Take Your Pick of Left Wing Climate Change Narratives: Green Abundance or Righteous Austerity

Yves here. Since we don’t consider this site to be left wing (we regularly get in arguments with the orthodox types), it shouldn’t be surprising that like Dorman, we aren’t comfortable with what he depicts as the two acceptable views of goodthinking lefties on climate change. I can’t speak for Lambert or Jerri-Lynn, but my position is probably more like: “Too late, the Jackpot is coming. Responses will be erratic and not well coordinated.”

And in case you have not read Gibson’s book The Peripheral, the Jackpot is a roughly 40 year period in the 21st Century in which most people die due to climate change and pestilence. It is still optimistic given his givens. We’ve quoted this passage before, of a character from the future, Wilf, telling the heroine Flynn what is to come:

[The Jackpot] was androgenic, [Wilf] said, and [Flynn] knew from Ciencia Loca and National Geographic that meant because of people. Not that they’d known what they were doing, had meant to make problems, but they’d caused it anyway. And in fact the actual climate, the weather, caused by there being too much carbon, had been the driver for a lot of other things. How that got worse and never better, and was just expected to, ongoing. Because people in the past, clueless as to how that worked, had fucked it all up, then not been able to get it together to do anything about it, even after they knew, and now it was too late.

So now, in her day, he said, they were headed into androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad sh*t, like she sort of already knew, figured everybody did, except for people who still said it wasn’t happening, and those people were mostly expecting the Second Coming anyway. She’d looked across the silver lawn, that Leon had cut with the push-mower whose cast-iron frame was held together with actual baling wire, to where moon shadows lay, past stunted boxwoods and the stump of a concrete birdbath they’d pretened was a dragon’s castle, while Wilf told her [the Jackpot] killed 80 percent of every last person alive, over about forty years. ….

No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there. ….

But science, he said, had been the wild card, the twist. With everything stumbling deeper into a ditch of sh*t, history itself become a slaughterhouse, science had started popping. Not all at once, no one big heroic thing, but there were cleaner, cheaper energy sources, more effective ways to get carbon out of the air, new drugs that did what antibiotics had done before…. Ways to print food that required much less in the way of actual food to begin with. So everything, however deeply fucked in general, was lit increasingly by the new, by things that made people blink and sit up, but then the rest of it would just go on, deeper into the ditch. A progress accompanied by constant violence, he said, by sufferings unimaginable. ….

None of that, he said, had necessarily been as bad for very rich people. The richest had gotten richer, there being fewer to own whatever there was. Constant crisis bad provided constant opportunity. That was where his world had come from, he said. At the deepest point of everything going to sh*t, population radically reduced, the survivors saw less carbon being dumped into the system, with what was still being produced being eaten by those towers they’d built… And seeing that, for them, the survivors, was like seeing the bullet dodged..

“The bullet was the eighty percent, who died?”

Needless to say, we’re not betting on the “rescued by science” part.

By Peter Dorman, professor of economics at The Evergreen State College. Originally published at Econospeak

While I was preoccupied with other things, the US left settled on a pair of competing climate change narratives. By the time I looked, the choice was down to just these two, and no other views could be considered.

View #1, Green Abundance, is that combating climate change means unleashing the power of renewable energy. Fortunately, according to this story, renewables are already the cheapest way to go, or if not quite, they will be once they are scaled up through a massive infusion of public investment. And this investment is a golden opportunity to ameliorate other problems like anemic economic growth, un- and underemployment, and sluggish incomes. We will provide green jobs at union wages for everyone who wants one, with special opportunities for workers in the fossil fuel sector. We will do for this generation what FDR’s original New Deal did for our grandparents, restoring prosperity and a building a vibrant middle class. We’ll do it even better this time, because we will design our programs to fight racism, sexism, and the oppression of LGBTQ people, immigrants and indigenous nations, along with every other impediment to social justice. Meanwhile, we will tax the handful of giant corporations that are responsible for most of the carbon emissions, using their ill-gotten gains to finance an environment that’s healthy for people and other living things. Climate change will turn out to be a godsend, because the struggle against it will unite us around an all-inclusive economic, ecological and social agenda.

View #2, Righteous Austerity, is that the root cause of the ecological crisis is capitalism’s incessant drive to expand, which has fostered the toxic ideology of economic growth. We can’t have endless growth on a finite planet, so growth has to end right now. We don’t need a bigger economy, because we can be happier and live more meaningful lives by shifting away from the false god of consumption. Another benefit of a non-growing economy is that it will force us to undertake redistribution, since that will then be the only way the poor the can advance. Of course, by curtailing economic growth we will also be overturning capitalism, which means that all the other ills caused by this irrational, outmoded system will diminish or disappear altogether. We can then finally say goodbye to our political overlords who have forced us to endure economic growth whether we wanted it or not. Ultimately, climate change is a message delivered to the human race from a beleaguered planet that can’t absorb any more of our exploitation. We must heed this message and radically change what we value and how we live, abandoning excessive material desires for the deeper pleasures of community and spirituality.

And then there are those on the left who adopt both views: they are for ending economic growth and producing an abundance of green, well-paying jobs for all. They want to eat their cake and not have it too.

As far as I can see, that’s the progressive political landscape on climate change. Anyone else besides me feel left out?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

176 comments

  1. Ignacio

    Ok, sir, what are you proposing? Aren’t you too proclive to feel left out? Are the narratives you are examining exactly the correct framing or is it simply your own interested way of interpreting it as an excuse to feel left out without any responsibility for whatever to come? IMO, this is nuts.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      If it’s too late why bother to vote or waste time on politics at all (even for sainted Sanders)? Isn’t the far more logical position then just to eat drink and be merry, and politics at that point for machoists who like engaging in boring unrewarding frustrating past times for reasons they might be better off talking to a shrink about? Ok maybe for some it pays the bills, and then it is rational self-interest, cha ching, but for most of us it doesn’t, so why bother? I mean if everything is lost and human extinction a given, how much should we care about this or that issue du jour?

      Because we might get M4A or something? I agree that would be a good thing, if by some miracle it happened (and like much else it would take a miracle). But soon enough to make a difference? Because with climate change how healthy is anyone going to be?

      Reply
      1. Monty

        “Isn’t the far more logical position then just to eat drink and be merry, and politics at that point for machoists who like engaging in boring unrewarding frustrating past times for reasons they might be better off talking to a shrink about?”

        Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup!

        Reply
        1. d

          Not sure we talk about climate change right, its not the planet thats in trouble, its humans. Humans are built to live within a specific environment (water, air, food). Take away one of them, and humans die. The planet will continue on its merry for billions after we die off.climate change is or will impact all 3. Air will be degraded by the fires, water will disappear, and will also. I remember reading a story that even if we set off every nuke on the planet, it ill continue to exit, but we wont

          Reply
          1. Stadist

            Exactly.

            It’s highly unlikely that humans could kill all life on the planet for good. Looking at the history the global climate has gone through quite hellish changes and situations. Even quite radical changes are not that harmful for the microscopic lifeforms, whereas longer the lifespan of species which usually means physically larger species, the more vulnerable they are to fast changes. Also oceans are like a reservoir for life. Technically even if only one single bacteria survives the climate cataclysm it could restart the evolution.

            Funnily enough the human population, for all of our superior intelligence, seems to be headed to population collapse because the population increases over it’s natural bounds. In this case the bounds are how much global atmosphere can sustain carbon dioxide, where as for some less developed life the bounds could be limited food supply. All in all, looks like classical evolution theory in effect.

            Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    I suspect that the majority of people who have spent any time thinking about this don’t fall into either category, as both are, in themselves, doomed to failure.

    (1) can’t work because its too late and the technology (if it exists) is not mature to create a developed economy for billions of people without crashing the climate and multiple ecosystems within the very short time scale available.

    (2) can’t work because there is no obvious mechanism to persuade the entirely of the world population to accept simpler lives. Even if 90% did so, there is plenty of capacity for the other 10% (especially if they are North Americans or Gulf Arabs) to doom the planet.

    I think that its a mistake to think that those advocating (1) in particular are naive – I suspect that for many (such as AOC who pushes this quite hard), its simply a way of generating a positive message – which is essential if things are to happen. If people feel defeated, or the message is cynical, nothing will get done.

    The reality is that the only way to save ourselves involves a complex mix of mechanisms and policies involving investment in renewables and resilience (especially in food supply), deep cultural change in how we consume and order our lives, and a mix of carrots and sticks for those countries/sectors/individuals who won’t make the changes voluntarily. I’m not even sure talking about capitalism or socialism is particularly useful in this context – it goes deeper than this – the only clear thing is that decisive centralised national action is essential, and this can only be led by national governments and multinational agreements. We are far beyond the point where individual personal choices make any sort of difference. Its all in the politics.

    Reply
        1. russell1200

          I plan to use my cats as support animals when our righteous austerity evolves (I was going to say collapses but I was afraid that that would be viewed as judgmental of a lifestyle choice) to hunter gathering/looting/scavenging.

          Reply
            1. russell1200

              I wasn’t going to eat them LOL.

              They are going to be my emotional support animals!

              “An emotional support animal is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship”

              Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If you are going to buy a car of one kind or another, perhaps buying a new Prius will hurt less than buying a new Hummer. Is “hurting less” a kind of help?

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          But aquiring a Prius will be less antiworkeritic, antilaboritic, antiunionitic.

          And since Toyota has a smaller bankruptcy and liquidation chance in the near future than TeslaCo, the Prius is less likely to be turned into an “orphan car”.

          Reply
    1. Anon

      Very good, PK. This aligns very closely with my assessment. It is particularly difficult to see smart, necessary climate mitigation policies being implemented across the US. Selfishness is a national trait; read the history.

      While I’m hopeful for the sake of Greta and her cohorts, I’m not likely to be around for the severe social denouement of the the middle to late 21st Century created by climate change.

      Reply
    2. Chris Smith

      I tend towards camp #2, if only because expecting infinite growth on a finite planet is madness. The historical mechanism for “persuading” the population that has overshot the carrying capacity of its territory are the usual suspects of disease, hunger, war, and poverty when resources run out. I don’t hold out much hope for avoiding “the jackpot” any more.

      Reply
    3. Titus

      Its all in the politics. – Got that right. Might as well add – Gibson said ‘”the future is ready here, just not evenly distributed”. All the good and all the bad. It’s here.

