Why Are We Mostly Ignoring the Climate Crisis? The Message Is Wrong

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Yves here. I’m posting this article as what consultants call a forcing device, in the hopes of spurring discussion. Notice that this piece focuses on an issue raised in a recent Gaius Publius post: how the need to take action to limit climate change is urgent, yet the public isn’t at all engaged, despite more and more climate-change related damage, like more severe storms and wildfires. It is also noteworthy that the 2007 IPCC report series got much more press coverage, particularly in the business media, than the new, much more dire edition has gotten.

The problem with doing what it would take to greatly reduce greenhouse gas generation isn’t just that it would take a war-level mobilization of resources. It would also require sustained sacrifices. And some industries, like tourism, would come out big losers. The elites would need to participate in and lead what would amount to a wholesale restructuring of commerce and lifestyles. No one wants to go there. So even those individuals who are willing to make considerable personal changes for the most part don’t have adequate outlets because they are part of a much larger system.

By Sunny Hundal, a journalist and commentator, and the social media editor at openDemocracy. Originally published at openDemocracy

My wife asked last week whether climate change means it’s not worth having children. She was only half joking. She had asked me what the IPCC report was about and I said something like: “Well, it turns out the worst of climate change is coming sooner than we all expected. Doom is coming!”

We are moving back to London soon and that brought another climate issue to mind. I said it was probably a bad idea to live close to the River Thames, as floods are likely to become more frequent. She’s starting to think Canada might be a better option.

If you too ignored the IPCC report this week, I won’t judge you. I skimmed The Guardian story with a mixture of resignation and despair. Thanks, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I needed cheering up! A viral headline from the BBC, later changed, summed up a the problem: “Climate report: scientists politely urge ‘act now, idiots’”.

The problem is that climate change doom has lost its shock value. People have lost interest. They are tuning out. Climate scientists who used to be frustrated that the media wouldn’t believe them are now frustrated that no one seems to be listening. Most politicians offer perfunctory soundbites and move on. Even The Guardian’s ex-editor Alan Rusbridger urged readers last week: “You may find it too alarming to think about, too big to worry about, or too depressing to engage with. I understand. But please don’t switch off.”

The challenge for us who want strong action to avert a climate crisis isn’t denial any more: it is apathy, despair and paralysis. In our world of short attention spans, constant shocks and economic insecurity, the warnings are not doing their job. Climate scientists are pushing the button but the warning lights remain dark.

The media get a lot of blame for this. As someone who has been tracking the BBC’s failings on climate changefor a decade, I think they deserve much of it. But simply pushing the panic button harder won’t work. We need a different alarm system altogether. Why? Because we aren’t reaching people with stories that affect them.

End This Avalanche of Numbers

Any story about the climate crisis has to start with a family, not a statistic. We have to stop this obsession with 1.5 or 2 or 3 or 4°C. It means little to non-scientists and sounds like minor differences. Worse, stories of doom make people more depressed. When bad news is everywhere, the first thing we do is ignore the bad news set in the future. The IPCC report was never going to set the news agenda on fire: anyone who expected it to doesn’t understand communication.

The climate crisis is first and foremost a story about people: how it is hurting them and how it will upturn their lives. That is where we must start. People are affected by and remember stories they can relate to, not statistics. We need to stop focusing on degrees, sea levels, coral reefs or Arctic icesheets, and focus on people instead.

You could say it’s the job of journalists to turn those numbers into stories and you’d be right. But the IPCC updates and the avalanche of doomsday scenarios have created a narrative around statistics and disaster. Politicians overwhelmingly take their cue from this avalanche of numbers. The media dutifully run them on a regular basis and the world moves on. I’m not surprised most people are ignoring them.

And that’s just the first problem.

We Are Preaching to the Converted

Climate change is a left-wing issue. The language, the solutions, the advocacy is almost entirely by and for a left-liberal audience. But those are not the people we need to convince. Right-wingers don’t listen to our warnings because we don’t speak their language andthey don’t trust us.

I know what you’re going to say: that we cannot reach those people because capitalist interests already have them convinced. In that case, go home because you’ve already given up. Instead we could list to people like Katharine Hayhoe, a Christian evangelical and a climate scientist, who is trying an approach that involves radically different language and sources trusted by conservatives.

Even our solutions are limited. We cannot overcome the climate crisis just through ‘eco socialism’ – it will need billions of investment into clean energy and new technologies too. We have to champion a range of voices and solutions for everyone.

Climate scientists are not all political partisans but the people pushing their message almost entirely are. And that’s why so many resist it. We have to convince our political opposites we have their interests at heart because… there is no other choice.

What Is Our Vision for the Future?

I’m a paid-up member of this movement and yet I still don’t know if our governments are hitting necessary targets or how much the shortfall is. Most of us don’t know what goals countries should aim for, so journalists rarely ask politicians how they match up. It allows politicians to make vague promises without firm commitments.

What does a world with cheap, green energy look like? Given how cheap solar energy has become just in the last decade, where could we be in 20 years? What is our positive vision? There is no positive agenda so it’s easy for our opponents to say we just want to hike up energy prices. There is no pushback to that narrative.

Yes, the Media Is Still a Problem

None of this is to deny the media could be covering climate change much better. Or that there aren’t big corporate interests opposed to any action. We still need to call out oil companies for funding climate denialism.

We also need climate change to be featured in general news coverage, as Genevieve Guenther’s project End Climate Silence is pushing for, and call out the media when they don’t link climate change to natural disasters.

But we have to stop hoping journalists will become advocates. Instead we have to get better at setting the media agenda. If we feed it an endless diet of doomsday statistics, readers start to tune out, and journalists have a strong incentive to follow. Big oil doesn’t need to confuse the public when we are already putting them to sleep.

I know this debate is not new. Our problem isn’t a choice between good news or bad news or between hope and fear – it is that our stories are too abstract and removed from daily lives.

The climate crisis is already affecting families like mine, but I can make that link because I follow it closely. Most people don’t because the debate is too abstract. There is little point in just blaming the media for this, though. We can make those links in face-to-face conversations with our friends and families, in our local communities. That would change minds and prompt political action much quicker than we realise. But we have to start the conversation with what is close to our hearts.

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  1. Wukchumni

    The thing is, we can’t even react to all of the sudden climate change effects as it is, as per Puerto Rico.

    It’s hard to inspire the citizenry to think into the future, when everybody can see that their government isn’t what it used to be, when reacting to such things, and offering support.

  2. Anthony Wikrent

    In his 1978 masterpiece, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America, Lawrence Goodwyn wrote:

    Unfortunately, history does not support the notion that mass protest movements develop because of hard times. Depressed economies or exploitive arrangements of power and privilege may produce lean years or even lean lifetimes for millions of people, but the historical evidence is conclusive that they do not produce mass political insurgency. . . . “The masses” do not rebel in instinctive response to hard times and exploitation because they have been culturally organized by their societies not to rebel. . . .  It is clear that the varied methods of social control fashioned in industrial societies have, over time, become sufficiently pervasive and subtle that a gradual erosion of democratic aspirations among whole populations has taken place. . . .

    This gradual erosion of democratic aspirations is usually mistaken as apathy, which many political activists bemoan. But it is not apathy; it is, Goodwyn explains, mass resignation at the perceived impossibility of significantly affecting and altering society’s structures of inherited power and privilege.

    It is therefore noteworthy that Trump has motivated his base by constantly attacking and denouncing the existing structure of power, using terms like “the swamp.” Hillary Clinton and the leaders of the Democratic Party, on the other hand do not want to tear down the existing structure of power — they just want to replace the men at the top with women.

    My own idea of how to approach the problem of apathy to climate change is to argue that this is not a problem too big to solve; it is an opportunity too big to miss.

    1. Carolinian

      The problem is that AGW is in fact viewed as political starting with Al Gore as its most prominent early spokesperson. It’s quite probable that Trump doesn’t know or care anything about science and that his denialism is more a matter of “whatever you’re for I’m against it.” And there’s no question that a serious attempt to curb global warming will cause economic setbacks to some very rich and powerful actors as well as affecting the lifestyles of almost everyone in wealthy countries like the US.

      So using AGW as a political lever is just as likely to be counterproductive and arguably it so far has been counterproductive by leading some to view it as all a liberal plot.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Most of Trump’s major vacation and resort properties are right along the seacoast. So they would be affected by sea level rise. And TrumpCo privately knows it. That is why TrumpCo has asked the Irish government for permission to build a Beautiful Seawall around the TrumpCo golf course in Ireland.

        And as rising sea levels threaten other seaside Trump properties, the Trump Organization will demand permission from other governments to build Beautiful Seawalls.

        If those governments, starting with Ireland, really caaaaaare . . . soooo much . . . . about Global Warming, they will deny Trump permission to build any Beautiful Seawall anywhere, ever. And if the Trump Group decides to build one without permission, the relevant government, which no doubt caaaares . . . SOOO much . . . about Global Warming . . . will send in police force and armed force to destroy that wall and destroy Trump’s effort to build it.

        And the governments of the world will commit themselves to drowning every seaside property Trump has through Seawall Denial until Trump adopts a policy of Hard DeCarbonization in this country. That is , if those other governments reeeeeaaaalllly care . . . SO much.

        1. wilroncanada

          The argument by the local council to give approval for the scaled-down wall (less than half the original length) is the argument heard everywhere for altering the environment without regard for the longer term consequences: supporting local business, including tourism, and economic benefits for all.
          When we lived in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, we could travel on a causeway past Windsor, on the main road to Halifax. One result of the causeway completion was the elimination over the following years of beaches at Hantsport and Avonport to the northwest, along with the development of mud flats on the outside of the causeway at Windsor. Incidentally, it took three tries for crews to finish closure of the causeway. It was Mother Nature two, Engineers nothing, until the engineers called in extra help. The Minas Basin, one of the top ends of the Bay of Fundy, fought hard.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Its an argument often made in many places. And yet I still hope that the Ireland gov and every gov where Trump has a seaside property will think about the bigger losses of failing to play for keeps against the Trumpster. I hope their thinking will lead them to realize that the only way to get favorable action out of Trump is to extort it from him, and the only way to reach Trump is through the pocketbook. Meaning all the relevant governments should commit themselves to making sure a rising ocean drowns every Trump property there is until Trump commits to Hard Decarbonization.

            1. John Wright

              I don’t believe seawalls will help at Trump’s Florida properties due to the limestone geology, as the water will percolate underneath any sea wall..

              And Trump might take a more hidden financial engineering approach, such as inexpensive flood insurance provided by the government.

              TPTB may be well aware of potential flooding issues, but they want to off-load the risk on everyone else.

              And our government, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, will hear their pain…

              The USA is quite experienced in “socializing losses and privatizing profits”.

    2. Christ on a Bike

      >My own idea of how to approach the problem of apathy to climate change is to argue that this is not a problem too big to solve; it is an opportunity to big to miss.

      Really appreciate your comment, which represents the best of Naked Capitalism because here I learned something. Would you mind fleshing out this point some? Say, what illustrations would you actually use in a conversation like this?

      Years ago I stopped trying to win arguments with overwhelming facts and instead try to engage and understand, “attracting them with honey.” But it can be so difficult not to react at terrible statements and stultifying ignorance (which sounds condescending, I know, except that I truly am there to talk and not to prevail). Anyway, thanks.

      1. Anon

        The opportunity too big to miss:
        * Reorienting nations away from warring over resources toward collaborating on conserving resources (water, air, solar access, soils, etc.);
        * Redirecting toward manufacture of sustainable energy sources and employing/training the working population to deploy it;
        * Reducing social complexity and reorienting toward local community activity (work, food, recreation) and allowing for more democratic interaction in the population.
        * Recognition of the planet limitations and re-orienting toward a life in balance with natural systems: leave floodplains as open space (recreation & wildlife habitat), leave the forests to cleansing the air and as a bedroom for mammals, not suburbanites.
        * Reimagine a better world.

        I’ll leave it to the commentariat to add further musing.

        1. Mary Wildfire

          But anon–how do any of those things make the rich richer? Seems to me they don’t, so we can’t do them or even talk about them.

      2. Anthony Wikrent

        When I [try to] explain it, I point to all the buildings around me and say, We have to refurbish or replace every single building that has ever been built in the entire world so it has a zero carbon footprint. How many carpenters, electricians, and plumbers do you think such a program will put to work? Are there even enough in the whole world to do it? But I find people just are struck dumb by the very idea of such massive programs.

        I had hoped it would spark people’s intetest and cause them to ask “Hiw do we pay for it” which would lead to my explaining how money and credit is created, by who, and for what purpose.

      3. Ian Ollmann

        The climate report says 70% reduction by 2030. Let us just suppose for a moment that you personally are going to hit that goal. What do you need to do?

        1) Your next car is an EV. If you don’t drive very far, maybe it is a plug-in hybrid. In either case, the old car goes to the crusher. If you don’t drive it, someone else will. Maybe if you retire your gas car this year it will be dead by then.

        2) Heat: generally this is a commitment to stop burning stuff. That either means some efficient electric source like Geothermal — You can do this anywhere. If you think volcanos are required, go read up, it is just your air conditioner running backward cooling the earth and warming your house — moving heat from place to place rather than directly create it. Another choice is biofuel like burning locally grown firewood. Plant some trees to offset.

        3) Electricity: probably solar. It’s cheap. I’d personally kill for a investment in the stock market that pays a guaranteed 10-20% return. The challenges come if you live in the northeast or under a lot of trees.

        4) travel: until the airlines find an efficient way to move people, staycations seem like a good choice. Travel by train?

        The problem with these things is though they will all save you money in the long run, and some of them might pay for themselves a few times over, they each will claim a significant outlay of cash up front. Most people don’t have that kind of scratch to throw around. We’ve been too busy finding new ways to charge rents to the masses and keep pay down.

        There is also that 30% of people who won’t do anything because they have negative net worth, and another 30% (possibly overlapping) who will revel in their gas burning lifestyle and ride their oversized 6000 SUX like the bomb in Dr. Strangelove all the way to hell. How we make up for them, I just can’t tell you. I don’t think we can get to 70% reduction if at less than 70% participate. Perhaps the world may not be big enough for them and us anymore. We can at least have programs for the poor.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      I like your idea of framing it as an opportunity because it is a tremendous opportunity to get out of the rat race.

      What we need to do is stop a large portion of the work that everybody all over the world is doing. We’ve all heard of Graeber’s ‘useless work’ – we could be done with it forever.

      What we need is a moratorium on all the harmful activities – overfishing, shale oil mining, marketing just to name a few – there are many many more. We don’t require any of this to survive as a species.

      We do however require income to survive as individuals. So what a perfect time to institute a job guarantee! Everyone who loses their job because of a moratorium would automatically receive a job guarantee income. They would then be required to work at something that provides the necessities of food clothing and shelter for everyone. The other major industry would be fixing the damage already caused – turning strip malls back into fields, etc. And maybe it wouldn’t even require full time work – we’d have to try it and find out but if we were to get rid of all the unnecessary activity that exists only because of the failing capitalist system, it may be that everyone’s needs can be provided for with able bodied people working only 10-20 hours per week.

      Useful work for fewer hours, more leisure time, and possibly saving our species from early extinction all at the same time. No more writing ad copy or other soul crushing jobs. What’s not to like?

      If someone told me I could stop my job forever starting tomorrow as long as I was willing to help build a house or two and grow some food, I’d say “where do I sign up”?

      1. Fastball

        A perfect complement to your point is the never ending baseline load dilemma. That solar power doesn’t work at night is something people, well meaning and otherwise, continually bemoan. And make no mistake, there are needs for power at night — heating and air conditioning, for example. But otherwise, the idea of ceasing all activity and sleeping through an unpowered night doesn’t seem to occur to people.

        1. Yassine

          Some people also bemoan the seasonal nature of solar power (unless you live at the ecuador) but this could also be addressed easily if we manufactured energy intensive goods only during during the sunny months. There is an analogy with steel and coal : we used to make steel near coal mines because coal is expensive to move, why not make steel during the summer because solar electricity is expensive to store ?

        2. Knot Galt.

          Batteries. A whole town in Australia relies on them to supply power on a consistent basis.

          IMO, it is the force of Capitalism itself that is preventing action. Most everyone is self-interested. I think even IF someone came along to champion action, special interests protecting shareholder profit and rights would squelch anyone or thing that gained traction. I certainly think that was something that Al Gore may know something about. That we have Neoliberal policies as a second to Capitalism is not helping either.

          IMNSHO, think locally. Move to ground above 230 feet in elevation and consider future impacts that will hit you at home. Because I have a strong suspicion it might get to every person for themselves before it gets globally better. It’s survivalist theory but it may be one of the least disingenuous philosophies to follow.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Every “village” for itself might be better than every “person” for itself. Not for nothing did mankind adopt thousands of years ago the bunching-up-together into the small or smallish village as the stable base of just-specialized-enough labor of just-enough–people to keep eachother supplied with the means of survival.

      2. Janie

        Adults in pre-industrial societies worked fewer hours than we do, had community feast days and knocked off work during the off-season.

        1. knowbuddhau

          Yes, we we’re in entirely different rhythms then. Most “civilized” people these days have very little to do with those kinds of natural rhythms. Now, we march to the beatings of the time clock, or else.

