Is it still possible to limit climate change to a 2 degree increase? If we don’t take into account the loss of sulfate parasols as a result of our emissions controls and if we close our eyes to the multiple feedback loops that have already been unleashed and which, in and of themselves, could dwarf anthropogenic emissions, then it might be possible in such a theoretical and hypothetical world.
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But a theoretical and hypothetical world and a world of brutal reality are two very different things. Humans must ultimately answer to brutal reality which discards all of the fabricated economic theorems and pie-in-the-sky myths about the techno-supremacy of modern man that we delude ourselves with. So the cold and hard reality is “No, we are well and truly fucked!” Despite decades of warnings by scientists, we have kept on burning fossil fuels and continue to do so as I write this post. As a matter of fact, growth in fossil fuel consumption is baked into our economic system as far into the future as we care to fantasize. We have backed ourselves into a corner where the only salvation left is some sort of globally coordinated Manhattan project of geo-engineering. And how likely is that to occur, let alone succeed? As David Roberts reports in his latest essay ‘Freaked-out climate scientists urge other freaked-out climate scientists to speak up, fight Man‘, our current enslavement to an infinite growth economic paradigm precludes such a possibility:
…Can we make the radical changes necessary to meet that challenge? No, say climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows in a recent commentary in Nature Climate Change, not “within orthodox political and economic constraints.”
There is no political or economic constraint more orthodox than the primacy of economic growth. No solution to climate change that threatens economic growth can get any traction at all — even the most “alarmist” climate hawks fear to tread there. Which is too bad, Anderson and Bows say, because “climate change commitments are incompatible with short- to medium-term economic growth (in other words, for 10 to 20 years).” What’s worse, “work on adapting to climate change suggests that economic growth cannot be reconciled with the breadth and rate of impacts as the temperature rises towards 4 °C and beyond.” In other words: We either give up economic growth voluntarily for a little while or suffer a climate that will reverse economic growth long-term…
…Anderson and Bows stress that, “within orthodox political and economic constraints,” hitting such a target is wildly unlikely. Absent some pretty revolutionary political and economic changes, it won’t happen. For obvious reasons, scientists shy away from saying this kind of thing in public. They don’t want to depress people or come off as “political.” However, say Anderson and Bows, “away from the microphone and despite claims of ‘green growth’, few if any scientists working on climate change would disagree with the broad thrust of this candid conclusion.”…
The article goes on to explain how our scientific community is hamstrung and browbeaten into reciting and presenting only evidence without expounding upon and revealing what the consequences of those findings will be for humanity:
…scientists remain reticent, often assuming that “the most effective way of engaging is by presenting evidence, without daring to venture, at least explicitly, broader academic judgment.” This kind of just-the-facts reticence, Anderson and Bows say, is neither warranted nor wise given the urgency of current climate circumstances:
[W]e need to be less afraid of making academic judgments. Not unsubstantiated opinions and prejudice, but applying a mix of academic rigour, courage and humility to bring new and interdisciplinary insights into the emerging era. This would be controversial enough in itself. Various social and professional incentives work against academic researchers speaking out beyond their narrow specialties. And there is an entire cottage industry devoted to scolding climate scientists for going “beyond the science” to political analysis or policy advocacy. These latter sins, they are warned, threaten their status as “trusted brokers.” (Because the trusted-broker thing is working so well so far, climate-wise.)
What else can you do, though, when danger of such unthinkable scope and permanence is looming and humanity’s actions in the coming decade will determine the fate of future generations? I mean, it sounds like a sci-fi movie, but it’s real. What can you do if you’re one of the scientists who understands how dire the situation is? These are not ordinary times.
And in conclusion, the article talks of something I have posted about here – the failure and inability of the free market to solve this civilization-ending problem of climate change:
Anyway, as controversial as it is to ask climate researchers to venture broad social and economic judgments, the specific critique that Anderson and Bows offer is even more likely to make some of their straight-laced colleagues wince. It has to do with the “catastrophic and ongoing failure of market economics and the laissez-faire rhetoric accompanying it.” Specifically, market economists (and the politicians and scientists in thrall to them) suffer the “misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2°C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives.” They urge their colleagues:
Leave the market economists to fight among themselves over the right price of carbon — let them relive their groundhog day if they wish. The world is moving on and we need to have the audacity to think differently and conceive of alternative futures.
One of the objectives of this blog was to speak truth to power and reveal where the human race is headed. Now that we know our final outcome, our predicament is analogous to being diagnosed with terminal cancer. You people reading this post are an infinitesimal percentage of the global population who are privileged, or perhaps cursed, to be in possession of such depressing knowledge. Where do we go from here? What do we do? How do we live our lives knowing what we know of the dismal future of the world’s youth? The entire edifice of human civilization will become a worldwide ghost city before this century ends. Perhaps the only thing left to do is live each day as if it were our last because there really is no future without some miraculous, radical, and global social change accompanied by unprecedented global cooperation. Those in charge of such matters have chosen temporary preservation of the current system over the long-term survival of our species. Evil and suicidal or foolish and ill-informed… Which is it that best describes the self-destructive choices that have been made?
A truly frightening time-lapse visualization by the NOAA of the Arctic Ice Melt: