A World Without Ice

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

In a new book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, author Dahr Jamail writes about the coming world without any standing glacial ice anywhere on earth. He capsulizes his thoughts in this interview with Dharna Noor at the Real News Network:

DHARNA NOOR: These indicators of the climate crisis are often presented as just statistics— sometimes ones that have implications maybe for the ecosystems around ice melting, rarely ones that are wreaking havoc on all life on Earth. But in this book, in The End of Ice, you write, “The reporting in this book has turned out to be far more difficult to deal with than the years I spent reporting from war torn Iraq.” And later you even say that, “we’re setting ourselves up for our own extinction.”

Talk about the extent of the earth’s ice loss, and how seeing it up close impacted you, and what it means for life around the planet?

DAHR JAMAIL: … In four years’ time, [the Antarctic has] lost 34 times the amount of ice as was lost in the Antarctic over the same period. And so, what this essentially means is an area of sea ice in the Antarctic, larger than the size of Mexico, vanished in a four-year time frame. It went from a record high to a record low of sea ice extent. This is how fast things are happening in front of our eyes, coupled with the loss of terrestrial ice like in the Himalaya and in the lower 48 United States.

We have other reports show that we could have no ice whatsoever, no glacial ice whatsoever, in the lower 48 by the year 2100.

A life with no glacial ice anywhere in the continental U.S. is almost unimaginable. Extrapolating that thought throughout the globe is beyond what most people can even begin to picture.

Yet the consequences are easy to detail. Jamail continues:

DAHR JAMAIL: And so, if you think about the human impacts of this, right now as we speak, almost a quarter of a billion people around the world rely on glacial ice just for their drinking water alone. If we look at agricultural impacts, you mentioned the Himalaya, the loss of ice in the Himalaya, some studies showing we could see almost the entirety of glacial ice in the Himalaya gone by 2100.

Well, in the Hindu Kush region, that’s the source of seven major river systems in Asia. 1.5 billion people rely on that water for drinking and for agricultural purposes, so if all of that ice is gone by 2100, where do those 1.5 billion people go? Because you can’t live somewhere where there’s no water, and then what happens in those areas where they go?

So you start to think about the cascading effects, just the human impact. I’m not even talking about the ecological impact, which is equally devastating. But if you start looking at these cascading impacts, then you start to get an idea of really the severity of the crisis that we’re in.

The Hindu Kush is a mountain range and surrounding area that stretches from central Afghanistan into Pakistan and China. 1.5 billion people is 20% of earth’s population. This is not the most politically stable region of the world. A water-and-agriculture crisis involving 20% of earth’s population won’t be small — or fixable.

Now consider the same problem with global cascading effects — war, famine, disease and drought; sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification; arid farm land and ruined national economies; disruption of the food chain at both top and bottom.

The first permanent glaciers began to appear just 35 million years ago, a small fraction of a fossil record that extends back 240 million years, long before the dinosaurs, to the start of the Cambrian period. Humans have never lived in a world without ice.

Can we survive if, by our own action — or rather, the action of the pathological few to whom we’ve ceded control — the world returns to an ice-free state? Yes; perhaps.

But how many humans will an ice-free world support? Probably not seven and a half billion. Perhaps not a tenth of that number. Even a tenth of that tenth may be ten times too optimistic.

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  1. Tyronius

    Humans can adapt to nearly anything- except overcrowding combined with resource depletion.

    Collapse, by Dr Jared Diamond, covers this topic in detail. Warning: it’s the scariest book I’ve ever read, large part because the more one wakes up from the bad dreams of capitalist propaganda, the more inevitable our modern civilisation’s demise seems to be.

    1. Wukchumni

      You used to be able to take guided walks on the 20 mile long Franz Josef & Fox glaciers in NZ, but they’ve receded so much, that only helicopter tours taking you to places where one can hike are available now.

  2. divadab

    All this is true but what people get wrong is the time scale. The demise of permanent ice is something which will unroll over tens or even hundreds of human generations. The societies which are capable of organized planning ahead for this future, a future where sea level is 100 meters higher than now, will have better survival odds. But any survivor society will be under siege from massive waves of refugees who cannot be accommodated and it will be kill or be killed, sadly.

    For example, what will happen when 40 million flooded out Bangladeshis try to roll into India, which itself will have massive starvation due to lack of glacier melt feeding the Ganges and Indus?

    Not a pretty future and we are like the Sorceror’s apprentice, unleashing forces we cannot control.

    And building walls – to keep people and seawater out, and fresh water in – will be critical for a survivor society.

