Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The truth about climate change?
A recent article by Naomi Klein raises all kinds of disturbing questions.
Things are so bad from the perspective of climate change, she claims, that climate scientists are beginning to sound alarm bells. This in itself speaks volumes. By temperament scientists prefer to search for truth whether in the lab or the field, not engage in propaganda wars - which have little to do with truth. In war, truth is always the first casualty.
Global food production may be adversely affected by climate change and global warming in the near future, raising the specter of geopolitical chaos and genocidal wars over land and access to resources. Extreme weather threatens to worsen with unpredictable economic, social and political consequences for the long run. Unlike global warming, extreme weather events are highly unpredictable and therefore hard to prepare for. They are also vastly more destructive than the actual global warming figures suggest which increases their intensity and frequency and modifies their patterning in space and time rendering them even more destructive. A two degree Celsius rise in temperature doesn't sound like much. But the new climate threatens to be much more variable, especially during the transition phase, before things settle down into the New Climate (whatever that will be!) And the danger is in the extremes. A two degree rise in temperature probably won't kill you but, depending on where you live, 30 or 50 extra days of plus 40 C just might (and, in a number of ways: heat stress, drought and starvation / dehydration, increased exposure to temperature sensitive pathogens like malaria..)
Such an analysis is frightening for obvious (and not so obvious) reasons. It says, to begin with, that we are not really in control, always a frightening proposition to a civilization of Control Freaks like ourselves. Worse, if we accept the fact that our collective future is in jeopardy, to whom shall we turn for succor? Some of us cannot honestly place our faith in an omnipotent divinity (or its contemporary stand-ins like the Space Brothers) to save humanity or a worthy fraction thereof (the "Elect" or "Saved"). Worse, some even believe that the divinity has placed responsibility for running this planet properly in human hands: Christian "co-creationists" and activists who see battles for social justice as the means to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth. Such analyses are always troubling for a large percentage of the population who do not want to change since they are the beneficiaries of the status quo (or, at least, are too frightened by the idea of change that they tolerate the status quo, fearing worse..)
Ultimately, we are dealing with what social psychologists call "cognitive dissonance". Dissonance is evoked when incoming data disconfirms our "knowledge" or expectations of a situation. Such situations are highly stressful: faulty info or badly interpreted info can get you eaten in a dog-eat-dog Darwinian world! Our biological survival depends upon the fact that our internal "Roadmaps of Reality" do, in fact, conform sufficiently to our local environment to allow us to survive and pass on our genes. Hence evolution has placed a high priority on our ability to form accurate roadmaps of our local reality, its resources, potential predators and allies, dangerous places and times..
In cognitively discordant situations, the organism decide to 1- accept discordant info and reorganize its way of perceiving the world or 2- to actively reject the discordant data. Both processes are stress inducing, subjectively disagreeable, and extremely so when key self-perceptions are under attack: belief in God or our country's politics, the superiority of our religion or political system..
From an existential perspective, it is painful, exquisitely painful if one is honest, to face the fact that we have been led down a "primrose path" by pushers of phony dreams: infinite growth is not physically possible on a planet of finite size, like ours. Nor, in general, can a depleted resource be replaced by another: gold is a better electrical conductor than copper, so why have we not replaced copper wires by gold ones? If you think that one through (availability, price, weight, mechanical strength..), you will understand that another of the cherished "axioms" of (neo-)classical economics is simply false. A depleted non-renewable resource cannot, in general, be easily replaced by another. When truth be told, our economic models are, at best, no more valid than astrological charts and the hypotheses upon which those charts are based.
To learn that we have been duped by false prophets of Progress is hard to swallow. Worse! we have to admit that we let ourselves by duped (and then gone on to dupe one another). These are hard, humiliating admissions to make. We will have to accept that we have persecuted those who spoke the truth in the face of lies and delusion. This guilt is not easy to assume either.
If Ms Klein and other "prophets of doom" are correct in their analyses, can we continue the denial game a bit longer? a year?, five years?, ten? twenty? Not long in any case.. And then, how will things play out? Will anger or fear dominate? Will we seek scapegoats or will wise leaders rise to canalize our grief and rage and fear into constructive works? We can't foresee the future but we can be sure of one thing: the path we are on is not the right one. The question remains, at what cost can "we" - or some fraction of us - find a path leading to where we should be going.. and the bigger, unasked one: what is the cost of staying on the path we are on..
The essence of Reaction: the powers that be, those who profit from the status quo, won't go down without a fight, of course.
An article offering insight into the dirty tricks campaign of the fossil fuel dinosaurs and why environmentalist do not face a level playing field..