Addiction to Fossil Fuels, American Enterprise Institute, Capitalism, Climate Change, Clive Hamilton, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Consumerism, Corporate State, Ecological Overshoot, Economic Growth, Environmental Collapse, Geoengineering, Industrial Revolution, The Anthropocene Age
What would a capitalist society and its Technophiliacs do to solve a problem of their own making, a problem caused by the burning of fossil fuels, overconsumption, urban sprawl, and our wasteful industrialized way-of-life? As one former oil executive put it, “Climate change is a waste management problem.” So instead of actually dealing with the problem head on, industrial civilization will try everything it can to circumnavigate the problem, allowing CO2 emissions and our unsustainable lifestyles to persist. This is where geoengineering becomes the tourniquet for our moribund society. Here’s what the pro-business right-wing think tank, American Enterprise Institute, has to say about tinkering with our damaged atmosphere:
…We can shrug off or deny the problem, as politicians, particularly in the US, often do. That’s reckless. But what if corporations shoulder more costs and lead the technological charge, all for a huge potential payoff? That could be a game changer. In a nutshell, that’s the realpolitik argument for geoengineering….
…Let’s hope entrepreneurs do more than just smell profits. If visionary geoengineers are lucky enough to succeed, it’s going to cost big bucks over decades. If there is no business case for tackling climate change–no money to be made –it simply won’t happen. Let’s hope we are unleashing enlightened capitalist forces that just might drive the kind of technological innovation necessary to genuinely tackle climate change.
As long as there’s a dollar to be made, the enlightened self-interest of capitalism can keep the fires of climate chaos at bay. Now we can burn all those dirty unconventional oils without losing sleep. Only capitalism can manage to turn the prospect of self-extinction into a money-making venture.
In his essay “The Philosophy of Geoengineering“, Clive Hamilton tells how CO2 emissions since the industrial revolution have suppressed the next Ice Age that would have occurred in roughly 50,000 years and that with further anticipated CO2 build-up by modern man, we may well suppress future glaciation for the next 500,000 years.
Nothing humans have ever done approaches the momentousness of this fact. Our activities have so changed the climatic future that we have over-ruled one and perhaps several ice ages. The Earth will take tens of thousands of years to reach a new equilibrium following the pulse of carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere by humans in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Only then might the era of human-induced global warming approach an end.
It is for this reason that the Anthropocene represents not only a new epoch in geological history but a new epoch in human history, comparable only to the arrival of settled agriculture and the industrial revolution…
Thus the Anthropocene Age was coined to reflect the planet-altering force that modern man has become. Since 1950 and the “Great Acceleration”, mankind’s environmental impact tripled. Debate has been heated as to when exactly the Anthropocene Age began, with some scientists including the advent of farming 8,000 years ago, but not until the late 18th century when man’s industrial activities kicked into gear did humans begin to truly overshoot their environment on a planetary scale. By not recognizing this fact, industrial capitalism and consumerism of modern time are excused for their environmental destructiveness and unsustainable nature.
...The dispute is not merely academic. One implication of [William] Ruddiman‘s early Anthropocene‘ hypothesis is that if humans have been a planetary force since civilization emerged then there is nothing fundamentally new about the last couple of centuries of industrialism. In this view, it is in the nature of civilized humans to transform the Earth, and what is in the nature of the species cannot be resisted. By focusing attention on ‘humankind‘ in general rather than the forms of social organization that emerged more recently, the Anthropocene becomes in some sense natural. In this view, global warming is not the product of industrial rapaciousness, an unregulated market, human alienation from nature or excessive faith in technology; it is merely the result of humans doing what humans are meant to do, that is, using the powers Prometheus gave us to better our lot. This gives rise to a relaxed view about human impacts on the natural world; Ruddiman himself seems quite comfortable with the idea that over the next 200 years all economically accessible fossil fuels may be mined and burned…
The early Anthropocene hypothesis is interpreted as exonerating modern humans of blame for environmental decline…
…Perhaps the defenders of the ‘good Anthropocene’ intuitively understand that if the beginning of the new epoch is located at the end of the eighteenth century, with a step-change in the 1950s, then we must ask what was distinctive about those times. The answer of course is the inception of industrial capitalism and then the turbocharged era of industrial expansion that followed World War 2, a surge only intensified with the era of hyper-consumerism that washed over the rich world in the 1990s and 2000s. If free-market industrialism and ‘affluenza‘ are the source of the problem then perhaps they must be constrained, a suggestion that raises conservative hackles…
Thus we are mental and physical prisoners of a social system which treats everything on Earth as a commodity, reducing it to an object of exploitation for profit:
…The thinking that gives rise to geoengineering is the same thinking that first creates the world as an object suitable for technological manipulation. As a result, the only global warming escape routes that occur to us are technological ones, whether they be new forms of low-emission energy, carbon capture and storage or engineering the climate. So this view prompts the rhetorical question: How can we think our way out of a problem when the problem is the way we think?