    1. ambrit

      That’s the ‘Orthodox’ view of change. There is also the ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ view, where change happens rapidly, and to extremes, before settling down for a nap.
      Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium
      The above might be formulated for biological evolution, but works just as well for ecological evolution.
      There is also ‘Catastrophism,’ I aver, a special case of ‘Punctuated Equilibrium.’
      Alas, it appears that the “Jackpot” is now baked in to the near future. Coping strategies and some remediation work will have to suffice. No matter what, the world of a hundred years from now will be radically different from today.

      1. Oregoncharles

        We should all be aware of our elevation. 100 meters is 300 feet. The estimates I’ve seen are for more like 200 feet; our elevation is 220 feet. The Willamette would be an arm of the sea – actually a brackish bay. I doubt that there are exact numbers for sea level rise. I also doubt that Hattiesburg is high enough. But it really will take a long time for the really massive ice caps to melt, even if the temperature jumps.

        1. ambrit

          I once got to see a NOAA map of projected sea level rise, over twenty years ago. That organization was on the case that long ago. The then estimated sea level rise was about 210 feet above mean sea level. Hattiesburg is just above that, so, I will be living, or fertilizing the shrubbery, near to the shoreline.
          If the Willamette Valley doesn’t have too many unsecured toxic sites under the new wave level, it should be a great spawning ground for Pacific fisheries. With all of the old buildings and installations in that body of water, called ‘structures’ by fisherpersons, fishing should be great.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Our situations are actually very similar, then.

            Unlike the Mississippi valley, there don’t seem to be a lot of toxic sites here. Farmland might be the worst problem.

            1. ambrit

              Ah. Loss of farmland I presume.
              The lower Mississippi Valley is really one giant toxic site. All the refineries and chemical plants fringing the Gulf Coast alone might be enough to sterilize the entire Gulf of Mexico and Eastern seaboard for centuries. (Eastern seaboard because most of Florida won’t be in the way of ocean currents shifting quickly from the Gulf to the East.)
              The Bay of Willamette might be one of the few habitable seacoasts left in a hundred years.

              1. softie

                Actually it’s Round-up run-off from all the industry farming land that has made the Mississippi River delta toxic.

                1. ambrit

                  That too. But, whenever I have been at industrial sites where toxic chemicals are used, the tanks holding those toxic substances are ringed with small levees, to keep spills contained. I have read that gasoline is one of the most toxic substances known. A gasoline spill will linger for a long time if left unattended.
                  See: http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/gasoline.htm
                  One reason I ‘push’ this meme is our experience after Katrina. A Mississippi university did some soil sampling soon after the storm. Several of the places thay checked were in the runoff zones from industrial sites. We lived near to the Port Bienville Industrial Park. A lot of chemicals from there were washed through our town by the storm surge. The tests showed off the chart measurements of arsenic in several places, our little town being one such place. Other places showing similar arsenic spikes were adjacent to the Dupont Paint Plant in Delisle, which flooded, and Moss Point, just inland from the Pascagoula Shipyard, which also flooded.
                  I personally experienced something out of the ordinary, that affected several people I knew around the same time. Some time after the storm, during a spell of hot dry weather, the dust that blew off of the debris piles would mix with body sweat and form a stinging liquid, almost like acid. It hurt like a burn.
                  This is just a foretaste of what the Gulf of Mexico could be like if the toxic sites are not cleaned up before the rising sea level inundates them.
                  We have been warned.
                  The methodologies and standards which any particular group applies to their testing regime makes a big difference. The Sierra Club begs to differ with the EPA’s of the region about test results.
                  Read: https://emagazine.com/arsenic-and-old-waste/page/445/
                  Just like in politics, framing the discussion makes all the difference as to the ‘narrative’ being promoted.
                  I just found a decent source for understanding the Katrina Experience in, of all things, the Weather Underground site. Here’s the part on my ex-home town.
                  Read: https://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/Katrinas_surge_part07.asp

          2. polecat

            One small consolation ambrit – those shrubberies might just be mangroves – so your remains .. or at least some of your atoms thereof, could be helping to form new tidelands. So with ‘creative’ destruction, comes creation anew !
            As for inland saltwater bodies, the Willamette will have a southern companionin .. in the Sacramento Sea .. as the Golden Gate gets transformed into the Golden Dam – locks included, assuming of course, such an infrastructure project ever gets undertaken. Who knows what future ecosystems will come about thusly.

            1. ambrit

              Oh yes O Knights of Your Own Private Idaho! I will grow you a shrubbery!
              Don’t forget the Salton Sound, a northern extension of the Gulf of Baja.
              Considering the amount of industry centered around San Francisco, that Sacramento Sea would probably be a dangerous soup of questionable ingredients. The Golden Gate locks would be to keep the poisons in, rather than the sea out.

      2. Briny

        Even before we get to really complex systems, I’m used to a world in engineering and science where sudden, discontinuous change is the norm, not an exception. Catastrophic failure is something I have to plan around whether we are talking at the quantum level (electronics/nuclear) or macro (anything else, really) level. And when it comes to geosystems I merely have to recall mammoths with fresh flowers in their mouths as they froze, right at the boundary between two climate states. [Strange attractors if you subscribe to chaos theory, which I do especially given my studies in statistics at the university at a terribly young age. The universe is decidedly non-linear and very dynamic.]

        I can only believe that it is the fact that most of our experiences are with steady-state or systems with continuous change the people as the norm. Experiences with rapid, discontinuous events (accidents, market crashes, avalanches, &c.) seem to soften and fade from consciousness. Even if they are a predominant feature of “The News.” Probably already a bunch of academic papers on that already.

        1. ambrit

          I learned about it from my exposure to the “Comet Research Group.” They are mainly concerned with the Younger Dryas events.
          As the album cover says: “Rust Never Sleeps.” But a hammer will do the job just as well, and a lot quicker.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Right now there are problems with refugees trying to get across the Mediterranean into Europe, across the Mexican border into the US and a number of other places but you are typically talking about thousands. If water gives out for some of those regions, you may be talking about millions of people on the move to new places in search of water. Think about that. A mass of humanity numbering in the millions devouring and absorbing all in their path. There was a similar episode in early 19th century south Africa with the Bantu and it left nothing but devastation if their wake until this horde broke apart due to its own weight.

    1. Felix_47

      ?Camp of the Saints was written in the early 1970s. The argument against such an outcome is that there is enough space and resources for all of humanity in the temperate zones of Europe and America. If we can overcome our parochialism and racism we can create an integrated human society in that zone. We could use the hot zones for concentrated agriculture with nuclear powered irrigation. For example, China really should occupy Siberia and Mexico and Central America, Haiti, Dominican Republic and the rest of the islands really should be housed in the US. Africa and Southwest Asia to include India should really occupy Europe which is relatively sparsely populated. In fact, that process is well underway and the early waves of colonies and routes are established. It is kind of like the reverse of the 1500’s as Europeans branched out and donated their genes to the native gene pool. Now the natives are branching out and donating their genes to the Euopean American gene pool.

  4. another David

    Can someone more articulate than I, explain how the heat needed to change ice to water at 32 degrees is the same amount of heat that will raise the temperature of that water from 32 to 112 after the ice has melted?

      1. another David

        physics, your drink stays cool as long as the ice lasts, then it warms rapidly. just like the polar ice caps!

        1. Dirk77


          In that it says it takes 334 kJ/kg to melt ice. It takes around 184 kJ/kg to heat water from 0C to 44C, which is your 32F to 112F. So all other things staying the same, if you melt all the ice in X years, you will heat it up to 112F in about half that time. Interesting question and answer.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Part of sea-level rise is the water expanding as it warms. This is saying that effect will be very large.

            I wonder whether all the dissolved CO2 also has an effect? Don’t remember the answer to that from college chemistry.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              If the CO2 molecules fit in between the H2O molecules, then probably not much or not any.

              A lot of fossil water from the deep subground has been sucked up and sprayed on crops. It re-enters the water cycle and flows to the sea. Perhaps that extra water is enough to raise sea levels.

              As the capacity of land to hold water is destroyed, any water falling on land flows to the sea that much faster, meaning ” more of the water” is now in the sea and “less of the water” is now on the land and in the land. That would also make sea levels rise. Enough to matter? It depends on how much water the land can now no longer hold and store.

      2. Monty

        A surprisingly large amount of energy is required to change state of water. e.g. melt ice. It is roughly equivalent to the energy required to raise the liquid water temperature from 0 to 80 C.

        The water’s temperature is stabilized at 0 whilst making the phase change, because all the energy is used breaking the molecular bonds which are keeping the ice solid. Once all the bonds break (ice melts), that energy increases the water temperature instead.

    1. Ignacio

      Latent heat is called. The heat necessary for changing state fron solid ice to liquid water at constant temperature. Nearly 80 calories per gram of melting ice.

    1. ambrit

      Set in London no less. I concur.
      Ballard could be described as a visionary about dystopias because he spent some of his formative years in a Japanese Internment Camp outside of Shanghai during WW-2.
      “Empire of the Sun” is autobiographical.

