believe it's at least possible. Whereas I don't see any useful or feasible course of action in your approach. If you think there is one, please explain it!
posted by Drexen at 5:01 AM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I also agree that we need to explore the idea of using geoengineering to help solve this. But my understanding is that there are no particularly realistic options for that at the moment that both have the potential to do more than buy us some time, and don't carry a serious risk of either accidentally making the problem worse, or introducing their own very serious problems.

So I see changing our energy useage as still being the best priority. It's utterly necessary, but we drag our heels on it because it's seen as politically difficult and because we are poltically lazy or politically shell-shocked into uselesness. Act. Act. Act.
posted by Drexen at 5:06 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clearly we can no longer extrapolate "business as usual" into the future - at some point, the earth becomes uninhabitable - but it is possible, and, it seems to me, likely, that civilization as we know it will collapse before we reach that point. So in some perverse sense, I hope Hansen is right about abrupt sea-level rise - losing the use of all of our existing seaports would put a serious crimp in our economic system. At which point, we will see somebody trying to adapt, and more important, the engines of descruction will begin to break down. It will get really ugly, but it might not be end times.
posted by mr vino at 5:08 AM on August 6, 2015


Recycle your plastic. Hell, pre-cycle your plastic -- try not to buy it.

Hold on. Doesn't plastic in a landfill represent carbon that has effectively been sequestered from the atmosphere?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:25 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


This thread is really fascinating and I'd like to thank everyone who posted so far.

Back in the 1970s many people were proposing that democracy wouldn't be able to prevent massive climate change. It seems, in retrospect, that they were right.
posted by shii at 5:30 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


the best best way is to be a billionaire. But it's probably too late to achieve that.

Not to the billionaires running the joint it isn't.
posted by flabdablet at 5:50 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll say it again. Perhaps the greater challenge is learning to die well, and not grasping for utopian or technocratic solutions, which as we can recall from the 20th C., tend to not end well.
posted by mrdaneri at 6:19 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Say it all you want, it's ridiculous and not gonna happen. Die well. Lol.
posted by aydeejones at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Doesn't plastic in a landfill represent carbon that has effectively been sequestered from the atmosphere?

It would, if that plastic was made from air. Which it could have been [sort of, partly, in limited quantities, actual carbon not obtained from atmospheric air].
posted by sfenders at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2015


There will indeed be a mass die-off of populations (probably about 4-6B people). Some of this will be due to climate-induced migrations and consequent war/genocide. Some of it will be due to famine, disease, and other consequences of poverty. The human race is facing a significant culling by Mother Nature and it won't be pretty.

The game that we're playing is, how do you best become one of the 1 billion "chosen" rather than one of the "left behind".
posted by theorique at 6:30 AM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


utopian or technocratic solutions

Environmental regulations including the ban on CFCs and leaded petrol; the development of renewable generators which now provide a modest but growing chunk of our elecftricity; civil support for cycling; these all fit that category and have worked well. Have fun learning to die well, but I'm not ready to give up and with green politics slowly but steadily gaining ground, I hope my generation isn't either.
posted by Drexen at 6:30 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Clearly we can no longer extrapolate "business as usual" into the future - at some point, the earth becomes uninhabitable - but it is possible, and, it seems to me, likely, that civilization as we know it will collapse before we reach that point.

This seems to be a common theme throughout this thread. I feel like people are conflating a lot of stuff, here, though.

A change, even a massive one, to "business as usual" is not at all the same thing as "civilisation collapsing" or the "Earth becoming uninhabitable." Our species got through multiple ice ages with stone tools, and many scientists believe there's been times in the past when our population sank below 10,000. We're not going to extinct. The return of widespread famine and war and a high risk of death from natural disasters is not civilisation collapsing; it was the bog-standard condition of human civilisation for 5,800 of the 6,000 years since we started writing things down. A change to business as usual --- a faltering of technological progress, a return of famine and war --- yes, that well may happen. The myth of inevitable progress may well die. But that's not the same thing as humanity dying.
posted by Diablevert at 6:42 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


Overthrow capitalism.

I was going to say that if someone else didn't. Change the system, and don't give up.
posted by Foosnark at 6:42 AM on August 6, 2015


It's interesting to watch, really - some of the best human minds on this planet have made it clear that we are driving along at 120 km/h, directly toward a brick wall.

And we're not going to hit the brakes or even turn the wheel, 'cause DAMN these seats are comfortable.
posted by Mooski at 6:47 AM on August 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


Back in the 1970s many people were proposing that democracy wouldn't be able to prevent massive climate change. It seems, in retrospect, that they were right.

Previous super active climate change activist here. I worked damn hard for around ten years, late 90's to around 2008. Combination of life change and just the general burnout and cynicism that developed about the general human capacity to deal with it drawn from the experience of working with oodles of different people.

In general, at any sort of scale people just don't want to change or have the capacity to imagine change without the motivation of some bad thing smacking them in the face. Heck even when things smack people in the face like the current drought conditions in many areas you still have people that have to be forced not to water their goddamn lawn.
posted by Jalliah at 6:52 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


The London thing's a bit underwhelming. One exceptionally hot day in a generally not very hot summer doesn't seem like shit finally hitting the fan.
posted by Segundus at 6:53 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


What you do is move to somewhere relatively isolated, but likely to remain temperate after a few degrees temperature rise, find water, plant something durable like potatoes, and hope the backlash of the industrial economies imploding doesn't hit you too hard and that the masses of displaced people mostly die out before overrunning your part of the world.
posted by signal at 6:58 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gah hit post accidentally.

Yes I'm cynical and in a lot of senses gave up because it became apparent to me that the only thing that would bring about the changes we need has to come from some sort of 'you must do or else' situation which means political and laws. And then you have to deal with the systemic powers that be that either don't want it because it hurts their short term bottom line or have to pander to whomever will get them elected. I hated the fact that at least to me it became clear that the only way to make the changes as fast needed to make any difference was undemocratic.

I went into adaptation mode. I'm still not sure that any sort of big change can happen fast enough without sheer force of from our organizing systems.

I want democracy to deal with it. I don't think it can. At least not in any meaningful timeframe. Or at least not until people have to deal with super big, in your face, omg the sky is falling situations, like as mentioned above, Miami going under.
posted by Jalliah at 7:02 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great discussion here. The most important point I see is that 1) these problems are amongst the biggest we have faced as a people, 2) there are solutions to every one of these problems, and 3) around the world, millions and millions of people are working on those solutions. 4) Feel free to jump in and work on a solution at any time.

1) The problems. The problems we are facing hit at the very foundations of our economic, political, and social systems. We've developed systems for allocating scarce resources, created in a time when production was limited. We've now entered a time of unlimited production – when we have nearly-limitless capability to extract resources.

With tar sands extraction, we have a process by where we can use oil to make more oil. That reminds me of the quote that in terms of fossil fuels, "we will run out of clean air to burn oil with, before we run out of oil."

There are two aspects to our move into a phase of unlimited production. The first is that it's amazing that we as a people have reached the point where we can create literally unlimited amounts of whatever we need and want. That is absolutely amazing if you think about it. We are so advanced, that we have dominated most natural forces, and reached the point where the major threat to people is ourselves.

That's the other aspect to the move to unlimited production – that we as a global population now have to make the decision NOT to consume resources. And that is where every system we have expires, for the systems we have were built to incentivise growth at all costs. And they're good systems, but they are no longer the right systems.