      3. Dhruv Sharma

        I don’t want to take anything away from your comment with which I most certainly agree. However two questions still come to mind:

        1. Which people work at these jobs? How does one decide who gets to work on the fields and who does the cooking?

        2. Doesn’t this restrict the freedom of individuals to decide the kind of activity they want to do?

        To be clear, I am not asking the second question from some libertarian perspective. I am genuinely interested in knowing, or at least reflecting,on how we could construct a viable system.

        1. Janie

          It’s hard to construct a social system de novo…maybe impossible. Such systems grow organically, and all the threads are interwoven over time…lots of time. At least, that’s what I think.

  3. Wukchumni

    Useful clues on how to get to the people might be found in Gustave LeBon’s 1896 tome: The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.

    An old dog might teach a new one old tricks…

    1. coboarts

      “In enumerating the factors capable of making an impression on the minds of crowds all mention of reason might be dispensed with…” good book

    2. In the Land of Farmers

      All this leaves a bad taste in my mouth that I find hard to explain.

      It is a subject explored in The Matrix, that there is a battle between two opposing groups of superior intellect fighting to save the common, unaware people from their own stupidity.

      Both sides think they are on the side of good, and the truth is that they are. Yes we should save the planet, and yes we should care for the economic well being of everyone. To fix climate change we will need to drastically reduce the U.S. standard of living and on both sides no one wants to do that. No one wants to truly sacrifice, not people, corporations, or shareholders. The sacrifice of leaving the Matrix was leaving delusion, and the temporary pleasure it brings, behind.

      So take a look at all these people trying to change peoples minds to act on climate change and you will see them living in comfortable houses with nice jobs and two cars in a five bedroom house with two people living in it with a wireless router and laptop plugged in all day, and then flying to conferences trying trying to tell these “stupid” people that climate change is important and they should be sacrificing. =^/

      Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, what is their common link? Sacrifice. They all sacrificed. They led by example. That is what will initiate change, people seeing how important this is not through words, but through action. Who on the left do you see doing this? Bill McKibben lives in a 2500 square foot house with 3.5 baths on 10 acres worth $500,000 in a remote Vermont town. Is he the real leader of climate change? Where is his sacrifice? Teaching kids what in Middlebury? What is there left to teach besides how to sacrifice?

      So that is why people are not listening to the media or the numbers, becasue not one “climate change leader” is sacrificing. It is not about writing better, or coming at it from a different angle. These “stupid” people are smart and they see BS from a mile away and leftists use it as virtue signalling.

      If anyone here saw the deep crisis that we are in they would stop reading this blog, throw away their laptop and cellphone, disconnect their internet, move in with a group of people, yada, yada, yada. But you won’t, and I do not blame you, becasue you have no role models, you have no Jesus of climate change.

      So please all of you, quit pretending you believe climate change is a crisis. You don’t believe it deep in your heart. You are no different from the Christian who says he believes in heaven and hell yet sins even with the fear of an eternity in hell.

      What we need is a Satyagraha centered around climate change. Action before words. Led by action not force.

      1. Louis Fyne

        i agree w/you 100%. alas your thoughts would be dismissed as a ranting “tweet-storm” in today’s media/social media-driven world.

        long-form discussion is dying/dead in today’s political discourse—maybe it never really was there in the first place. maybe that’s part of the problem.

        maybe instead of consensus-driven popular action, it should be like Taleb’s ‘tyranny of the minority’ as undemocratic as that sounds. interesting to argue about with some people over booze and snacks.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If you could offer a link to the particular article where Mr. Taleb talks about the particular ‘tyranny of the minority’ he has in mind, that could be helpful. To think about, maybe to put into practice.

      2. Steve H.

        Quit pretending you can read my mind. And how are you on this blog by the way? You present a solution based on religious doctrine. Nothing will come of nothing.

        1. In the Land of Farmers

          I did not talk about religion. I spoke of Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad. If you do not know the difference here is a primer: People made religions out of the sacrifices they made.

          And if you do not think I do not know I am a hypocrite, and think I do not intend to stop being one, you are mistaken.

          1. Steve H.

            I regret the abrasiveness of my response. But for real, to come into a gathering, in our kindly hostess’ parlor, and holler at everyone to leave, is not helpful. I feel this place is a solution, not a problem.

            1. In the Land of Farmers

              If this place was a solution to climate change there would be no problem. This is not a criticism of the blog, it is just an objective truth.

              Less than telling people to leave, I am more so telling them to act.

              I am sure Yves would be the last one to clutch pearls at my exclamations.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        When you say no one is willing to sacrifice, you are painting with an overly broad brush. I believe many many people including myself are more than willing to sacrifice, but we need to make sure we aren’t going to starve.

        1. In the Land of Farmers

          If you are not even willing to risk starving you are not willing to sacrifice, and you do not see the urgency of the problem in the deepest pits of your heart.

          MLK knew early on that his life would be sacrificed, yet there he was.

          Can we all do this? No. Can we try? Yes. Being certain you are not going to starve is the exact opposite of sacrifice. You have no skin in the game. When Jesus said (and please, dispose of your knee jerk religious aversion for a moment) :

          “Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

          That is what he was talking about.

          It is that fear that keeps you from acting and keeps climate change chugging along.

          1. JCC

            “but we need to make sure we aren’t going to starve.”

            Note that he said “we”, not “I”, not to mention that it is life’s primary directive.

            Yes, we are going to need to sacrifice some things, in fact, it’s beyond need. Unfortunately we will sacrifice a lot of things at the rate society as a whole seems to be dealing with this.

            The fact is, people are already starving to death, sacrificing, due to the changes that have already occurred. It hasn’t solved a thing.

            Bottom line, it’s a human society problem, and sacrificing to the point of potential starvation won’t fix it. A large world-wide societal response is the only on-time solution which probably means an end to “capitalist democracies” as they’re defined today (maybe it would help to start thinking along the terms of “democratic capitalism”, i.e. socialism with a world-wide healthy society being the primary driver of consumption).

            So maybe “strong leadership” isn’t the answer, since it doesn’t exist considering the response so far. And even with one or two strong leaders pounding the anti-carbon gospel, just as the religious leaders mentioned above pounded their gospel of societal problems of their day, maybe a few hundred years after these new leaders are dead and gone, just like the religious leaders mentioned above, enough people will join the anti-carbon religion to do something about it… even though it will be too little, too late.

            No matter what, the situation will resolve. But right now, based on societal responses to the age of oil, it looks to me that in the long haul something other than the human meek will inherit the earth.

            1. knowbuddhau

              That all sounds great, and I certainly hope so.

              Things like “world-wide healthy society,” though, remind me of species-level reasoning.

              Why do two male rams butt heads like that? Is it for the betterment of the species? No, it’s bc that other guy won’t get off my damn rock. That’s my rock, and those are my ewes, and if he doesn’t back down, I will CRUSH HIM.

              People don’t live their day-to-day lives on a world-wide basis. We’re much more highly localized. The cumbersomeness of a world-wide bureaucratic apparatus to administer it boggles the mind.

              Co-operative relations among uniquely local populations, in regional aggregates of various orders, sure, but a singular yada yada yada? Doubt it.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Actually, when two rams butt heads during the butting season ( or rutting season), it IS for the betterment of species ram. The stronger male will usually defeat the weaker male, and contribute his stronger-strength genes to the offspring.

                There might be a better different example to use to inspire people to co-operate in shared co-survival groups.

            2. In the Land of Farmers

              Do you really think all the sudden the world at once is going to decide to fix climate change?

              It will take people really sacrificing, people ready to give up their lives. It was not a sudden societal change that fostered change in civil rights, it was individuals sacrificing with their lives through imprisonment and hunger strikes and facing down fire hoses.

              You said people are already starving and that so misses the point. Theirs is not voluntary starvation. Black people were starving during MLKs time, did that stop them from protesting with hunger strikes? See the sacrifice of Irom Chanu Sharmila and tell me you are even doing close than enough and that she is worthless.

              And what if this is just an unfixable problem and all this “concern” about climate change is just whistling past the graveyard, pretending to have hope in a hopeless situation. Frankly I think it is at that point based on the responses to my comment.

              1. JCC

                You’re obviously upset and frustrated about all this, just like most of the rest of us.

                First, Irom Chanu Sharmila is not fighting GW and I never told anyone she was worthless. I think she’s pretty impressive. But let’s say she was starving herself to death in order to fight GW… how many outside of India even know she exists? That’s one problem.

                Second, the starvation I mentioned, involuntary or not, is seen by those that have the power to actively address GW and some are trying very hard. But anyone or any group that could become powerful enough to lead would have to convince or fight those that embrace capitalism and individualism as a religion, including the attendant short-sightedness, and that are actively doing worse than nothing by denying GW and working hard at perpetuating the ongoing decline. It’s a very powerful group.

                Third, changing a few laws regarding Civil Rights is a far cry from changing our entire world environment. And even if it were equivalent, it is still far short of the intended societal goals 50 years later. Considering the outlook for runaway GW destruction is an even shorter time-frame, how is that a good example of what’s possible?

                Personally I think in all likelihood the 6th Mass Extinction due to human overpopulation, human pollution, and GW is an unfixable problem, mainly because I’m not sure any one person like Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammad (that you mentioned above) could show up and rally the entire world to solve all the myriad problems of human overpopulation combined with oil extraction and its negative “externalities” within the next 20 to 30 years, at least not based on the previous historical time-frame of change relative to these three.

                Short of gunplay, I have a hard time believing any other type of sacrifice would do any good in time, and even then it would have to happen very soon, be very quick, and be very organized.

                In other words, I agree with you. It’s potentially gonna be a long and miserable few hundred years for much of the wildlife on this planet.

                But meanwhile I’ll keep planting trees and riding my bike and taking trains. You never know, maybe a Canticle For Leibowitz is a valid description of the future, or with luck, a Retrotopea.

        2. RWood

          Over there.

          The dilemma lies before. What to do?
          so, stories:

          Outside the court, a statement was read on behalf of the three men:

          “Today’s decision affirms that when people peacefully break the law out of a moral obligation to prevent things such as the fossil fuel industry, they should not be sent to prison.

          “The fracking industry threatens to industrialise our beautiful countryside. It will force famine, flooding and many other disasters on the world’s most vulnerable communities by exacerbating climate change.

          “Fracking is beginning right now. So there has never been a more critical moment to take action. Your planet needs you.”

        3. KPC

          The gentleman’s comment is exactly NOT painting with an overly broad brush. He is correct.

          Sacrifice? Really? So, you are waiting for someone else to tell you how you are not going to starve while the gentleman who is a farmer produces your food for you for mere money.

          I am certainly not attacking “you” individually. I am using the plural “you” or ustedes en español.


      4. tangfwa

        And how would that help? Lifestyle choices of the virtuous will do nothing. Wholesale system change is called for. People like you are either saboteurs or just sad. Stop reading this blog, throw away my laptop and cellphone, disconnect my internet? Yeah right! Not on your life, bro!

        1. In the Land of Farmers

          Was MLK’s life a “lifestyle choice”. Yup. But I am not talking about recycling or changing your light bulbs. We are are way past that. And yes, it takes more than just doing this individually. It is doing it collectively with purpose. That is how Ghandi worked it as well.

          There is a quiet call for this collective action of protest, we see it in the people who stopped the refineries in Washington state. But without training people will be too scared to protest this way. We need more people willing to give up everything, and yes, that might mean your laptop and cellphone. If not, who is the sad one and who is the saboteurs?

          1. Tangfwa

            Gandhi was a tool of the British Empire who facilitated their already-planned exit strategy. But at least you’re willing to admit that individualism is a dead end. Stopping the refineries in Washington state was admirable but a NIMBY move tbh.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Enough successful NIMBY moves . . . if they could succeed . . . could add up to BANANA. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

      5. drumlin woodchuckles

        John Michael Greer has written versions of the same thing. One might call it “living one’s witness”.
        Here in America, if 50 million people did what they could of Deep Conservation Lifestyling within the limits imposed by our waste-based civilization, they would at least be respected enough to gain a hearing from their neighbors, even if not acceptance.

        One thing those 50 million Deep Conservers would be able to do is calculate how much of whatever would be conserved if the other 300 million Americans did the same. And then calculate whether that would be “enough” or not to de-warm the global. If 350 million people Deeply Conserving within the constraints of a waste-based civilization would not be enough to de-warm the global; at least the 50 million Deep Conservers would have the credibility to be heard when they make the case that even if all 350 million Americans were to Deeply Conserve personally, it would not be enough. And that therefor a majority-adopted and majority-forced re-engineering of technology and society and wants and wishes versus needs would have to be adopted and imposed on America at large.

        But it will have to start with 50 million Deep Conservers living their witness in public view.

        Hey! 50 million people voted for Clinton! They are goooooooood people. They say so themselves, so it must be true. They! could be the 50 million people to adopt the Deep Conservation lifestyle and Live Their Witness in public view.

        There’s a challenge for the Pink Pussy Hat Clintonites.

        1. Ian Ollmann

          It might work, but I fear there isn’t time for that. Certainly network effects are a prime factor in consumer choice and technology adoption. You need to have those first movers. There are some already, but I don’t think it has hit the 10% knee in the curve and may not before we are much too close to 2030. Even then, it will still take decades to move everyone over. There will be some that literally will die first before adopting more efficient tech.

      6. Ian Ollmann

        I don’t think it will take extreme sacrifice. There is enough slack in the inefficient way that we use energy that we can get much of the way there by simply switching technologies. Gas cars only convert 30% of their energy to forward motion. The rest is lost to heat. To be reductionist about it, mostly what they are are enormous space heaters, with some rather lame chugging movement capacity. (They compensate with overly enormous engines.) Unfortunately you can’t use them to heat your home because the exhaust is deadly as we all know. So, there is no Stanley the steam shovel recycling possible here. By comparison, EVs are closer to 95% efficient. This is why the MPGe on EV window stickers is usually in the 100+ range but with a gas car you are lucky to get 30 mpg.

        Similarly in heat, you can either make heat directly, which is a 1:1 conversion of fuel/ electricity to heat, or you can use a heat pump to move heat from here to there, which can be much cheaper since you are merely moving heat rather than creating it. There are heat pump water heaters too.

        Talk of extreme changes to lifestyles isn’t going to win many people over. Talk of nice $$ payback from installing solar will get attention though.

      7. ChiGal in Carolina

        Well said, sir/madam. I am astonished at the willful misreadings of your heartfelt comment. Just goes to show how uncomfortable it is to be challenged to ACT on what we profess to be our values.

        Yet if we do not act on them they are our values in name only.

        1. Tangfwa

          Acting on our values is lovely. Demanding that they have an effect on billions of people is typical American consumer narcissism/ exceptionalism. And liberal magical thinking!

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            He precisely suggested NOT making demands on others, but rather leading by example.

            Actions, not words…

      8. Adam Eran

        I’m not exactly sure what people hear when they hear “sacrifice”… And there are too many things that aren’t within the standard definition that would be the opposite of sacrificial, yet contribute to solving global warming.

        One example: building pedestrian-friendly, mixed use (stores and offices among the residences) neighborhoods with sufficient density (11 – 13 units per acre or more) to make transit and neighborhood commerce viable. This not only cuts vehicle miles traveled roughly in half (1/3 – 2/3), it’s where people prefer to live. I say that based on the premiums (40% – 600%) paid to live in such neighborhoods.

        …and this, not sprawl, could be the default if FNMA property standards mandated all new development happen this way before financing was available for them.

        …So…where’s the sacrifice?

        Incidentally, we got a plug-in hybrid. We’ve spent $40 in gas to drive more than 5K miles, and our electric bill is insignificantly different. Where’s the sacrifice?

        I’m sure it’s Pollyanna-ish to say such win-win steps are all that is going to be needed to solve global warming, if it’s solvable at all, but my bet is that the biggest sacrifice we’ll have to make is changing our way of thinking. As many issues covered by this blog have demonstrated, lots of our policy makers would rather die, or at least fail miserably, rather than change their minds.

  4. vlade

    We, as a species, suffer from what I call martingale time. We expect tomorrow to be pretty much the same as today, no matter what. We say we can imagine a future, but we really can’t – practically. We still expect it to be just an interpolation of today, no matter the change we lived through.

    That worked for us as a charm actually from evolutionary perspective. But now we’re changing us, and everything around us at a pace we just can’t cope. For better or worse, I can’t see a change in the direction until the catastrophe is upon us (see Brexit for example), or someone forces us by holding us to it. Which doesn’t work well with majority voting systems (there’s too much momentum there) – and often doesn’t even work with that forcing, as there was ever few and far between truly enlightened despots.

    1. PKMKII

      The martingale time also works in the other direction; we assume that yesterday was pretty much the same as today, and so perceive and project our current ideologies onto the past (Hence the “capitalism is human nature” arguments and the accompanying historical revisionism that rewrites market economies/societies into every era of human existence). Which amplifies both the sense of things being set in stone, and that our current ideology is so ingrained that to amend it will be chaos.

    2. knowbuddhau

      That’s an excellent point. Above someone noted people in pre-industrial times worked less, etc. Generation after generation knew what to expect.

      Today, not only is society changing quickly, the rate of change is, too. People are already overloaded, just trying to keep up, and on top of that we need entirely to rethink society while not going homeless and starving, thus (despite In the Land of Farmers excellent points) taking ourselves out of the game.