      1. Oregoncharles

        There is one set in Louisiana, but I don’t begin to remember the name – just the haunting picture of a drowned city.

        There are actually a lot of drowned settlements from the post-glacial period, and even cities in the Mediterranean. Sea level rise has been going on for a while.

        1. ambrit

          Archaeology has just begun to take the ‘Drowned Cities’ idea seriously.
          The drowned city of New Orleans story might be something by George Alec Effinger. He lived there for years.

          1. Briny

            When you keep finding cities 400′ down below sea level, ya’d think they’d get a clue ;-).

            1. Oregoncharles

              Some of that may be land subsidence – the Mediterranean is where two major plates meet; if one is diving under the other, the land on it will sink.

              But we ARE in an interglacial; the last Ice Age ended only about 20,000 years ago. Many adjustments are still happening. (Current heating is a complete outlier from that process.)

              1. ambrit

                The ‘official’ version of history may have the last Ice Age ending 20,000 years ago, but the Younger Dryas events were only 12,000 years ago, give or take, and they involved the two greatest surges in sea level rise recorded. That means that there was a great amount of glacial ice still around to be melted, and melted quickly.
                One could say that the 20,000 year ago figure described the last peak of glaciation, and perhaps so. Thus, the question becomes, what defines an Ice Age, and what defines an Interglacial Age? Average world temperature? Extent of livable landmass? Density of flora and fauna? Distribution of heat around the world?
                Some of the argumentation makes the controversy over Hoerbiger’s theory of Ice Moons seem tame.
                For der Welteislehre: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welteislehre

  5. Susan the other`

    The Danish research (cosmic particles forming low level clouds and a cooling sun) has received some confirmation by a new Finnish study and a Japanese one to the effect that CO2 is not at the IPCC level claimed and that since it is lower they also conclude that it is not (therefore could not be) a man-made/accumulative phenomenon. My first thoughts are that the reason the atmosphere could measure in at this lower level of CO2 is probably that the big sink, the oceans, are now saturated and dangerously acidified. Those studies did not look at the oceans, at least not mentioned in the abstracts and conclusions. The only parts I eat. Most recent UN stats have shown CO2 levels rising rapidly. There’s a big disconnect here. The Danes are calling low level cloud formation a “reverse umbrella” effect, cooling the planet, but this research does not take into account the weather dynamics on the planet. It is conceivable that what will happen is a complete loss of sea ice and glaciers and a much wetter, warmer world. Jim Hansen has focused now on the oceans. That is where we will find our best answers. But if, by chance the Danes are right and CO2 warming is not man-made then things are, in fact, even scarier. And we are virtually clueless. So just coming to that one conclusion – that we don’t know but it looks like everything will be bad no matter what – there is no excuse for us to ignore taking the necessary steps to be prepared as best we can for what looks to be inevitable. Adequate shelter, water conservation, new agriculture, etc.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Do you have links for the Danish research? Also you said Jim Hansen is focused on the oceans now. Do you have a link or links to a recent paper by Hansen et al. which lead you to make this assertion?

      Even without Climate Chaos Humankind has been approaching many limits demanding adaptation. Climate Chaos shortens the time we have and makes far more daunting adaptations necessary. Adequate shelter, water, food, etc. … has been a problem for the great majority of Humankind from long before we discovered Climate Chaos.

      1. Susan the other`

        The Danish research is from Henrik Svenmark; the Jim Hansen stuff is from Hansen. So google both of them for their most recent, 2019, assessments I would guess. I agree the pollution problem goes far beyond CO2. We humans need a different mindset. We are still using the monkey-tree mindset. Because anything used or unusable was just tossed over the branches.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Thank you for your response. I did cursory searches:
          “Sun-clouds-climate connection takes a beating from CERN”: Cosmic rays and other radiation may help clouds form, but their effect is marginal.” John Timmer – 10/28/2016, 9:28 AM [https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/sun-clouds-climate-connection-takes-a-beating-from-cern/]

          The most recent article I saw from Hansen et al. — actually Hansen was not the first author cited for the paper —
          “Improvements in the GISTEMP Uncertainty Model”, 23 May 2019 [https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018JD029522]. Oceans were mentioned in the abstract — but I am not sure I could surmise “James Hansen is focused on the oceans now” from “incorporate independently derived estimates for ocean data processing, station homogenization, and other structural biases. The resulting 95% uncertainties are near 0.05 °C in the global annual mean …”

          Does the cosmic ray theory pass your balloney meter — it fails mine? If you want to be concerned — consider that past most global warming events were caused by changes to insolation which occurred slowly over thousands of years, and tended to lead the increases in CO2 in the atmosphere, which as Hansen suggests acted as a thermostat and ratchet to lock in the increased temperatures. To me this suggests that increased temperatures could add CO2 to the atmosphere from sources we are as yet unaware of — additions of CO2 above and beyond what we’ve already added and which we continue to add at an accelerating rate. ‘We’ and we added massive amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere before warming and the CO2 seems to have been the definitive factor in the currently observed warming. How much more CO2 might be added to the atmosphere from other sources than our burning of fossil fuels, if our models of past climate events are correct?