An example is our need for carbon markets. The oil market is very well-developed. But combustion requires two elements – fuel and air. We have a market for fuel, but we do not have a market for air. Carbon markets are nascent pricing mechanisms for the consumption of air, but they are nowhere near as developed and robust as oil. When they are arguably more necessary now.

And it's nobody's fault. Fifty years ago, it was not obvious that the colourless gas coming out of the tailpipe in California also impacted a person in China. Or that the out of town power plant in Germany consumed the same resource as the tractor in Namibia. We knew that if you put a car in a garage and ran the motor, an individual would be poisoned, but the atmosphere seemed to vast that it was perceived to be unlimited.

Now we know it's not limited. We already have mechanisms for pricing and managing limited resources. We have to now apply those mechanisms to different resources.

That hits another constraint, which are geographies. Oil is sourced in very specific places – within national borders – but air goes everywhere. It diffuses as a principle, and while it is possible to assign ownership to oil, and then petrol, it is much more difficult to assign ownership to carbon. Not impossible, but difficult.

2) There are amazing solutions under development. Two months ago, I was swimming in Italy, and saw garbage in the sea. I lamented that fact, and then considered the volume of garbage that is washing up on beaches around the world. The problem seems bigger than anyone can actually handle.

Until I then imagined a giant solar powered Roomba that floated in the ocean and sucked up garbage. Sure, there's a fair amount of engineering work to do on separating sea life from garbage and making sure the solution doesn't have it's own unintended consequences, but it must be possible.

Returning home, I found not one, but three different efforts at creating autonomous sea vehicles to sweep debris out of the ocean. One plan is so promising because it produces positive cash flows from recycling the debris it picks up.

Then I considered the California drought. We already have the technology to create fresh water from sea water, it's just not price-competitive with natural fresh water. Until there is no natural fresh water, at which point the rules of competition change. Desalination is not only expensive, it's also hugely reliant on electricity. A big move toward desalinisation then will drive moves toward solar electricity production in California.

There are active efforts both on lower-cost desalinisation, as well as large-scale solar.

Someone mentioned solar at a party the other day. "Panels are what – 30% efficient?" To which a mate of mine replied that 10 years ago, production panels were 18% efficient. Efficiency doubling every twenty years. Imagine if the efficiency of cars or coal plants had done the same.

3) In every field, people are working toward sustainable solutions. My own company is building a platform for allocating retail space more efficiently. As it turns out, 15% of retail stock in the UK is empty, and the UK builds 2% more retail stock annually. If we can make better use of the existing supply, we need to build less.

There's a recycling plant in Sweden so efficient that they cannot find enough waste to feed it. We have become so good at recycling, that we're not generating enough waste – or rather, capturing enough waste.

There's a company in Canada that is proposing a giant wall of fan that look not unlike air conditioning units. Those fans extract carbon dioxide from the air and create a clean-burning carbon fuel – which powers the fans that extract carbon dioxide from the air.

Electric vehicles are becoming so advanced, that within my lifetime, the majority of vehicles will be electric. The effort may seem small at this point, however, the growth rate is extremely high and increasing. Are electric vehicles a direct substitute for petrol cars? No. Are they good enough to replace a huge number of existing vehicles? Absolutely.

Amazon.com is one of the greatest drivers of efficiency in the world, for what Amazon actually does is flip product distribution on its head. Rather than distributing product before purchase, and then marketing that product, Amazon markets the product, and then distributes it AFTER its purchased.

Change.org is allowing people to vote on policy before it's considered by government. So government doesn't have to waste endless time proposing unpopular policies.

AirBNB allows empty homes to be used at hotels, and so therefore, we can increase the volume of travel without increasing the volume of hotels.

WeWork allows people to use offices when they need them, so we're moving away from cities filled with buildings that are only used to 2/3rds physical capacity for 1/3 of the day.

Lab-grown meat is approaching the quality where it will be viable as a consumer product within 10 years. While a proper steak will remain a luxury good, lab-grown meat will replace the McBurger very quickly.

In every sector, there are solutions that drive efficiency on unprecedented scales, because it is in the nature of both our biological and human systems to punish inefficiency. There are absolutely problems with incentives.

In many countries, solar energy is competitive with fossil fuels – if you take into account the fossil fuel subsidies applied. Plenty of capital is available for capturing carbon, if capturing carbon is a priority over protecting entrenched interests.

In terms of transport, we can reduce the emissions of travel by 80% with autonomous electric vehicles.

We can reduce the emissions of sea-based distribution by 95% the same way.

We can reduce the emissions of food production and consumption if we cut food waste from its average of 30%.

The most amazing point of all is that we are at a point in human history where our problems are largely of our own creation – which means that the solutions can also be of our own creation. Today, we no longer have problems with production, we have problems with distribution.

4) Every day in the London startup scene, I see people that left corporate jobs to take on problems. And contrary to what it may look like from the outside, startups are not all about money. Money is certainly a part of the equation, but people are looking for meaning. They're looking to build things and contribute.

And it's really important to understand that there is no single solution to any of these problems. For example, a friend of mine runs a startup helping photographers sell stock imagery. Does that sound like it will have environmental benefits? It will, because for every strand of the thread that we make more efficient, we reduce the cost of the whole rope.

As he makes commercial photography more efficient, that industry consumes less resources. For the people working on fashion recommendation engines, the better results consumers get at the point of purchase, the less returns and waste there are in the system.

For the companies working on wireless broadband systems, the better wireless broadband gets, the less we have the need to install and maintain copper infrastructure. For the people that work in promotions for electric vehicle shows, the more people that make networks in the EV industry, the faster the EV industry moves.

The more people that write books about climate change, the more people will read them and start thinking of solutions. The more people that create P2P payment apps, the less need we have for consolidated financial systems. The more people that champion local recycling programmes, the less recycling we lose into the waste stream.

The more people that champion getting women into STEM programmes, the more engineers we will have down the line. The more people that go around Los Angeles and post water wastage on Instagram, the less water wastage we will have in Los Angeles.

My point is that there is no single switch that can be flipped. There's tons of companies doing great work in every part of the world. And they need software engineers, copywriters, executive assistants, janitorial staff, security guards, and the whole lot. Tesla has one Elon Musk and thousands of other people. 35,000 make Apple, not Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. The global solar industry employees millions of people, and they're not all solar engineers.

This isn't to say everything's OK, because everything is not OK. We're at the cusp of ecosystem collapse, and we're going to have to learn how to live as a different kind of people. So I'll say that the times are challenging, but the future is bright – very bright.
posted by nickrussell at 7:18 AM on August 6, 2015 [24 favorites]


> Overthrow capitalism.

You might want to take a look at the environmental record of the countries that did that and reconsider your simplistic slogan.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on August 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


we can create literally unlimited amounts of whatever ... a giant solar powered Roomba ... desalinisation then will drive moves toward solar electricity ... efficiency doubling every twenty years ... platform for allocating retail space more efficiently ... so good at recycling, that we're not generating enough waste ... fans extract carbon dioxide from the air and create a clean-burning carbon fuel – which powers the fans ... Amazon.com ... Change.org ... AirBNB ... WeWork allows people to use offices ... Lab-grown meat ... autonomous electric vehicles ... cut food waste ... we no longer have problems with production ... more efficient ... wireless broadband ... P2P payment apps ... getting women into STEM ... post water wastage on Instagram ... future is bright – very bright.