      You’ve got to be coming from somewhere of resilience to be of any help to any one else. And don’t @ me, please: I’m living on $150/week in order to live the life I choose. The point is, I’m still living, and I see a way forward for me and at least one other person, maybe two. That’s a start.

      All these people calling for world-wide system change: it works both ways. World-wide system change doesn’t happen at the world-wide level, and then trickle down. We each need to live sustainably as we can, starting last millennium, really, but now is good, too. That gives power to larger scale organizing and demands, setting up a virtuous cycle.

      Regarding getting the message right: yes, I think it matters a lot. I think that, on a per-society basis, stories playing on the right timeless themes can, in fact, are the only thing that will move enough people to change enough so that we, and as many of our non-human kin as humanly possible, make it through this latest bottleneck.

      1. Tangfwa

        How very nice for you that you’re doin great. I have a fabulous time in my fauxhemian anarcho-primitivist larping LA lifestyle too. Guess what: penny wise pound foolish is playing right into their hands. Self-sufficiency is unsustainable and mostly a lifestyle fetish. “Leading by example” is the most masturbatory shizzle I’ve heard in 2018 and that’s saying a lot.

  5. Romancing The Loan

    The idea that any vision for the future necessarily involves “cheap, green energy” is part of why this piece still comes off as insincere. Solar panels carpeting the earth won’t let us keep our cars – they’re built out of the sort of rare earth elements that aren’t present (or extractable without tons more fossil fuels) in the sort of quantities that would permit that. We still face the unsustainability of infinite growth on a finite planet. We’re way over our carrying capacity and we waste so much energy as it is. In that context the call for “billions of investment into clean energy and new technologies” instead of something that would actually make a meaningful difference in time to help – restructuring our economies to use much, much less energy (local/manual everything, goodbye internet) and maybe something like a worldwide one-child policy – sounds like the author’s crowd is just as willing to gamble with the future (give me lots of money and maybe I’ll come up with a way to save us!) as the conservatives (eh, it’ll probably be fine).

    Yves’s forward hits the real issue, imo, which is that the elites have to lead the way and they’d rather (their grandkids) die. People are apathetic because they have very little control over how much energy they use individually (compost away, but you need that car most places) and even less over their own governments that would allow for the changes necessary to even begin tackling the problem.

    Focusing on the imaginary positive and hand-wringing stories shaming powerless people for not “caring” enough about something they have no ability to affect seems guaranteed to make the problem worse, not better.

    1. Linden S.

      What is the end goal? What world are people trying to build?

      Your “insincerity” point is right on the money. Why would I be convinced by talk of sacrifice, mass collective action, etc. when the world that (non-grass roots) climate activists seem to want is just the same as today, but with less angst about climate change.

      1. Romancing The Loan

        For myself, John Michael Greer’s Retrotopia had the most realistic positive vision for a climate-change mitigating future that I’ve seen. I suspect the reaction of the current environmental movement to it would be gasps of horror and the insistence that no one would ever accept the vision of such a world. But to poor people it looks like quite an improvement over their current conditions.

        1. Carolinian

          I agree. We can’t cling to our current–often useless-obsession with materialism in the consumer sense and expect any climate change amelioration. Another Great Depression might do far more against AGW than all the possible changes in media messaging. Of course this would entail a great deal of suffering and perhaps even violence. The only other solution would likely be a scientific one involving climate modification–very risky and controversial.

          Re the above post the notion that that better messaging will somehow persuade people to act collectively is a longstanding left unicorn. AGW is very much a scientific, practical problem, not a narrative problem. But those whose business it is to produce narratives are the hammer that sees nails. There will be no easy and painless solution to this dilemma. In my very humble opinion.

        2. JCC

          I thought Retrotopia looked like an improvement for more than just the poor. I thought it suggested a viable and sensible future for everyone and a good model of a path to take in order to survive AGW for at least a few more centuries.

  6. Louis Fyne

    >>Climate change is a left-wing issue.

    Beyond the issue of sacrifice mentioned, even with climate change, for the left wing nuclear fission is a bigger spectre of evil than CO2-induced ocean acidification. But you need nuclear fission + renewables + sacrifice to bridge the gap of reducing fossil fuels.

    Journalists, activists are all ignoring the basic thermodynamics. Even at 3am on Sunday morning, civilization uses a vast amount of electricity and transportation fuel to keep 911, HVAC, hospitals, water pumps, and servers going. Wind/solar + batteries will not cut it.

    It’s extremely unlikely that there will be a magic Star Trek scientific breakthrough within the next 10 years that solves everything.

    the IPCC climate change report explicitly proposes to increase nuclear fission output by 100% to 500% over 2010 levels. page SPM-19 http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

    Find me an activist at the Sierra Club that will go on the local news and argue for more nuclear power plants.

    Meanwhile a entire generation of brand new natural gas (and coal) powerplants are being built around the world with nary a peep from Greenpace. I guess fracking and methane and coal aren’t so bad after all.


    1. jrs

      Well then how do you solve political problems like nuclear reactors located on soon to be flooded (or hit by hurricanes etc.) coastline (sometimes in earthquake zones as well, but as far as I know the odds of earthquakes is not yet being made worse by climate change). How do you protect nuclear power from the dangers of climate change? EVEN IF it could have worked in theory, it’s one of those things that could have worked if implemented 30 years ago before this level of climate chaos it sometimes seems.

        1. coboarts

          They can’t even protect high class race car fighter jets from rain and wind with days ahead warnings – and we really care about those

          1. Duck1

            France built out nuclear 30 years ago, now it is time to decommission a lot of the plants. Same for USA, where I think the absolute number of plants is larger than France. Gradually they will be taken out of service. Solution much?

            1. Scott Vande Pol

              If you want to see the requirements of sustainable energy, I suggest a brilliant book called “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air” by the late Cambridge physicist David MacKay. Although the analysis is focused upon Britain, there are extensions of the analysis to the USA. It is entertaining and factual. You only need high school level math to understand, but importantly, this book is not about ideology, it is about the math and physics of the problems we face. It is numeric in a satisfying way. For example, using the math you can calculate that for Massachusetts to achieve its energy needs using sustainable energy without nuclear, it will have to devote about 75% of its land area to energy collection by wind, photovoltaics, hydro, biomass. 75% of its land area. In contrast, using nuclear fission with recycling and breeder reactions as other countries are doing now, there is nearly 400 years of fission energy available in the USA today. The waste storage time is 1000 years, not 35K as fear mongers have been saying which is manageable.

              This seems like a numeric audience. I cannot recommend this book enough.

              It is a free PDF online.

      1. Louis Fyne

        no one is saying fission is risk-free. but the possilibty of one or more Fukushimas and Chernobyls better than the certainty of ocean acidification from CO2.

        Everything is all about relative risk—-hence why society tolerates 25,000 annual US traffic deaths and 200,000 annual premature American deaths from air pollution.

        just sayin.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          “… the possibility of one or more Fukushimas and Chernobys (is) better than the certainty of ocean acidification from CO2.”

          That statement ignores the probabilities that will lead to certainties: to develop nuclear fission on the scale you call for guarantees many more Fukushimas and Chernobyls, while also ignoring the conventional thermodynamics (all the fossil fuels needed in the process that results in fission-generated energy) and the waste issue.

          Even before the catastrophic risks are factored in (there’s a reason private insurers refused to insure the plants, and it was done by the federal government), nuclear fission is an economic loser.

        2. knowbuddhau

          You make it sound so rational. Like we all got to decide on how many lives to sacrifice to which modern god.

          There’s a helluva lot more going into why we tolerate traffic deaths and pollution deaths. (37,461 KIT in 2016, btw.)

          Decisions on which multibillion dollar energy projects go forward have very little to do with environmental and public health risks.

          Right, so on our already overloaded plate, let’s add a technology that creates more problems than it solves (helluva way to boil water), with the potential for unsolvable catastrophic failure.

          How’s that Fukushima “clean-up” going? Did you fill out and return your risk/reward survey on that?

        3. The Rev Kev

          Sorry, but that is a There Is No Alternative argument that by definition precludes a whole suite of different technologies from being adopted. Just a week or so the Japanese said that they were going to be dumping radioactive water into the Pacific so how does that work out for risk and fishing alone? And which millennia is it that people can go back to living near Chernobyl again?

      1. Grebo

        There is enough uranium to last us until we have perfected fusion, or thorium, or fast breeders. Or batteries that are good enough, say 5 or 10 times as good as current ones.

        We all need to use less energy, and what we do use more efficiently. Americans will have to lower their energy use to the level of the miserable Europeans or Japanese.

        Fission may get us over the hump to the new regime. Without it the chances are slim.

    2. KPC

      You and others with your views with respect to nuclear power plants or nuclear anything are literally certifiably insane.

      You want links? The links let alone scientific data are so numerous as they would crash this web site where I to engage in that activity. Even google is your friend on this one.

        1. KPC

          Where precisely did I say anything, ya or nay, with respect to IPCC or any politician on planet earth?

          Not even a half decent attempt at less than mature deflection from the issue at hand.

          Do you presume that I am actually from or in USA?

          USA, in my view, is the very vortex of this entire problem, sir.

  7. Linden S.

    One thing I ask myself a lot is: how is climate change different from past “Western” environmental crises? A non-exhaustive, overlapping list:

    Habitat loss/mass extinction
    Water pollution/runoff
    Pesticide/herbicide/etc. overuse
    Air pollution, ozone hole (some success stories..)

    I guess one way climate change is different is that wealthy nations will be *forced,* at some point, to acknowledge climate change, whereas previous crises mostly impacted poor countries or poor people in wealthy countries.

    How did the messaging on those previous crises change over time? When were they declared “fixed”? I think a fundamental flaw of climate communication is acting like this is something new when it doesn’t really feel new at all, it is just finally the crisis too big too ignore.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      As Jared Diamond pointed out in his book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, humans faced localised climate change crises many times in the past. Sometimes (say, 17th Century Japan, various Pacific Islands), they rapidly and decisively changed direction to save themselves. Sometimes (for example, Greenland Vikings), they refused to change, and perished.

      Unfortunately, I suspect that the difference between the survivors and the non-survivors, was the good (or bad) fortune to have good leadership. That doesn’t bode well for us.

      1. Wukchumni

        The huge difference being complexity. That’s not to say that ancient cultures weren’t advanced in their way, but it was a simpler life where people made do with what was around.

        Last month when I was in L.A., stopped into Sunland Produce* in Sun Valley, and bought an ice cream bar made in Latvia!

        * an amazing array of veggies & fruits, and way cheaper than chain supermarkets, plus lots of funky food (the owners are Armenian-Americans)

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          The huge difference being this is not local but planetary. The coordination and agreement of the problem alone, particularly the extent, is daunting.

    2. False Solace

      None of those crises are past. They are ongoing and continuing. CFCs are still being produced in China. Aquifers are running dry. Habitat loss hasn’t stopped. I’m not sure what distinction you’re trying to draw between the West and everywhere else. I guess deforestation has improved in developed countries thanks to companies who replant trees in order to harvest them later, but if air pollution has improved that’s mainly due to offshoring industry, not cleaning it up.

    3. heresy101

      You are correct that global warming is only one of the problems that are facing the planet, but all are solvable if people would stop the doom and gloom and get behind solutions (probably ballot initiatives because most politicians are corrupt). Pesticides and herbicides can be ended but it requires a struggle and not trying emigrate to where the 1% is going.

      Electricity usage has flattened in the last 10 years and will only go up as more electric cars are adopted. Table 7.6 https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/index.php?tbl=T07.06#/?f=M The utility I work for has had to revise our electric sales forecasts downwards due to the declining electric usage.

      About 1/2 the coal plants have shut down or are shutting down and Trump’s efforts to keep them going are failing. Solar and wind are intermittent but battery storage is growing and becoming cheaper (not just lithium batteries). Several banks are saying fracking well production over time is falling and will be on the way out in about 10 years.

      Offshore wind will be a huge factor in the future as Yves had in the links Sept 2017. https://techxplore.com/news/2017-10-turbines-coast-scotland-renewable-energy.html Check the video. These turbines are 6MW and the next generation in 2022 will be 12MW. To give and idea of the output, most turbines are around 1-2MW among the 2,000 turbines in Solano County California. The ones our small municipal utility contracts for are 1.2MW and have a capacity factor of 28% (generate 28% of the year). It would take about 6,000 of the 12MW turbines to generate all of California’s annual electric usage because the CF is 40-50% in the open ocean! It would take some 400,000 turbines to cover the world’s electric usage but the ocean is large and solar would provide a huge resource also.

      Rather than wringing hands over things that can be resolved, we need to focus on preserving endangered species that will be gone if nothing is done, stop over fishing, and end bee-killer chemicals, Roundup, and dicamba. Doom and gloom doesn’t help.

      There are some of us that question if the warming that is predicted will be warmer than the Medieval Warm Period. Even if it is not, we need renewable energy to clear the air, stop oil spills, stop polluting the water, destroying animal habitat, and end blowing up mountains for coal!

      Oh, I just sent in my donation. Other procrastinators should do likewise.

      1. Ian Ollmann

        Battery storage still has a way to go. I was looking at getting one for my house but the market looks really immature. The battery prices are reasonable, but the $12,000 control unit to use the battery is ridiculous. There is only one or maybe two companies even producing products in most places. Tesla redirected battery production to cars, so you just can’t get Powerwall units now. There needs to be a revolution in battery production scale.

        1. heresy101

          Saw this in the trade press a couple of weeks ago, but here is the LA Times link: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-zinc-air-battery-20180926-story.html

          Nantenergy claims some 3,000 systems worldwide.
          From their 315KWh example of 12 x 40 unit storage boxes, the 40 unit is about 26 kWh. If their price of $100/kWh is real, they need to start planning a “Terafactory” because these will massively sell unless there is a technical fault.


  8. Henry Moon Pie

    I followed up on the post’s reference to Katherine Hayhoe and found this interesting profile of her and her work in Texas Monthly.

    Important point from that article:

    And part of the reason is the suspicions that conservatives have of government intervention. Hayhoe has found that some people don’t reject the reality of climate change because they disagree with the science but because they fear that the solutions will upend their lives. This seems to be the case for U.S. senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, who once told journalist Rachel Maddow, “I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost.”

    (I know. Referring to Russia!Russia!Russia! Maddow as a journalist?)

    The Madmen have spent 100 years transforming us from human beings into homo consumptor. They have succeeded so well that many of the affluent among us can hardly imagine existing without a 4,000 sq. ft house 40 miles away from work, a new SUV every two or three years to get us back and forth and annual trips to exotic places on the other side of the globe. Climate denialism at this level is not a PR campaign funded by the Kochs but a nearly innate trait of the well-off, and it’s denial in the Kubler-Ross sense.

    Ms. Hayhoe is making a moral argument based on Evangelical theology. This makes a lot of sense considering that her target audience is in Texas, but it’s also possible to make moral arguments without that theological background. How can anyone defend humanity’s “right” to destroy what may be–at least as far as we know–the only planet that nurtures life as varied and complex as what surrounds us? Who wants to justify turning that nurturing Earth into a hotbox for our children and grandchildren?

    The Texas Monthly article provided several examples of people who accepted the reality of anthropogenic climate change but balked at government enforcement of lifestyle changes. It’s easy to see how only very intrusive government intervention would be effective in these circumstances, something very few would enjoy.

    A fundamental change is required in our conception of the “good life” if the level of needed change is to be accomplished. It will need to be seen as immoral to live in a over-sized house or drive an over-sized vehicle or fly for pleasure. Living simply will need to be seen as noble rather than shameful. People will need to have the moral strength to quit jobs that are special contributors to global warming.

    None of this seems easy, likely, maybe even possible. It’s easy to understand from this perspective how Leary, Alpert and others advocated mass use of LSD to engender a mass change in consciousness.

    1. Anonylisa

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this analysis. I live in an affluent Texas suburb, and I see that problem exactly here. Having grown up modestly in a much poorer state, the level of constant consumption here is staggering. In have to put real, honest energy into making my children understand the value of THINGS. That they are NOT disposable, NOT instantly replaceable…not trash. Their peers have seemingly endless disposable income, so they regularly trash and lose their possessions. The lost and found table at the elementary school looks like Nordstrom Rack.

      Everyone drives the largest vehicles they can buy, their sons get giant trucks at age 16. They travel all over (which i admit to being jealous of). The idea of having less and using less is an anathema to them. Unimaginable. Then put the idea that the government is going to FORCE you to have less, and they totally lose it.

      Thats why your point is so true. Living simply needs to be respected and desired. Here in the South, it needs to be the Christian thing to do.

      1. Christ on a Bike

        These are some of the people I know and love, from a little less affluent part of Texas but still you describe them well. I’ve been reading these comments from their eyes, and this entire page of well-meaning, educated words here might as well be written in Martian. Simply penetrating their awareness is a huge job. But that I think of how far and fast marriage equality and marijuana policy have come in a handful of years and I know it’s somehow possible. Somehow. ????

    2. a different chris

      I don’t know where the author lives now, but his/her offhand considering of the options of “moving to London” or maybe Canada sounds pretty enviro-unfriendly to me. How many trips, I assume by plane at least in the Canada case, will be necessary to shop for and secure the new homestead?

      Good grief. No wonder the Deplorables get incensed.

    3. JohnnyGL

      “A fundamental change is required in our conception of the “good life” if the level of needed change is to be accomplished.” – THIS!!!!

      The appropriate amount, and source of energy consumption is an open question and I don’t think there’s a consensus on what either should be.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Yes, this, exactly. Not sure what is meant by “level of needed change.” That fundamental change is already badly needed, independent of the accomplishment.

        We can’t go on doing the wrong the thing and calling it the good life. Being a decent earthling, with respect for all our kin, needs no justification.

        If we were really rational, there’d be a reckoning of the proper place of high-tech & heavy industry in our lives. We did just fine for 300,000 years, but it’s all gone to hell in a few short centuries.

        How TF did that happen?

      2. Ian Ollmann

        Let’s start with less. A lot less. The IPCC report says 70% less.
        Do that, then we can reevaluate.

  9. Hameloose Cannon

    People see two distinct landscapes. In one direction is the man-made landscapes of our cities and farms. The other is natural landscapes, dark ocean battering rocky coast. Trees stretching to the edge of cliffs. This inspires an unconscious desire to see the natural and the man-made worlds collide, an integration, to become the architectural ruins a jungle reclaims, and an urban landscape drowned. The outcome seems inevitable and just, seeing our banal frustrations recede into a future’s past. The destination of all civilizations. Vines across temples. A crumbling Colosseum. Climate crisis feels like what we deserve, the bill becoming due. Anthropocene extinction seems almost a relief, a homecoming.

  10. JEHR

    One thing for sure will get everyone’s attention: when the climate catastrophe(s) affects each person individually, then each person will believe and, perhaps, act. There is something about human beings which allows them to know they are destroying the earth and themselves but makes it impossible for them to act until it occurs. We are all living on the slopes of the volcano called “climate change.”

    1. Wukchumni

      I don’t know, a thinking person might come up with plan B’s…

      One of mine is something I hope we’d never have to utilize, but caves are all around us, and they keep a constant temperature of around 50-55 degrees.

      If Mother Nature say, throws a prolonged 135 @ us, we’d be sitting pretty under blankets.

      As a society, why aren’t we building harbors inland now, in anticipation of the ocean rising?

      If trading stops because the old ones aren’t up to the task, the world comes to a crashing halt.

      1. a different chris

        >If Mother Nature say, throws a prolonged 135 @ us, we’d be sitting pretty under blankets.

        Eating what? Each other?

        1. Wukchumni

          I could probably carry 2 weeks of food in a backpack with minimal creature comforts aside from a sleeping bag and 1+ change of clothes. Most every cave has water in it, so that’s not an issue.

          Beyond that, i’d have to count on my skills in getting back to more food by walking @ night if something wickedly hot this way came that wanted us off the planet in a hurry, hopefully under a moon that’s full, so as to not waste batteries.

          It’s just an escape hatch they few have ever thought of, lest even to be in close proximity to.

      2. KPC

        Another helpful discussion. So, we can just wait and do literally nothing with respect to limiting our personal consumption and more because we can all hide out in caves.

        This is always so very helpful to those of us in law and diplomacy who have worked our entire lifetimes to help fix this mess. Just so very helpful… .

        Well, carry on.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’ve been reading the pipedream schemes on here of all of us singing Kumbaya and swearing off of oil and cars, and I think i’ll stick with the caveman routine instead, if the shift hits the fan.

          1. KPC

            It is hitting the fan, so you might head for the caves now?

            Florida? There was at least one major US Treasury facility sitting in the midst of that debacle not to fail to mention a few of those n-power plants with decades of spent fuel rods on premises. If in doubt on the plants, check our Arnie Gunderson.

            God bless that we still do have a few saints working long hours with US Treasury because that not only deals with your tax regimes, it is also the entire US dollar conveyancing system which prints dollar with abandon. Yes, MMT works… .

            1. Wukchumni

              Thanks for the spelunking advice-i’ll pack now, and i’m not really sure what the other gibberish was in regards to endless printing of money only enabled by some hallowed Florida entity, so it’ll have to remain a mystery.

              1. Wukchumni


                There are fairly easy make-shift caves available to all that have the space for a 20 or 40 foot TEU container to be buried say 5 feet under dirt. You’d need air shafts as well.

                Used ones are $1-2k per, and excavating et al another $5k. Your on your own as far as furnishing it, making a covered doorway, etc.

                A different kind of fallout shelter, to be sure.

                I’m always amazed at the quick temperature differential once I get barely beyond the mouth of a cave, snap! like that.

          2. Ian Ollmann

            It isn’t going to work. Pre colonization population of the US was about 300,000, with a healthy supply of game. IF we turn back that clock, 99.9% must die to make room. At least in the short term, you can rely on cannibalism, but after a while the living is going to get really hard and game nonexistent.

            1. Eclair

              “Pre colonization population of the US was about 300,000 ….”

              Actually, population of North America was in the millions, maybe as high as 18 million, before European diseases decimated the Indigenous people. Much lower than our current population, of course.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        Trading is a major cause of global warming. If the ocean rises enough to destroy all the ports with no new ones being built, perhaps that will reduce the carbon skyloading. And the world will not stop.
        Modern civilization may well stop. But modern civilization is not “the world”.

        The Wukchumni Indians got along just fine without Trade. They had all the acorns they needed to avoid starvation.

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        Trade is a major reason that modern civilization causes global warming. If trade stopped, modern civilization might stop. But modern civilization is not “the world”.

        The Wukchumni Indians had all the acorns they wanted without any ports and without any trade.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’ve eaten acorn gruel, and lets just say it’s a grueling eat, not something i’d look forward to eating 2/3rds of the time, as the people here did, but it’s a foodstuff.

          And no tribe was an island unto itself, trading went on between all sub-tribes of the Yokut, as each clan had something that was if not unique to the area, very useful.

          Want some of those lightweight broad tule reeds for your thatched roof, you’d have to get it from the tribe near now dried out Tulare Lake, sick of using chert for arrowheads?, walk across the Sierra and meet up with the Paiute who have obsidian, and think acorns are the bomb, because none grow on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and they’re ecstatic that you’ll trade some for stupid obsidian, which is all over the place.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            This Trade between the Tribes required exactly Zero bunker oil burned in Zero engines of Zero ships. And it required Zero coastal ports. It also required zero airplanes shipping zero anything by airfreight.

            If all the ports die in a rising ocean, the world will not stop. Modern industrial civilization might stop. Those expressions of modern industrial civilization which have Powered Down to an eco-viable Retrotopian re-working might not stop.

            1. Wukchumni

              When the 2,000 or so Wukchumni were just a few generations away from obliteration via measles and had never probably seen a white man, oblivious to them, Richard Henry Dana was a few hundred miles away, on a sailing ship that was that Wal*Mart of it’s era, full of finished Boston goods to ply the local Californios with.

              Trade has always existed in some guise…

              I remember in the mid 1980’s, the contents of a found sunken Spanish galleon in the Philippines full of Ming dynasty porcelain was auctioned off in the Netherlands, stuff like that.

            2. Wukchumni


              There wasn’t money here per se as we’d know it, but shells were the rarest common item (none of the natives gave a rat’s patootie in regards to the precious) and came from the longest distance away, where they weren’t hard to find, and it was all about the carry trade-no horses-no wheels, to move them inland, where the value increased the further they went eastward.

              The tribe that had favored acorns from Black Oak trees, might not have wanted your Live Oak acorns in trade, because they were inferior in taste, but would’ve cut a deal if you had some awesome shells, dude.

              Shells & the shell game of fiat money don’t really seem all that different to me…

    1. Edward E

      They have very selective reading abilities…
      “Not only temperature, absolutely nothing that is occurring now in either weather or climate is anywhere near out of the ordinary over the past 10,000 years. No evidence that the rate of change has increased, or the frequency of severe weather, or anything.” – Patrick Moore, Greenpeace co-founder

      1. pretzelattack

        he didn’t found or cofound greenpeace. why don’t you link to some peer reviewed study that refutes the science?

  11. PlutoniumKun

    I wish I knew an answer to this question. A key problem with climate change issues is that the problem is so multifaceted that it makes it all too easy to lure people into a false sense of security by tackling one aspect of the problem (say, expanding the use of solar energy, encouraging recycling, more organic farming), while not tackling the problems at root. At this stage, only a complete worldwide ban on new fossil fuel exploration and extraction, with all this means for the world economy will save us.

    Its not simply a matter of awareness and politics. Just look at China – the leadership there are very aware of climate change (a high proportion of the CCP leadership are engineers, well familiar with the dependence of China on water flows), there is no substantial group of deniers, and they have the advantage of not having too much legacy infrastructure in place, and they have the resources to spend trillions. Yet, despite this, even with the best of intentions, they keep getting dragged off course by ‘events’. First the need to expand their industrial base very rapidly – this could only be done by using coal. Then the pull to use more gas to address air pollution problems. Then the political problem of what to do with the millions of unemployed if they shut down all their outdated steel plants. So they invest huge amounts in renewables, hydro and nuclear, but still can’t fundamentally reduce their emissions.

    It is of course far too late for individual action to make any sort of difference. Only a minority of people will voluntarily change their lifestyles in the fundamental way needed. So only very decisive political action at the very top will work. It would have to involve most of the major powers co-operating on this, not just to take action, but to actively tackle those countries that don’t co-operate (for example, a Bolsonario led Brazil that decides to hack down its Amazon for beef).

    The start has to be by opposing all politicians who don’t take it seriously. And thats nearly all of them.

    1. Linden S.

      100000x yes: “The start has to be by opposing all politicians who don’t take it seriously. And thats nearly all of them.”

      I have been talking about climate things in relation to get-out-the-vote this fall and I feel like if I am making any difference at all, it is in the long run. It seems like younger people running for office take it as as fundamental truth that we need to act on climate in a way that current politicians mosty fail to, so that gives me hope that the conversation around 2020, 2024 and beyond will be about true action. I think if the next generation of Democrats embraced it as a real issue (just like supporting M4A) they would generate excitement and support in a huge way. Asking a lot, of course.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      The start has to be by opposing all politicians who don’t take it seriously. And that’s nearly all of them.

      Many of these politicians do take it seriously, but take getting re-elected more seriously still and they don’t like to tell people what people don’t want to hear; especially if it involves sacrifice. It’s much easier to encourage the opposite (it’s all a left wing scam) and worry about the future when it comes. It doesn’t help that short term profit/gains now and leave the cost and consequences to others later, is one of the core tenets of our capitalist system (just look at big business and their CEO’s and executives that have kids AND actually have the resources to know how serious climate change is and how utterly insane it is that they push in the opposite direction) and this short term view saturates the daily reality of just about all politicians regardless of stripe and hue. It’s a remarkable effort for them to even think outside of that frame.

      Moreover, the problem of climate change in the US has been brilliantly defined as “left wing” which has itself been brilliantly defined as everything evil under the sun to the point that people can be carried away by floods and they will think biblical thoughts before they think plain common sense. To acknowledge climate change is to be left wing is to be the contemptuous filthy Communist nerd you were brought up to hate and loath. It’s hard to describe just how low level that has gone. So even if these people -Democrats (lip service) and Republicans (core beliefs) alike – wanted to suddenly acknowledge climate change and what is actually required to address it, it would be an enormously difficult, embarrassing and self incriminating task.

      The only way the right can shift climate change to an accepted part of their ideology while staying in character is to start re-writing history to paint themselves as the ones who first recognized the problem and how they have been desperately trying to get the evil left to come to grips with the issue before it is too late. That would work and might be a small price to save the planet. Democrats would follow faster than the Republican shadows that they are.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        A conservation-lifestyling culture of tens of millions of members might be able to support a political movement of those tens of millions of members. That movement might be able to dominate politics in some electoral jurisdictions to the point where it can force the election of Hard DeCarbonization officeholders committed to Make No Compromise/ Take No Prisoners/ Shoot The Hostages approaches to Forced Hard DeCarbonization across the political system.

        Those who think that might be a social-evolutionary approach to building the power needed to conquer some political strongpoints might well give it a several-decades try.

    3. knowbuddhau

      “It is of course far too late for individual action to make any sort of difference. ” I think that’s utterly bullshit.

      I don’t expect to save the world by living as sustainably as I can, but that’s no excuse not to.

      You don’t have to save the whole world to live in balance, like every other earthling does. We are organisms who extract vastly more energy than we need at rates far beyond replenishment, excrete vastly more pollution per pound than any other organism ever, and we act like that’s perfectly “natural.”

      Changing the world starts with changing yourself.

      Pretty tired of people making excuses for not living like a decent earthling. So what if it doesn’t save the world? You really need a carrot or a pat on your head to do the right thing?

    4. KPC

      From your comment:

      “It is of course far too late for individual action to make any sort of difference.”

      OK. Then lets get on with forcing it both via strict enforced regulation and education, education and education and education by first last and always living the principles we teach.

      As for Brazil, I do not think you are from Brazil. Your job is to fix your house. Our job is to fix our house.

      Then we might discuss the law which can trump nation state constitutional when faced with violence. And failing to change our behavior in this areas is violence. Done.

    5. Ian Ollmann

      The start is the realization that waiting for other people to do things means it isn’t going to happen. Do what you can, in a big way, now. I don’t mean making sure the lights aren’t left on. I mean big changes in the way you power your house and the car you drive. If it involves burning stuff, stop!

  12. Ignacio

    I applaud this post. Bravo!. The author gets a lot of things rigth.

    In Gaius’ post i tried to explain something that this post makes clear but it was somehow lost on its way to the server or by my frequent ineptitude with the keyboard. The example I wrote about explained how the media yet ignore climate change and contamination when it would adequately address our day by day problems. In a whassap group I belong in which most members live in the same neiborhood, somebody posted a link to a news site that basically said that “Telefónica begs your pardon for the traffic jams”. Telefónica (spain’s number 1 telecom company) was basically admitting that their employees working in their huge offices nearby were commuting by car and causing traffic jams in this neiborhood. I responded this post saying that traffic jams were the least of the problems Telefonica was bringing. I particularly would say CONTAMINATION AND ASSOCIATED HEALTH PROBLEMS as much bigger issues. Tell me, when you have flu this season how many will manifest neumonia, particularly by the elder, because contamination has made our lungs more sensitive. That is a real problem, not staying for longer in your car while you are listening music in the radio in the midst of the traffic.

    Prompted by this issue it should be possible to press Telefónica harder to address their employee commuting problem, reduce oil consumption etc. Reducing it to simple inconvenience is something that serious media shouldn’t do.

    1. a different chris

      So, am I getting this correctly – Telefonica, a telecom company, needs people to physically show up in order to do their jobs? Awesome.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Right, because there’s no benefit to having a centralized location for all the paperwork, all the meetings, any actual infrastructure, etc. Everyone can just work from home, they’re not doing anything there anyway, right? Everyone has equal access to the necessary equipment and services, and home office space where they can work uninterrupted.

        Get real. Telecom doesn’t mean “no physical presence.”

    2. JTMcPhee

      Expecting a corporate “person” to “do something?” Telefonica maybe would merge with Uber, and end of discussion? “Look, what do you people want? We took action, action item ticked! All the other corporate person get to shed all externalities – why should iTelifonica have to eat the ones I profit from?”

  13. cnchal

    > Climate scientists are pushing the button but the warning lights remain dark.

    Oh no. The warning lights are on, and being ignored.

    I have been ignoring my check engine light for a decade, so have lots of practice ignoring warning lights, especially when they are orange.

  14. Synoia

    The solution requires 5 to 6 Billion people to die, without reproducing.

    Good luck with that marketing campaign.

    1. Louis Fyne

      all it takes is 3 weeks’ worth of hunger and i’d bet lots of people would say “sure! as long as it’s not me.”

    2. BillC

      Nope. Maybe just 500 million or less. Eliminating the wealthiest quartile of the north American and western European population (i.e., us, the “credentialed class,” and the masters we serve) would probably suffice to halt the current atmospheric CO2 increase. The remaining world population has a much smaller environmental footprint per person.

      1. Synoia

        You are assuming that a very protected segment of the population could be eliminated. It is more likely they will survive until they run out of stored resources.

        The actual survivors are most like to be hunter-gatherers today. The are a some in the Amazon, Africa, and in the Island chains north of Australia (not a complete list).

      2. ewmayer

        And what makes you think somehow magically eliminating the top 10% (or whatever) would prevent a new credentialed uberclass from forming? Kicking down is alas a deeply ingrained part human nature – easy to be solidarity-minded when you are amongst the similarly miserable; the real test is what you do when a windfall comes your way.

        I’m with Synoia – the reason for the ‘ignoring’ is that the only genuine solution is simply unpalatable to most folks, and especially to the classes that need masses of hoi polloi to serve as cheap labor and cannon fodder: the earth needs far fewer people, who use far fewer resources per person on average.

        But having kids, being surrounded by our fellow species members and being well-fed, warm and comfortable are even more deeply ingrained than kicking down, as all these things are concomitants of the evolutionarily selected ‘survive and thrive’. One can argue that having the reasonaing faculties to ponder this stuff was very much of an evolutionary accident, but the urge to procreate and consume was most definitely not. In other words, the very same things that made us successful as a species are inimical to our long-term existence on the planet because they turn into negatives ‘at scale’, and scale is the very definition of species success for a highly adaptable omnivore. ‘Can we adapt our way out of this one?’ is the existential question.

    3. KPC

      You are so helpful with this discussion. Classic postmodernism.

      So, I guess you are an exception to every rule…and, thus, will do nothing in terms of changing your behavior so others might have a decent quality of life?

      One of the marks of the postmodern problem is the inability to face issues like one’s mortality. This personal and cultural immaturity is one of the very sources of our postmodern problem all the way to climate change. This evidences in nonsense like the “singularity”, running off to terraform Mars so we can escape after we trash our home and so on.

      I think you might find some of the recent discussion of Jaron Lanier now returned to Microsoft a bit helpful in this regard? Ain’t no such thing as “artificial intellengence” for starters and machines do need a little repair, maintenance and replacement from time to time which always source in human beings? Here is wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaron_Lanier

  15. Anarcissie

    Let’s assume there is a ruling class. Not just the apparent collection of thugs and thieves, but an actual, self-recognizing ruling class. There is some basis for such a belief. Such a class can get good science if it wants, and pay attention to it, and will. It is also obvious that except under dire circumstances they can manufacture consent, which is what we observe.

    Then this ruling class is well aware of impending climate catastrophe and has at least a vague plan for dealing with it. It would be well to find out about this plan, which, given the values of the rulers, is probably some version of ‘dog eat dog and devil take the hindmost, except for us and ours.’ The 1% living in favored redoubts, etc.

    Understanding of this, the political situation, might be a first step toward doing something about it. There might be weak points in the scheme which could be attacked. Where someone could pop a panel off and insert a wrench between the wheels. Things are not going to be nice anyway.

    Suggestions about government policy and ‘let’s get everybody to understand X’ are not going to work because the r.c. know how to control the government and the public discourse, or at least they have so far.

    1. cnchal

      > Then this ruling class is well aware of impending climate catastrophe and has at least a vague plan for dealing with it. It would be well to find out about this plan . . .

      Theil has a plan. Retreat to his NZ bunker. So, what happens when the granite counter top get’s a scratch? Live with it or let the dawg collared help out of the dungeon to cut a new slab from the mine a hundred miles away and drag it back and refinish the counter top?

      Musk and Bezos have a plan. Shoot themselves into space. But what happens when a rocket nozzle gets plugged with some crap and Bezos has to get into his space suit and get out the riffler file to clean it, if he remembered to bring a riffler file in the first place?

      There is not enough division of labor where the elite plan to hide out, to make it worthwhile hiding out.

      Hmmmm. What to do?

      Tax the crap out of Theil, Bezos and Musk (include Captain greed or as he is commonly referred to as Uncle Warren in that crowd) to pay people to do nothing. Call it a jawb guarantee, your jawb is to do nothing.

      1. KPC

        Thank you.

        You get this issue and you know how to say this thoughtfully and appropriately.

        Tragically, of course, this issue of maturity is in no way limited to a few fools with a corner on mere money. The issue has metastasized, in my way of thinking, and can be seen in some Pew Foundation studies and others showing, for example, the apparent number of people in USA who think torture is “OK or works real good” as well as some of the poverty levels and health care metrics we now see in USA.

        How very horrible for those people in USA as well as the rest of us. We had so hoped that never again, nada mas… .

        Poco a poco. There is hope.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      > Then this ruling class is well aware of impending climate catastrophe and has at least a vague plan for dealing with it.

      Yes to the first part, no to the second part. At least no plan as a class. (As noted, certainly a lot of individual planning.)

    3. Eclair

      Nice observation, Anarcissie: “Such a class can get good science if it wants, ….. It is also obvious that except under dire circumstances they can manufacture consent.”

      This is the possible situation that has been niggling at the edges of my consciousness. When the US declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941, the war machine was already set to go. Plans were in place. The ‘manufacture consent’ machine had been working to prime the populace to accept and love war. All that was needed was a flash point: Pearl Harbor.

      The US Military has acknowledged the reality of climate change; DOD and the various branches have websites devoted to it. The insurance industry has been planning for it for years. It’s like, the best kept secret around.

      Meanwhile, on the home front, the population are alternately lulled by 258 (and counting) cable channels filled with zombie and armageddon flicks and Reality shows, and fake-ish news and Social Media that encourage our hatreds of black and brown people, muslims, chardonnay-sipping liberals, women, fundamentalist christians, republicans, democrats, socialists, capitalists, unrepentant southern confederates, politicians, egg-headed intelligentsia, the homeless …. did I miss someone?

      Then, there is the portion of the population that is drugged out; meth, alcohol, prescription pain killers, anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds. Slow motion suicide for this group. (See Case-Deaton.)

      Now, the reality might well be that a large portion of the population is coping with the knowledge of climate change and the disruption it will bring by denying its reality … and Netflix and drugs are just a handy way to do it. It’s not really a part of a Plan. But, OTOH, our so-called leaders (can I abbreviate that as SCL?) are not exactly stopping this slide into anomie and despair.

      So, we hitch up our pants, realize that a substantial portion of the population are not going to act, our SCL’s are manufacturing dull acceptance of TINA … and it’s up to the rest of us to do …. what? … We need a plan.

  16. John

    The high end are loitering, waiting, maybe the problem of overpopulation and the great unwashed will sort itself out a bit.

    The low end feel disenfranchised and that they have no power. Knowing the high end do no labor of their own, and that they are already used to hard times, maybe this will be karmic and the great equalizer.

    The middle have so many Iv lines into them draining them at every turn, exhausted, they don’t have much time to think.

    Also the level of misinformation out there in all aspects of life worth manipulating leaves every calloused. What should I believe anymore when so much info is misrepresented and skewed to someone’s agenda.

    So… will anything happen? Even if the masses act can they offset the bad actors who have the resources and gall to not care?

    Some will assuredly floor it heading to the edge of the cliff with scotch and a cigar cackling about the ride of their life trying to time the drop to their own expiration date. Yells of YOLO with drinks thrust up in the air as they zoom by.

    1. KPC

      How horrible is this thing called despair. It is in the human soul from which this cries.

      The remedy, I think, is to find some small bit of hope, some grace, if you will. It is there, you know.

      Then, somehow, each and every day, just do one thing as the person above so eloquently said. Do just one thing, small or grand, which is firmly within your control and that of no other human soul.

      May peace and grace return.

        1. polecat

          I’m off my ass alot of the time .. digging, planting, pruning, composting, harvesting, being the keeper of chickens, bees, other insects and neo dinosaurs ..
          The rest of my time is here, in a chair .. physically inactive .. perusing the digital ether, and finding it less comforting by the day ! People, pundits, and politicos all give lips service to say, proposing ‘basic income schemes of one sort or another, or doing the right ‘green’ thing do juor .. but for all of my hard work on the polecat suburban homestead, I’m still in the negative $bread$wise .. and no doubt looked upon as a ‘loser’ by those doing ‘paid-by-pulling-up-ones’-bootstraps’ gigs .. not that I don’t find satisfaction in my efforts ..

          Such is life in a world surrounded by 21st century narcissists.

  17. Andrew in New Alexandria

    “Surviving Progress”, a documentary presenting the work of anthropological writer Ronald Wright, produced by the Canadian National Film Board and [checks notes], uh, Martin Scorsese, is excellent and includes an important thesis. Human civilizations always collapse and largely because of “progress traps”. What works well at first becomes the solution for everything until the solution overwhelms the limits of the surrounding environment and becomes toxic. By that time, the civilization can’t reform to accommodate the new reality, for those elites benefiting from the status quo cannot believe what’s coming. It’s on iTunes and highly recommended. The film also suggests that the primate brain, which is subject to tribalism and also seeing and believing what it wants to see and believe, is flawed, that it literally can’t perceive doom, or at least most can’t, when such doom runs counter to what has worked before. Michael Hudson is one of the many commentators in the film. As is Margaret Atwood, etc.

  18. Andrew Watts

    In Gaius’ article Eclair mentioned the experience of wartime rationing and volunteerism. What he neglected to mention is that the US government legally banned the production of personal automobiles. Every single vehicle sitting on a car lot was reserved for police, doctors/hospitals, and emergency services. I doubt very many people can imagine the government taking similar actions to address climate change yet these are precisely the changes that are necessary. These actions would be denounced as unnecessarily draconian by even the most fervent believers in global warming.

    If you want to watch a group of liberals and progressives go crazy propose to ban commercial and private air travel. Grab the popcorn. Meanwhile, look at how the liberals scream over tariffs and never question how much carbon is being dumped into the atmosphere to transport their consumer goods from across the world. Air travel and commercial shipping were both left out of the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon targets for a reason.

    I don’t really have any advice for the believers in progress. By which I mean the people who think that advances in technical means also increases the wisdom of human minds/nature. The despair of these people will only increase over time as the cognitive dissonance of future events catches up with the hypocrisy of their own inaction. If they can’t be an individual force of change in their lives they’ll never have a wider impact on the world.

    The answer for them is to not think about it.

    1. Wukchumni

      From July 22 1942, to the end of the war…

      Drivers were allowed 3 gallons of gas a week~

      Our world as we know it, would come to a crashing halt, were we to all of the sudden have implemented this, say in May of 2002.

      Instead, we were implored to go out and buy more stuff!

    2. False Solace

      Most technology doesn’t solve problems. It temporarily alleviates problems by relocating them and adding devilish complications. For example, a vacuum “solves” the problem of cleaning a rug, but it creates the problem of what to do with the vacuum when it breaks down, in addition to the problem of environment pollution produced by its manufacture.

      We need technology that thinks 2-3 steps ahead. This is difficult because humans avoid this level of cognition whenever possible in favor of selfish short term gain. We need wisdom and foresight implemented at a societal level if civilization is to survive over the long term.

      We need productive technology that actually solves problems, as opposed to destructive technology that temporarily relieves problems by creating worse ones. The proper solution for a dirty rug might not be a vacuum, it might be a wooden floor and a broom that can be recycled by the ecosystem. More than that may be hubris.

      1. Aumua

        Well there is technology that thinks many steps ahead, and that can actually solve problems, and it’s on our doorstep right now: A.I.

        I can only think that once we set it on these global problems, we’re not going to like the solutions it comes with much.

    3. Left in Wisconsin

      Well said. The only way to address global warming is with a wartime-like cooperative global effort. I personally think most people would be up for it if they believed it was sincere and would work. Americans would probably be the hardest to convince and I think one could even get a majority of us on board.

      My thought-question: suppose we discovered an alien race was going to attack Earth and blow it up or otherwise make it uninhabitable. Could we achieve a coordinated, cooperative global response to challenge that? I think we could.

      The “problem” we face with climate change is that the ‘aliens’ are among us, indeed they control virtually all levers of global power. Hey, no one said it would be easy.

      Also: We cannot overcome the climate crisis just through ‘eco socialism’ – it will need billions of investment into clean energy and new technologies too. We have to champion a range of voices and solutions for everyone.

      This is completely wrong. Global eco-socialism is precisely what we need. The author’s politics are showing (and they are NOT LEFT). There is no reason why invention and investment are not compatible with socialism. Indeed, at this moment in history, it is certainly plausible that socially-directed R&D and investment is much more likely to achieve our desired outcomes than private- capital-directed.

    4. KPC

      Thank you, sir.

      Examples of exactly what apparently has to be done and can be done. Because when dealing with immaturity as in children… . Been there, done it. No, I do not like it and wish this type of action would be unnecessary but reality is reality.

    5. Unna

      This is a great conversation and the only thing I can say is that I agree with Eclair that only a WWII kind of total social and industrial mobilization with all that entails will have any chance of succeeding. Above was mentioned the human need for friends, family, communities, offspring, etc. No plan can succeed that requires the dehumanization, for want of a better term, of our communal being-in-the-world by having to renounce these. Social plans require acceptance and willing cooperation of humans as humans, otherwise what’s the point? Offspring? What about a one child policy? There are plenty of people who otherwise don’t want kids as a personal choice. Any totalizing social plan must be understood as a kind of social technology serving human ends and human goals. But all rules must be, and be seen to be, universally enforced.

      My other thought is that much fossil fuel consumption seems to be driven by Great Power competition and fear. Russia fearing an aggressive West will develop oil and gas exports as fast as it can as a matter of maintaining it’s national and civilizational existence. China will continue to expand industrially to employ its population build its international power, its Belt and Road is much about energy supplies. I think that no real progess on the environment can take place in such an international setting. Figuring out how to defuse all international tensions down to close to zero to clear the way for measured deindustrialization.

  19. Roger Smith

    “So even those individuals who are willing to make considerable personal changes for the most part don’t have adequate outlets because they are part of a much larger system.”

    I have been asking this of Climate Change marketing for a long time. It almost always seems to point toward the individual as the interloper that has to change. The individual has virtually no control over the broader oligarchical systems managed by the group Yves refers to as the elites. Further more, throwing this at people and saying “here, it’s your responsibility” is completely ineffective in the contemporary socio-econmomic near-wasteland. The call to action that is hoped for will never come out of punished landscape average people have been squashed into.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I can’t think of a problem that screams out for a COLLECTIVE solution more than Climate Change.

      Western elites have spend decades trying to divide us up into subgroups and individuals. They haven’t stopped.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      However the, “here it’s your responsibility” argument is very evident here today. About half the comments are nothing more than anti-consumption, anti-population-growth screeds. None of which are burdened by any data in support of their theses as to why “wind/solar + batteries won’t cut it”, or why 5-6 billion people must die in order to save the remainder from runaway global warming. (Historic energy consumption flow diagrams, while educational, are not quantitative arguments against renewable energy production or energy storage technologies).

      Greenhouse gas pollution is not a moral problem, it is a technical, engineering problem. An addressable problem. We have the technological and material capacity to stop most greenhouse gas pollution in roughly one human lifetime. Similarly, we have or can develop the technical capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon. We will face significant warming regardless, but we most certainly have the capacity to both mitigate and adapt to it.

      Most of the arguments casting it as a moral problem are self-indulgent, counter-productive rot. Greenhouse gas pollution will be stopped by civil and mechanical engineers installing scrubbers, heat exchangers, turbines, etc. Not by pseudo-moral arguments made in online comments sections……. commonly by people who have not soiled their minds with science since high school. I do not know why so many middle-aged, educated and professional class westerners enjoy this sick hard-on for failure. I really don’t. But, I do know that none of the “we will fail because there are too many McMansions near Dallas!” comments are worth the electrons it took to display them on just my screen alone today.

      Also, for the record in re material constraints:

      1) Rare earth elements are not a significant constraining factor in either thermal solar or PV electricity production, however, they are a key component in wind power generation.

      2) Uranium is not the only fissile element on earth, and we are not in any danger of running low on fissile materials.

      3) Download a few of the annual energy production/consumption diagrams for the US, and take a good look at the size of the light gray “rejected energy” arrow in the upper right corner of the diagrams. We waste more energy every year than is produced from coal. Some of the waste is unavoidable. Some of it isn’t. Again, it is a technical problem, with technical solutions that are primary constrained by cost, not morality.

      1. Jeff W

        I’m really glad you wrote this comment. I view the situation that way also. Most of mitigating climate change has to do with technological changes that no average individual can effectuate and that most people world not even know have occurred if they are effectuated.

        And we have to put up with practically meaningless statements like this one from the OP:

        We can make those links in face-to-face conversations with our friends and families, in our local communities. That would change minds and prompt political action much quicker than we realise.

        Unless those conversations are, at least, about things like “civil and mechanical engineers installing scrubbers, heat exchangers, turbines, etc,” they’ll be like the comments you rightly call “self-indulgent, counter-productive rot.”

        And conversations that “prompt political action” don’t lead to much if that political action is, by and large, ineffective. If we live in places where ordinary citizens have almost no say in policies—and probably even less with regard to those policies that would amount to, as Yves says, “a wholesale restructuring of commerce and lifestyles”—the political action has to be particularly high leverage to be effective and I’m not sure that most people chatting with their neighbors know what that is (I certainly don’t) or even that it needs to be like that. (Whether there is or isn’t acceptable high leverage political action that would work isn’t clear but we have to address it in those terms.)

        For me, the author is stating neither the problem nor the course to an effective solution very well. It’s the kind of non-systemic approach that has led us to where we are today over the last 40 years. Your comment is far more illuminating.

      2. In the Land of Farmers

        Didn’t “technology and engineering” get us into this mess? How many steps ahead do you think you can plan? Where are all these scrubbers going to come from, wishful thinking or just more metal dug from the earth? How many people can the earth support? We cannot live on the ground we need to dig up to get these metals.

        You say it is not a moral problem, like the atom bomb was not a moral problem, yeah? It is a moral choice that we do not have scrubbers already on coal plants. Those morals dictated by economics. Tecnhocrats love to think humans have a capability to be amoral. Sorry, but that would reduce us to the machines we build.

        What you secretly dispose is natural balance, it is the enemy of engineers. Engineers love to use levers and pullies to out-do nature. It never works in the long run. Technology is debt.

        I am sure people will love this comment becasue it give false hope, like hospital care instead of hospice.

      3. KPC

        We live in a finite system. There are physical limits.