          1. Susan the other`

            The cosmic particle theory does actually pass my baloney meter as I have observed the cloud cover across the Pacific and the US increase noticeably; the last 2 or 3 years the jet stream has looped itself up and down across the whole country and even managed to back up incoming systems. So I think, as Svenmark says, the sun is in a low energy phase and more cosmic particles are getting through; it explains the weather better than simply the Arctic has melted to the point that more moisture is in the air – but I think that is happening too. And the Antarctic. So bottom line with me is both things are happening. And I think the only reason that the Finns and Japanese are saying that the IPCC overestimated the amount of man-made CO2 is because they (Finns) have not looked carefully at the dangerously oversaturated oceans. And I hope Jim Hansen will come up with an analysis that puts it back into the equation. Because I think it is undeniable that human-caused CO2 has tipped us into disruptive climate change. Along with the toxic pollution we are all breathing, etc. The proof of that, imo, is melting ice and ocean rise.

        2. Prudent Lemming

          Thank you (in some sense) for this trip down a rabbit hole into a realm of science, or perhaps I should say salaried research, of which I wasn’t aware. My conclusion: I find this realclimate article persuasive that the claims that “C02 warming is not man-made” are crap. Always good to take one’s critical faculties, and google-fu, out for a spin.

      2. Synoia

        Does not explain acidification of the Ocean.

        To be a credible theory, it has to account for ALL of the effects of climate change. Not one particular set of data.

    2. Kilgore Trout

      I don’t think there has been any link found between changes in solar activity–including cosmic ray changes– and the planet’s increase in temperature. We should be in a cooling phase, given we are in an interglacial period with a slow slide into another ice age, based on the Milankovitch cycles. Instead, we are over-riding that cooling. The only mechanism to fully account for the warming is man-made greenhouse gases.
      “This radioactive isotope [C14] was produced abundantly in the fallout from nuclear weapon tests during the 1950s. Sensitive instruments could detect even a tiny amount carried thousands of miles on the world’s winds, and the data provided the first comprehensive mapping of the global circulation of air. The results confirmed what had only been guessed: within a few years any addition of CO2 was well mixed throughout the atmosphere, from pole to pole and from the surface into the highest stratosphere.(29a)
      “Carbon-14 is also created by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere and then decays over millennia. The carbon in ancient coal and oil is so old that it entirely lacks the radioactive isotope. Therefore emissions from burning fossil fuels would add only plain carbon to the atmosphere. In 1955, the chemist Hans Suess reported an analysis of wood from trees grown over the past century, finding that the newer the wood, the higher its ratio of plain carbon to carbon-14. He had detected an increase of fossil carbon in the atmosphere.
<=External input 
<=Carbon dates
      "The amount of fossil carbon that Suess saw added to the atmosphere was barely one percent, a fraction so low that he concluded that the oceans were indeed taking up most of the carbon that came from burning fossil fuels. A decade would pass before he reported more accurate studies, which showed a far higher fraction of fossil carbon. Yet already in 1955 it was evident that Suess's data were preliminary and insecure. The important thing he had demonstrated was that fossil carbon really was showing up in the atmosphere."

  6. Anon

    The oceans do accumulate CO2 from the atmosphere. And because the oceans contain algal (photosynthetic) life they can also give SOME of it back to the atmosphere. Some of the CO2 is converted into carbonic acid increasing the pH of ocean water. The diffusion of CO2 into the ocean is through the “partial pressure” concept. If the atmosphere has a greater quantity of CO2 than the ocean water CO2 will diffuse into it; any “saturation” is a flux moment.

  7. Jeremy Grimm

    This post focused on Asia. I thought glacers were also the water source for many of the peoples of the Andes in South America.

    I don’t think I will look for this new book. This post is short but how hard might it have been to make a better case for some of the otherwise hyperbolic claims of doom and gloom. A hundred-fold or thousand-fold decline in human populations or more is a great loss of life but not an extinction. We could achieve such declines on own without great suffering through a century of attrition using birth control and the invention of a new world culture based on the realities of this time instead of the realities of life a few thousand years ago.