      Reply
  3. jef

    I agree with your position Yves but I still believe there is a chance that “the Jackpot” I call it the bottle neck, can be managed for the best possible, humane response. If we all just hunker down, help one another out, and see if we can’t eak out as much simple enjoyment as we can I believe we can nudge that 80% down to 75%.

    Also this is not “Righteous Austerity”. Thats a BS term anyway.

    Reply
    1. Titus

      I just read “Ice At the End of the World…”, excellent book. The author raises a question when in history did one existing generation take on sustained suffering for a future generation? Never. As recorded history only goes back what 7-8k years or so, never seems bleak. I don’t want to engage in magic thinking, but never?

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      “Hunkering down and helping one another” is part of what the Jackpot Design Engineers work to prevent.
      Since “achieving Jackpot” is a Prime Overclass Directive, can any part of Jackpot be avoided if the Overclass is not rounded up and physically exterminated?

      Reply
  4. Joe Johnson

    I’m not an economic genius, I’m just a chemical engineer who spent most of his career doing thermodynamic modeling for an oil company.

    I hate to agree with you “Too late” assessment but I think it is correct.

    Our climate is one big complex thermodynamic system with a very slow, chaotic response curve. Not sure where this quote came from but it is applicable. “America can always be counted on to do the right thing – after it has exhausted all other possibilities”. There is a possibility that we have been kicking this can down the road too long.

    Reply
    1. John Wright

      The question is whether there will even be a “right thing” to do when climate change hits with a vengeance.

      Reversing the harmful effects may truly be impossible on a global scale if positive feedback mechanisms manifest (tundra thawing, polar ice melting) and people are consuming ever more energy (building seawalls, running air conditioning).

      Climate change may be a problem with no benevolent/palatable solution.

      We may eventually see that referring to Economics as the “Dismal Science” was completely inaccurate.

      Economics, via its advancement of ever more economic and human population growth, may eventually be viewed as “foolishly optimistic” in a world of limits.

      Reply
      1. PKMKII

        Eventually the question of the “right thing” to do will become antiquated, and instead we’ll be looking at, what is the thing that ensures survival of the species, with morality relegated to the status of a luxury we used to be able to afford. Which raises the possibility of the ominous alternative to green abundance and righteous austerity, ecofascism. The WEIRD countries won’t wait for the 80% die-off to happen naturally, nationalistic mass genocide will be the preemptive measure to bring carbon consumption into manageable levels.

        Reply
        1. Monty

          You’ve already seen how hard Suburban Republicans™ fight to stop much needed help and support from getting to their Fellow Americans™. Imagine how much harder they are going to fight to make sure the Climate Losers™ don’t get a single cent of their Tax Dollars™.

          Once the penny drops and those selfish 10%ers start getting badly affected by the changes, they will all be on-board with whatever it takes to preserve what’s left of the “Non Negotiable” American Way of Life™ and the results will not be pretty.

          Reply
        2. Titus

          You don’t need a “mass die off”, assume old people die a little sooner, and young people just won’t have children, based on current U.N. data 50 million people are dying each year, 110 million being born. Cut the birth rate and doesn’t taking long for the earth to de-populate of humans.

          Reply
  5. Susan the other`

    From our current, 21st Century, perspective this is the big conflict of our challenge. Austerity or Green. Everyone looking at the energy that fuels our society (money, not oil) sees the impasse we face. If we go zero interest rates there will be no growth in terms of accumulated wealth. And nirp is just a mind-boggling stop gap. So the decisions we make about the environment will directly effect the availability of money and our sense of well being. We could eliminate some of the confusion if we started from the other side, from the money side itself, and did something like zirp money for all commerce and transactions and also eliminated that medium-of-exchange money (currency) as a store of value. Then we could begin to dig ourselves out mentally. We can begin to see the environment as the only store of value. As long as we are competing for “money” to give ourselves survival advantages we are not pursuing the correct goal and we are accelerating our extinction. But if we got our money fetishes figured out we could indeed do both Green and Austerity. The two don’t actually conflict in reality. imo

    Reply
    1. Susan the other`

      I felt like maybe Rogoff was suggesting something like this after Carney suggested an international new money like Libra (yuck). Libra would just allow us to continue our growth and consumption obsessions and starve governments of the sovereignty they need to do fiscal projects. Rogoff said IIRC that we need two currencies, one for transactions and one to store. So excess capital doesn’t spin out of control trying to achieve returns, which almost always require the exploitation of something when the going gets too competitive?

      Reply
      1. eg

        You mostly can’t store goods or services, so the “store of value” can only ever make claims upon available goods and services. This is part of the framing problem where “wealth storage” is concerned.

        Reply
  6. Ignacio

    Regarding Climate Change narratives today I took a look at the Sustainable Europe – Sustainable future document produced by the E. Council that projects guidelines for the following years. By no means can this be considered as a left-wing narrative but it adopts much of what is said above about the so called “green abundance option” demonstrating it is not leftist or not exclusively leftist.

    To be fair, the E. Council document is at least more focused identifying action courses. For instance, it talks about, let’s say, “green energy” (by itself this is false terminology abused by advertisers and PR types, why not renewable?) but combines it with the now somehow infamous “circular economy” which is indeed one of the important points to be addressed as well as actions in agriculture, waste treatment and water management. This would be somehow a mixture of some of the propositions as set in the article. But in EU narrative the difference is that everything that will be done will indeed “increase the competitiveness of the EU”. Is this narrative more sexy than those cited above?

    Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    Remarkable this. We will be witnessing the greatest dying off of the human population on a scale not seen since the Younger Dryas when the human population bottle-necked and the two scenarios are treating this merely as a means to a “socialistic” end. In both case people are merely objects to be nudged and pushed into the appropriate type of behaviour. To adapt we are going to have to require Manhattan Project levels for our entire race but will have to do so in the face of depleting resources, an unstable climate and a steadily contracting economy. The refugee problems that we are seeing today will seem quaint in retrospect in the decades to come. In this scenario it will be a case of people pulling together to salvage something and not just people being nudged by their betters into more appropriate behaviour with them “obviously” being the ones running things.

    Reply
    1. Titus

      A great problem statement. I’d add. To keep any system going (organized) it needs the constant injection of energy. All sorts of energy at sorts of levels. I just don’t see that happening, just the opposite: a very long decline into simplicity. Life spans for most will be much shorter and the birth rate much lower. Initially a lot of chaos, then less so. If we loose are ability the germ theory of disease, things will be very difficult.

      Reply
  8. Peter Zylstra-Moore

    I feel like the optimistic language of a GND, or when the necessary response is compared to the WW2 is reasonably new and useful and when combined with in a world of finite resources and possible climate collapse the need to respond strongly to inequality is really the best way forward.

    Ultimately we need to not grow in terms of material output but if we don’t transition our energy systems you won’t conserve your way to significant enough reductions. If it is federal financed and involved a job program and at least Medicare for all I think it can offer less public economic anxiety (help the private sector pay down debt) which is more important to our well being then size of our homes, living in the suburbs etc and is the starting point in moving towards living within our environmental limits.

    Even if we’re not optimistic we need a transition program and in a world of shortage inequality and social securities are very important.

    Reply
  9. sharonsj

    It’s not one or the other; it’s probably both and a whole lot more. However, I doubt that the idiots running the country–and the population in general–have the stomach for the radical changes needed. The rich will just assume they can buy what and where they want and the rest of us will be left to fight it out.

    In China they’re already pollinating crops by hand. Maybe all those migrants south of the border can do the same thing here?

    Reply
  10. John Steinbach

    I’ve been working on the issue of ecological limits since the early 70s. It’s been clear since at least since the mid-50s, when Lewis Mumford published ‘Man’s Role In Changing the Face of the Earth’, that the planet is rapidly approaching hard limits. In 1971, Barry Commoner wrote that to address the ecological debt predicament, “most of the nation’s resources or capital investment would need to be engaged in the task of ecological reconstruction for at least a generation.” (The Closing Circle)

    Today, nearly two full generations removed from Commoner’s observation, not only was this path not taken, but, to the contrary, human society has blindly continued and accelerated the assault on the Planet.

    As a student at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources in the early seventies, I remember chatting with fellow students about what would happen if business as usual continued, especially if China & India followed the example of the U.S., Europe & Japan. The consensus was, we would be ‘cooked.’

    Yet here we are today, cooked.

    Both perspectives above are delusional. Had humanity pursued the path laid out by Commoner, Mumford and others, perhaps viewpoint number two might have some validity but, as things stand today, the ‘jackpot’ it is.

    The irony is that, in order to begin to address the reality of planetary limits, human society must first recognize and accept the present conundrum, something most ‘climate activists’ then and now refuse to do.

    Reply
    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Thanks for the Mumford reference; there’s much knowledge and wisdom to be gotten by revisiting his ideas and scholarship.

      Reply
    2. Michael

      I totally agree. From my experience on this planet, humans have proven to me that they will never change their behavior unless it is a requirement or die. IMO there will be some tweaking here and there, when the crop failures begin, but addressing the problem will not happen until people’s current comfortable lives are destroyed. By then it will be too late, if it isn’t already.

      The question in the article begs a rational response, and unified action. IMHO humans are not capable of that. If you look at other collapses, such as that of the Mayan Civilization, they just kept sacrifice more humans, until they ran out of water and then ran for the hills.

      What’s alarming to me is how most humans have no understanding of empiricism, and the scientific method, and consider those to be some cult, similar to the Bronze Age superstitions to which they still cling. Additionally, there is a concerted effort to keep people as ill informed as possible. We still have in fact senior White House officials try to bring about the rapture.

      I’m going with the Jackpot.

      Reply
    3. Titus

      ‘University of Michigan School of Natural Resources in the early seventies’, – well you would know Jim Crowfoot then? Good man. What a time and place. I agree with you. Getting at the upper limits in models, no matter what the data is, at least let’s us do some intelligent public policy planning. I don’t things are hopeless, but there getting there. When I say that I mean just how much are we going to have to give up, and how depopulated does the planet become?

      Reply
  11. Denis Drew

    Growth has to end right now? Let them tell that to the next generations of kids in subsaharan Africa which has 35% electrification.

    Which brings up the next point: we are going to need 10X today’s electricity in 100 years. Which brings up: even if we could reach an unbelievable 50% renewable electricity today — that would only amount to 5% of the power we will need 100 years from now.

    Even if we do that we would still have to go 50% nuclear (and eventually thermonuclear). So why not just make things simple and go 100% nuclear?

    Don’t want to hear about the one bad western (non Russian) world accident in Japan while our civilization self-incinerates.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Modern humans have lived in Africa for 125 million years. But electricity is a necessity,,,,man, I can’t believe I am even responding to this dumb comment.