This morning the main topic on Democracy Now was goengineering:
“The early Anthropocene hypothesis is interpreted as exonerating modern humans of blame for environmental decline…”
But that is only one interpretation. Another, advanced by Prof. Steven LeBlanc of Harvard in his book Constant Battles, The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage, is that in order for humans to step back from overshoot we have to recognize the innate instincts that drive us towards it. In other words if we just sit around and sing kumbaya, curse capitalism, and wait for the natural spirit of love and cooperation to come to the fore and overwhelm the corporations, it’s never going to get us anywhere.
An another note, this geoengineering insanity is another good reason to step back from the obsession with CO2 driven climate change (not that it isn’t going to render the planet uninhabitable, it is) and to look at the overall degredation of the ecosystem by the underlying drivers – not capitalism, but the human propensity for growth which has been with us since forever. It’s what people do – grow, overshoot, and collapse (or migrate).
But now we’re stuck on one planet that we’ve filled up with our needs and our pollution. Maybe if people understood that habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean acidification and forests dying from pollution (as well as agricultural crops, annual and especially perennials) they would be more inclined to face up to overpopulation and peak everything than if all they are presented with is climate change. It is too easy for people to hope there is a technological fix for that – whether it’s CO2 capture and storage, geoengineering, or the fake promise of so-called renewable, clean energy – anything to keep the cars rolling, the planes flying, and the party rockin’.
We’ve had this discussion before and I know your stance on it – it’s held in high regard by Jay Hanson and his followers.
Looking at everything from a purely biological, and not a sociological point of view as well, does not give a full and accurate picture.
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We just need to give the overlords a lease on the Sun in exchange for all their mineral rights. They’re never going to give an inch otherwise.
We can’t fight Apache helicopters and PredDrones.
LOL. I guess that’s where monopoly of photosynthesis creeps in.
the Heretick said:
oh great, algae blooms, solar shields, jesus f. christ, all this so our capitalist overlords can stay in the drivers seat. that’s all this is about, profits, big fat profits. i see the sense in the various theses, people will be people.
the one thing that might help is decentralization, small intensive farmsteads, the way it was before industrialization, but that doesn’t make profits for industrialists.
the end result of all this is death, we have 51 today in Oklahoma; when these storms start tracking for hundreds of miles, or thousands, and last for days not hours, we’re screwed, i have the feeling it’s barreling down the pike.
Yeah, the storms will get bigger, as they have been.
But don’t expect our overlords to tell us the truth…
My God! Looks like a nuclear bomb went through there..
the Heretick said:
Oklahoma has lots and lots of hard-pan clay, hence the iron rich red dirt. the name does not mean “red dirt land’ it means “red people’s land” and the Sooners were those who jumped the gun on the land run, in other words they couldn’t wait to steal some more land from the Indians.
what needs to be happening is intelligent use of the sparse natural features, the clay is perfect for red brick, every hillside should be a home site, underground with the excavated earth used for bricks to line the walls. the great plains is pretty much done.
this land won’t support farming when the water goes, cattle grazing either except on a very limited basis, it had best go back to native grasses.
next up, resource wars.
these storms aren’t going to stop, first the deluge, then the drought.
Paul F Getty said:
Check out the comments following this article.
John Christian said:
Yep, it shows that its unlikely we will be able to do much about CO2 emissions to stop this train. Doesn’t matter if 97% of climate scientists are agreeing about AGW if 50% of the population is in in deep denial. Especially if its the rich elite…
@Paul F Getty,
But most telling is the response to that Senator:
The public is overwhelmingly ignorant!!! Look at how many people gave ‘thumbs up’ to the above moronic comments!
Paul F Getty said:
Whenever I manage to feel a bit better about the future, all I have to do is remember so many in our society think like these idiots, and I again realize the future is hopeless.
Kevin Moore said:
The chief source of problems is ‘solutions’.