    But I’m not sure we still have a century to make ‘adjustments’. I’ve seen no evidence for any efforts toward minimizing loss of life or risk of conflicts. Quite the contrary — ‘We’ are doing our very best to hold on to and amass more and more no matter the costs to others so that we will not enjoy a gentle decline in population through gradual attrition.

    1. Anon

      A 1000-fold decrease in the current world population (7.5 Billion?) would be a world population smaller than the population of Oregon. Not likely to meet that goal on our own in a century (3 or 4 generations, but just more than a single lifetime).

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        If no more children were born after one year from now — the human population would decline to near zero in a century.

        “Generation length, also known as generation interval, generation time, generational length and intergenerational interval, is generally accepted as being the number of years between the births of a parent and of a child, that is the age of a parent when a child is born.” [https://isogg.org/wiki/Generation_length].
        “Not likely to meet that goal on our own in a century (3 or 4 generations, but just more than a single lifetime).”
        Using the definition of a generation I think 3 or 4 generations is a duration less than a century. A single lifetime is less than a century for most people. Unless you intended some other meanings to the words of your comment — I think we are in agreement.

        The question is whether a harsh regime of birth control and cultural adaptations is preferable to other means for reducing our populations to fit the food resources available in a world with a climate to which our agriculture is as yet not adapted.

  8. Joe Well

    >>or rather, the action of the pathological few to whom we’ve ceded control

    The “pathological few” include hundreds of millions of educated, middle class, climate-change-not-denying members of the middle and upper classes who refuse to ride the bus.

    I am made most hopeless by talking with “progressives” who still want a world with private car ownership, single-family homes, commercial air travel, suburban sprawl, a large military, and daily consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs. They always summon the electric car fairy, or the renewable energy fairy, or the recycling fairy. They’re so proud of the family-blogging cotton shopping bags in the trunks of their cars.

    The large majority of human beings on Earth and not a few North Americans have a very small global warming footprint. It’s not a hard thing to live in an apartment, take the bus, and not consume like a glutton, but for millions of people, middle class status means destroying the earth.

    1. Math is Your Friend

      In so many cases, failures of policy come from ignoring what people want, or expecting to tell people what they should want and expecting them to obediently comply to such orders.

      Usually those orders come with the assumption that those giving the orders are too important or to vital to ensuring orders are heard and obeyed to be forced to the same standards they are promulgating. I invite you to find a good calculation of Al Gore’s carbon footprint.

      I could cite a number of examples of the people as a whole ignoring the expectations of legislators and politicans, and doing what they thought was best for them, but it would be even more interesting for you to find your own, and perhaps, share them.

      Quick fixes based on simultaneously changing our infrastructure, our technology, our economy, our personal needs, and just about everything else are likely to founder, particularly when various social, legal, technological and practical unicorns are invoked as the answers to making them work.

      In many ways this seems reminiscent of Brexit, where the Tories keep churning out ‘solutions’ that totally ignore what the EU needs, what the EU has said, the internal political reality in the UK, the nature of international trade, the Irish issues, economic factors involved, and anything else that gets in the way of a good / popular fantasy.

      Proposals for climate mitigation must start from what is possible, which appears, at least to me, to be both more and less than most of the solution-pushers are proposing.

      A ‘solution’ that cannot be successfully implemented is a useless distraction, and at this stage, that looks like most of them.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I strongly disagree with your position. True — many “failures of policy come from ignoring what people want, or expecting to tell people what they should want and expecting them to obediently comply to such orders.” But are you ready to believe that such ‘policies’ are the only possible ways to address Climate Chaos? Of course people do what they think is best for them! So why are policies with so much personal responsibility all you can think of?

        Would you like a quick ‘fix’ to consider — actually just a quick short term mitigation? Get rid of subsidies for oil exporation and drilling. Or eliminate the farm subsidies encouraging the growth of corn to produce ethanol [exceptions allowed for corn-liquer which I like!]. How about stopping the ‘harvesting’ of ‘our’ forests or the mining and extraction of ‘our’ mineral resources. Goring these unicorns [I think you meant sacred cows or sacred oxen] doesn’t affect many of the people as a whole nor their assessments of what is best for them — although some other far more important people, completely divorced from the masses whose obedience you’ve made your concern might raise objections. What about our endless foreign wars? Is the Commander-in-Chief unable to issue an order to bring our troops home? And if so, what does that tell you?