      Never mind.

      To the rest of us, how often are the “poor” brought up whenever we want to curb what the rich are doing? And how little does what the rich do actually help them, especially compared to how much they also do to screw them?

      Reply
    2. Massinissa

      Since many worldwide will have to go without having electricity in the future, perhaps those in sub-saharan Africa are better off not relying heavily upon it now

      Reply
  12. Robert Valiant

    I tend towards the second viewpoint myself, but there’s a suggestion of of human agency described in #2 that I think is unfounded. I don’t believe humanity will “choose” its response to climate change any more than termite colonies “choose” how to construct their mounds. Collectively, we won’t “choose” “green growth capitalism,” or “righteous austerity,” or any combination of those two or any other responses. Our societies, politics, and technologies are simply expressions of human genetics within the context of our existing environments. Is hard determinism true? I think so, certainly at the level of human society. If you happen to be a crazy termite and want to live outside the mound, go for it — I have — but that’s just noise, like subatomic randomness in a deterministic macro universe.

    Reply
    1. Chris Smith

      I have the bad intuition that we are unable to sort this out. We have brains that developed for surviving on a savanna in small groups. We may be victims of our own success.

      Reply
      1. Robert Valiant

        Sorting out the situation would be an unprecedented example of speciation – I know of no organism that has ever voluntarily limited its own growth, or made it it off world. Maybe there’s an alien predator species that can help us out, or maybe Elon Musk (Branson, Bezos, etc.) will be right.

        Reply
        1. John Wright

          Maybe some large predators DO limit their own growth.

          https://www.livingwithwolves.org/2015/04/08/wolf-science-weekly/

          “Apex predators are commonly defined as the predator at the top of a food chain. Given that they are safe from predation, ecologists generally support the idea that what limits the population size of apex predators in a given ecosystem is the availability of food (prey). When there is an abundance of prey, predator populations grow and when there is a shortage, they shrink. This, a recent publication is arguing, may not be the case.”

          Reply
        2. lyman alpha blob

          I know of no organism that has ever voluntarily limited its own growth

          For the past several months my kid has been growing a worm farm using red wigglers inside a large plastic bin. They will eat your vegetable scraps and turn it into castings which make good fertilizer, and they do reproduce inside the bin. I asked the long time worm farmer who showed us how to do it how long it would be before you’d need to start another bin due to the increasing worm population and while I don’t know if it’s 100% true, he claims that they do self regulate their populations once they sense a carrying capacity has been reached.

          If true, get ready to welcome your new red wiggler overlords post-Jackpot.

          Reply
      2. witters

        Perhaps the problem isn’t our ‘savanna brain’ – I mean it worked fine for us when we were hunter-gatherer foragers (pretty much all of human and hominoid history). The trouble was agriculture. So now we clear more land to grow more food to feed more kids to clear more land to grow more food… And there, already, is the ‘Southern Hog Farmer’ and the Long March to Capitalism/Jackpot!

        Reply
  13. sangell51

    Isn’t the real problem too many people? In the developed world the solution is in sight. Nations like Japan, South Korea, Italy and Germany are shrinking in population. The US had 180 million people in 1960 so it was possible for middle income people to buy a 2000 sq. ft house on a quarter acre lot within a few miles of their job even in California. Restrict immigration and let our low birth rates gradually take us back to this population level and we can dispense with the apocalyptic scenarios.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      Huh? The wall solution? How long would it take, according to your view, to go back to 160 millions? 200 hundred years? This would be the best way to ensure we are toasted. Besides, you would need not only a wall, but four walls and a ceiling from the Atlantic to the Pacific from Canada to México.

      Reply
      1. a different chris

        Yeah, America is not its own planet. Put up all the walls you want, if the horrified view of the uneducated American is that the ravaging horde will just keep growing was correct, then they won’t have to penetrate said walls. Killing the planet will kill you no matter what you’ve done to supposedly separate yourself.

        If I was going to write a sci-fi novel, though, I would seriously consider (being an optimist) writing one where America puts up those walls and, 100 years later and in a very advanced state of decay, peeks out and finds a clean new world that has left it far, far behind. But being Americans, they can’t accept it and thus follows the plot…

        Reply
        1. Scramjett

          I don’t think we have to wait 100 years. I’ve met people from Scandinavia, people who’ve traveled to Scandinavia and watched a lot of Streetfilm vids on the Netherlands and Scandinavia and those places are already a clean new world that has left the US far, far behind. They’re literally tearing up roads for plazas, bike paths, and rivers! Denmark opened its first HSR line this year after planning began in 2014, and it was only slowed by politics when their right wing party had control of the government, which ended this year. Contrast that with my home state of California where HSR was proposed back in the 80’s, with construction beginning 3 years ago, and fare service not to begin until the mid 2020s! And it’s a train to nowhere (no one wants to take HSR from Merced to Bakersfield).

          I seriously feel like telling young people who want to see more of these things that they’re better off moving there because if you wait for it to come here, you’ll keep waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

          Reply
    2. Scramjett

      This would be a disaster. As populations age, they rely on a relatively equal number of young people to support them as they age. What you propose would throw the balance of young and old out of whack by having too many old and not enough young people to support them. The result would be 10s of millions of elderly cast into poverty (of course, the rich old people would be spared this) and the young financially burdened to the max supporting the old to the point where they could not support themselves to say nothing of raising a family. It’s just another death spiral that would lead to a similar population collapse that, of course, the rich would be spared from. The reality is that it is the rich that need a population collapse.

      Edit: Edited for clarity

      Reply
      1. Chris Smith

        We may not have a choice. If we keep on going like we are, we are only outsourcing the problem to Hunger, War, and Disease.

        Reply
        1. Scramjett

          I’ve never bought into the whole “we may not have a choice” mentality. We do have a choice. We can continue as we are, as the older generations seem to be hell bent on doing, or we can stop now, take a moment to reassess, and then put ourselves on an alternative path away from oblivion, as the younger generation are trying to do (as emblemized by Greta Thunberg). Being in my 40s, I feel like I’ve done all I can (admittedly not nearly enough), and my job now is to support my kids and there generation in their fight for a better future rather than the ruined future my parents generation (and, admittedly, my generation also) are hell bent on sending them to.

          Reply
          1. Michael Fiorillo

            And what’s to prevent those young people from being used as the cat’s paw of the Overclass’ austerian project for the Rest Of Us, especially given the environmental movement’s traditional top quintile demographic?

            It’s very dangerous to cast this crisis solely as a drama of generational conflict. Class is plot and theme, and ignoring that will make for bad ends and means.

            As for the author’s (false, sadly) choices based on a far-too-charitable view of human rationality and agency, if only those, rather than a Jackpot/high entropy scenario, were before us…

            Reply
    3. Massinissa

      Can those walls stop nukes? Because we can’t predict what people in places like Pakistan and India or even China will do with them if they run out of food and water.

      Reply
  14. jashley

    The same old tired voice for the last 40-50 years always sound the doom and die off refrain.

    To be charitable, it’s child abuse.
    The non charitable view is just an overheated ego need and a desire to be a god.

    Where can one show me in the IPCC report where they state anything close to this claptrap die out with anything of even MEDIUM confidence?

    1970 was global freeze out then global die off then global nuke death then more die off.

    It’s been that way since before there were these “prophets”.

    Please post some exact timed predictions that they made 30-40 years ago that have come true.
    They bring echoes of POL POT and his child driven killing fields.

    Reply
    1. Aumua

      I kind of have to agree about the doomer premise. I question the basic assumption of the ‘jackpot’. 80% die off within 40 years sometime in the 21st century is the prediction I guess? As a graduate student and scientist in training of the atmospheric sciences I can say with certainty that there are still a lot of uncertainties when it come to exactly how much warming is going to happen. The fact that warming is going to happen and in fact is happening already is pretty obvious. However there is a very complex system of interacting feedbacks, both positive and negative, that we are a long ways from fully understanding. I think it’s important to be honest about that, even if it does give ammo to the cult of denial. You really can’t win either way with those types.

      My basic position is that nobody knows the future, as much as we’d like to, and as much as some people want to be seen as having the inside knowledge about what’s going to happen. We don’t know, and arctic news is not a reliable source in my opinion, because they embody the ‘prophet of doom’ attitude that I’m talking about.

      Not even sure what Yves is trying to convey here if it’s not complete hopelessness.

      Reply
      1. Hoppy

        I think the issue is the complete lack of progress. The longer it takes the more detrimental the effects on the economy, not just the effects of climate change on the economy but maybe more importantly the ability of the economy to change. We are at a point where the necessary changes to mitigate the worst of consensus IPCC estimates are very significant and still questionable politically. Why? Because they require confronting two of the pillars of our economic system, capitalism and growth.

        There are unrecoverable tipping points for economic change just like there are tipping points for climate change. At least that’s the way I see it.

        Give me some good news. What are the likely negative feedback loops?

        Reply
        1. Aumua

          Well the most obvious and famous probably is the Stefan-Boltzmann law, which says that the object’s radiation is proportional to its temperature to the forth power. So as the earth system warms, more energy is radiated out to space away from the system. So like, the warmer it gets, the more energy it takes to further warm the system. Obviously the models take this into account in some fashion.

          I’ll be the first to say that the worst doomsday scenarios are on the table as possibilities. I just hesitate when it comes to saying that we know how it’s going to turn out, because we really don’t. And none of the atmospheric scientists I have interacted with have given any indication that they think we are past any tipping points.

          Reply
          1. xkeyscored

            Could you please mention some other negative feedbacks? I mostly only hear of positive ones.
            And wouldn’t the Stefan-Boltzmann law apply to somewhere like the top (bottom?) of the stratosphere, which is not where most of us happen to live?

            Reply
            1. Aumua

              The Earth emits infrared radiation upward, the atmosphere emits upward and downward, but the vast majority of the Earth system’s radiation is upward and outward. What’s happening at the top of the atmosphere is directly and indirectly related to the temperature at the surface.

              The ultimate effect of increased cloud cover as a result of increased moisture in a warmer atmosphere (also increased human aerosol output) is not well understood at this time, and is an area of current research. Clouds can act to cool things down by reducing incoming isolation, but also can trap heat themselves. It depends on the distribution and types of cloud cover.

              Reply
              1. xkeyscored

                I’m no atmospheric scientist, so I may have this all back to front, but isn’t the Stefan-Boltzmann law more of a brake on global warming than a negative feedback? Does it tend to return the earth’s temperature (surface or as seen from space?) to its previous value, or only slow the increase?
                And yes, I’ve read that clouds are an unknown quantity in all this.