        The engineering, energy and all of the science stuff necessary to understand this problem were done long ago. Thus, sitting around in front of some massive pile of data leads to this condition we call “analysis paralisis”, at least back in the day.

        You do not need to know anything more chica. Ya get out’a the office and actually do something.

        This is no different than “climate change denilizm”. Indeed, another term is called “dilly, dally, durfy and delay”. I actually think I recall looking this up in Martindale Hubble and it was actually the name of a law firm in USA for real.

      4. Ian ollmann

        Right. Half of the hysteria is because people think the paralyzed political system must be the solution. No. There is nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and getting solar on your roof. It’s a step, and if most everyone did it, a pretty transformative step! The political system doesn’t need to enter into it.

        The other problem is that people think that using 70% less energy means driving 70% less and 70% less heat in winter, eating locally recycled food and having 70% less people.

        That. would. be. stupid.

        How about instead we replace 100W incandescent light bulbs with 10W LEDs? We can even be coercive about it and simply BAN the old bulbs. News flash: We pulled that off already. Did you suffer terribly? Perhaps you screamed incoherently into the wind for a few weeks, then realized you were used to it a year or two later and didn’t see any reason to going back to changing bulbs every 6 months.

        Okay, we survived that and a few might admit to being better off for it.

        Will you be killed by electric cars? Only if one hits you. They totally rock by the way. Once you drive one you will have an iPhone moment when you wonder why the hell you did things the other way. EVs use many times less energy than gas cars per mile driven.

        You can get solar. The ROI there is probably better than your 401k. Did you have some other pressing need for space on your roof? People will loan you money to install it.

        There are a lot of solutions out there. It is just a matter of actually lifting a finger to make a change yourself. It should be pretty clear to everyone by now that only a fool would rely on Washington.* Is saving money by wasting less really such a terrible thing?

        *i have nothing but admiration for the civil service and nothing but contempt for the elected officials that lead them.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Some of us live in apartment buildings or rent single family homes.

          And you appear not to recognize that 75% of electricity in the US comes from fossil fuels.

    3. KPC

      Then tell us, who and how are we supposed to do this?

      I am so angry and frustrated. People in my family have died for these very principles and you would dare to suggest that you and other individual human being have NO responsibility and NO ability to make any change in your lifestyle.


  20. Susan the other

    We might want to take advantage of the natural human inclination to pull back from unproductive activities – I have my dogs to thank for this insight. When they didn’t get enough treats or pets or conversation they just went over to their beds and curled up. More rest was their choice. Unless a 5 mile hike was in the offing. Those two preferences – one to just give it a rest and the other to be ready for the big one – are as human as canine.

  21. An Old Guy

    I’ve read all the comments as well as the article and have read many other articles regarding climate change. Here is something that you can do today, tomorrow and every day hereafter.

    Ask yourself this simple question. What one single solitary thing did I do today which helped reduce climate change?

    If you cannot answer this simple question with some affirmative action, then you contributed to the problem of climate change.

    It is that simple. Just think, if you did one thing every day for a year, then you did 365 things.

    As an old guy, all I ever see in comments and articles such as these is that it is someone else’s problem. I never see anyone taking personal responsibility and doing anything other than point the finger somewhere else.

    Look in the mirror. Do one thing every day.

    1. Synoia

      I have no Car, just a bicycle. But because I live in the US, I doubt that’s enough, because I still live in a house, with electricity and running water, and do not grow my own food.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I’m not sure this post is an adequate vehicle for carrying the kind of discussion Yves wants to stimulate: “So even those individuals who are willing to make considerable personal changes for the most part don’t have adequate outlets because they are part of a much larger system.”

      Suppose an individual wanted to make personal changes to respond to climate change. There are numerous social and legal complications. Stop mowing your lawn and poisoning the dandelions and your neighbors will complain. You might be fined by the local government. Assuming you have the land, money, and skills, try designing a more energy efficient home. You’d best move far far away from any local zoning boards and building inspectors or constrain your imagination along the prescribed lines. Try to get a bank loan if you need money to pay for the construction. Try to buy an existing house that’s smaller and more energy efficient. You probably won’t find it in a local subdivision. The price of land in many areas drives the construction of McMansions with postage stamp grass yards covering over smoothly grated dirt denuded of topsoil, other than what might be added after construction.

      What if you’re concerned about electric power and want to go solar. You can buy solar panels — but take a hard look at the kinds of appliance that you can run on those solar panels without converting DC solar power to AC to feed to your appliances. Unless you plan to shutdown at night you’ll need either a fair number of batteries or maintain your ties to the AC electric power at the street. If you were at work all day as most of us are, your solar power doesn’t do much — for you.

      Suppose you decide to get a small fuel efficient car. How small and light can it be and remain safe on our highways with big trucks pulling double loads and large heavy cars all around you? Bicycles and mopeds are even more dangerous, assuming you’re close enough to work or mass transit that you might use them to get to your workplace, the store, or an appointment. But you’d best plan carefully how you’ll carry the groceries home. Assuming the availability of mass transit is quite an assumption in all but a few locales. Such mass transit as exists in the best of places is unreasonably expensive, often dirty and crowded, and nothing to set your watch by.

      Look for locally grown produce. Good idea except most people don’t live in areas where food is grown locally. Look for good produce at your store or even at many so-called farmer’s markets and how much of it was grown locally or picked when it was ripe instead of when it could be safely shipped somewhere far far away.

      Those things an individual might do if somehow allowed achieve relatively little and even if aggregated across multitudes of individuals would fall short of making a visible dent in our slide into a new climate regime. We might claim the epithet “Did everything possible an individual might do” for our tombstone.

      1. Anon

        What if you’re concerned about electric power and want to go solar. You can buy solar panels — but take a hard look at the kinds of appliance that you can run on those solar panels without converting DC solar power to AC to feed to your appliances. Unless you plan to shutdown at night you’ll need either a fair number of batteries or maintain your ties to the AC electric power at the street. If you were at work all day as most of us are, your solar power doesn’t do much — for you.

        Well, solar panels (PV) are now mass produced and the DC power they generate for your home is cheaper than what you’ll pay the utility company (without the line transmission losses from a central power plant). Converting DC to AC is done very efficiently with sine wave Converters that are relatively inexpensive AND automatically transfer power from PV panels/utility lines over to battery power (What’s not to like?). Those same batteries are storing any excess power generated by the solar panels while you are at work.

        Look, I’ve been involved with solar powered, energy conserving homes since the 1970’s. There has never been a better time to go Solar than Now!

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Perhaps I should state my point more plainly. There are DC appliances but not many and they are expensive — I believe on account of their green glow. The cheap solar panels mass produced by China and shipped here generate DC power. Clearly there are ways to convert DC to AC and vice versa. From what I’ve read those conversion components of a consumer solar power installation tend to be the first point of failure in the typical home solar power system. I recall reading that they have an expected lifetime of 20 years. Please explain why I’m converting a DC source to AC if my source power is local with what I want to drive with that power. What advantage obtains from adding the complexity and cost of the “relatively inexpensive” converters and controllers. My point is that the “advantage” gained is adapting solar power to the existing AC infrastructure built to support centralized power generation and distribution. This is an example of existing custom, law, or infrastructure incompatible with or needlessly complicating individual efforts to adapt to Climate Disruption. I had hoped other commenters would contribute further examples to expand on my limited start in that direction.

          Why add complexity, cost and unreliable service solely to adapt a new design to old and mouldering infrastructure and relatively energy hungry appliances? The added complexity, cost and unreliable service built into a typical home solar power installation offends my sense of aesthetics for systems design. As someone in the business doesn’t it bother you? As someone working in the solar power and energy conserving homes business can you think of other snags to an individual’s efforts to address or adapt to Climate Disruption?

          Yes, I’m sure: “There has never been a better time to go Solar than Now!” That doesn’t stop me from wanting to see appliances adapted to DC power. Batteries are a mature technology. Most advances in their capabilities arrive as diminishing returns to increasing efforts. I hope some more effective and less expensive solution can be found for storing electric power from an intermittent source. Any ideas? Perhaps pump water to a cistern built at a higher elevation and generate AC power from the flow as you use the water. I liked the idea of storing the day’s energy as heat in an underground furnace.

      2. blennylips

        I took the Archruid’s advice, a few years back:

        I’ve talked about two of these possibilities at some length in posts here. The first can be summed up simply enough in a cheery sentence: “Collapse now and avoid the rush!.” In an age of economic contraction — and behind the current facade of hallucinatory paper wealth, we’re already in such an age — nothing is quite so deadly as the attempt to prop up extravagant lifestyles that the real economy of goods and services will no longer support. Those who thrive in such times are those who downshift ahead of the economy, take the resources that would otherwise be wasted on attempts to sustain the unsustainable, and apply them to the costs of transition to less absurd ways of living. The acronym L.E.S.S. — “Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation” — provides a good first approximation of the direction in which such efforts at controlled collapse might usefully move.


        …and be useful to your neighbors (James Kunstler?).

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Why has the Archdruid moved to Rhode Island and started writing about magic for the most part? Was there some snag he ran into in attempting to adapt to Climate Disruption that might inform the discussion here?

          1. blennylips

            I think the man has exhaustively said what he wanted to and decide to return to his first fascinoma around druidry. He ran into the same snag we do here: human nature.

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              OK as far as the expanded magic expositing but why did the Archdruid move to Rhode Island? He was going to explain in his blog but I never saw the explanation. He seemed well situated to “collapse now” where he had been and he can write about magic anywhere. Rhode Island seems a strange place to move to in order to carry on with the “collapsing now.”

              1. blennylips

                I don’t feel owed an explanation and am most grateful for his efforts, freely given.

                The idea can be to collapse in place, as I’ve tried to do. It an attitude too dude!

                1. Jeremy Grimm

                  I don’t feel “owed”. He said he would explain in his blog and I wondered if I missed the explanation.

        2. polecat

          …. and be useful to your neighbors …

          So, what if ones’ neighbors are just ‘takers’ … not reciprocators ?? What then ?
          Because from where I sit, most of the ‘takers’ recieve not from need, but from advantage … and I will only give so much, before realizing that I’m being played for a chump e.i. the ‘neighbors in question who’ll otherwise not have anything to do with you) ! .. I WILL give to those in true need, and to those who reciprocate in kind.

          1. blennylips

            > So, what if ones’ neighbors are just ‘takers’ … not reciprocators ?? What then ?

            Then you need to choose better neighbors (metaphoric, not necessarily literal) as part of your collapse.

            I’m never going to, nor want to “make it” on my own, but have found my tribe of a few like minded islanders to ally with, now, during the little emergencies. We’ll be as ready as one can be on an island that depends on desalinated H2O…

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      This is a perfectly good suggestion, but it won’t solve climate change. It might be quite effective at developing a positive attitude, however.

  22. Craig Dempsey

    One small thought: the argument from authority does not work well in our modern world, whether the authority is the Pope, Trump, or climate scientists. Can you explain, even in vague form, how CO2 causes global warming? Did you know water vapor is also a greenhouse gas? That is why deserts can get so cold at night–no water! For a look at how infrared radiation plays a key role in AGW, see this short video: TED-ED Animation

    1. pretzelattack

      uh, we are not all climatologists. referring to the experts on the subject of their expertise is pretty much the way we judge these things, coupled with results. the theory is recognized by every national body of science, and the projections have been on track, albeit a bit on the conservative side because feedbacks still aren’t well understood. scientists i’m sure are aware that water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and can explain specifically how it causes global warming.

  23. Jeremy Grimm

    This post assumes the lack of response … some expression of collective concern or some form of collective action is evidence that the message about Climate Disruption is being ignored. Some people are ignoring Climate Disruption but I think most people are aware their local weather has begun to get a little weird and seems weirder each year. But what individual can change the weather or reshape our use and sources of energy? In a Society run by sociopaths devoted to a religion of cutthroat winner-take-all competition what message could foster cooperation between peoples and nations? Just adjust the message and everything will be all right is a magical thought.

    The “avalanche of numbers” is not the problem with the message. The numbers in IPCC reports are used to come up with a carbon budget to suggest how much more carbon dioxide can we can safely add into the air. The answer is none. The answer is we have already added too much carbon dioxide into our atmosphere … but that isn’t the answer our governments want to hear and it’s not an answer most people want to hear. Prodigious burning of fossil fuels drives the engine of our Society. After all the happy-talk is done we haven’t found anything to replace our fossil fuels, and their supply is running down at prodigious rate.

    The assertion “climate change is a left-wing issue” is not useful to a discussion in which any change is automatically labeled radical or reactionary. If Society is running out of ‘gas’ and we need to stop running Society — NOW — or our comfortable climate will dither away toward extremes — change is inevitable whether deliberate or forced by circumstance. The conservative ‘center’ will not deliberately adopt change without the action of a very great external force — preach to them as you will. The notion that the media just needs to draw a “vision of the future” ignores what a realistic guess at the future looks like. No one wants to look there. Besides no one can offer a realistic vision of the future because our Society has grown so complex the repercussions of any disruption or change is beyond reliable prediction. The class of messages I greatly fear are those that might drive public opinion toward geoengineering. Those messages would suggest we need not change Society if we can just ‘do something’ to circumvent the changes in our climate.

    1. Mary Wildfire

      Oh God yes. Not that what we will likely face WITHOUT geoengineering will be any better, but this is where the wheels really come off, when governments give corporations permission to start experimenting with the only planet we’ve got. We are where we are because under the current system, public money can’t be spent on anything that doesn’t further enrich the rich. That will be the criteria for geoengineering “solutions” too–and is hardly likely to lead to safe choices.

  24. David in Santa Cruz

    Remember, a couple of weeks ago the world population of human beings passed the point where we can “round up” to 7.7 Billion of us. These numbers make the extinction of our species inevitable. In the Land of Farmers above mentions Jesus, Gandhiji, and Dr. King. All were murdered. The Prophet Muhammad died while making the Hajj. Gautama Buddha’s goal was to end his cycle of rebirth through the attainment of his parinirvana. We’re all going to die.

    Even engaging in this discussion, via electrically-powered computers made from rare minerals gathered from around the planet, contributes to our inevitable extinction. This is not a bad thing. What is bad is that eventually there will be great suffering as a result of human-caused climate change. Until climate change stops being an abstraction, I believe that people will not be inclined to make personal sacrifices which aren’t shared equally by all the others who are equally responsible for the problem. Only once the suffering begins in earnest can we expect action. Then it will likely be too late for billions of us.

    I just want to live somewhere where I don’t have to hear the screaming when the death-struggle of the humans gets under way in earnest.

    1. KPC

      This view is vile. How dare you suggest the rest of us do not count while you get to do nothing but hide out in some private bolt hole.

      This view is directly in my and others’ vision as attorneys and diplomats. This is the view which explicitly fosters violence.

      How dare you reference great human beings who did no such thing.

  25. Odysseus

    Start small. Find a governmental unit where people willing to do the hard work are a voting majority. If not, move so that there is a voting majority. The Free State Project provides one model for this.


    Once you have a voting majority then institute policies that recognize the need. Put a carbon tax in place. Raise the gasoline tax to punitive levels. Provide actual services which help people make the transition. Train private landowners in how to sequester Greenhouse Gases. Use public land to sequester GHGs as well if you have to.

    I’m in. Tell me where. We need a straight up good example. So who will be that good example?

  26. bongstar420

    Messing with CO2 levels will in no way alter the course of the glacial cycles therefore ablating the significance of any global warming. In fact, the last geological warm period (Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum) is literally impossible to reach. Temperatures were 8C higher than today on average. The max CO2 estimates are 600-1200 ppm. The reason we can’t get 8C hotter is because CO2 was not the primary driver of increasing averages. Thermal transport of circumpolar oceanic currents were. Back then, there was a direct current from the Pacific through the Arctic Circle to the Atlantic. Crocodiles lived at the North Pole during this epoch. Today that current no longer exists as geological movements have created mountain ranges in their path.

    Our current epoch (the holocene) was up to 2C warmer than today about 6,000 years ago with CO2 levels around 280ppm. About 400 years ago, a “little ice age” lowered ocean levels 1-2 meters with CO2 about 280ppm and temperatures about 1C lower than today. This translates to 1 degree cooler through 2 degrees warmer and up to 2 meters of ocean level variation with no change in CO2 (solar output was lower during the little ice age). Current trends are not even out of the range of normal variation. Numerous glaciations occurred in the distant past with 500-1500ppm CO2 (solar output was over all lower then though).

    That being said, I always hated oil and combustion engines. They are primitive and should have been axed decades ago. Humanity should be in space ships by now but we let the less qualified people like the royals or democracy control our destiny. At no point in history has the intellectual elite been the only qualified leaders as we have always been subdued to advisory roles (perhaps you can figure out why “science” might be fudging numbers).

    We need an IQ requirement on ownership and power in addition to an ethical test. Till then, we will continue to struggle to escape the dark ages and get fudged science.

    1. MichaelSF

      We need an IQ requirement

      I think we’d be quite a bit better of with a wisdom requirement than IQ. There are a lot of high IQ people in the world who are not very wise (and I probably resemble that remark).

    2. Unna

      Intellectual “elites” always have been and always will be subordinate to political elites who wield power either through the force of arms, or through the force generated by the consent of the governed. Get used to it.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      What would be a good measurement of high IQ?

      I suggest this one: can you tell the difference between a juvenile female Philadelphia vireo and a juvenile female Tennessee warbler? In the field? As a birdwatcher, I think that should be the IQ test. Too bad for you if you can’t pass it.

  27. TheScream

    Sorry, it’s hopeless. According to studies, more Americans believe in angels (as in real angels which hang around us…a bit like that crappy Nicholas Cage movie) than believe in the theory of evolution. They also believe that climate change is a conspiracy started by Al Gore and designed to enrich liberal, commie so-called scientists and destroy the American Way of Life. Trump doesn’t believe in anything or understand anything but he knows what his supporters believe so he will just spout nonsense and do nothing.

    If America does nothing, there will be little from others and too little even if they act alone.

    Theory of Evolution? It’s just a “theory”. Theory of Global Warming? Just a conspiracy.

    I am stocking up on ice cubes.

    1. KPC

      Are you mocking people who have a faith other than that in consumerism or progress? Sort of like us deplorables which you people find so offensive?

      Why do you think it is actually wrong for a human being to have faith in something greater, something hopeful, something of greater responsibility… ?

      When someone stoops so low as to attempt to rip another human being’s faith right out from under them, there is a level of depravity involved.

      You postmoderns are strange creatures in this very area. It is immature. It leads to violence. When fully traced culturally, again referencing concepts in your culture like the singularity, it is an attempt on your culture to somehow become god-like in you individual.

      You might invest a bit of time with the teachings of Dr. Karl Jung in the Western Euro version of this area which is a bit more mature.

      1. Ian Ollmann

        This is rehash of the culture wars ongoing since the 1700s.

        “Stop being idiots.”
        “Stop telling us what to do.”

        It is pretty tired.

        Is it even possible to make their point without being condescending? Give it a try. It is damn hard. I’ll agree that going after religion wasn’t necessary. It isn’t the problem. Please do take “deplorables” as a badge of honor if you like, but please do not use it as an excuse to be counterproductive and destructive. We need each other to be reasonable men, to recognize the truth for what it is and act in good faith for mutual benefit. This time, the enemy is us.

      2. TheScream

        Nope. No apologies here. Americans display a wanton and willful ignorance for science and education. While it is true that I am anti-theist, this stems mainly from the dangerous aspects of religion.
        If you feel my criticism of ignorance rips your faith from you, then your faith is tenuous at best. Perhaps I am doing you a service by enlightening you?

        So, are you suggesting that praying and reading the Bible will lead to a solution for climate change? Are you suggesting that Americans can talk to the angels and have them blow cool air on the planet? Are you saying that Evolution is not a theory?

        Believe what you will but leave me and children out of your delusions and brainwashing. I, and many others, don’t believe that Jesus or Allah is going to save us from pollution and climate change. But enough Americans act as if this is true that it is frightening.

        In any case, my point was not to take away your religion (though I would love to) but to point out that people are willfully ignorant. Why believe thousands of scientists who are alive and can show proof of their work when instead you can believe a 1600 year old novel, eh?

          1. TheScream

            Have you actually read my post? Have you read the response? Have you read any of KPC’s other posts?
            If I understand the responses to various posts, we can praise the Lord and mock and insult other posters or we can shut up?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              You have NO business carrying on the way you do. You make shit up (agnotology) and straw manned what Lambert said, both violations of our written site Policies. You also thread-jacked, yet ANOTHER violation of our site Policies. And now you argue with one of the site moderators, which shows you have an exaggerated sense of self importance and lousy judgment. And your are regularly rude and screechy per your name.

              For some who has made himself the self-declared advocate of science and therefore at a minimum factual accuracy, your comments don’t pass muster. A majority of Americans believe climate change and that’s been the case for over a decade:


              And your specific, hyperbolic Al Gore claim has never been tested in a poll. As someone who has actually done survey research, results are very sensitive to the wording of the poll and how the questions are ordered.

              Don’t bother trying to comment again. You are no longer welcome here.

  28. Summer

    Climate change would lead to resource scarcity.
    That is the main fear usually expressed.

    There is a plan.
    Scarcity drives prices up, so in the short run the plan is to continue the squeeze.

    The long term plan is population reduction. That is why there are no massive green jobs training programs or any other re-ordering.

    Then after significant, global population reduction, it is imagined those “chosen ones” will join in preparations to save the few…but they will find old habits and beliefs die hard.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Not as far fetched as it may seem to some.

      Nature doesn’t use the same metric we do for what’s fair and what isn’t. It’s quite possible, even likely, that the well to do will indeed be the ones who, by-in-large, fare the best and who may even survive into the future in spite of enormous hardships that will be baked in – particularly loss of other species. I’m speaking of the scenario where we have a near human extinction event and I don’t mean to imply that that is the only possible outcome of the problems we are currently facing. But it is certainly one very possible outcome.

      The question then would be, will those people evolve to repeat or avoid the same sorts of issues. Is humanity too complex on the one hand but not quite I’m not sure what enough to get away with it on the other? Will the aggressive top dog nature of the “survivors” (the least scrupulous) ultimately be their Achilles heel condeming their 20x great grand children to a cyclical repeat of the same or a like experience?

  29. Brooklin Bridge

    As storms get worse and resources get scarce, the politicians, and the and the finance people, and the bankers, and the rest of the elite stealing what ever isn’t tied down, etc., will be forced to recognize the problem pretty much for what it is and may even manage an internationally concerted all out effort to save their precious profits (i mean the world). The question is, will that point be soon enough and the effort comprehensive enough (as in, not just profit seeking) to save enough of the environment (other species for instance) so that the effort is not moot?

  30. Jack Parsons

    Here is how to explain to a denier:

    “Do you wear sunblock when you got out in the sun for a long time? Yes? Why?”
    “Because I’ll get sunburned and this sucks and can lead to skin cancer.”
    “How could this be true? People 50 years ago didn’t die early of skin cancer. Here’s why: because we all bought too many cans of hairspray & shaving cream, sprayed a special gas into the atmosphere, and screwed with its ability to protect us from the sun. We, with entirely human activity, damaged the atmosphere to a level that is it lethal to us.”

  31. RBHoughton

    I live in Hong Kong and my greatest fear is that the government, which acts in an obscure way, will fail to take the necessary steps to protect what we have from rising sea levels and we will end up with a two meter concrete wall around the harbor putting it out of sight on the waterfront.

  32. Michael

    Here in the prairies of Minnesota, most everyone: left, right, and center who pay attention to the outside and are close to the land, as in farming and other endeavors have been very aware of climate change for quite some time. Interfaith Power and Light, a faith based climate initiative, is very active in local churches and it’s people are constantly educating people.

    The problem that I personally see is that people feel powerless about their government and their ability to effect change. They seem to have become “indifferent” as a survival skill from becoming too depressed about their and their children’s future.

    All of the infrastructure that they rely upon to get to work and earn a living revolves around the oil economy, which rules this country. If there were an alternative that wasn’t debilitating, I think many people might take it, but then again they live to far from anything to do without an automobile.

    1. KPC


      And the reason for the Interfaith Power and Light is, perhaps, one of those sort of saintly places that might give people a bit of hope. Dare I use the word comfort in this august group? I think someone else above referenced their faith in friends, family and neighbors (I paraphrase a bit).

      We need to restore culture. And it is these places where one does this very activity. I am blessed in all of these areas – my faith, my family, my friends and my neighbors. They do indeed give me hope to get up each and every day to carry on despite the losses in my family and so many others.

      Take heart. There are solutions, you know.

      The first law is “no violience”. Then we can get on with life, peace, grace and, perhaps, a few happy solutions, like less cars in the ‘hood.

    2. Lori in Sacramento

      <blockquote Interfaith Power and Light, a faith based climate initiative, is very active in local churches and it’s people are constantly educating people.

      Michael, it must have been over 20 years ago that I had the good fortune to spend a morning with one of the founders of Interfaith Power and Light, Rev. Sally Bingham, talking climate change and education around her kitchen table (it began as Episcopal Power and Light and an initiative at SF's Grace Cathedral, if I remember correctly).

      In the years since, I traded my work in the CA renewable energy policy world for teaching graduating seniors in a very big, very messy, but still glorious comprehensive public high school. Writing as a teacher, I must heartily agree with Lambert down thread, "vehement hopelessness is grotesquely self-indulgent." It also is malpractice in my line of work.

      Anyway, I lost touch with the work of IPL and offered wondered if it was still active. My coffee time with Bingham those many years ago continues to bring clarity to me. Thank you for your post.

  33. The Rev Kev

    I was thinking a few years ago that one of the major developments of the 20th century was the connected house. That is, when you had a modern house, it was connected to water via water mains, it was connected to sewerage lines to take sewerage away, that it was connected to telephone lines for communications, that it was connected to power lines so that you could have a powered house and finally to cable so that you could have entertainment. As to the difference these make to your homes, think about when there is a power blackout and suddenly you are living in an unpowered house as I call it. It’s not the same house anymore.
    In line with Greer’s “Retrotopia” I believe that the 21st century will now see the opposite in that we will have the independent house like we used to have in the 19th century but hopefully without the cholera and typhoid fevers. Going by present technologies, power will be from solar, sewerage will be handled by recycling systems and so forth. I am not talking necessarily about high-tech systems as they may or may not be available by the end of the century but have them we will. The lifestyle won’t be the Jetsons nor will it be Little House on the Prairie but probably something in between that will give us a moderate level of comfort and health.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      There are already time-tested and sometimes-time-forgotten solutions already available for some, maybe many, different houses in different circumstances.
      For electrifying the house enough for basic survival-comfort electricity though not for entertainment electricity . . .

      For making your house its own little ” food breeder bio-reactor” . . .

      Another approach for food and survival-energy from within and around the house . . .

      About pee and poo handling without sewer-system toilets . . . humanure.

  34. cnchal

    After reading through the comments, and perhaps I missed this, no one has actually picked any low hanging fruit, so to speak.

    A big part of the problem is that half the calories of food produced per year are thrown away, wasted and nothing is being done to change this. This colossal waste is accepted as business as usual, and when one considers the fact that the system really is about converting oil to food, ignoring it is not wise. Now, it would do no good if that were greatly improved, and the resulting savings resulted in expansion of oil burning activity elsewhere.

    A short while ago, I experienced what you call cognitive dissonance right here on NC, with the post on how terrible the airport in Washington is, and how it should be brought up to much higher standards so getting on and off the plane and to and from the airport was more convenient and comfortable.

    I did some calculations, and a Boeing 747 fully loaded at takeoff is nearly a million pounds and carries roughly 300,000 lbs of fuel and in a twelve hour flight burns it, putting almost as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the entire weight of the 747 at takeoff. I think nothing should be done to the airport except crapify it further, so flying becomes so wretched it becomes something to avoid. In addition, private jets should be banned and the squillionaires can shuffle through the dismal airports just like everybody else, or at least tax the friggin jet fuel $100,000 per gallon. Make them think three times about flying themselves and their fawning entourage around.

    A low hanging apple and pear, ready to be picked.

    1. Wukchumni

      The gas tank on my vehicle holds about 125 pounds of fuel that will last about 12 hours of driving before I put another 125 pounds in, and multiply that by a veritable shitlode of cars, ok?

  35. Lambert Strether

    > FROM THE POST Any story about the climate crisis has to start with a family, not a statistic

    I agree. Most people have hostages to fortune, dependents, often helpless dependents, for whom they bear a moral responsibility (for example, you might work long hours at a shitty or lethal job* to make sure they are provided for). Taking care of the kids will outweigh abstractions every single time. Now, we may in fact be at the point where “climate change” — needs a reworking, that bloodless phrase — directly menaces the next generation the children (unless they can get jobs as flood engineers or HVAC technicians or solar panel installers). And the previous generation, when the grandparents die in an overheated apartment, or can’t get water. But the yammering about 2°C won’t cut it; it’s elite verbiage, and given that the elites are lying, and known to be lying, about everything else, why not this?

    I don’t see a lot of framing like this (and sadly, not even on this thread….)

    NOTE * Waged or not waged…

    1. TheScream

      The “debate” would go like this:
      Greens: “These are your dead kids in 30 years. Let’s stop Climate Change today!”

      Conservatives and Ignorants: “The liberals want to destroy your jobs and way of life and are threatening to kill your children if you don’t give in. Fight liberals and their lies. Preserve America and our Economy TODAY!”

      Which one wins?

      1. Lambert Strether

        Let me fix that for you:

        These are your dead kids in 30 10 years

        The Greens, obviously, though I don’t think the Greens as a party can pull that off.

        Personally, I think vehement hopelessness is grotesquely self-indulgent. If — or since — we’re facing a chokepoint, the issue is how to get as many people through the chokepoint as possible. (Constrary to the elite view, which is how to get as few as possible; hence robots, AI, etc.) That takes collective action. If one really feels that nothing can be done, the wisest investment of energy might be to do nothing; but it surely is not yelling, at the top of one’s lungs, that others should do nothing.

        1. TheScream

          I don’t run around telling people to do nothing. On the contrary, I exhort and cajole and argue vehemently in favor of rapid, dramatic changes to society. But, I still don’t believe it will work, so I am also working on plans for my children. I won’t sing Kumbaya and pretend it’s all good and we just need to be more forceful and positive.

    2. Eclair

      When I think of the future my grandkids face, an overwhelming debt-burden (starting with education debt) is the first thing that comes to my mind. Not exactly as life-threatening as drowning in a flood or being roasted by wild-fires; more a slow-motion wasting away.

      And, down the line for them, the inability to find way to earn a living.

      For many, the lack of jobs is an immediate cause of despair. For high school graduate, what are the ‘good’ jobs that are now available? What happened to the decent manufacturing jobs? They went to China. Or Mexico. Somewhere far away. The supply lines became longer and longer. The container ships carrying stuff … clothes and furniture and cars (!!) and plastic ornaments to decorate for any season … lined up at our ports. They are off-loaded onto semi’s, which then roar off on the Interstates to the other side of the continent. All this takes immense amounts of fossil fuels; 27% of atmospheric carbon in the US is produced by ‘transportation.’)

      So, do you want jobs for your high school graduates? Cut the ‘global supply lines.’ Localize production of clothing, furniture and appliances, and building materials, i.e., within 300 miles (pick a number.) Require strict pollution and energy use controls (it’s not rocket science!).

      Use NVDA (non-violent direct action) to highlight the suicidal idiocy of transporting a shirt 8,000 miles, when a local factory can make the same thing. Using solar or water power.

      1. Eclair

        Gotta go and lime the asparagus bed. And talk to our neighbor who owns the 100 acre wood and pasture here, about letting an Amish friend hunt deer on his land. So their will be fewer deer to eat the asparagus shoots next spring.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I don’t pay a lot of attention to the IPCC reports. They reduce Climate Change to hundreds of pages reviewing complex models generating numberous curves and lines with long chains of complex reasoning. At the end they leave a reader with the option of a long read and longer study to grasp what represents a relatively limited view of climate change — at least in the sense that many of the non-linear elements evident in paleoclimate behaviors — the so-called tipping points — are not included in the IPCC models because too little is known about them. Is it any wonder many people feel stuck between choking on an indigestible glob of information and just reading the executive summary, essentially willingly accepting expert opinion which seems to shift with what current politics might tolerate.

      I believe Jim White’s 2014 Nye Lecture at the Fall Meeting 2014 of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) carries the message you are looking for around minute 44 where he reviews some thoughts to take away from his lecture — “Thought number 1: “We say we love our kids, but do we show it?” I have yet to see a more convincing or frightening presentation “Vision for the Future” than that made in this brief and accessible presentation.

      If the problem in getting people excited about the “Climate Crisis” is in the message — this presentation is the right message:

      Jim White’s 2014 Nye Lecture presented at the AGU Fall Meeting 2014

      Sadly — take a look at the number of views this lecture has received.

  36. drumlin woodchuckles

    Global Burning . . .
    Climate D’Chaos Decay . . .
    The coming Heat Stroke tsunami . . .

    Better framing ideas welcome of course.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I’ve watched this presentation several times. The third stage of the Neoliberal ‘solution’ for Climate Disruption fits in a little too well with the shift in the IPCC report. The ‘do-something’ approach to Climate Disruption is easily hijacked to fit with geoengineering — like “Space Mirrors!”

  37. dutch

    Below are “Key Uncertainties” identified by IPCC Working Group 1 in their chapter of Assessment Report 5 titled The Physical Science Basis.

    WG1AR5 – Technical Summary Final
    TS.6.3 Key Uncertainties in Understanding the Climate System and Its Recent Changes
    • The simulation of clouds in AOGCMs has shown modest improvement since AR4; however, it remains challenging. {7.2, 9.2.1, 9.4.1, 9.7.2}
    • Observational uncertainties for climate variables other than temperature, uncertainties in forcings such as aerosols, and limits in process understanding continue to hamper attribution of changes in many aspects of the climate system. {10.1, 10.3, 10.7}
    • Changes in the water cycle remain less reliably modelled in both their changes and their internal variability, limiting confidence in attribution assessments. Observational uncertainties and the large effect of internal variability on observed precipitation also precludes a more confident assessment of the causes of precipitation changes. {2.5.1, 2.5.4, 10.3.2}
    • Modelling uncertainties related to model resolution and incorporation of relevant processes become more important at regional scales, and the effects of internal variability become more significant. Therefore, challenges persist in attributing observed change to external forcing at regional scales. {2.4.1, 10.3.1}
    • The ability to simulate changes in frequency and intensity of extreme events is limited by the ability of models to reliably simulate mean changes in key features. {10.6.1}
    • In some aspects of the climate system, including changes in drought, changes in tropical cyclone activity, Antarctic warming, Antarctic sea ice extent, and Antarctic mass balance, confidence in attribution to human influence remains low due to modelling uncertainties and low agreement between scientific studies. {10.3.1, 10.5.2, 10.6.1}

    Before launching into plans of what must be done to avoid the climate catastrophe, it would be good to understand just how uncertain the science supporting the projected climate effects really are. Would you invest money in a project whose prospectus was this uncertain?

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      “Before launching into plans of what must be done to avoid the climate catastrophe, it would be good to understand just how uncertain the science supporting the projected climate effects really are.” That’s why any sort of geoengineering is a truly scary idea! That’s also a strong argument for immediately stopping all further emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. Too little is known of the non-linearities in the Earth’s climate systems. We have already crossed into dangerous territory where there be dragons hiding. It’s time to stop, go no further, and turn back. We travel on risky ground.

        1. Jermy Grimm

          My move … as if this were chess? I would have to question the statement that “Stopping CO2 emissions (and hence any industrial activity) on a dime leads to at least a one degree Celsius rise in temperature in a matter of six weeks”. Besides — do you mean CO2 emissions or are you assuming a level of sulfur dioxide emissions from dirty coal and a level of particulates as implicit proportions of the CO2? I went to the link you referenced but didn’t try to chase down the Guy MacPherson link or the BBC Global Dimming Documentary from there — sorry. Where does the estimate six weeks come from? I have a real problem with these sorts of argument because they can find such easy conversion to arguments for some of the geoengineering proposals and I like space mirrors better because they offer a much greater ‘cool’ factor. Besides, if I accept the estimate of six weeks to have an effect … an effect for how long. Is there some magical way dimming sucks out the heat already absorbed by our oceans?

          Better — Why don’t you question the possibility of “immediately stopping all further emissions of CO2” into the atmosphere? Instead of introducing a prybar for geoengineering that would raise the question of how the extremely long, thin, and fragile supply lines would be affected which points to another serious impediment to individual efforts at responding to the Climate Catastrophe. We are too dependent on the global supply chains for far too much to be considering “immediately stopping all further emissions of CO2”. Who is ready to return to life as a hunter-gatherer in the world after the sixth great extinction of species? Why not note the ties that bind individual responses to Climate Catastrophe with the fragilities built-in to Globalization?

            1. blennylips


              Since measurements began in the 1950s, scientists have discovered that there has been a decline of sunlight reaching the Earth; they called it global dimming.

              But according to a paper published in the journal Science, the dimming did not continue into the 1990s and indeed since the 1980s scientists have observed a widespread brightening. What caused the dimming to go down and what effect will it have, if any, on climate change?

              The film explores the theory that pollution is shielding the oceans from the full power of the Sun, and disrupting the pattern of the world-s rainfall. There is evidence that dimming caused the droughts in sub-Saharan Africa which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 1970s and 1980s.

              It reveals that we may have grossly underestimated the speed at which our climate is changing. At its heart is a deadly new phenomenon. One that until very recently scientists refused to believe even existed. Alarmingly the dimming continues today, and Asia, home to half the world-s population is currently under threat.

    2. pretzelattack

      but confidence in attributing more than all of the global warming to human emissions remains high, as does confidence in the basic science. every single major scientific organization considers it good science. the tobacco institute style propaganda campaign funded by the fossil fuel companies has been quite effective in sowing doubt by cherrypicked examples and long refuted claims about the science being based on models, exemplified in your post.

    1. pretzelattack

      lindzen hasn’t published in years, and what he has has been roundly criticised and debunked. the global warming policy foundation is an industry shill group, akin to the tobacco institute.

  38. Scott1

    It is an engineering problem. Great leaders give their greatest engineers these problems, usually during war time when money is made available.
    Engineers make tools to be applied in systems.
    We have the technology, and have had it. Reagan tore the solar panels off the White House. A New Happier day aye?
    Nixon was told over population was the threat, and it is. The Vatican wasn’t going to go along with that.
    Most people don’t have control over the shelter they live in. Rent, they rent.
    I’m not going to ask my landlord to buy solar panels and a power wall for the home he’d tear down if we weren’t living here. What system fixes this? Well MMT economists say we do have the money if we have the labor and materials we could force landlords to buy solar panels and Power Walls.
    We could make them richer right? Yes there is opportunity.

  39. bruce wilder

    I do not think I understand “climate change” nor do I understand what would be required to respond effectively. Oh, I have some inklings, of course, and I will naturally share my insights, such as they are, because that’s what blog commenters do. I am fairly confident in my understanding of bits and pieces of, first, what is going on with the planet’s climate, environment, ecologies, and second, what could be done to save both or either human civilization and the natural world from catastrophe. But, if I am honest with myself, it is only bits and pieces — scattered flotsam of understanding in an ocean of ignorance and uncertainty.

    These “issues” as they say, touch on some of the biggest of Big Picture topics. I like Big Picture topics. I have always loved history and I am well-briefed on economics (degrees from ruling-class schools even). I am not dumb, but I am also not being modest — my personal lack of information or understanding is my point at all; I see something like my degree of ignorance and lack of deep understanding being very, very widely shared even by most “activists”, many soi disant experts in economics (those are the ones whose appalling ignorance I find I am most confident in judging — did I mention I have degrees? ;-), .

    I have been reading the latest IPCC report with alarm, but also with some bemusement at the stilted language and intellectual constipation. They — the officially sanctioned experts — are not confident that they understand “it”* either. (*a singular “it” is very inappropriate, but I don’t want to sink my own prose with serial lists) At one point long ago in my career, I did economic research to support policymakers and struggled with drawing illustrative scenarios and parameter analysis and I can see the IPCC authors struggle with the “technical” difficulties of drawing out the implications and developing an “objective voice” to distill meaning from a cacophony of conflicting (though maybe not contradictory) voices.

    Sunny Hundal, the author of the posted essay, clearly doesn’t understand much of “it”. He advises his wife against moving in too close to the Thames. (Idiot) He wonders, “What does a world with cheap, green energy look like?” As commenter, Romancing The Loan, observed, that’s a tell — Romancing the Loan said a tell for insincerity, but I think it is just superficiality. A sincere superficiality based on not knowing much about the fiendishly extensive and sometimes complex “it” of climate change (and other global problems) and the possibilities (and necessities!) for collective, global response. Superficiality combined with a privileged, elite desire to be a good person.

    I am glad he wants to be a good person. And, I am grateful that he seems to have some awareness that he is part of a “left” movement that isn’t moving, but has settled into substituting being politically informed (after a fashion) for political action. He wants to find ways to “communicate” with those others on the imagined “right” (or maybe the imagined “center”?) who do not share his sincere concern. I think he’s not quite sure whether the goal is to convert the unwashed heathen into a bigger Left who share his alarm about “it” and want to do “something”.

    My point is not to criticize the essay or the author for trying to do good and who recognizes that the world’s political communities seem to be stalled if not actually paralyzed in the face of looming catastrophe. My point is that his view — and my view and the view of many commenters in this thread — is being shaped by not really understanding issues of such breadth that they are genuinely difficult to digest. He has bits and pieces; I have bits and pieces; lots of elite “experts” have only bits and pieces combined with impenetrable vocabulary and “models”. (example: Peter Dorman’s essay on Nordhaus and his brand of integrated assessment, featured on NC, helped me understand some key bits of the recent IPCC report. That’s just one bit though, and I am missing many other bits and much of the IPCC report is unreadable as a consequence.)

    When a human being does not know much, there is a tendency to rely on heuristics and folk wisdom and the like, in some circumstances to exaggerate in self-evaluation what is known (the Dunning-Kruger effect), to latch on a few small things one does feel one understand and to ignore the big ones, and so on.

    A lot of the back-and-forth in comments is a kind furious agreement where people bring their disparate bits-and-pieces to show-and-tell. (I am frequently guilty of this as a commenter; I am not exempting myself from this criticism at all — just offering the observation.) All you need is a “but” where an “and” belongs and you have the stuff of an argument. An argument that, at best, goes to mutual acknowledgement that the “opposed” points are not exclusive, but can lead to personal offense. Just as I have been somewhat offensive, no doubt, to the author, Sunny Hundal, by disparaging aspects of his argument in order to make my own.

    And, my own argument is that we have not invested sufficient resources in thinking this “it” of climate-change-et-cetera thru collectively. Thinking, as I have sometimes averred in comments before, is a social process. If it seems to some that “Climate change is a left-wing issue.” is that because it really is or because we have stopped thinking it thru as a society long before “it” could be enveloped in consensus reality. As other commenters have noted, various flavors of the Right are active, too; there’s just not much overlap with various flavors of the left in their presuppositions. And, in our lack of depth of understanding, all anyone has are their presuppositions.

    To me, as to several other commenters, the strongest part of this post was the preface written by Yves, our gracious host. Going to one point she raised — the need for elite leadership and commitment — I think the obstacle may in large part be the same as it is with we hoi polloi: they have not thought it through, either. (A point several commenters have already made in small — Thiel and his NZ redoubt or Musk going to Mars are ridiculous.)

    I really do think elites will have to have a deep understanding of what is necessary and a large part of that understanding will have to be widely shared, if effective policy is to be accepted and implemented by the many hands at many levels that are inevitably required by an effort to stave off civilization driving off the cliff because of “the Progress Trap” inherent in the Industrial Revolution.

    We really do need to wrap our puny little heads around at least some few concepts that govern the whole process by which civilization is driving toward ecological collapse. I do not think that will be a process of religious conversion where we all become left-wing climate activists on the basis of ethical precepts — not that ethical precepts are not socially useful — or personal concern for our families and dependents. I am saying that we need polities composed of prepared minds that have some reasonable chance of recognizing the shape and magnitude of effective policy when it is proposed. That’s a tough nut in our politics of the moment: because of cognitive fatigue and powerlessness at larger scales, nimby and similar small, local responses are often the best and only democracy we can manage, in America at least.

    Sunny Hundal, in what I regard as one of his best passages, acknowledges that he does not know much about what is required in measurable terms to meet the much touted goals of the Paris Accord, or what is planned to meet those goals, what the progress has actually been.

    In reading the IPCC report, I see a few passing statements and then only some hints, almost in the margins at times, that focusing on the effects of carbon release on atmospheric temperature is not a capacious enough frame for understanding the full nature of “it” — of The Problem. One of my personal favorite “bits” among my bits-and-pieces is that we have to reduce radically ALL energy use if we are to save ourselves, the natural planet and civilization. So, maybe my mind is prepared to see those statements. Others may imagine that their Prius expresses their good intentions. That is just one of many gaps of understanding between bits-and-pieces of understanding scattered among us that we need to make sufficient effort collectively to overcome.

    It would be a big deal, to invest the resources of media and academia in reducing the effects of agnatology and noise in making us cognitively fatigued, and instead established a well-founded consensus reality broad enough and truthful enough to permit effective collective action.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Wow! I am impressed — so many words to say so little. I think you could have stopped at the end of your first sentence.

  40. Jeremy Grimm

    I apologize for my comment and its tone. It was uncalled for.

    If I might start again — I don’t understand your comment. I’ve read through it several times and I just don’t understand what you are saying. What is or are your points?

    1. bruce wilder

      I do appreciate the feedback. This was a first time for me trying to express the idea, and consequently it was a lengthy and, apparently, obscure expression.

      If you read my comment, you have certainly read many others in this thread, and you should recognize the accuracy of my “bits and pieces” characterization of people’s views. Some of that can be attributed to the nature of blog comments as a short form, but I am saying it is more (worse) than that.

      We mostly all agree that there is “a problem” and “something” ought to be done. But, we do not have a well-worked out (and shared) idea of what that “problem” really is in its totality, or what the “something” that ought to be done is, what would be a necessary and sufficient “something” to avoid catastrophe. So, we cannot sensibly order priorities or monitor progress quantitatively.

      I am not saying any commenter is wrong in what they say, but we are all over the map, because there is no shared map. We each of us offer “bits and pieces” with no agreed way to fit them in together, put ideas into perspective.

      That is my answer to: “Why Are We Mostly Ignoring the Climate Crisis?” I do not think it is “the message”.

      I suppose you could say it is a “framing problem”, but not in the common sense of “framing problem”. A “framing problem” is usually thought of as how to come up with a slogan that resonates emotionally with a person’s priors and personal commitments and experience. So, for example, recast “climate change” as a threat to families.

      I am saying we need an elaborate and shared idea of what is happening to world civilization. Priors and personal experience are almost completely irrelevant when not actually counter-productive. We need deep education.

      There are some references in the thread to ideas that could order our shared understanding of the “whole” problem — provide, if you like, some principles of architecture for understanding the “whole”. “The Progress Trap” is one. I have never seen the documentary linked in a comment above, but I understand the basic concept.

      If more-or-less everyone agreed civilization was in a “progress trap” — especially if a detailed elaboration of the idea applied to present circumstances was a shared part of both elite and mass education — then, I think we would be able collectively to devise appropriate and proportionate responses and have those policy responses accepted by the public as appropriate. We could make progress and mark progress.

      All the bits-and-pieces would be in some kind of order. A policy idea like, color all the asphalt roadways or rooftops below the 45th parallel white in order to increase the earth’s albedo, could be evaluated quantitatively and people generally would understand why it was being done.

      More importantly, some critically important ideas would gain primacy. My personal favorite: we have to radically reduce ALL energy use.

      Lots of people have a “bit and pieces” that include the idea of green, renewable energy displacing fossil fuels use. Some get that we would have to initiate fairly radical energy conservation overall to get rates of carbon emission down even if we do undertake transition to “renewable” green energy. Not everyone “gets” that we have to reduce ALL energy use substantially and permanently in order reduce human impacts on the earth’s natural environment. Some do, more or less: “carrying capacity” and all that. But, in my reading, (radical) conservation is not often the lead item on to-do lists.

      The most often touted “official” mainstream economics program of carbon taxes / tradeable permits is predictably idiotic in this respect, but I will save my rant on that topic for another time.

      Some people are attached to a kind of squishy optimism that life can go on as it is, with “green” and “renewable” and “clean” slotting in comfortably to life as we know it. I am not saying that is entirely wrong, by the way; I am saying we are not equipped with the kind of shared, deep understanding that would allow people to sort out the extent to which that expectation can be fulfilled or not. A lot of people think we need to curtail long-distance trade; that has implications for specialization and productivity; maybe, mostly we need to go retro and slow, substituting rail for highways, and water for rail. Again, there’s a sorting out, a perspective on proportion, few are prepared to receive critically, let alone do. (The doing is an elite responsibility; the critical reception cum holding accountable more of a mass responsibility.)

      “The Progress Trap” notion hints at why we also need to do things to retard technical “progress”. We “innovate” at a breakneck pace now. Seemingly trivial innovations spread out across the globe and we discover the full consequences only later. Think about hair spray (freon as a propellant) and the ozone layer. Or, lead in gasoline. We barely have time to discover the feedback and save ourselves.

      Reactionary malignancies like Tyler Cowen have spread the idea that rates of technological innovation have slowed, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary. And this further obscures the increasing risks.

      So, that’s what I am thinking and trying to communicate. Thank you for trying so hard to understand my obscure comment. Hope I did better the second time.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Thank you for re-explaining the content of your comment from before. I think I understand much better what you’re thinking. I am not sure I agree with all points but then I’m a fairly grumpy and persnickety old guy — as is probably evident.

        I strongly agree that: “Some people are attached to a kind of squishy optimism that life can go on as it is, with ‘green’ and ‘renewable’ and ‘clean’ slotting in comfortably to life as we know it.” I believe that observation encapsulates the best explanation for “Why are mostly ignoring the Climate Crisis?” I think it might explain much of the “bit and pieces” thinking that characterizes much of the discussion about climate change. Contemplating the Climate Crisis more broadly too quickly leads to conclusions that few can willingly accept.

        Where I disagree with you is your optimism. I’m not convinced a proper framing of the problem whether in terms of family or even personal survival would suffice that “some critically important ideas would gain primacy” — like your assertion “we have to radically reduce ALL energy use.” We reached peak oil sometime in the previous decade. There are alternative sources of energy but I am not convinced they can replace more than 10% or 20% of the present energy use — and energy use is trending up here and in the rest of the world. Your assertion that “we have to radically reduce ALL energy use” amounts to the simple acknowledgement of our situation — completely ignoring issues related to the Climate Crisis. And a corollary to this observation is that our consumption and long fragile supply lines cannot be sustained. [I don’t like to contemplate the implications for the present world populations and fossil fuel based food production.]

        I think I might be a victim of the “Progress Trap”. I believe that progress in learning, science, and technology can and must go on. There is so very much we do not know or understand. But I believe progress should not and must not be measured in material terms. It would represent progress were Humankind able to grow past its self-destructive madness.

  41. eg

    If our history is any guide, there will likely emerge a series of competing responses/solutions to these challenges, and very probably outright warfare.

    Then, a new equilibrium, presumably with a much smaller global human population.

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