        Why are these actions — actions NOT ‘solutions’ — so impossible to imagine? Is it because of people doing what they think is best for them? Maybe it is. But what ‘people’ are we talking about?

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      “It’s not a hard thing to live in an apartment, take the bus, and not consume like a glutton …”
      Where do you live? I’ve tried to take the bus and other means for mass transit such as exist where I live, and I cannot agree with your assertion that it isn’t hard to take the bus, or any other form of mass transit where I live. I live in a part of the country with some of the best mass transit available anywhere in our sad land. The buses run seldom, slowly, and multiple connections and waits are required for any but the simplest of trips — and the buses seem relatively expensive to me. The trains run well but not with sufficient reliability to let me feel comfortable using trains as a means to get to the airport unless I add a couple of hours of just-in-case time to the hours already required to get through security at the airport. When I flew, I hated every minute of it, but it was required for my job. I rarely flew for pleasure. I’ve tried taking the trains cross-country. The costs are comparable or MORE than the cost of flying and the multiple connections and slow movement of the trains makes travel cross-country a week-long effort — if I sleep on a train. And I don’t have the kind of money to blow on a sleeper! so I have to sleep in my seat which I cannot do. Efforts to stop along the way run into substantial costs for food and lodging, as well as problems negotiating travel to and from the train to my hotel — NOT the Ritz. And try walking or riding a bicycle … if you have death wish.

      It’s not hard to live in an apartment? I suppose you must have some very excellent apartment managers and apartment owners. My experience in living in an apartment was that the construction was very inferior, and both noisy and not well insulated against hot and cold, and every year the rent went up like clockwork and unlike my salary. Have you ever tried to construct anything in an apartment — other than a plastic model airplane? There are more than a few limitations on what you can do in apartments. [Of course all the codicils in the subdivision rules doesn’t leave much freedom in a single-family home anywhere near an incorporated area. Try growing a garden in your front yard in most cities.]

      I’ve discovered the best way to avoid eating like a glutton is to cook for myself. I’m too cheap to buy meats, or splurge on large quantities of milk or dairy products, and far too lazy to keep myself too well stuffed with what I do buy. I do eat eggs. Eggs are relatively inexpensive and available locally from people who raise chickens and care for them lovingly. I don’t see the harm in chickens. They are quite happy eating bugs and kitchen wastes and an occasional mouse who tries to cross their pen. And have you noticed some substantial increases in the price of dried beans in your area? I have.

      The suburban sprawl, large military, hardly seem like things favored by your “progressives”. If you listened to them you might discover they disliked both but thought they were unavoidable and necessary. The electric car fairy, renewable energy fairy, or the recycling fairy, salves consciences and quells unhappy thoughts. How can you blame these hapless fools wanting to find some solace in their impotence. And after all this — you have said so very very little about the pathological few who dismantled our mass-transit, created urban sprawl, control and profit from apartment dwellers like you and me, and profited greatly from the subdivisions and ordinances that built our unstable suburban lifestyle. As for gluttony … I suppose that pathological few find profit there as well and they certainly prefer gluttony to other ways for finding some solace — better than drinking, or drugs — unless they can control the profits from those also, and even them people start to think of things they shouldn’t.

      1. Joe Well

        You and the other commenter are exactly who I’m talking about.

        You’re in denial that the planet is going to make that choice for us in less than 15 years.

        If everyone took the bus, we’d have good bus service. If private car use were abolished, or just heavily restricted (low speed limit + limited lanes) it would be safe to ride a bicycle. Detached single-family homes are an ecological disaster no matter how you look at it, especially if they are heated or air conditioned, but many first-time home buyers would rather have a centrally located condo if only the local bluehairs weren’t blocking any significant development.

        The problem is our “progressive” middle class is seeking the mirage of electric cars instead of high-quality, widespread bus service and streets that are safe for bikes, scooters, and wheelchairs. And I’ve seen way too many fauxgressive comments on this very blog calling for more trains instead of buses, when anyone who is paying any attention to North American infrastructure and land use knows that it would be easier just to give everyone a pony.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You are ignoring existing conditions.

          Many and I would hazard most cities don’t have the density to make bus service a viable option. Most people are so time stressed anything longer than a 15 minute wait is trouble (particularly since busses aren’t great about sticking to schedules). And people have to walk to the bus, and walking more than 10 minutes also makes bus service unattractive.

          I lived in Sydney, a city of 4 million people. Sydney was ruthless and pretty effective at forcing people to commute into the CBD or North Sydney on public transport. Parking was scarce, which made it expensive, and they had a lot of trains and busses and ferries.