Far out, man. We often speak of techno-utopianism, but it's easy to forget what it actually looks like.
posted by sfenders at 7:50 AM on August 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


*starts reading*
*pours whiskey in his morning coffee*
*resumes reading*
posted by entropicamericana at 7:54 AM on August 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


You might want to take a look at the environmental record of the countries that did that and reconsider your simplistic slogan.

You might want to look at what continuing on the current path entails! We're heading straight for disaster, and everyone in this thread recognizes it. A change of course is urgently needed.

But to more directly address your comment, we live in a completely different historical context than, say, the USSR did at its inception. The West does not need to industrialize. Our social tasks are, for one, to address this pressing environmental crisis by revamping the economy -- not continuing to grow it in ecologically harmful ways.

The slogan is simple, but not simplistic.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:57 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


The article thinks the most important POLITICAL thing that could be done is China and the US bilaterally agreeing to a stiff carbon tax on all products produced in their countries and all imports. That would essentially force the rest of the world to get on board with a carbon tax regime or be locked out of the two largest markets. And a bilateral treaty is much easier than a multilateral treaty ... and the way China has been moving on climate change recently, with a democrat in the White House after Obama, and the rapid shifts in opinion about climate change in the US, I feel like this might actually be achievable.

I'm also going to start lobbying my statehouse HARD, on fracking, on fuel emissions, on bike lanes and walkability, on habitat preservation, on energy efficiency in state contracts, on water safety, and so on. The good news is that there are lots of activists doing this work already, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel -- just go where they already are, add your voice, and talk about global warming mitigation. Start a facebook group for people in your state who are activists on all these various issues to connect with other activists who are all interested in various pieces of the puzzle for global warming mitigation. Small groups CAN make a big difference at the state level -- it's much more accessible than the federal government.

State contracts have TONS of restrictions on them -- my state can't invest its retirement funds in countries that are unfriendly to Israel, for example; most state furniture purchases must come from a prison carpentry program that provides job training for prisoners. State retirement fund investments, state purchasing, these are HUGE economic drivers, gigantic purchases, and these are points of leverage that are sometimes easier to move because they may only require a directive from a bureaucrat or the governor, not a law passed by the legislature, and suddenly state retirement funds can't invest in oil companies or all purchases have to meet carbon standards.

And I'm going to stop reading articles like this, because I have read enough of them, I know it is all going to shit, and sitting around going "ARRRRRRRGH WE'RE GONNA DIE" is a) not different from my life yesterday or ten years ago; I could get hit by a bus at any moment and the nature of man is to die; and b) I've already got kids, I'm committed; and c) the only sensible responses are working hard as fuck to change what you can change and help where you can help, and hedonism. I'm going to engage in both. I'm going to worry less about retirement and more about having fun today. I'm going to be less-concerned about career and more concerned about fracking. I'm going to see both smarter and dumber movies. If the future is going to be BALLS, I've got two things to do: de-ballify the future as much as I can, and enjoy the present.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:08 AM on August 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


Here's what you do:
1) nothing, because it's not happening
2) nothing, because the libruls are exaggerating how bad it is
3) OK, it's not good but Jesus will save us
4) OK, maybe not Jesus, maybe God Himself?
5) Um, Lord Dagon perhaps?
6) Burn The Heretic! Seize their water!
7) man, dying from a gut-shot sure takes a long time


Don't try to pin this shit on us, our plan was completely carbon neutral (up until the stars become right, then all bets are off).
posted by FatherDagon at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I suddenly feel like we're the dwellers on Kataan in The Inner Light.
posted by achrise at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is being caused by a tiny number of psychopaths.

Yes, we the people can as individuals make changes that will have a positive effect (for me it was not having kids, not driving a car, not eating meat, and keeping a lid on eating dairy - but I still fly in planes, because I love travelling and I'll be dead a long time) - but these changes are only a feel-good measure as long as the 0.01% are still driving the bus off the cliff.

I also don't think the tiny number of psychopaths really care about the consequences. Indeed, I think many of them welcome the apocalypse. THEY will be fine, their families will be fine - indeed, their lives will seem so much the better with so many of the rest of us suffering and dying! "It is not enough to succeed - others must fail."

I believe that the only thing that might work would be convincing these few people that there will be real consequences for them, and for their children, and for their grandchildren; that when climate change really comes, we're going to be at their gates with torches and pitchforks; that they will not live to gloat over the ruination that they caused.

I'm not talking about mob violence - I'm talking about the promise of justice, of trials and fair punishments.

When climate change sets in, we'll be lucky if we only have hundreds of millions of "excess mortalities". The death toll will dwarf any of mankind's previous excesses. The culprits should count themselves lucky if they are painlessly executed.

Of course, no one is going to threaten to do that. Our side is basically civilized people - scientists, humanists, socialists, people who care about other people, rationalists. We're going to politely negotiate with the psychopaths until it is far too late. It's probably already too late now.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:10 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


At this point I'm closer to Dunst's character in Melancholia than anything else.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:22 AM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Or, stated another way, languagehat, who else do you propose we rely on to avert this impending political catastrophe?

a) the political class, who are busy denying the problem and throwing snowballs in congress

b) the business class, who are too concerned with finding the next oil well to drill to pad their short-term revenue to care about long-term consequences

c) some civil society group, probably politically irrelevant, in decline and/or inseparably wedded to (a) and (b)

If you don't think revolution is necessary to prevent a environmental apocalypse that will devour the human race*, then when is it necessary? Foregoing that as a political strategy sounds to me like giving up on the species.

* (By the way, this is how the dilemma of catastrophic climate change is usually stated, but not a phrasing with which I really agree. The existing class divides in society -- poor in Bangladesh et al getting shafted, rich Westerners being relatively comfortable -- will only continue to be exacerbated. The global population will likely dwindle, and life for most will become barbarous if not impossible, but a large section of privileged humans will cope and survive -- just on an altered planet. In this way, the environmental question is largely a class question.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


You can't have a Truth and Reconciliation tribunal with a wasteland, Lupus_Yonderboy.
posted by mrdaneri at 8:24 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


You certainly can't, which is why I'm with Noisy Pink Bubbles in hoping for a revolution before it's too late.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:26 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]



This is being caused by a tiny number of psychopaths. Yes, we the people can as individuals make changes that will have a positive effect (for me it was not having kids, not driving a car, not eating meat, and keeping a lid on eating dairy - but I still fly in planes, because I love travelling and I'll be dead a long time) - but these changes are only a feel-good measure as long as the 0.01% are still driving the bus off the cliff


That's rather silly. Look, unlocking the power of fossil fuels is what gave us modern civilisation as we know it. Everything from ~1750 or so on, it's all down to the fact that humanity discovered how to tap into a nearly unlimited supply of energy. That's what enabled us to get off our horses and unhitch the plow and move from a world in which 90% of people in the U.S. had to work at growing food in order to feed 100% of us to a world in which 2% suffices for that task and there's about four times as many of us. It's energy. It biology, it's chemistry. The power it has given us, our whole lives are shaped around it, our civilisation feeds on it like ivy crawling up an oak. It's not about evil bad people doing bad things because they're evil. It's about organic locally sourced food costing considerably more than factory farmed fossil fuel dependant food and I don't really want to spend 30% of my income just feeding myself, which was a pretty typical ratio back in the day. It would manifestly impair my quality of life --- and I could maybe afford it, lots of people can't.

