Science + Good Policy = Averting Climate Breakdown: Go!

earthCan you do it?

Can you be inspired by the strong possibility that we can move to a post-carbon energy infrastructure, like I wrote about yesterday?

Can you not reject science like the tarsands-addicted bad employee of ours, Mr. Harper?

Can you see that, as a species, we must choose policy that is based on science and evidence to avert climate breakdown?

If not, leave this website and never come back. I don’t want you here.

If so, click here:

Abrupt climate change is not only imminent, it’s already here.

 – David Biello, December4, 2013 [before the polar vortex]

Blame is spin. It is for the greedy, the weak, and the sociopathic:

The international argument on climate change is about who is responsible rather than what needs to be done. Surprises like the rapid meltdown of Arctic sea ice are therefore inevitable, but extreme global warming still isn’t, necessarily. “It’s not tipping points I worry about but points of no return,” [recently retired head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a researcher at Columbia University's Earth Institute, James] Hansen said. “It’s not whether things happen quickly but that they’re guaranteed.”

- via Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say

Today is the day to choose intentional living.

You either have it in you, or you’re part of the problem.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist.
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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4 thoughts on “Science + Good Policy = Averting Climate Breakdown: Go!”

  1. Stephen, I don’t believe we can do it. I’ve been wrestling for several years with how to act on the AGW threat. There are solutions. Most of them are pretty obvious and sensible yet, for practical purposes, they remain out of reach.

    For example, rapidly transitioning out of our fossil fuel economy is critical. It’s not hard to agree on that. Likewise for transitioning to alternative, clean energy. Yet, even if we took that giant leap into a post-carbon world, where would we be?

    I feel deflated whenever we dwell on global warming as though doing this or that will be the salvation of mankind. It won’t because AGW is but one of a number of potentially existential challenges we have to meet if our great grandchildren are to have much chance on this planet.

    If we were honest we would admit that our planet’s carrying capacity is somewhere between three and four billion people. As prosperity spreads that number declines so it’s now likely closer to three billion. There was a helpful report on this yesterday in Scientific American. http://the-mound-of-sound.blogspot.ca/2014/02/our-giant-prosperity-iou.html

    In the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. grew by roughly 100-million people. Yet, given the per capita footprint in that ultimate consumer society, that 100-million was equivalent to a billion Indians. So, today, not only is population burgeoning but global, per capital footprint is also. This massive middle class developing in the emerging economies behaves like our own. They want better food, more consumer goods, cars, travel and more. Yet the natural resources to meet that demand don’t exist. We’re already consuming more than 1.5 times Earth’s supply of natural resources (footprintnetwork.org). So we’re meeting demand, for now, by exhausting Earth’s natural capital. This is manifest in several ways including deforestation, desertification, resource exhaustion (particularly freshwater), species extinction (collapse of global fisheries) and the critical threat we almost always overlook – steadily worsening contamination of our air, water and soil. Our very civilization depends on our biosphere’s ability to cleanse our waste but we have exceeded that too and so contamination levels build. It’s sort of like building up plaque in coronary arteries. Eventually that leads to cardiac arrest.

    I won’t go into more of these challenges. It’s enough to point out that we’re so overburdening our planet that, even if we did decarbonize our energy supply, that of itself won’t do much more than buy a little more time.

    I’ll finish this in another comment.

  2. It strikes me that we can institute reforms but they’re bound to fail until we address the foundational problem. As a now global civilization, we’re fatally flawed in the way we’re organized – socially, economically, geo-politically. We’re stuck in a self-destructive combination of 18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geo-politics, institutions that have long lost their essential utility.

    Here’s a clear example. We still organize ourselves around a GDP growth model that is inherently suicidal. In the West we have long identified 3% annual growth in GDP as our goal, never pausing to realize what that would mean extended over 50, 100, 150 or 200-years. I use an adult lifespan of 50-years – roughly a 30-year working career and 20-years of retirement. An economy of 1X GDP at the beginning of one adult lifespan would have to grow 4.3 times to maintain 3% annual growth over 50-years. After 2-adult lifetimes, 100 years, it would have to be just over 19 times greater than it was at Year 1. Three adult lifetimes, it soars to 84 times Year 1. Four adult lifetimes, 200 years, the economy would have grown to 369 times its size on Year 1. Imagine the resources that would be needed to accommodate that growth and the waste products that would be generated? Where would we find the resources, how would we handle the waste?

    We live on finite planet that can only furnish us with a finite supply of resources and can only accommodate a finite amount of waste. We’re the problem. Our economic model is grievously flawed.

    Our social model in response to population growth is likewise dangerously flawed. It also fails us in our “first come, first served” approach to global commons such as the atmosphere or our fisheries. Look at our utterly mad quest to extract, export and consume our fossil fuel reserves. These resources were laid down over hundreds of millions of years and yet we don’t give a thought to exhausting them over just a few centuries and what that means?

    These are but a few, key issues that confront us if we’re to survive extinction. Jared Diamond in his book, “Collapse”, argues that this cluster of threats is so interwoven that we cannot effectively solve any of them without solutions for all.

    There are answers such as moving from growth-based, neo-classical economics into steady state or “Full Earth” economics. We just have to ditch all our self-destructive behaviours. That’s a tall order.

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