          However, everyone still had a car. I lived in one of the very few areas of Sydney where it was feasible not to have a car (Potts Point) and I still found myself using cabs more than occasionally because it was hard to get to quite a few destinations without spending ginormous amounts of time.

          And the climate cost of building new housing is high, estimated at 10 years of running a similar-sized dwelling. And that would not include other changes to city centers if they proved necessary (like changes in roads, the electrical grid, water works).

        2. Felix_47

          Gasoline and electric costs like Germany would help. A driver’s test like Germany would get half the drivers off the road. I recently had to take public transportation from LA to Barstow through Fontana. It was surprisingly cheap and it got you there. It was a lot cheaper than gas. There were also surprisingly few riders that appeared employed or very solvent. You just have to work out what the schedule is and devote most of a day to it.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          You can’t take the bus if there’s no bus to take.

          Luckily for me I live in a decent little University City with decent bus service. So I can take the bus. And since I don’t have a family, I can get away without owning a car because I could find a space for myself in a low-to-moderate-income housing co-op. For people with families it would be harder.

          As to the planet making a choice for us in less than 15 years, I think that neo-poverty peasants living in the suburban squatter settlements will survive better than the hyper-urban denizens of your beloved cities. Boston, for example, will become an Urban Death Trap.

    3. Hopelb

      + a million
      And hear, hear! Imagine all those people you could have met on the bus, that you’ve missed out on, you dumb ass!

      1. Joe Well

        I knew a guy, in a “middle income” South American country with good bus service (unlike a backwards country like Canada or the USA), who preferred the bus because he met his last two girlfriends that way.

        1. pretzelattack

          in the u.s., for a lot of people, it is a hard thing to avoid homelessness, much less avoid consuming like a glutton. the buses in this major metro area run sporadically, so that’s a hard thing, too. and if you walk, there are often no sidewalks. that’s not due to gluttonous apartment dwellers who want to avoid the meaningful human contact that comes with being packed like sardines into the rush hour buses (lots of buses in rush hour, few and an hour between at other times, on many bus routes.

  9. phichibe

    Hi NC folk,

    I wanted to recommend that you check out the videos of Paul Beckwith on YT if you’re interested in climate change and the loss of ice. He’s a climate scientist (was pursuing a late-in-life Ph.D at the University of Ottawa until recently, now working fulltime as a clarion voice ringing the firebell on climate change. The situation is so much worse than the general public knows, and that the MSM covers. Beckwith now uses ‘climate emergency’ to characterize the crisis we live in.



  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here is a warning and a heads up. Go see Colonel ( Ret.) Lang’s most recent post at Sic Semper Tyrannis. It is titled: ” AOC’s chief of staff comments just killed the Green New Deal” Washington Examiner ”

    Here is the link:

    Too bad. So sad. Time to start thinking about narrower more-focused plans to rebalance the carbon cycle and de-warm the global within the political-economic-social-cultural context we have, because the Green New Deal ain’t going anywhere any more now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry this is a very serious distortion. SST is a military blog and it might do better to stick to its knitting.

      So what if he said that? First, I doubt anyone will care. A GND or any serious effort to tackle climate change would require a major restructuring of the economy. My beef with the GND is that it gives the impression that Doing More Now is what is required, when Doing More requires more energy and natural resources, as opposed to first and foremost, radical conservation.

      Second, she has more staffers than the usual freshman Congresscritter and can throw him under the bus or distance herself from his opinion if his statement becomes controversial.

    2. jrs

      conservatives: try failed policies, that keep failing politically, that’s the ticket. Well yes they want progressives to fail, but why should we? They are not our friends. Yves is right on the possible flaws of a GND approach though, economic growth is killing us, and to the extent a GND became greenwashed growth based capitalism it’s questionable. To that extent.

      But anyway the reason GND approaches are big is because narrower approaches seem to come up empty politically. The yellow vests are an indication of this, as much else. The yellow vests aren’t on ecologically minded people’s side either, but they do indicate a political problem. If you can’t get people to want to pass a policy what is the point in a nominal democracy, that’s why the GND. And we do have other issues to solve like unemployment so there is some need for jobs etc. (but how to do that without growth, yea not so easy).

      AOCs chief of staff doesn’t seem the brightest (and he’s silicon valley to the core it seems) , Rickets from the Inslee camp seems more with it but desperate of course. Anyway that’s politics, policy I think the GND has life in it yet.

  11. softie

    According to the UN report, the #1 leading cause of the climate change is massive animal farming. The best we can do is to adopt a plant-based diet.

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