To pretend the changes required of people to live a non carbon dependant life are petty, small things is another form of denialism. No, I don't want to go back to a world where I visiting family across the country --- or visiting another country, full stop --- is a once in a life time experience. Where I could never afford to eat a tropical fruit, or a strawberry out of season. These things are delights. Asking people to give up every convenience that differentiates their lives from their great-grandparents, or from a emerging market farmer, is not NBD, and merely the prospect of getting to feel very very virtuous indeed is not going to shift people. It didn't shift you.
posted by Diablevert at 8:28 AM on August 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


A very tiny number of psychopaths, where "tiny" is approximately 1010.
posted by sfenders at 8:31 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]



In terms of the powers that be and the economic system I do see hope in the pressure on the political establishment that large scale entities from the insurance industry can muster. I've seen the talk coming from that increase exponentially over the past few years. This industry of course is embedded at the higher levels of our current economic system where pressure for change needs to come from.

Add this with the political outcry from people that need insurance and you have the potential of political force from both ends of the spectrum. It's inevitable that insurance rates will go up in certain circumstances as well as the industry saying that they just can't do insurance for X anymore because the risk to their future bottom line is too much for them to take on in areas that are being hit first. This also has the potential to motivate people of higher income to pay attention because of hits to their bottom line with either having to pay more and more exorbinate prices to insure their things, personal and business or being shut out altogether.
posted by Jalliah at 8:38 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding insurance, this already happening in coastal areas, but for right now Congress is closing its eyes and still issuing flood insurance, just at higher rates. This is already causing problems --- you can keep lower rates as a current owner, but that ends when the home is sold, impairing its value. If you're a senior and your home is a big chunk of your net worth, it's already a problem.

When a big enough disaster happens, the untenability of this will be made manifest. But until then people will probably keep whistling past the graveyard.
posted by Diablevert at 8:53 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


> You might want to look at what continuing on the current path entails! We're heading straight for disaster, and everyone in this thread recognizes it. A change of course is urgently needed.

Duh.

> But to more directly address your comment, we live in a completely different historical context than, say, the USSR did at its inception.

So? The sad fact is that socialist theory going back to Marx (and probably beyond, I'm too lazy to look it up now) claimed that the earth was for humanity to exploit; socialism has no more environmentalism built into its DNA than does capitalism. And let me remind you that the modern environmental movement was born in capitalist countries and strongly rejected by the countries of Actually Existing Socialism (as they proudly called it). The thing about capitalism is that it doesn't give a shit about values, if you can make money off it, it flies. With capitalism, all you have to do is convince capitalists they can make money off energy-saving devices and presto, there they are. With ideologists in power, you're up shit creek (literally) unless environmentalism is part of their ideology.

> If you don't think revolution is necessary to prevent a environmental apocalypse that will devour the human race*, then when is it necessary?

> I'm with Noisy Pink Bubbles in hoping for a revolution before it's too late.

Man, I don't know what it will take to get rid of the romantic aura of revolution. Read moar history, folks.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


On thinking a bit more I haven't completely given up my activism. The stranger and more extreme weather in my area is hitting the bottom line of my current company to some extent. Everything from lost production days to having to fix things and problems that the weather is caused. The price of our raw product is weather and climate dependent as well.

I will and have brought up climate change with management who want to just write it off as just a 'bad year' for this stuff. How many 'bad years' do you need to make the connection? Might be smart to come up with a plan to deal with this because it's not going to stop and more then likely will get worse. For the most part I'm dismissed but at least there is someone putting the bug in some ears so that in the future something bigger might click. "Oh hey this climate change stuff that I'm hearing about all the time actually does affect me personally."

This weekend we had a massive set of thunderstorms come through this area. My place for some reason was fine but for the past few days I've been hearing about heaps of extensive damage. The businesses that help with clean-up are completely bogged down. These big storms have happened over the years but not at this sort of frequency and people are noticing that something weird is going on. In conversations about it I do make the connection.

"Yeah this bad. Climate change totally sucks doesn't." I talk like there is no question that this is the reason that you have to pay 5000 bucks to fix your roof and cleanup all the trees that have fallen down. If I get push back and lots of denial blah blah I don't bother to argue. I just give some sort of 'okay whatever makes you feel better' type response and shrug. In day to day I just don't have the patience or mental fortitude to educate single individuals anymore. There has been and is more then enough information and talk out in the wider world for people to figure it out. My well of energy related to the emotional labor of this type of work is bone dry at this point.

As far as I'm concerned were are now in the era of consequences. I think it's important that people be told, point blank and bluntly that this is what is happening.
posted by Jalliah at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


> To pretend the changes required of people to live a non carbon dependant life are petty, small things is another form of denialism.

I actually have no idea what would be required to live a carbon neutral life - and neither do you. Perhaps I fear you might be right, but absent any serious attempt to actually achieve that or even investigate how it might be done, it's idle speculation on our part.

But how am I pretending such a thing? I am not. What I am saying is the follow:

1. We face a crisis that will likely kill unprecedentedly large numbers of humans.
2. But a tiny number of extremely rich people prevent us from reacting to this existential crisis by deliberately suppressing the truth (this one is the biggest step).
3. If we don't react at all, the destruction will be terrible.
4. Even if we reacted strongly and immediately, there would probably be a lot of destruction.
5. But we will certainly be a lot better off if we do.
6. And I think it likely we can preserve quite a lot of "western civilization".

I think this is uncontroversial, except for 2. (and 6., which is just a wish...)

Let's start with the "all humans are psychopaths" theory. Well, neither personal experience nor the findings of psychology bear this out. The rate of psychopathy is fairly hotly debated, but in "The Sociopath Next Door" Martha Stout claims (with a footnote leading to a page and a half of references to peer reviewed papers) that the psychopathy rate varies by country, with the US at 4%(!), down to SK at 0.5% - the reason for the dramatic variation by country being unclear.

That 4% number feels high, but regardless, psychopaths are less than one in twenty of us.

Now, there are huge numbers of studies on honesty, compliance, and the like, and each experiment is different, but in the same gross way, there are "quite a few" people who are definitely not psychopaths but are "poorly socialized" or "amoral" or "crooks" or whatever you want to call it - people who sometimes defect in the sense of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

But no matter how you cook it, most people are cooperative, again in a Prisoner's Dilemma sort of way. This is how we built all these big buildings, sent people to the moon - not because we are good at cheating each other but because we are good at cooperating with each other.

Here's the thing - I believe if the actual facts about the environment were laid out before the people of America or the people of the world and we were given a choice, we would instantly decide that this was a priority beyond all others.

But many Americans will now never believe in anthropogenic climate change - and this group controls half the US government - so the world does not change.

And why does this large group of Americans not believe in climate change? Did they wake up one day and say, "I'm going to stop believing in one branch of science today"?

They stopped believing in climate change and preserving the environment because of decades of propaganda from media at all levels, a demonification of environmentalists and climatologists, because of laws passed preventing the use of science in decisionmaking - all starting with the Reagan Administration.

Yes, it's also much easier to tell someone that everything is fine, that they don't have to change their lifestyle, that there's no emergency - because you don't have to get up off the couch. So certainly human laziness plays into it.

And yes - there is a psychotic, psychopathic element in US politics that is frighteningly dystopian - perhaps there is some strain of contagious madness... it doesn't bear thinking about too long.

But when it comes down to it, a tiny number of people spent billions of dollars lying to the American public and the world, suppressing science, preventing any form of rational dialog, and poisoning the well so badly that it seems as if no rational dialog will ever be possible in the future.