                Reply
                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  I’m just an amateur science buff. My amateur feeling is that this S-B law would only provide a slowdown-brake at best. And even that only if the current load of global-heatering sky gases stays where it is without further increase to force further heat-trapping.

                  And as that Arctic News blog pointed out, as long as heat has an easy escape route . . . into the Ice or into the Methane Clathrates . . . it will go into the Ice or the Clathrates in preference to fighting its way out of an IR-backdown-reflective atmosphere as outgoing IR-radiation.

                  Reply
                  1. xkeyscored

                    re drumlin’s first paragraph, I found this on Wikipedia (admittedly not the most authoritative source, but a start):
                    “The above temperature [255K = −18 °C] is Earth’s as seen from space, not ground temperature but an average over all emitting bodies of Earth from surface to high altitude. Because of the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s actual average surface temperature is about 288 K (15 °C), which is higher than the 255 K effective temperature, and even higher than the 279 K temperature that a black body would have.”
                    Still, one of my near term goals is to get my head around this Stefan–Boltzmann thing a bit better!

                    Reply
                2. Aumua

                  A negative feedback could simply act as a brake or a negative forcing that puts a hard limit on the heating. Or it could be something that ends up actively cooling the planet.

                  Reply
                3. aumua

                  @ drumlin woodchuckles

                  Right, here is the arctic news link again. I mean the article has “tipping point” in the title. Then it says tipping point in open graphic, and in the first sentence, and then in just about every paragraph in the article: tipping point. He promises early on to explain why 1 degree C is such a critical tipping point, and then never does. Maybe it’s just the fact that 1 degree is a round number that makes it a tipping point?

                  So either the author doesn’t know what a tipping point is, or they are misusing the term deliberately to get views or something. Either way, the time I spent picking through that crap to track down this information is time that I’ll never get back. It’s wasted time that I could have used pursuing my passion and focusing on actual science. So thanks for that.

                  Hopefully you can see why I have a grudge against this stuff, and maybe you will be more careful in the future what information you choose to promote. The author Sam Carana is not a scientist, and is rather poor journalist at that.

                  Reply
                  1. xkeyscored

                    I agree entirely about the Arctic News article. It does not explain why 1°C above 20th century’s temperature is a tipping point, and the rest of it looks pretty dodgy too. Eg. “The light blue line forms a line indicating the sea surface temperature there is 0°C.” – I can’t even see a light blue line, just a dark blue area that blends into a greenish area. As for sourcing, the image in question was created by – the author.

                    Reply
  15. polecat

    I concur with Yves, in that we’re on track to a very bumpy, and uneven ride. I don’t have a solution to Climate change, assuming there is a solution, I can only do my tinsy winsy part in driving less, reuse where possible, try not to squander energy usage, and lightly preach .. from my rather short non-religious pedestal, the ways of St. Francis .. whilst saving and planting whatever speck of space that is within my purview, so that at least a few other lifeforms have some sustenance and shelter from the relentless pursuit of what passes for human progress. It’s not much, but I known from observation that other specices benefit, however small my efforts.
    Sooo, on that note, it’s time to chat with the hens, harvest some huckleberries, and watch the birds & the bees on the leaky deck of the polecat lifeboat. Good day all !

    Reply
  16. Scramjett

    I find Dorman’s view to be overly simplistic and extremely myopic. He has basically taken the wide ranging, complex viewpoints of the climate movement and boiled it down into two easy to digest, but grossly simplistic, chunks or “views.” It’s this treating people’s complex viewpoints as two simplistic “views” that has those of us of the “unwashed masses” riled up in the first place, that has us angry and raging at the elites. I’m not saying Dorman is an elitist, but his attitude smells elitist, because it sure does stink.

    Reply
    1. T

      Dorman does come off as one our betters shaking his head at the poors.

      Which doesn’t dismiss the larger point of what, when, and is there anything we can hope for?

      Reply
      1. Scramjett

        It may not dismiss the larger point, but if we continue to resign ourselves to a bleak future, then it will come true as a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. If we dream of building a utopia, we may never actually reach utopia, but what we will get will be a far better future than the alternative. And perhaps we can reduce that 80% population collapse to something…well, I cant really find a nice way to say less than 80 but not zero since I don’t think it will be zero but I don’t want it to be 80 either.

        I like to say to people that if you shoot for the moon, you might not make it to the moon, but maybe you will at least get into orbit.

        Reply
    2. Scramjett

      One other thought I had in regards to Yves’s opening comment above. I do wonder what Greta Thunberg might say to Yves’s doom saying. I suspect Greta might give her some version of her recent “how dare you” speech at the UNGA.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        And what do they think of those trying to change things? Those campaigning for say climate candidates locally (such candidates are generally not bad on other issues btw, they tend to be pretty progressive). That they are naive fools? I think then maybe better to be a naive fool, to wear it as a badge of honor, yes I’m a naive fool, it’s probably hopeless, and yet ..

        Reply
        1. Scramjett

          To be clear, I think Greta’s “how dare you” speech was nothing short of brilliant and a needed shakeup of the political elites. I also think Yves gets so caught up in the doom and gloom that she needs someone like Greta to shake her out of it. I’ve been there so I know. I took my son to our local climate strike on Friday and I felt a bit more energized, but then I felt deflated after reading the recent news that came out of Sacramento surrounding their oil industry written cap and trade (or should I say crap and charade) program (below). Reading Greta’s “how dare you” this morning shook me out of it! I don’t know how, but she’s really good at coming up with those zingers.

          https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/9/18/1886231/-New-Report-Reveals-that-Green-California-seeks-to-Expand-Oil-and-Gas-Operations

          https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/new-report-shows-california-seeks-expand-oil-and-gas-operations-threatening-climate-and

          Reply
          1. Monty

            “I don’t know how, but she’s really good at coming up with those zingers.”

            IKR!!! It’s almost like she has a PR company writing the material for her!

            Reply
          2. Susan the other`

            Agree. And it was nothing short of chickenshit for Macron to accuse her of damning western powers but not China. It was his way of damning China and deflecting the blame. Greta is heartbroken and mad at everyone; she doesn’t exclude China. And I thought it was equally obnoxious posturing for the Donald to stroll past her at the UN as if she were a fly speck. She is a force of nature and he is too afraid to even acknowledge her. Typical.

            Reply
          3. Yves Smith Post author

            How dare you patronize me, as well as slur me by calling me a doomster, particularly when you offer no compelling counter-narrative, just “We need to Do Something?”

            What about “It is too late, we needed to start in the 1970s” don’t you understand?

            The idea that I’d be swayed by force of personality is offensive. While Thunberg is attempting to raise the profile of climate change as an existential threat, she doesn’t add anything to what is already known in her analysis, nor does she offer any new solutions. In fact, she’s thin on solutions. She seems to be calling for “restoring nature” which sounds good and has the advantage on not asking people in advanced economies to give up anything (as opposed to people in emerging economies who are deforesting as a means of supporting their families).

            Meeting Thunberg would not change my mind. Her implicit view, that we still have time (but barely enough time) to halt climate change, is not fact based. I am hearing from many readers who are in contact with climate scientists that their view uniformly is that we are past the event horizon. The best we can do is change how we operate to deal with the future that is coming. There is tons of inertia in terms of the processes we have set in motion, even before we get to the very large problem of political and social inertia.

            In other words, even though she is doing a public service in calling attention to the dire status of climate change and correctly calling it an emergency, we are so far gone that we need to think about how to restructure our lives to cope with the bad outcomes that are coming, because it is too late to stop them. And to recognize that we also need to do what we can to prevent even worse outcomes.

            And I haven’t even gotten to the mass extinction part, particularly what if bee populations continue to collapse.

            Thunberg can give moralizing speeches all she want to. She’s yelling at a hurricane. And despite the fact that she is a charismatic advocate for her point of view, I can pretty much guarantee she has changed no minds among the people who count. She is sadly preaching to a choir. People who aren’t convinced by the diminishing ice levels in the Arctic and heat waves all over the Northern Hemisphere (among other everyday indicators in the news) aren’t persuadable.

            I also suggest you read this. Thunberg’s high profile is no accident:

            http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/02/13/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-the-new-green-deal-is-the-trojan-horse-for-the-financialization-of-nature/

            https://medium.com/@frackfree_eu/green-capitalism-is-using-greta-thunberg-66768db6c0e1

            Reply
            1. JohnB

              If the Green New Deal is setup to be hijacked for a NeoLiberal solution to climate change – under the guise of a ‘New Deal for Nature’ or such – then this warrants a full article making the case for that.

              I’ve read the links there, and am open to the idea of a bait-and-switch being in play with the GND – but am not sold on it yet, it’s not been detailed well enough – the potential for it is important, though – and it needs more attention, even if it later turns out to not be true.

              Reply
              1. Yves Smith Post author

                That is not my main point. The inclusion of those links was to debunk the hagiography around Thunberg.

                The Green New Deal isn’t a solution. It’s based on the false premise that if do enough, we can preserve current lifestyles. Ironically, you missed that Thunberg acknowledges that, without having an alternative program of her own that is adequate. From her speech:

                It’s time to face the reality, the facts, the science. And the science doesn’t mainly speak of ‘great opportunities to create the society we always wanted’. It tells of unspoken human sufferings, which will get worse and worse the longer we delay action – unless we start to act now. And yes, of course a sustainable transformed world will include lots of new benefits. But you have to understand. This is not primarily an opportunity to create new green jobs, new businesses or green economic growth. This is above all an emergency, and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.

                It proposes mass infrastructure building….which is a greenhouse gas generator, as well as requiring greatly increased use of materials for no carbon energy sources that aren’t remotely green, starting with rare earths. It is internally contradictory.

                Reply
                1. Susan the other`

                  It is internally contradictory. She’s such an impressive kid you miss that part. Somebody needs to start itemizing the tradeoffs. I think they are endless. I also think that if Greta had a specific agenda it would be no better than the things we are already attempting to do. But just her voice is enough to make you stop and analyze what you are doing everyday. We actually need armies of people to go out and do environmental reclamation. To farm environmentally; locally. To come up with ingenious solutions – locally. Instead of financializing the environment we should environmentalize finance. Maybe Greta could wrap her prodigal mind around that one. I still like her, but I don’t like it that she is being manipulated toward unknown ends.

