Now that presents have all been opened and we’re at least beginning to think about cleaning up the resulting mess, we might also want to consider a parallel situation.
We are not quite finished opening up all the presents from fossil fuels. It’s been a process of several centuries since Thomas Newcomen’s atmospheric engine was used in 1712 for pumping in a mine. Although there are a few presents still to be unwrapped, we are certainly beginning to notice the mess left behind – climate change, acidification of the rising oceans, persistent organic pollutants such as pesticides, herbicides and endocrine disruptors, and the cascading consequences of the sixth Great Extinction.
It’s quite a mess to clean up. With the exception of a few efforts here and there, the cleanup has not yet begun. For an idea of just how serious this issue is – far outside the scope of issues hotly debated within our corrupt two-party system – you should really read John Michael Greer’s latest essay “Too Little, Too Late.” Continue reading
Sorry for the opening commercial, but that’s Youtube.
It’s a one-hour discussion, pretty in-depth as these things go.
Here’s just one of the memorable ideas from the discussion [After discussing the economic plight of young people with massive college debt]
If those 40 million young people get into their heads the wild idea that they can come out in the November 2016 election and cancel their debt – they can actually do that, because 40 million of them is a plurality of a three-way vote. They could actually do that, and who is better prepared to get the word out, and better networked than that generation? Who could spread that news like a wildfire and turn out 40 million irate young people who are determined to go on the record to cancel debt? …
In 1729, Jonathan Swift published “A Modest Proposal.” The full title is, “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.” In it, he proposed that impoverished Irish families could solve their financial problems by selling their children as food for rich people.
In 1729, everyone who read the article readily understood that (a) selling your children is a horrible idea and (b) the article is satire.
Almost three centuries later, with our culture saturated by advertising and political propaganda (which is essentially just a specialized form of advertising), it is not so readily understood that discussing nuclear reactors as a solution for global warming (a) is a horrible idea and (b) should be understood as a cynical attempt to extend the current business system operating by deflecting attention from actions that would actually do something to minimize global warming. Continue reading
“With landmark climate accord, world marks turn from fossil fuels” reads the headline. The article from December 12, 2015 continues:
“By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis
PARIS (Reuters) – The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.”
“Cautious hopes as UN adopts draft climate change deal” is the headline from AFP, a French news outlet. Their story continues:
“By Karl Malakunas, Mariëtte Le Roux
December 5, 2015 4:55 PM
Le Bourget (France) (AFP) – Negotiators from 195 nations agreed on a draft Saturday for a pact to save mankind from disastrous global warming, raising hopes that decades of arguments will finally end with a historic deal in Paris.”
The New York Times ran a story on December 10 that began: “Paris Climate Talks Highlights: How Do You Judge Success? What would a successful climate accord look like? That’s a question many officials at the climate talks here have been trying to answer in their private negotiations and public statements.”
Luckily, we don’t have to work real hard to answer this question, and we certainly do not need to listen to official public statements. All we have to do is track the atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements made at Mauna Loa since the 1950s. When the concentration is trending down, then we will know that climate policies are at least beginning to be successful on a global basis. If the concentration is still trending up, then we know that more needs to be done. If the concentration is trending up at the same rate, then we know that practically nothing has been done.
You should be able to get the very latest data here: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ It’s not looking good so far. As of December 10, the CO2 concentration was given as 403.94 ppm, and the trend is still definitely up, as it has been for over 5 decades. It’s obvious we will have to do something drastically different to change that, and, if the new policy is not drastically different from the old policy, it will be a failure.
Spoiler alert – the new policy coming from COP 21 will not be drastically different from the old policy. My prediction is that CO2 concentrations in the next few years will show that practically nothing has been done – again.
If we want to get serious about excess carbon dioxide/climate change/acidifying oceans, then we need to phase out the global fossil fuel economy. Nothing less will work.
(Some thoughts for the Sierra Club and other environmentalists)
Climate change does change everything. Drought destroys food production, whether the producers are traditional peasants raising rice by hand or modern agribusiness raising chemical drenched corn and soybeans. Repeated droughts change forests into barren landscapes populated by stumps of the former trees. Extreme storms have already flooded parts of Detroit, New York, Miami, New Orleans and Huston. That’s an incomplete list for just the last decade. What were once thousand-year storms now can happen several times in a year. We can expect both more intense floods and more intense droughts to go along with rising sea levels.
Why? There’s a lot of moving parts to weather and climate, but it’s excess carbon dioxide emissions from centuries of mankind burning fossil fuels that has thrown historical climate mechanisms seriously out of balance. That’s just one effect of excess emissions. In the atmosphere, carbon dioxide pushes more greenhouse warming. Absorbed in the oceans, it causes increased acidification. Between warming and acidification, the whole ocean food chain, including the plankton that produce half of the earth’s oxygen, is upset. Continue reading