They, disproportionately to all other humans, take the blame for the upcoming catastrophe, in the same way that a madman who forces his way into the cockpit and takes the controls is responsible for the subsequent crash.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


Nickrussell, thank your for that long post about current technologies...fascinating! I felt positive about all of those but change.org helping government to guage policy reaction, though, given the current Planned Parenthood situation.
posted by agregoli at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2015


But how am I pretending such a thing? I am not. What I am saying is the follow:

1. We face a crisis that will likely kill unprecedentedly large numbers of humans.
2. But a tiny number of extremely rich people prevent us from reacting to this existential crisis by deliberately suppressing the truth (this one is the biggest step).....

Here's the thing - I believe if the actual facts about the environment were laid out before the people of America or the people of the world and we were given a choice, we would instantly decide that this was a priority beyond all others.


Well, this is the core of our disagreement. I don't think people are not reacting to climate change because the truth has been hidden from them and if they understood they'd drop everything at once and address this. I think people are not reacting to climate change because effective solutions to the problem would require a great deal of sacrifice from people --- cash on the barrelhead, I can't afford to do the things I used to be able to do --- and that it's far easier to stay in denial than to make those sacrifices.

The vast majority of Americans cannot get by without a car, for example. Most of the country was built in a post-car, cheap gas, 20th century world. There are major American cities that entirely lack public transportation. Or forget cities --- over half of jobs these days are located in suburbs and exurbs, and a lot of those places don't even have sidewalks. Plenty of people live 5+ miles from the nearest grocery store. Trying to live your life in such a place without a car demands real sacrifice --- of time and effort, at the very least. Trying to create a new infrastructure in such a place that could support a non-car dependent lifestyle would involve huge amounts of money and time, both public and private. Stuff like creating public transportation networks, changing zoning requirements to allow denser development and more commercial/mixed use development in presently residential areas (to create walkable stores). That means higher taxes, potentially lower property values, and change in the character of the community. Do I want to help stop climate change? Sure. Do I want to double my property taxes to fund a bus system or have my neighbor's house knocked down and a 24 hour convenience store go up in its place?

Now the thing is, I think you are seeing a slow, market-based reaction to some of these things. Millennial homebuyers do tend to prefer denser, more walkable neighborhoods than previous generations. Electric cars are getting better. Give us 10 or 20 years, we might see a slow roll over into a much less carbon-dependent lifestyle, if the pressure keeps coming and technology keeps up. But drop everything now radical change? I mean, have you been to a zoning board meeting? Please give it a go, and be sure and show up with a giant sized blow-up photograph of walruses massing on some beach in Alaska and tell them that's why they've each got to pay $2,000 more a year in property taxes so you can put buses in. I'll be especially interested to know how the senior citizens on a fixed income react to that proposition.

Radical, immediate change might indeed be what's required to halt climate change. I'm just saying I think there's a huge weight of human inertia, of the immediate, present self-interest of everyday people, that is tied into keeping the current system the way it is. It's not just that people don't know, or that they don't wanna know. It's that changing things would cost a lot, and people can't afford it, and only if they come to really and truly believe that there's no other choice will they make those changes. And for that the walruses ain't gonna cut it. Miami drowning might.

Though we seemed to get over Katrina, so who knows.
posted by Diablevert at 9:57 AM on August 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "spent billions of dollars lying to the American public and the world, suppressing science, preventing any form of rational dialog, and poisoning the well so badly that it seems as if no rational dialog will ever be possible in the future."

FWIW, I know the US is a huge chunk of the world and its worst polluter and all that, but the rest of the world, AFAICT, never put any more stock in climate change denial than in, say, the Rapture or other mostly US-based delusions.
posted by signal at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2015


What I feel is missing are a lot of tools to help people start making practical choices. For instance, in considering a move, I'd love to be able to consult a "climate resiliency index," or even just a "water reliability index" that estimates the long-term sustainability of a region or city's water supply. I know that's a huge and complicated research project, but bigger ones have been done. Not everyone will look at it, but those of us who believe a problem is coming will, and that will reduce the pressure on those who want to live in their hometown no matter what.

That's just one example. I also really wish the US* would get serious about climate adaptation and communicating the consequences of climate change in a more national and standardized way. (* Not to leave out other countries. I'm just not familiar enough to speak for what is needed there.) If agencies and individuals have the chance to decide whether to plan around US Warming Scenario 1, 2, or 3, they can realize that they just made a life choice that works if we achieve Scenario 1 or 2 but is imperiled if Scenario 3 (or worse) occurs -- so now you have a much larger constituency for climate mitigation. Right now, despite the great work to set 2 degrees as an agreed-upon target, most dialogue still seems stuck in this vague land of "well, less warming is better; hopefully things won't get too bad," where actions don't have consequences.

It's a very strange time we're in now. As the scientists' alarm deepens, I look forward to seeing their brainpower, and others', get increasingly applied to questions about how to effectively inform public policy dialogue.
posted by salvia at 10:06 AM on August 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Man, I don't know what it will take to get rid of the romantic aura of revolution. Read moar history, folks.

languagehat, I knew you didn't like the Bolsheviks, but you're renouncing revolution both past and present per se? That's probably the most extreme view on revolution I've ever heard -- and I've heard quite a few! Even people that loathe revolutions usually concede that some advances for humanity came out of some of them (You don't like the metric system? Or you're just really attached to feudal hereditary monarchies?) and/or recognize that in desperate times there is no alternative. This seems like such a radical viewpoint... is this really your position?

In any event, my advocacy of revolution is not based on romance because, as you know, revolutions are terrible things. However, if the alternative is planetary catastrophe, revolution is certainly the lesser of two evils. That's not romance; that's a hard-nosed calculation.

Again, if we give up revolution as a strategy that we might as well just admit defeat. Unless, of course, you have some genius plan to avert catastrophic climate change not involving revolution that you are hiding from all of us. I'm all ears.

The sad fact is that socialist theory going back to Marx ... claimed that the earth was for humanity to exploit

If a revolutionary movement dislodges the current regime(s) in a bid to avert catastrophic climate change, I'm pretty sure environmentalism will figure pretty strongly in their ideology.

(But even in the abstract, I'm not sure what you see wrong with the "earth [is] for humanity to exploit" line. Presumably that means there is a humanity to do the exploiting, which implies taking care of the earth to a sufficient extent that humanity survives. I'm fine with that. The alternative ideology, as I see it, is some hippie-Gaia shit that doesn't proceed past rhetoric about harmony and oneness and whatnot. Or a misanthropic animal-liberationist perspective. No thanks to either.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 10:07 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I need to know and plan now. I don't have a lot of money to mitigate economic and social disaster when it happens. What to do and when scares me a lot.
posted by agregoli at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean, have you been to a zoning board meeting? Please give it a go, and be sure and show up with a giant sized blow-up photograph of walruses massing on some beach in Alaska and tell them that's why they've each got to pay $2,000 more a year in property taxes so you can put buses in. I'll be especially interested to know how the senior citizens on a fixed income react to that proposition.

Zoning board meetings and similar are actually a really great way to get climate change-mitigating measures in place without any cost to taxpayers at all. No giant photographs of walruses required. So, you want to knock down this building and put up a new one? Awesome! Improve the sidewalks while you're at it, and how about some bike racks? Oh, you're going to make sure to have a friendly pedestrian-accessible entrance? Great, that's what I like to hear. Your plans are approved.

There are plenty of places where literally nobody who isn't being paid to attend these meetings does so. They have room on the agenda for public comments that never happen because there's nobody there to sign up. This is a ridiculously easy way to make small changes happen.

The big changes are very much not ridiculously easy. But there's no reason to be so defeatist about the small ones, and incremental improvements in infrastructure can pay off immediately by giving us a nicer place to live.
posted by asperity at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


> The vast majority of Americans cannot get by without a car, for example.

Everyone knows this, and in general that our entire economy is built on fossil fuels, and we can't stop overnight. The point is that if these people really understood that we need to turn and move as fast as possible away from these fossil fuels or else their own grandchildren and their children's children beyond them would suffer, die, or not even exist, that their entire line is literally under threat - then they would be moved to elect leaders who would act, perhaps discomforting all, but saving the group.

When there's a war on, people elect decisive leaders who move fast. This war is slow, but it will kill far more people than all the wars in history put together if we leave fighting it till the last minute.

If this were really explained to people - that they must sacrifice something today and more tomorrow to help their grandchildren to have a decent place to live - I think most people would go for it.


> the rest of the world, AFAICT, never put any more stock in climate change denial

That's mostly true - though the latest right-wingers in Canada and Australia are pretty far on the denier side. But the United States is the 5-gigaton elephant in the room - and a far greater contribution once you factored in the crud created elsewhere in the world and exported here.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


> The Prisoner's Dilemma isn't about amorality vs. cooperation

No, it's about "cooperating" vs. "defecting" which were the terms I used.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2015


The sad fact is that socialist theory going back to Marx (and probably beyond, I'm too lazy to look it up now) claimed that the earth was for humanity to exploit; socialism has no more environmentalism built into its DNA than does capitalism.

OK great, let's not use 150 yeard old theory then, thanks for the heads up languagehat
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can attest that Canadian right wingers are useless. There are differences from US right wingers but the results are the same..useless.

I spent a number of years in the front lines of the political fray. Even ran for office at both our Provincial and Federal primarily so I could talk about climate change so have some first hand experience talking to these folks. Got into some pretty wicked discussions with some top Harper supporters including some sitting Senators. During that election they just plain outright lied about having a plan. We're talking bold face, yes climate change bad, but we have a plan lies.

It's been almost twelve years and I'm still waiting for that particular Senator to send me information about their big awesome plan which he assured me he had. I kid you not, "Now see here young lady! I have it on my desk. Just didn't put in my briefcase."

I actually have photos of me going head to head with that guy. They're awesome to look back on at least.....

No seriously senator dude I don't care that your father fought in World War II blah blah. We just need the PLAN. Where the fuck is your damn plan!
posted by Jalliah at 10:33 AM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


After the revolution, when everyone magically comes to agree that drastic action is required right now, they are still not going to agree on what should be done. In such turbulent times, every option will be open. Some want everyone to adopt a more neolithic lifestyle. Others think a carbon tax, some bicycle racks and busses, plus business as usual is drastic enough and will be fine. Some want to launch a massive project to cover the continent in solar panels. Others want an even bigger project to attach booster rockets to the moon and use its gravity to pull the earth a bit farther from the sun. Some want to build nuclear reactors. Others want to ban nuclear reactors, and trans-fats. Some will be into all that hippie-Gaia shit about harmony and oneness. Others will have a more misanthropic animal-liberationist perspective. A few may turn out to be commuinists. We can each only hope that the faction we choose to fight for is the one that ends up winning.

It's not because we're all psychopaths that we can't handle this problem. More that we're not all hyper-intelligent perfectly altruistic beings of pure love.
posted by sfenders at 10:39 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zoning board meetings and similar are actually a really great way to get climate change-mitigating measures in place without any cost to taxpayers at all. No giant photographs of walruses required. So, you want to knock down this building and put up a new one? Awesome! Improve the sidewalks while you're at it, and how about some bike racks? Oh, you're going to make sure to have a friendly pedestrian-accessible entrance? Great, that's what I like to hear. Your plans are approved.

And when people find out that major changes have been made at this level, they go screaming to their city councillor, making the next city council meeting a truly awesome shitshow. I mean, I live in a city where elected know-nothings LIVE to scream and posture until things like a greener, more affordable and more extensive LRT system -- that many of them voted for earlier -- gets scrapped so that a massively more expensive and unwarranted subway can be planned to eventually be available in mumblety decades.
posted by maudlin at 10:41 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn't just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it's also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Godspeed
posted by angrycat at 10:43 AM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


We're talking bold face, yes climate change bad, but we have a plan lies.

This is exactly the thing. I know that Americans are very eager to focus on the truly stunning climate change denialism that your Republicans exhibit, but honestly, I don't think it makes much difference. Climate change denialism is not a real part of the political discourse in Canada, but it makes no difference. Everyone has a plan and makes vague noises about climate change, but when elected doesn't really do anything.

Even here in BC, where we have a $30/ton carbon tax, nothing serious is really happening on the carbon front.
posted by ssg at 10:45 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


If this were really explained to people - that they must sacrifice something today and more tomorrow to help their grandchildren to have a decent place to live - I think most people would go for it.

Have you met people?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:48 AM on August 6, 2015 [17 favorites]


If you haven't met people, I invite you to check out my Tumblr account linked in my profile.
posted by agregoli at 11:05 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I keep seeing mention of cars in this thread. Global transportation — which includes jets, cargo ships, and a billion ratted-out third world cars lacking any emission controls whatsoever — account for only 13 to 16% of CO2 emissions.

Getting rid of relatively new, relatively low-emission first-world cars is not going to help things.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:02 PM on August 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I still don't understand the resistance to believe these crises are significantly influenced (but not necessarily orchestrated) by relatively small numbers of people who are in positions of power to effect change on larger populations. Not when we have age-old proverbs like "one bad apple spoils the barrel" or when there is pretty convincing anecdotal evidence in this very thread.

It's not like we're being sold on the existence of some Illuminati—just the idea that blind, ignorant, selfish, careless, and/or heartless self-serving beliefs can concentrate in these positions of power to compound into a larger, harmful system, regardless of any individual's malicious intent. But psychopaths are definitely a brand of character most likely to attempt to seize such opportunities for their own gain and at the expense of virtually anyone else.

Not to get all Twilight Zone, but it always seems like people have a hard time believing the most significant threat we face is our own humanity (or lack thereof). We don't really need a revolution or mass upheaval to curtail these things; the people responsible for causing damage to society just need to be held responsible. Though, perhaps one of the greater tricks is turning the spotlight on the average citizen and asking you to self-flagellate for every carbon footprint left behind. I mean, we're all culpable, and this is one of those things where "doing your part" has to be ingrained in your personality for a truly successful collaborative effort. But the saying goes: "With great power comes great responsibility."
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:16 PM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Getting rid of relatively new, relatively low-emission first-world cars is not going to help things.

Well, yes, it would. It isn't a magic bullet, but it certainly would help. No one step is going to solve such a huge, complex problem at once, but reducing transportation emissions is certainly going to be part of the solution - and it is a part that individuals can relatively easily improve on their own, which is not true for many other emissions sources.

Also, first-world cars may have lower emissions in the smog-causing pollution sense, but if we are talking CO2, then no, your statement is false. US cars and light trucks may be better optimized for efficiency in some senses, but they tend to be big and heavy. Per km emissions are actually lower in e.g. China, Brazil, etc. because of the predominance of smaller vehicles and greater concern about fuel efficiency.

Note also that Americans drive a whole lot more, so the situation is even worse than that.

It has become popular lately to blame the "third world" or China for emissions when the reality is that per-capita, the US and Canada are far worse.
posted by ssg at 12:35 PM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


"You might want to take a look at the environmental record of the countries that did that and reconsider your simplistic slogan."

"Read moar history, folks."


And if, while you're reading that history, folks, you come across a country that actually did overthrow capitalism, please post it.
posted by carping demon at 1:28 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


there is pretty convincing anecdotal evidence in this very thread.

That looks more like evidence that people will believe all kinds of crazy things, and nobody can possibly have time to correct even just the misconceptions on this subject that turn up in a single metafilter thread. Jimmy Carter was not talking about climate change in 1979. He was encouraging everyone to obey the speed limit, turn down the thermostat, put up with gasoline rationing, and burn more coal, our most abundant energy source.
posted by sfenders at 1:37 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's fine and all, but my thinly-veiled campaign against evil was actually referring to good ol' triple-six Ronald Wilson Reagan. I do appreciate your sincerity in addressing the overall arguments rather than nitpicking the smaller ones, though.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 2:18 PM on August 6, 2015


'diet!'
'poor lifestyle!'
'20th century trends in urban landscape!'

The medical students stood around the corpse. It was still a corpse.
posted by mrdaneri at 2:30 PM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jimmy Carter was not talking about climate change in 1979.

So what? Neither was Rachel Carson in 1962. But if you're trying to make the case that a person with Carter's mentality and outlook would not have done far more to respond to the emerging realization of climate change than your garden variety extraction industry shill, you're going to need a lot more than cynical snark to convince me.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:36 PM on August 6, 2015


The thing is, the solutions to this huge problem are manifold and complex in their intertwinement. There is no quick fix, but there is a set of policies which together can lead to vast improvements. Some of those policies are really difficult to realize, others are easier, and maybe there is some confusion about what is easy and what is difficult.

Producing enough food: easy-peasy, we are already producing more than we need.
Distributing healthy food: very, very complicated.

Spreading democracy: we are doing very well; there are more "democracies" in the world than ever!
Ensuring good governance and stopping corruption: how can "we" even do that? Most of "us" have abandoned good governance and embraced corruption.

The technical part of carbon-neutral energy: simple! Denmark produced 140% of the energy needed in June this year with wind and solar panels.
The political part of carbon-neutral energy: tough! Denmark sold it's national provider of energy and leader within sustainable energy to Goldmann-Sachs, when their ideas became too efficient.

And so on, regarding planning, education, construction, housing, water-management, wild-life protection, mineral extraction, womens' rights, family planning, food safety, land-management and all the other issues we need to address in order to manage this problem. And every single time, the hindrance for the right solutions are lack of governance, corruption, and corruption's brother's: lobbyism and organized crime.

After WW2, both Western and Communist nations planned and realized vast, radical change. They made tons of mistakes, based on misunderstandings, ideologies and insufficient knowledge. But they did it: they changed society completely. The leaders of that "great generation" did not limit themselves to quick-fixes or easy catchwords. They understood that no part of society could be left untouched, if the necessary change was to happen.

Even as Reagan, Thatcher and their proselytes across the globe have done what they could to reverse that change, and spread fear and hatred whilst doing that, a lot of the change has become ingrained and has even developed: care for the elderly, womens' rights, gay rights, environmental protections, international law are all developments based on the post-war "evolution".

Post-war urban planning was a huge mistake, and part of that is the unresolved lack of equality for all. This is one of our generation's most important tasks. But that it was mistaken doesn't mean it wasn't there. People were deliberately sent out into the suburbs and exurbs with tax-encitements and sector/road planning, which means they can also be sent back, or into other forms of settlements. It's not like God suddenly made things happen. Humans made it happen, and humans can change it.
posted by mumimor at 2:57 PM on August 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


The problem remains that we are quickly running out of time to effect those changes. As with your earlier point with regards to population growth handled by a rise in living standards: If the population rises so quickly that living standards stagnate or fall, the moderation of improved living standards will not be there.

(And they didn't sell all of DONG Energy to Goldman Sachs, ill advised though it probably was, only 19%).
posted by bouvin at 3:10 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hehe Bouvin, I know about the DONG-sale, but I also know a further back-story, which underlines my point about corruption. Can't be written on the webs. Google Jon Stewart and DONG, though, for the laugh..
posted by mumimor at 3:14 PM on August 6, 2015


Sorry, haven't read all the comments.

But on how do we stop that:

Issue a carbon footprint to every citizen. Make it tradeable. In this, give everybody an incentive to individually tone down their own personal carbon footprint. Thus the pollution people don't produce is worth $$$. (Which then can be used to buy an even more efficient fridge, or whatnot).

Just an idea (certainly not mine).
posted by ojemine at 3:42 PM on August 6, 2015


The personal carbon allowance or whatever you want to call it is a great idea. It would also be a big transfer of wealth from the global rich to the global poor, which would make it extremely difficult to achieve politically.

Not to mention that many people in less developed countries would actually have extra credit to sell without changing anything and that would be even more politically untenable.
posted by ssg at 3:51 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do appreciate your sincerity in addressing the overall arguments rather than nitpicking the smaller ones, though.

You want larger arguments? Somehow related to Ronald Reagan? Okey. He famously led people in the direction they wanted to go. Which was not in the direction of deliberately rationing gasoline in order to conserve our precious natural resources. People wanted lower taxes, he promised lower taxes. He fiddled around with tax rates for a few years, until Paul Volcker managed to get inflation under control and the economy began to recover. This was taken by some as proof that trickle-down economics was seriously effective. He escalated the Cold War with aggressive rhetoric and outlandish military posturing, until the Soviet Union collapsed of its own accord. This was taken by some as proof that the American way is the right way and will always triumph. He invented the War on Drugs, but didn't hang around long enough to take credit for its inevitable success in eliminating unpopular drugs, which will probably happen any day now.

Even back in the distant past of the 20th century, politicians and presidents had rather a lot less power than they like us to think they do. Even what Jimmy Carter wanted to do, which was modest compared to anything that might make a difference to climate change, was far too much. Remember he was actually president for a full term and the energy crisis was there from the start, it's not like he didn't get a chance to try. Don't mistake solar panels being present or not on one particular house in Washington for a matter of practical importance. You push people too far in a direction they don't want to go, and the backlash will quickly get someone like Reagan elected. Even in some place more totalitarian like China, there are limits on how far they can go without risking popular revolt, limits that probably seem not so far away sometimes to those thinking of testing them. There's no doubt they have been thinking of it, it's not like the CPC is unaware that climate change and pollution are getting to be serious problems.

mumimor mentions "gay rights" -- well there's a thing. Consider how much political turmoil, and social discord, and hard work by activists, and sheer generational turnover time it's taken to get people to go along with something that doesn't actually cost them anything. Politicians have much more power to make things worse than they do to make things better. Easy to imagine one of them setting back gay rights by a decade with the wrong law or a bit of propaganda. But they had no power to make things right until the people were ready for it and things were already going in that direction.

Of course people have been increasingly looking in the direction of environmentalism for a long time now, so when there's an easy solution that nobody can come up with any real objection to, governments have the power to make it happen. Switching from CFC's to HFC's was not really that hard. Cutting down on DDT use was a pretty obvious move. Ending the practice of hunting whales (as most of the world has done) was not such a hardship when most of the commercially valuable ones were gone, as was the market for whale oil. All good stuff.

With climate change, making little moves that appear to be in approximately the right direction can be worse than doing nothing. The American CAFE standards for automobile fuel economy, for example. Make cars more efficient, sounds great, nobody really complains that much or sounds silly if they do. Not so good for climate change. Keeps people driving, burning gasoline. Lowers per-car demand for gas, for oil, thereby lowers the price in the short run, thereby keeps people all around the world buying cars. If we make only moves like that, we're committing to burning all the oil until it's gone, no question. Not that that isn't going to happen anyway, but presenting conventional gasoline hybrid cars as somehow good for lowering global CO2 emissions is nonsense that only appeals if you're looking at the problem in exactly the wrong way. It was fashionable for a good decade or two before people began to catch on, which of course happened only now that there's a slightly better alternative to latch on to, the all-electric car. Which is genuinely better, though it still has the problem of requiring a substantial amount of electricity to run. Not an impossible amount, power grids can generally handle it, but still that's all the more power from gas and coal we're going to need to replace.

More usually, all the little moves in the right direction are good, and encouraging for the long term. But they're so very little compared to the looming size of the problem of global climate change and all the other environmental problems it's intertwined with. When I mentioned 2007 as being a particularly bad year in the history of gradual collapse of human civilization, I was not thinking of Lehman Brothers you know. It was the year that global food prices, most visibly the staple grains, ended their 40-some years of smooth boring decline and started getting higher and volatile. That change hasn't been undone, though it's dropped out of widespread awareness more or less, being no longer news. The time that was bought by the green revolution has just about run out. We managed to keep things running since then only by bringing into service all the available crop land on the planet, less a few scraps.

By all means everyone keep doing what you can. But I'm getting tired of people telling us it can all be solved by electing the right woman as your local political leader, who will personally build wind turbines on every hillock in the land and thereby solve everything.
posted by sfenders at 4:31 PM on August 6, 2015 [6 favorites]




when there's an easy solution that nobody can come up with any real objection to, governments have the power to make it happen. Switching from CFC's to HFC's was not really that hard. Cutting down on DDT use was a pretty obvious move.

I agree with most of what you're saying, but I want to point out that not only was switching from CFCs very difficult and time-consuming, there is probably more opposition to banning CFCs and DDT now than there was at the time either of those measures was effected. This is due to a strong and well-funded campaign by forces who don't want any changes to business as usual, because they benefit, and their political bedfellows benefit. I regard it as an arm of the same campaign that spread the gospel of St. Ronnie and Bishop Volcker, but I might be paranoid.
posted by sneebler at 7:52 PM on August 6, 2015


Getting rid of relatively new, relatively low-emission first-world cars is not going to help things.

Specially not my car!
posted by sneebler at 7:53 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lower your intake of meat.

Don't buy fish oil.

Stop driving everywhere. Why do you need to drive everywhere?

Try a fan and some iced water to cool you down on a hot day, instead of instantly turning on the air conditioner the moment it gets above 23 degrees.

Don't print out every fucking thing at work. You have email, you have a smartphone and a tablet, stop fucking printing everything.

Buy sacks of native seeds and throw handfuls of seed down on barren land.

Lower your intake of meat. Did I say that already? Not every meal needs to be meat. Not even half of them need to be meat. Be honest with yourself, you're in a chair 18 hours a day and then you go to bed, you don't "need the protein".
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:18 PM on August 6, 2015 [4 favorites]



The London thing's a bit underwhelming. One exceptionally hot day in a generally not very hot summer doesn't seem like shit finally hitting the fan.
Yeah, particularly as it's been cloudy and/or raining more or less constantly since then. An English Summer is the best day of the year etc...
posted by peterkins at 8:08 AM on August 7, 2015


Well, if our days are numbered, let's do the responsible thing and make sure our successors, whether hominids or octopedal, know what happened and how to prevent it. Since it could be a few hundred thousand or even a million years, I suggest we carve the warnings into mountainsides, pile up giant mounds in suggestive shapes, and generally leave a message of "protect your environment or go extinct, like us" writ large in the landscape. Maybe give them a few technological hints, nothing so crass as the technology cubes in Niven/Pournelle's _Footfall_, but some suggestions about solar, wind, etc instead of coal and oil.
posted by Blackanvil at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


re: denial and despair (from the margaret atwood post ;) i'll repeat what john baez -- who knows 'about the problem set'! -- says: "denying there's a problem and despairing that there's a solution have similar consequences: namely, inaction... I think it's crucial, when we tell someone about a big problem, that we also tell them something they can do about it. Maybe not something that will solve it, but something that will ameliorate it. Otherwise they may lapse into denial or despair. Purely individual goals are not enough to be satisfying. National goals are a bit too big for most of us. Maybe a city is the right size. Residents of Copenhagen are trying to make their city go carbon-neutral by 2025."
posted by kliuless at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's happening. Thousands of people died from the heat this year. Right now, that's climate change killing poor people and a few elderly. That's not going to put on much pressure to change. But wildfires are expensive, and that will add a little pressure. The drought in California is expensive for agriculture, and they might add some pressure. Another Katrina, another Hurricane Sandy, more massive weather catastrophes, will have some effect.

Dealing with Global Climate Change means dramatic change. But read the air conditioning thread to see how fierce people are about having their 70F air in high summer. Read the dryer thread to see that people can't be arsed to minimize using the dryer. Even small inconveniences meet with large resistance. Even 50 or a hundred years ago, lives were less carbon-wasteful. People used to walk more, fly (a lot)less, food was more likely to be local, AC was rare. Changing will be expensive, and, more important, some of the biggest profiteers will lose profits. They'll fight like hell to hang on, even as our future is trashed.

Meanwhile, the fuckers on the Right are doing their best to make solar power impossible, even as the prices for solar have dropped impressively. So, yeah, psychopaths. Capitalism is reactive, and by the time capitalism reacts, lets just say the Invisible Hand will be scorched and withered.

Yeah, I've met people. Some portion of people will try to do the right-ish thing, more often than not. But doing it solo isn't very effective. It needs the infrastructure to change, so you can do the right thing. You need to be able to buy solar panels that will mount on your existing roof, and you need to be able to affordably connect your power source to the grid. You need to have public transportation, and to have being a pedestrian or cyclist be less unsafe.

The one industry that I have a little hope for is insurance. Insurers don't want the costs of another Katrina, of hail destroying your roof, etc. They're starting to build climate change into their loss predictions, and that will cost money, and that may help drive some change. The US military is making some movement towards reducing energy use, so that will help when we're at war to keep our oil/ take their oil/ whatever.

By the time enough of the right people realize change is critical, change will be even more critical. Maybe some stuff will help. It's hard to make people care about global Climate Change. The scope of the problem is huge, most people don't immediately recognize how it affects them, and the best responses are systemic, so a lot of people shrug.
posted by theora55 at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


. It's hard to make people care about global Climate Change. The scope of the problem is huge, most people don't immediately recognize how it affects them, and the best responses are systemic, so a lot of people shrug.

People do care, I think. But it's distant and remote, whereas a lifestyle change is immediate and painful. So it's not surprising people are doing a lot of cognitive gamesmanship and trickery to avoid thinking about changes that they and others (preferably others) might have to make.
posted by theorique at 6:52 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I don't know what it will take to get rid of the romantic aura of revolution.

It's simple, just make killing rich people seem less satisfying.

I said it was simple, not easy.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:02 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


“Is Climate Change Causing Pre-traumatic Stress Disorder in Millennials?” Martin de Bourmont and Dayton Martindale, In These Times, 10 August 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:12 PM on August 10, 2015


It's certainly causing a pile of stress for this Gen-Xer, who has about 30yrs left in him. I should think it's much worse for someone with 60+ years of life ahead of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:25 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


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