                  Reply
            2. Oregoncharles

              ” I can pretty much guarantee she has changed no minds among the people who count.”
              No, but she’s given some of them a potentially serious political problem. Being scolded by the future (she’s Wilf) isn’t good politics. Her talk wasn’t really addressed to the world leaders, who are likely impervious or they wouldn’t be there. It’s addressed to their voters or supporters.

              Reply
              1. Yves Smith Post author

                I don’t understand your argument.

                You’ve conceded she was unlikely to have changed any minds.

                People who think serious action should be taken now (or already) would already be planning to hold responsible people responsible.

                The worst is I suspect it will be the wrong people. Obama, for instance, who refused to even cotton to the very weak tea of singing the Paris Accord until his last six months in office (which is why Trump could undo it) is given a free pass Because Obama.

                Reply
                1. xkeyscored

                  Thunberg has said things like if dealing with climate change and environmental collapse is politically and economically impossible, the we need to change our politics and economics (though I’m not sure how far she’s thought through the implications).
                  To the extent that such views are gaining currency, I think she is achieving something positive. Maintaining our current politics and economics (or polities and economies) is suicidal, at least for the 80% or however many who hit the Jackpot. If a sixteen year old poster child is what it takes to open people up to the need for change, so be it. I’d sooner put up with the Thunberg phenomenon than dismiss her on the purist grounds that we should only pay attention to scientists and economists.

                  Reply
      2. Michael Fiorillo

        Yes, “How Dare You,” as brought to NYC by the Grimaldis of Monaco.

        Personally, I can’t help wondering if there isn’t just a little too much (cue The Simpsons) “But What About The Children?” with all this, and perhaps all the shaming language is meant to distract from the Malthusian nightmare/Overclass wet dream this may be a Trojan Horse for.

        Reply
        1. Scramjett

          Can you expand on your point? I don’t really watch The Simpsons and I’m not entirely certain what you’re getting at when you say the “shaming language is meant to distract from the Malthusian nightmare/Overclass wet dream…”

          Reply
          1. jrs

            in some there seems to be more of an urge to rail against an imagined dystopia than the dystopia within arms reach. So they rail against the imagined dystopia of addressing climate change in some unfavorable way, rather than the reality we have of not really addressing it at all.

            It’s almost parallel to those on the right who would worry about some form of socialist or communist dystopia (mostly dishonestly but nontheless), when we are living in authoritarian capitalism tending toward f-ism.

            Yes a lot of things could in theory turn bad, I’m inclined to worry about problems we actually have.

            Reply
            1. Partyless Poster

              I think your on the right track, as mundane as it seems nothing will get done until we actually have a government that works for the people and not money.
              I too am amazed that some (non-rich) people will fight to keep such a dysfunctional system.

              Reply
          2. Michael Fiorillo

            Scramjett,

            In many Simpson’s episodes, when political/social conflict erupt in Springfield and a town/school board meeting takes place, there’s always the female character who irrelevantly and with a hyper emotional tone interjects, “But what about the children?”

            I don’t mean to trivialize Ms. Thunberg or the issues she’s raising, but shaming and hyper-moralistic language only goes so far. As for Overclass wet dreams, I mean their wealth, escape and control fantasies playing out amid intensifying austerity and class conflict. I’m not at all confident about the environmental movement holding out to defend working class interests if it gets that “seat at the table” it’s demanding.

            Reply
            1. The Rev Kev

              I was reading on Wikipedia that she shamed her parents into going vegan and got her mother to give up her career as an international opera singer as it involved air travel. Bit too much of the Bana al-Abed effect for my liking as my spidey senses are shouting that her movement is not what it appears to be.

              Reply
              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Probably petrochemical big fossil footprint vegan.

                When they could have been eating some genuinely carbon-capture beef from on pasture-and-range.

                Reply
      3. polecat

        I’m kinda worried of where this incipient ‘Thunbergian Jehad’ is going to lead ! Is the direction going to lead to ‘panic in the streets’ because of the supposed ambivalence and malfeasence of all those ‘oldsters’ … as the cooolest in-thing to do is for the Ipad-welding, designer cloth wearing avodado-toast noshing millennials bash those enfeebled aged soundingboards to death for their eco sins ?? If that is to be our ( “Hey you adults !” – ” We’re watching You !!” … ) fate, then what comes after .. the 21st century version of a planetary ‘Lord of the Flies’ ?? I watched Greta’s speech … and it creeped me out … not only the naive condescension … but especially the dissonance of .01% audience applause between the little saint’s pauses, I feel that she is doing ..
        perhaps unwittingly .. the global elite’s bidding.

        “Let the Liquidation of the Unwashed 90%+masses, through severely forced austerity, privation, and squalor .. Begin !”*

        * we’ll just say they’re all old and washed up ! Even the young !!

        Reply
        1. notabanker

          This is exactly the point. There is a body of evidence that Thunberg is manufactured by NGO’s backed by billionaire influence.

          When you’ve sufficiently convinced a large enough portion of the population that species extinction is eminent, then there is no price that is too large to pay. And someone is going to decide that price.

          I am in the we are all screwed camp and as far from a climate change denier as one could be, but that speech creeped me out big time. I’m now not only non-sympathetic to her, I think she is very dangerous.

          We’re going to have to let natural selection figure this out for us, and it won’t be pleasant and most of the population will die. Probably horribly.
          But believing human’s could do a better job of it themselves by somehow self-governing it means we’ve learned absolutely nothing.

          Reply
            1. notabanker

              Oh my apologies then. Which person, group of persons or organization would you nominate to decide how to eliminate a huge percentage of the world’s population during a time it is forecasted to grow by 20%?

              Or does the math of not having enough arable land, food supply and potable water to support a population of 9 billion, 7 billion or even 5 billion humans not fit into the narrative that we’ll all just band together and figure a way out of this? Solar panels, wind, Tesla cars and rockets to Mars, kumbaya….

              Reply
              1. cnchal

                > Or does the math of not having enough arable land, food supply and potable water to support a population of . . .

                Every year, nearly half of the calories produced is thrown in the garbage, that’s how much waste there is. There is enough food production to feed 14 million, distribution and waste is the over riding problem. A related and perhaps bigger problem is that a lot of what is called food is a low level poison that will sicken one over a lifetime. If it comes in a cardboard box or a colorful package, it’s crap.

                This colossal waste is soundly ignored in almost every discussion, yet here we have low hanging fruit falling and rotting on the ground.

                Reply
        2. Oregoncharles

          “the global elite’s bidding”
          If so, they’ve unleashed a monster they can’t control. Those youngsters are the stuff of which revolutions are made – not you and me. As Hong Kong and now Jakarta (https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/09/24/students-throng-in-front-of-house-more-flood-into-jakarta-as-protests-continue.html) are discovering.

          Nor did I see any sign of hostility to the older people who turned out; a pair of girls with cameras interviewed me and my colleague. I think that hostility is mostly made up, though it’s certainly true that we’ve failed them and now it’s up to them. Be prepared to step aside (with considerable relief).

          And a footnote: this latest movement seems to be primarily led by women and girls; that’s been true of environmental efforts for some time, but it’s becoming more political. About time.

          Reply
  17. Lost in OR

    Well, this portrayal of both positions doesn’t leave much wriggle room. Is he suggesting that the appropriate use of technology and/or scaling back our consumer culture is not in order? It’s easy to dump on any of the possible easy answers but not so easy to propose our own. As Professor Dorman does not.

    But this does bring us to the bottom of the crisis of our time. We do not have a coherent and viable vision of a path forward. Our current belief in rationalism as the basis of science and technology that leads to inevitable progress toward an ever expansive and beneficent future is failing us. The religion of rationalism has been our operating ideology for 3,000 years and it is no longer serving us well but we have nothing to replace it with. We’re stuck.

    It’s kind of hard to argue against the last sentence of each of the professor’s critiques:
    “Climate change will turn out to be a godsend, because the struggle against it will unite us around an all-inclusive economic, ecological and social agenda.”

    “We must heed this message and radically change what we value and how we live, abandoning excessive material desires for the deeper pleasures of community and spirituality.”

    That’s a great place to start. I just wish I was smart enough to package that into one easy narrative and action plan.

    Great discussion! Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Scramjett

      He seems to be less proposing two alternatives and more taking the entire climate movement narrative and boiling it down into those two viewpoints, which, as I said above, is simplistic.

      At the risk of sounding silly, I think most people might benefit from watching two series created by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: Legend of Korra). One of the biggest themes of these shows is the inherent interconnectedness of people and nature. It’s a great counter to the rationalist and reductionist attitude so prevalent in the west. But it’s the name of the last two “books” (aka seasons) of Korra that resonated with me the most…change and balance.

      Putting those into the context of what’s happening today, I think what needs to happen is that we have to accept that things have changed and we cannot go back to the way things were, both in terms of society and ecology. But, to keep things from getting worse, we have to learn to strike a balance with each other and with nature. Right now, everything is totally out of balance and we have to ask ourselves, will we work with nature to restore balance in a controlled way or will we just keep on going and allow nature to restore balance on its own, which would end our civilization and decimate humanity. Restoring balance by working with nature would also mean restoring balance within our civilization. I have my own ideas on how that would look, but we can’t accomplish one without the other.

      Reply
  18. JE

    We need to re-think everything. Do we have the people capable of following along at home and accepting the results? See the previous article Yves posted on the failure of higher-ed. The most important thing I see needed here is a global view, a coming together and ownership of the problem and solution of everyone. Without everyone on board, the solutions will only be temporary if anything. And we in the “west” need to own how we got here by socializing the costs of growth and work to elevate the global “south” and “east” without them incurring those same costs, with the “west” paying from our wealth. Frankly I can’t see it happening. We need a galvanizing event as a species to create a new myth that allows us to ratchet up our collaboration and societal complexity. Such an event will be catastrophic by necessity, a jackpot, and before that we’ll be rearranging the deck chairs.

    Reply
  19. Adrienne

    Yeah I think it’s a false dichotomy.

    I agree that the GND’s value is primarily as a narrative of hope: if we don’t have something to cling to it will be that much easier to fall into despair, and despair leads to everymanforhimself thinking.

    I recently had a conversation on FB with a fellow that I often lock horns with (usually, amicably) and in my mind he’s the epitome of the 10% er view: that we need broad international policies and aggressive, subsidized, market-based infrastructure projects.

    Except, I don’t think most counties of the world can do either of those any more. China looked like it might pull it off, but their system is as fragile as everyone else’s.
    As for international agreements on emissions limits, how’s that going so far? The elites are simply not going to allow anything to interfere with their ability to hoard the plant’s wealth.

    As for big green infrastructure, also zip. I’ll use as an example California’s attempt to build high speed rail. It was going to be one of the biggest transportation projects since the interstate highway system, and it utterly failed due to a toxic combination of nimbyism, corruption, and consultancy waste. If it had succeeded it would have served as a model for a network of high speed rail in the western US, but that idea is dead for the foreseeable future.

    So what are we left with? My 10% friend says—and I hear this all the time, mostly from other 10% ers—that individual choices don’t matter.

    But individual choices are the only thing that matters.

    Social movements never start at the top.

    Politics follows, it never leads.

    Look at Greta Thunberg. This young woman has emerged out of nowhere to become a global leader of a movement. This movement doesn’t even have name yet, but it is based on the idea that we must act decisively and immediately, that technical solutions won’t save us, and that economic growth is a death sentence for the planet.

    Greta is calling on world leaders, but she is really speaking to you and me, for us all to demand change—but more than that, to LIVE change. Yeah her sailboat trip across the Atlantic was a kind of a PR stunt, but who cares? She brought up the taboo topic of flying, darling of the liberal professional classes.

    Greta challenges us to stop being so selfish, to care about the future, to care about living things and recognize that we are all part of the natural world, and that our technology and greed are killing the planet.

    Greta shows us that we all have power to change, and that we all must USE that power.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      Yes time for awareness passed. If anything is needed is compromise. The kind of compromise needed in wartime. In wartime rationing is executed to guarantee that proper effort is made in the front lines. Other restrictions migth apply. There are not dichotomies to talk about, just one objective. Easy: no-more-fossil-fuels by 2050 the latest. There is not even the right to feel left out publicly. Obey and shut your mouth!

      Hahahahahahaha!

      Reply
    2. polecat

      Sorry, but I certainly don’t have the power to receive a cool trek across oceans, gratis .. with the end point giving a stern warning for the lumpen folk ..as the Well-to-Do smirk, nod, and clap.. in what is essentially an elite UN pseudo-eco PR confab !! I’m pretty well stuck on my infintesimal speck of dirt, doing more, physically, with intent but without monetary recompense, then Greta and her Parents ever will !
      Their virtue .. is not My virtue.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        “They also serve, who only stand and wait.”

        Or in some cases, care for the earth in the form of a garden. At the least, it’s a model.

        Reply
    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I do not understand this need to hope. Fear is a tremendous motivator. Hope is fickle. There are schools of thought that when Pandora opened the her box, releasing all sorts of forces that afflict humans, Hope coming out last signified that it was the worst.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        Fear is no more a motivator than hope if you can do nothing about it which is the argument being made. So why bother to fear either? (Well I guess maybe if one can’t help but be afraid, but that just a feeling, nothing more than feelings, not a motivation).

        Reply
      2. Oregoncharles

        Pessimism doesn’t mean we get to give up; the stakes are too high. At the very least, the disaster will have to be dealt with by those that survive – and humans are enough like rats and cockroaches that I think some will.

        Reply
      3. Ignacio

        I was thinking on this yesterday. What would be more useful, using fear or hope?

        So far, fear doesn’t seem to work. It is very difficult to use fear as motivation when the danger is not inmediate. Fear also tends to vanish. Hope is, no doubt, a much stronger driver. Also, I believe that different motivations should apply to different actors. Fear should be for fossil fuel mining and energy-intensive activities. Hope for those you want to participate in the re-furbishing, re-building, recycling efforts.

        Reply
        1. TheCatSaid

          Perhaps a more important question would be, “what most empowers an individual into constructive action”? For some it might be hope, for others fear. The biggest problem may be the extent to which we devalue the power of an individual, and the rigidity of our belief about this.

          I find it relevant that on the Perelandra-ltd website, Machaelle Wright’s suggestion for where to start is a short essay on Celebrating the Power of the Individual.

          (Machaelle Wright learned many years ago how to have a 2-way partnership with nature, and since then she focuses on sharing that information with others. It’s particularly relevant for these times, when things become less predictable and old patterns break down, for whatever reason.)

          Reply
    4. Oregoncharles

      “False alternative” was exactly my first thought, though I took another tack in my comment below. Thank you for making that very important point – which an economist have a hard time grasping.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I haven’t objected before but these are ad hominem attacks and not on. Dorman contends that he’s seen a sudden crystalization of opinion in leftie venues to the polarization he described. You have not disproven his contention. Admittedly, he didn’t cite sources, but there is no basis for disputing his claim with looking and finding examples that disprove his view.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          I was addressing the preconceptions that are built into the field, or most of it. The emphasis on “growth”, in particular, directly contradicts living within our environment. There are exceptions – I’ve mentioned Herman Daly before, but he is highly critical of other economists. Dorman’s own position remains unclear.

          He is quite likely right that those are dominant positions within the Left; the problem is viewing them as opposed, which they aren’t necessarily. (Maybe that assumption is also widespread – but I haven’t really encountered it.) I was trying to say that that reflects the preconceptions of economics, but I agree that’s unfair applied to an individual. It’s a brief article; he doesn’t state his own priors, so yes, I’m guessing. It was intended as a critique of the field, not an individual. My comment above was too brief – which isn’t always a virtue.

          Reply
  20. JohnB

    We are already too late to avoid climate change, we are at a stage of ‘damage control’.

    The Green New Deal does not go far enough. It does not include the necessary transformation of politics surrounding money creation (i.e. it does not properly mainstream MMT, only pays lip service to it), that is necessary in order to mobilize economic resources on a big-enough/global scale, to properly arrest climate change.

    The GND also does not go far enough, in that we also need a combination of steady-state (non-growth) economies, or even degrowth, in order to aid in reducing carbon output – and in the future, to avoid pushing resource limits and environmental limits, which are inevitable through exponential economic growth.

    The GND also does not go far enough, in pushing to arrest consumption – people need to lead much more frugal and locally-economically-oriented lives, and consume far less – in order to eliminate the catastrophe that is the faux ‘recycling’ industry, among much more. An anecdote of my own, is that when I was in Thailand with my partner a few months ago, visiting a beach near Bangkok – there was so much trash washing up on the beach, that there literally was a team of people dedicated to picking up trash in a (futile) attempt to clear the beach – this is one of the countries our recycling ends up in…

    However…all this said…the GND is a start. I’m not a fool, I know it’s not enough and I know more needs to be done, and urgently – but it’s a start, and I believe that if we can combine it with with a mass-mobilization of effort big enough (which mainstreaming of MMT would be a very important factor in), then we can very quickly reduce to net zero carbon emissions, and eventually completely eliminate the carbon footprint of our economies – AND, past that I believe we can even industrialize the removal of carbon from the atmosphere, using surplus energy – at a massive scale.

    It’s inevitable that we’re going to run into the effects of climate change, but I do believe we have the ability still, to arrest the worst of this, even if we do end up releasing some of the many positive feedback loops that would exacerbate climate change. It would take a worldwide level of R&D, technological development, and infrastructural redevelopment beyond what is even seen in wartime – but I believe it’s possible and doable, and that the political changes we’re seeing today, can set us down the right path for that.

    If we can do something as simple as eliminate the rare-earth requirements for solar renewables – even if it halves or quarters the power output – and refine that technology to be mass producable at a scale that you can line the walls/roofs of every structure – that’s relatively low hanging fruit that can both power and heat/cool (when combined with heat pumps) almost every residential home on the planet (even in the middle of winter, there is an enormous amount of energy hitting your home at every moment of the day – do the calculations on it, the energy is immense…).

    The problem then is energy storage – that’s not an insurmountable problem either, there are low-carbon solutions like flywheel energy storage – it’s solvable, but a lot of R&D has to be put in to the effort.

    Reply
  21. notabanktoadie

    We’ll do it even better this time, because we will design our programs to fight racism, sexism, and the oppression of LGBTQ people, immigrants and indigenous nations, along with every other impediment to social justice.

    But (curiously) not against all* government privileges for usury cartels, aka “the banks” – arguably the source of so much injustice (Google “redlining”) and environmental destruction to begin with.

    *MMT advocates like Warren Mosler and Bill Mitchell would eliminate positive yields on the inherently risk-free debt of monetary sovereigns like the US but, at least in the case of Mosler, institute:
    1) unlimited deposit guarantees (FOR FREE, no less).
    2) unlimited loans at ZERO percent for private banks from the Central Bank.

    Reply
  22. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    It seems increasingly likely to me that the ultimate solution will be condemning most of the species to death. Designer viruses, nano-bots. It’s really just an engineering problem.

    Reply
  23. Darthbobber

    Seems to think the end of exponential growth mandates austerity. What must the assumptions be to lead to that equation.

    Reply
  24. Jeremy Grimm

    Suppose there were no climate change. There is still a little problem of peak oil and generally peak resources — the finite Earth problem. Assume that problem away as well. We still live in a Neoliberal world with ever longer and more slender supply lines, smaller inventories, arrayed in interlocking networks embedding widely distributed single points of potential failure. We still live in a Neoliberal world dedicated to maximizing short term returns to a very few wealthy beneficiaries while looting and dismantling the underlying Corporations. We still live in a Neoliberal world where government belongs to the few, where government largess tirelessly transfers national wealth and income to the wealthy and our transportation networks and Grid are allowed to decay. We still live in a Neoliberal world whose predations cannot be sustained much longer without collapse. We still live in a Neoliberal world with a stranglehold over our governments, Society, and even our ways of thought — fellow “consumers” and “producers”.

    Neither the Green New Deal nor the Righteous Austerity seem more than pleasant exercises to occupy our minds. Neither has any chance in our Neoliberal world. Mice will bell the cat long before we will see a Green New Deal or the Righteous Austerity — except as means to extract public funds for some innovative and disruptive ventures designed for accomplishing further transfers of wealth to the wealthy. The Jackpot is coming. Now is time to look for ‘safe’ places, learn useful skills, save seeds, and learn to husband the Earth as it will become, and lie low while Collapse passes over. Now is the time to find ways to preserve what we can of our great stores of knowledge through the dark times in the future. [I guess I’m feeling especially grimm today.]

    Reply
    1. TheCatSaid

      Thanks for posting this. Arguing about climate change (whether? causes?) in itself does not address any of the other issues you mentioned.

      How we relate to one another, to how we/others exercise power and our participation in these dynamics, and how we relate to our microbes, to the planet and to resources in general–these things will all have to be transformed over time, to create something that is more balanced and beneficial.

      Reply
  25. Glen

    We’re going to get #2 because it comes along with getting cooked. Knock off 80% of the world’s population and we will get the “sustainable” solution, if you can call it that. Or we can really mess up and knock off everybody – maximized rightousness!

    Hopefully we will also get a GND since it’s always better to go down swinging, and it will factor into just how bad it will get for an average dweeb like me on our way down.

    Reply
  26. Oregoncharles

    Well, he is an economist, with all that that entails.

    I tend to agree with Yves, and apparently Lambert: the Jackpot is virtually upon us. We’re in a classic overshoot scenario, where the population and the ecological impact are going to shrink, one way or another. In a way, the two options he caricatures represent those ways – if we see them as stark survival strategies.

    Pessimism doesn’t mean we get to give up; not only is it possible to ameliorate our fate, it’s theoretically possible to get through with a minimum of suffering and early death. We have the means, technically, to control the population decline and maintain a survivable level of consumption until we get to a better fit. That would be essentially the austerity path he caricatures – as most economists would, since groaf is an article of faith. He doesn’t state a position on that.

    What we really lack is the SOCIAL technology to do that. That’s why we have a 16 year old scolding the world leaders with 4 million kids standing behind her. We could see her as a stand in for Wilf in the Jackpot scenario. Too bad the leaders of certain world religions weren’t there, as they are crucial obstacles, along with the giant corporations – who were represented, effectively.

    In the meantime, the Jackpot is imminent enough to justify survival measures. Humans don’t survive on their own, so that mostly means preparing your community. That’s why I occasionally promote the Transition Towns initiative, which I realize I haven’t checked in on for some time. Incidentally, this is an argument for houses over apartments, because they have at least the option for gardens and home solar electricity.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      There was a Transition Town around abouts here, it’s gone full “near term human extinction”. Therefore it’s not all that useful for any sort of collective (or otherwise) survival strategies, as it doesn’t believe there will be any chance of survival.

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      And home water-harvesting and home pee/poo handling-processing and probably other house-based things as well.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        We’re on a well and septic system, as are most people in the country, so we indeed have that. Won’t work if the density is too high, though, or the drainage is poor.

        You probably meant roof water harvesting; could be done on an apartment building, as could rooftop solar, but there probably isn’t enough roof for all the people. Density is cheaper for the city, but makes self-reliance harder.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Roofwater-harvesting, yes. And maybe for multi-family apartments too. And an interesting spin on sky-water harvesting in winter . . . gathering snow and packing it into big cisterns or tanks and when it melts in spring it is right there for use as water.

          As to pee-poo management, I was thinking of waterless composting toilets. Like many fancy high tech ones that can be search engined. Or like this:
          https://humanurehandbook.com/
          That would involve harvesting terminally-used food “at the source” and working it up into a safe-for-soil disease-free form for feeding back to gardens in the tightest possible circle.

          Reply
    3. ObjectiveFunction

      I personally fall into the Archdruid’s camp of human decline “not with a bang but with a whimper”. That said my best guess is that the inflection point will not be a Silent Spring ecoapocalypse but rather a 1918 scale global pandemic (which may or may not be related). This will:

      (a) carry off quite large numbers of the elderly and frail before the world Medical Tech Fairy can come up with and distribute treatments. Westerners will learn to normalize death again, and religion will reappear in force to underpin the new social order.
      (Vocal dissenters like many of us here will need to learn to shut up, because witch-burning will also reappear: pour encouragement les autres!)

      (b) temporarily disrupt basic infra and utilities. These will mostly be restored within weeks, but with strict rationing and a focus on local production and distribution;

      (c) permanently disrupt globalized supply chains and trade, as we all realize which goods are important and necessary and which aren’t (most). We will all also rediscover where life’s necessities come from, and just how hard most of them are to make, grow or gather.

      (d) a stampede to elect or select local strongmen who will appropriate and ration resources, keep order and render ‘justice’, whether it’s the Reverend Billy Bob, Doctor Jill, or the local police chief or Nat Guard commander, or (preferably) a committee or junta.
      (Individualist prepper types will need to go along with these new social contracts and power relations or lose out btw, unless they’re way way out in the woods).

      (d) Dense Urban areas with low social cohesion and huge masses of unemployable flabby former 20%ers will vacate and double up with family (‘family’ itself will be rapidly reinvented). Most of these won’t starve, but will discover scavenging, tinkering and bartering skills they didn’t know they had. And sorry, there will be no Mad Max zombie apocalypse of starving marauders although the business of stripping the vacant cities for reusable materials will get pretty…. competitive.

      Anyway, I’m sure we could all go on and on in this vein. Great piece, Yves, many thanks for the provocative conversation starter(s).

      Reply
      1. ObjectiveFunction

        PS, if I ever move back to North America, a large town like Montgomery AL or Ogden UT with proximity to a large military base will be high on my list of criteria. Even one that’s been massively downsized has been designed since the 1940s to continue operating in conditions up to and including nuclear war. Resilience!
        And no, you don’t need immediate family inside the base to benefit from its presence, and no the military units won’t start shooting and looting*. Their commanders will still see their mission to preserve order and life in their area of control, even if not in ways we’d all agree with. FWIW

        * and under circumstances where they do, you’re probably best off dying quickly from a bullet anyway.

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        So this is how the world ends,

        not with a bang . . . or a whimper . . .

        but with a hiss. The hisss of sssteam essscaping. . . . . .

        Reply
  27. John

    I think the Powerball Lottery ranges in payout from $40mil to $500mil. In other words you can win a baby jackpot or a serious, kickass jackpot. There are degrees of Jackpot one can experience.
    Jay Hanson wrote in his dieoff material about the psychological impact of death on such a vast scale as to make burial of corpses impossible. He does the math and factors in the timeline. Living among the corpses at the charnel ground will not be a happy experience.
    A lot of other things stop happening too….like maintaining the nukes.
    It will be useful to keep on pushing for solutions.
    I love Gibson’s work but have always felt he is very optimistic.
    It is hard for Americans to have a discussion on this. Life in North America, since the catastrophic European arrival has been predicated on extreme Squander, Waste, and Excess. They won the lottery.
    Now, there is a new, different type of lottery in the works. BioOvershoot. Get yer tickets now!

    Reply
  28. a non

    I had a dream once: I was in Hell.

    It was hot and humid but not much worse than a summer day in Houston, TX, but gloomy too.

    But rather than ponder why I deserved to be there, I decided to escape and started digging.

    About 10 feet down the bottom fell out and I was looking at a lake of fire from horizon to horizon.

    When I hear mere pragmatic solutions to our problems, I recall that dream …

    Reply
  29. TD

    The relatively optimistic narratives assume that somehow the power structure will be reformed on a timely basis and that a wonderful new class of managers will magically appear who work well with others and are willing to share.

    In addition, the current half-baked technologies in areas such as power storage will somehow mature in the near future despite the minimal resources and talent currently being applied.

    Also, the disaster capitalists who milk every catastrophe to extract most of the resources available for rescue are going to refrain from their business model when it comes to the climate crisis.

    I sadly vote for the Jackpot but I wish all of you and your descendants the very best.

    Reply
  30. bassmule

    It seems to me that our Overlords are quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) pleased with the idea of thinning the herd. How better to control the environment than by killing off a lot of the species that causes environmental damage in the first place? It will probably begin with the deaths of a lot of poor brown people in places distant from the US–say, Bangladesh–which Americans will feel very bad about but not lift a finger to stop. And when US coastal cities start sinking into the briny deep, our Overlords will remind us how much better off we are that we are not Bangladesh. And people will buy it. It’s like talking to my friends about how horrible the US has become now that three guys have half of all the money, or whatever it is, and they say “Well, at least this isn’t Afghanistan.”

    Reply
  31. The Rev Kev

    For certain we are in for the Jackpot but I wonder if that term may be a bit of a misnomer. What I mean is that the word implies a big, spectacular ending when it may not be that way at all though the effect may be the same. John Michael Greer has postulated that it will be more a process than anything else where things just – degrade. The quality and range of goods is crappified, services are curtailed or sometimes cancelled, things are worser for each generation than the previous one, life expectancy and health decline – well you get the idea. And from what I have mentioned, I think that we are seeing this process at work right now.

    Reply
    1. Hoppy

      It gets ugly though when people get to vote for someone who tells them it doesn’t have to be this way, its some other tribe’s fault.

      Then the wheels come off.

      Reply
  32. Another Scott

    Not all degrowth is about lowering standards. A few months ago, Lambert wrote about the environmental benefits of going to a 4-day work week. A reduction like that for everyone in the developed world (not just salaried professionals) would allow people to spend more time with their family, or playing golf or video games, volunteering, or even doing. All of these would increase their quality of life while reducing the environmental costs associated with working. It would hurt GDP and any company depending upon its growth, but would be a net positive for people and the planet.

    Reply
    1. TheCatSaid

      Not all degrowth is about lowering standards

      Exactly. We need constant growth–in quality and in balance. Deflecting to a discussion about growth in quantity is to miss the point.

      Reply
      1. Rod

        This had been a to read for 6 days now.
        Good read great discussion

        When asked if she had hope for the future, GT responded: “No I don’t have hope for the future–but I am taking a stand and action–and that gives me hope”
        That made a lot of sense to me–on an emotional level I am still puzzling over.
        And I read something recently that named ‘Decommissioning our way of lifestyle’ as a first priority.
        Decommissioning seems like a really useful descriptor for much of what needs to be done.

        Reply
  33. RWood

    Laurie Garrett indicates the increasingly lethal viral threats and the lack of coordinated preparations.

    But then this:

    Consider the events of the first two weeks of this month, for example. A mysterious explosion in a Soviet-era laboratory complex outside Novosibirsk, Russia, raised concerns about the safety of smallpox and hundreds of other viruses locked in the facility’s freezers. The Russian lab, known as Vector, was once one of a handful of top-security pathogen research centers in the world, but today there are more than 1,000 such so-called Biosafety Level-3 and -4 labs, in which lethal microbes are stored and studied: Many of the facilities have had leaks and safety breeches.

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/20/the-world-knows-an-apocalyptic-pandemic-is-coming/

    Reply
  34. Peter Dorman

    Thanks for the interesting comments, folks. Why didn’t I express my own views at the end? (1) I’ve already written quite a bit of commentary on both narratives, much of which has been reposted here at NC. (2) My alternative position doesn’t boil down to a narrative. (3) I was in a hurry for other, unrelated reasons. This last reason is probably the main one.

    What I think. At this late hour, coming in under a 2/3 chance of a 2 degree warming carbon budget (stabilization around 450 ppm) is going to be extremely difficult, politically and economically. The core task is suppression of the use of fossil fuels, especially since we’re in a world of expanding energy demand. (More renewables alone won’t cut it because it’s too late to fully substitute, and because investment in renewables without measures to suppress fossil fuels just means more of both.) This will entail substantial shortages in the short to medium run, which means immense and unavoidable energy price increases. Politically and ethically, these prices—carbon revenues—need to be used primarily to defray the costs to the majority of the population that isn’t rich enough to ignore them, at an international level as well as a national one. Doing this will take a lot more maturity and steadfastness than we’ve seen in our lifetime. Meanwhile, the massive dislocations associated with a crash program of decarbonization will result in many trillions of dollars in stranded assets beyond the unburnable fossil fuels themselves. If Boeing survives its current scandal, how will it cope with jet fuel prices ten or more times what they are now? What about the massive investments in commercial and residential real estate that depend on inexpensive automobility? If you think the rich will take this lying down, you’re on a different planet than me.

    It’s still barely possible, but it will take a popular mobilization around the world that is massive, disruptive and astute. We’ve got a start on the first, maybe a glimmer of the second, but a lot of ground to cover on the third.

    As I said, my position doesn’t work well as a narrative. I don’t see the climate crisis as demonstrating any particular political, social or spiritual commitment. It derives strictly from the arithmetic of the carbon cycle and the way humans have intervened in it. I would certainly be happy if it followed a more congenial script, but it doesn’t.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Thank you, both for a stimulating if grim article and for this expansion on it. I think we agree: the hardest part is the social engineering. And things are going to be rough. I wish I didn’t think that.

      Reply
    2. Hoppy

      I think you’ve got it with this take.

      I wonder what happens to the stock market, 401k’s in particular. Maybe its a good thing that most people aren’t even close to having enough saved for retirement. Much easier sell that ‘most people ‘will be better off with increased social security payments, that 401k’s were a scam cooked up to get out of funding pensions.

      What about cities? A lot of idle hands with no connection to nature.

      If you think the rich will take this lying down, you’re on a different planet than me.

      Not a chance, but if we need to keep the voters happy, they have to lose. One person, one vote, no exceptions for money as power.

      Barely possible…yep!

      Reply
    3. Ignacio

      Thank you for your answer. And yes, forced supression of fossil fuels is the way to work. There are sub-narratives after this that have to be worked out but secondary to the main goal.

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        I now realise that my first comment was too harsh and I feel sorry about it. This is because I am not in search for narratives and believe that in fact it is a bit too late for choosing narratives. For this reason I found the post somehow frustrating.

        Reply
    4. xkeyscored

      “The core task is suppression of the use of fossil fuels.”
      As it has been, and as we have known it to be, for at least thirty years.
      Meanwhile, fossil fuel use is increasing (I believe 2017 and 2018 follow the same trend).

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well, if we dropped America all the way out of the Global Free Trade Order and abrogated every Free Trade Agreement and Treaty we have, we would be able to institute the fossil-carbon Hansen FeeBate plan without being vulnerable to any of our Trading Enemies’ carbon-dumping their UnHansenized unPriceRised production on our society.

        National Greenism in ONE COUNTRY. And only permit trade between the ONE COUNTRY and any other ONE COUNTRY which also adopts an at-least-as-thorough National Greenism. With a Hansen FeeBate at least as punitive ( and ultimately exterminatory) against the Coal, Gas and Oil industries.

        And as long as the relative merits of hope and fear for motivating action are being considered, I still think hate is worth considering as a relative motivater as well. Open-eyed far-seeing hate directed against the right targets, inspired to weaponise Deep Conservation to exterminate those targets.

        Reply
  35. Miau

    And what about green abundance for t’he wealthy and righteous austerity for the poor? After all taxes on gas and subsidies on electric cars are all about that.

    Reply
  36. Peter

    Funny how Gibson’s ideas resonate with some thoughts I recently jotted down:
    What if..another conspiracy theory based on the current state of the world
    The current situation of depletion of resources, the threat of global warming and the inability of the planetary resources to bear the demands of an ever increasing population, the unabating increase in wealth of a small group of already immensely wealthy people – all well known and factual – lead to the conclusions by a small group of oligarchs worldwide:
    The planet with the current load of population and their demands is under threat, the current model and mode of production, creating wealth and wealth distribution does neither work nor is it sustainable.
    We have at our demand available all resources and have accumulated wealth sufficient that we control almost all the worlds production
    We with the means that are available to us can radically change the current situation of over population.
    Therefore we decide:
    The vast majority of the people not of our class is superfluous.
    We do no longer need to increase our wealth with gains based on the debt slavery and production by hired labour
    We substitute any needed labour with AI sufficient to produce what we need for a sustainable life in comparable luxury with non human labour, demanding no food or space.
    We save on energy, free up space for the regrowth of forests und undisturbed wilderness and reduction of CO2 sufficiently to curb global warming to prevent the ecosystem we rely on from collapsing.
    We keep those of the population needed for research into further development of AI so it becomes ever more autonomous, research into diseases threatening the remainder of humanity and research into agricultural projects to with increasing efficiency needing ever less human interference keep food production viable and continuous for the remainders.

    What if that is the goal of talks about overpopulation being a real threat – but with different goals than those not of the oligarch class?

    Reply
    1. TheCatSaid

      Sounds like the actual Club of Rome discussions and policies, which focused on the need to depopulate and various ways of achieving it. (E.g., GMOs of corn that reduced fertility, etc.)

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, that’s the goal of Jackpot Design Engineering.

      How to kill 7 or 8 billion people over the coming hundred years and make it look like fate and a series of unfortunate accidents.

      And the only way to prevent it would be to pre-emptively Jackpot the Jackpotters. ( Pre-emptively exterminate the Overclass first. But who and how would be able to carry that out and decide it is better to do that first rather than to let the Overclass live to kill 7 or 8 billion people) . . .

      Reply
  37. eg

    First off, thanks very much for the description of the Jackpot — I had seen it for a while in the comments under many articles, and not being very familiar with Gibson’s work, didn’t understand. I Googled it once, and that was no help — coincidence?

    Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” suggests that the chances of those most invested in our current system (its leaders and “elites”) proposing and facilitating changes to it approximate to zero.

    Another thought — nature may have an unknown “slate wiper” in store for humanity quite aside from the effects of climate change that reduces our population sufficiently to reverse the damage that we have been doing. In such a scenario globalism goes away, but the species doesn’t (depending upon the remnants left).

    Failing that, I would never rule out the Jay Gould scenario where the rich pay half the poor to kill the other half — or some worse ratio.

    These are not pleasant outcomes to contemplate, but not nearly all of them assure species die-off. Whether or not this is a good thing is a matter of perspective, I suppose.

    Reply
  38. Sagebrush Country

    My personal response to climate change and finite earth problems has been to simplify my lifestyle as much as I can. I know people who are urban homesteaders (no power, no water or sewage hookup, no car, raise their own food) but my family is not ready to go to that extreme even though I believe we will all get there eventually, and mostly not by choice.

    I have given up being a believer in the Blue cult and the Red cult, which has freed me to be able to converse with my entire community where i can encourage others to simplify, and to encourage the supporting of those who simplify even more. It takes courage, resources and know-how, to jump off the traditional lifestyle track and it will take a supportive community to accelerate that process.

    Other advice I follow and give is avoid at all possible being on that last-rung in society. Those are the ones that will most likely be culled. Don’t live in a flood plain, don’t go into debt so u can afford a bigger house and more toys. Fix a car rather than save up for a “greener” one. Shop second-hand stores. Be self-sufficient and have strong ties to your community.

    Thanks to the creators of this blog and to those who participate in it. A lot of wisdom here.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      This seems like a good high value real world response. Hopefully people here would slowly come to an evolving “herd of ants” type consensus as to which category of posts would be the best category of posts to bring actionable survival and conservation-lifestyling information in the form of relevant comments in relevant threads . . . comments with book titles , links, sources, various real-world doing-it action groups/hobby groups , etc.

      Reply
  39. aintno

    Dorman is a traumatized, disappointed liberal. His trauma was created by Evergreen State, an object case in point of the bankruptcy of the PC left-liberal analysis—or lack of it. And the pathetic emptiness of his so called left dichotomy on climate change “analysis” is symptomatic of all that.

    The Bernie/Robert Pollin Green New Deal is a great, integrated concept. Will it work? It could. Will it avoid disaster? Nobody knows. My guess is the plague/influenza epidemic is gonna knock about off about 1/4 of the world’s population long before climate driven mortality starts taking it’s toll but I have nothing but a hunch to back that up. In the meantime, as human beings we have an obligation to those who came before and those who will come after—as well as to the life force that flows through all of us and all things—to do the best we can in this world. This is not a leftist idea. Children know this stuff implicitly, if middle age adults have forgotten, its understandable given how disappointing and miserable life can be, but its on them.

    Reply
  40. John Anthony La Pietra

    I’m interested to know what folks here think of what I sometimes call the #realDeal — the Green New Deal as proposed by the Green Party of the United States. Here is a link to some GPUS materials on the plan.

    I don’t think it’s perfect either (or easier to get adopted!), but I do think it addresses some of the limitations and other criticisms mentioned above. Which suggests to me that it may be a better foundation/guide for taking action on various levels — for taking global and personal responsibility. At least, it might be helpful to make the #realDeal better known — a bigger part of the discussion.

    Reply
    1. Grumpy Engineer

      The Green Party’s GND isn’t a plan. It’s a publicity piece that describes a few high-level goals and a description of what they want to get rid of, but it contains essentially zero description of what the new energy system would look like. For example:

      How many GW of solar panels would be required?
      How many GW of wind turbines would be required?
      How many GW of additional hydroelectric would be required?
      How many GWh of pumped storage hydro would be required?
      How many GWh of lithium-ion battery storage would be required?
      How many miles of new high-voltage transmission lines would be required?
      If electricity costs become “far lower”, how will the paychecks for 16 million employees be funded?
      What about heating? Will existing oil- and gas-fired furnaces be replaced?
      And what about transportation? There’s no mention at all.

      Any real plan should have answers to all of these questions. Without those details, the feasibility of the plan cannot be evaluated. [But based on my own study of the subject, a serious attempt at their overall goals would result in a plan that is wildly unrealistic, primarily due to resource constraints. Skipping nuclear is a major mistake.]

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *