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The Threat Is from Those Who Accept Climate Change, Not Those Who Deny It

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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 03:49 PM
Original message
The Threat Is from Those Who Accept Climate Change, Not Those Who Deny It

If the biosphere is ruined it will be done by people who know that emissions must be cut - but refuse to alter the way they live

You have to pinch yourself. Until now the Sun has denounced environmentalists as "loonies" and "eco beards". Last week it published "photographic proof that climate change is real". In a page that could have come straight from a Greenpeace pamphlet, it laid down 10 "rules" for its readers to follow: "Use public transport when possible; use energy-saving lightbulbs; turn off electric gadgets at the wall; do not use a tumble dryer ... "

Two weeks ago the Economist also recanted. In the past it has asserted that "Mr Bush was right to reject the prohibitively expensive Kyoto pact". It co-published the Copenhagen Consensus papers, which put climate change at the bottom of the list of global priorities. Now, in a special issue devoted to scaring the living daylights out of its readers, it maintains that "the slice of global output that would have to be spent to control emissions is probably ... below 1%". It calls for carbon taxes and an ambitious programme of government spending.

Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial. But I'm not celebrating yet. The danger is not that we will stop talking about climate change, or recognising that it presents an existential threat to humankind. The danger is that we will talk ourselves to kingdom come.
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wtmusic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 03:53 PM
Response to Original message
1. Climate change is real everywhere except the skies over Oklahoma
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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 03:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. Thanks for closing the barn door after the horse left.
Thirty, twenty, even five years ago this might have been helpful. Now with the permafrost melting, it may be too late.
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Kutjara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 04:00 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Yep, once all the methane locked up in permafrost...
...percolates out into the atmosphere, the current extent of global warming will look like a balmy spring breeze. People will be traveling to Venus for a break from the heat.
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Skinner ADMIN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 03:57 PM
Response to Original message
3. Thank you for posting that.
I encourage everyone to click the link and read the entire article. It says many things that seem to be clearly true, but which most of us are probably unwilling to take to heart.
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Kutjara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 04:05 PM
Response to Original message
5. You see this attitude emerging on the freeper-type boards.
Posts that used to deny warming now talk about it as a 'benefit.'

"I live in Wisconsin, so I'm glad winters will be warmer," or "All that CO2 in the atmosphere will be good for crops, so there'll be much more food for everyone," or "we'll save a lot of money through lower heating costs." I've seen all these comments at one time or another, and plenty more besides. None of these clowns seem to have a clue about the nature of complex systems and the fragility of environmental equilibrium. Yet they're all willing to bet the farm on global warming being one big beach party for all of us.
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 05:09 PM
Response to Original message
6. Links to the items cited in the OP article
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Gregorian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 06:17 PM
Response to Original message
7. Population.
Edited on Thu Sep-21-06 06:19 PM by Gregorian
Even they can't say it.

Everything else is just a symptom. When are people going to get it?

Save, recycle, drive less, but have several children, and you've negated it. The most effective step we can take toward answering all of the problems, not just global warming, is to have fewer children. We need to stabilize the patient. This planet is in the emergency room. Dramatic steps are needed IMMEDIATELY, in order to preclude disaster. It's not just combustion, it's deforestation. Each new person above and beyond the ones who are already here, needs a house. That's deforestation. Among other things. It's the population. And until we address that, none of the rest is going to amount to anything. Not in a meaningful time frame, at least.

edit- Sadly, population discussion often masquerades under freeper pretenses. That is not where I'm coming from. I'm trying to open a discussion to something NOBODY wants to talk about. But we had better start.
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Lisa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 08:12 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. interestingly, the UN's population agency ...
Edited on Thu Sep-21-06 08:15 PM by Lisa
... is saying that draconian measures do not help stabilize population and increase the quality of life in the long term, as much as development-related actions do. So if the freepers were really worried about trying to bring in zero population growth, they have a blind spot about the fact that liberals are actually better at creating those conditions!

More equitable social policies -- universal public education, encouraging women to develop skills and work outside of the home, a secure medicare and public health system, anti-poverty programs -- those things the right wing screams about as "socialist", "anti-family", "wastefully expensive", and "coddling the poor" -- seem to play a major role in decreasing fertility. The very ethnic groups which proto-freepers claimed were "breeding like rabbits" -- southern Europeans, Irish, Hispanics, Asians -- given economic security, everybody is showing declining fertility rates. So it seems to work across the board.

The fertility rate (number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime) is now below 3, in developing countries. By comparison, during the mid-20th C baby boom (and also a century ago), the US fertility rate was well over 3 (it subsided during the Depression and the early war years). (Recently it's been hanging in there at barely 2 in the US, and is well below that in Canada and many European nations.) Demographers consider 2.1 to be the "replacement level".
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 11:55 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. The greatest correlation with a low birth rate is
the educational level of the women. Countries where most of the women are illiterate have high birth rates. Countries where most of the women have at least the equivalent of a high school education have low birth rates, sometimes below replacement level, as in several European countries, Japan, and South Korea.
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Lisa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 12:22 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. seems to work within countries too ...
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 06:17 AM
Response to Reply #9
13. Overconsumption is as big a problem
Lower birth rates in the developed countries, but those countries consume more.

This is where the two problems come together to create what is basically an unsolvable problem. Well, unless we lower the birth rates and lower the living standards across the globe. Yet if you do one, the other will happen, because our system is based on exponential growth. Now, you could change that system, but then billions of people would die.

It's nice to think that giving women the option to work outside the home, fix poverty, have everyone live artificially long and healthy lives, etc, would make everything smell like flowers and candy. But all those things will help the problem grow. And I'm not saying that women shouldn't have the choice, hell I'm saying that men can't really have that option either. Our whole industrial way of life is the problem, and whatever post-industrial crap they're selling us tomorrow isn't going to work either.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 09:28 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. There are so many things that would help
If we just had the time and the resources. When you have neither, you run out of options in a hurry.

Have you surfed ? Itr's a top-of-the-list resource on this topic.
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Lisa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 03:42 PM
Response to Reply #13
18. agreed that overconsumption has to be tackled too
This is one reason why the focus of population experts has shifted, from the "make poorer countries decrease their birth rates" emphasis of the 1960s and 70s. The less-industrialized countries pointed out, and quite rightly, that if one North American uses 5 times as much as someone in India, they are contributing to ecosystem pressure just as much.

Stabilizing populations in industrialized and industrializing countries does help -- not just a flowers and candy ideal. If the baby boom had continued longer (or if the mini-boom had shown fertility rates as high as the 1950s), there would be more North Americans today. As Lydia mentioned, it's not at all unusual to see fertility rates below replacement levels. Putting the brakes on population growth worldwide is definitely going to help.

As for the other half of the problem, which you have so clearly pointed out -- there's increasing evidence that it's possible to maintain a relatively high standard of living (with modern standards of health care, education, etc.), while consuming a lot less than we do today in the US and Canada. Per capita water use by Europeans is at least a third lower, sometimes almost half, of North American consumption. Some places in the world (like Cuba, and Kerala State in India) have shown that even low-income countries can do a lot towards providing adequate health and schooling. Of course it's not all roses, but at least people are doing something.

As you note, the industrial way of life is a real obstacle, but I don't think that we're limited to either the option of rolling back the demographic transition model to a world with high birth rates and high death rates -- or to one where everybody tries to live like North Americans and the environment collapses.

It will probably be the hardest thing our species has ever attempted, but given how much we already know, about positive measures we can take -- it would be a cop-out if we didn't try.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 09:27 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Absolutely bang on
Edited on Thu Sep-21-06 09:31 PM by GliderGuider
  • Climate change
  • Oil and natural gas depletion
  • Air, water and soil pollution
  • Depletion of soil fertility and fresh water reserves
  • Deforestation and desertification
  • Depletion of ocean fish stocks
  • Massive extinctions
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Economic instability
  • Social stress

All the above "problems" are just symptoms of a human population in overshoot.

The bigger problem is, if we are in fact already in overshoot (and we are, by at least 25%) and serious problems are less than a generation away (and they are, probably less than a couple of decades), then even stopping all population growth right now won't help, because there are already too many of us. The mere fact that the global fertility rate is currently 2.7 makes the problematique itemized above insoluble.

The only sure remedy is to rapidly reduce our population. Since there is no humane way to do this, Mother Nature is going to have to give us a hand.
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-21-06 07:58 PM
Response to Original message
8. We are almost certainly over the "tipping point"
Now we just hold on tight and see what happens.

Sure, taking our foot off the gas is going to help a bit, but we ain't got brakes, and the road down is steep.

Have you fastened your seatbelt?
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Uncle Joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 09:58 AM
Response to Original message
15. Excellent column,
thanks for posting NoMoreMyths.

K & R

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
16. People are inching closer to the truth
Edited on Fri Sep-22-06 10:57 AM by GliderGuider
I have to say, though - every time I see a column that contains some variant of the following comment, I want to scream: "Do you really want to stop climate chaos, or do you just want to feel better about yourself?"

The implicit assumption in this question is that it is in fact possible to "stop climate chaos". And this is from a writer who has just spent the whole article laying out the implication that it is not possible in the current social/economic/industrial/political environment to do a damn thing about it. If Monbiot wants people to get realistic about their efforts to combat climate change, the least he can do is have the intellectual integrity to get realistic himself. Of course, saying "We're screwed" isn't acceptable in the current culture. That would demonstrate an unacceptable defeatism, even if it is true.

I don't yet know what the answer is. People will not simply lie down and roll over, it's not our buddha nature. We need to keep working for solutions, even if the situation appears hopeless. What we do need to be careful about, though, is working on solutions that actually make matters worse. Examples of that, IMO, include developing alternative automobile fuels rather than working to eliminate the automobile, moving to nuclear power rather than reducing our civilization's requirement for electricity, and above all trying to fix the problems within the growth-centric paradigm that caused them in the first place. In other words, Business As Usual is the problem, not some ideal baseline to be maintained by hook or by crook.

The solution to humanity's problems will not be technical. If there is a solution at all, it lies in the realm of de-linking our definitions of "progress" and "success" from indicators of economic and industrial growth. If that cannot be accomplished (and I am very skeptical, to put it mildly) we're just about done as a civilization and possibly as a species.
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-22-06 03:13 PM
Response to Original message
17. Chic fashions that look good drip dried
I have a lot of oxford work shirts that look really bad unless I tumble them for ten minutes in the drier to get the heat to relax the fabric and remove the wrinkles. We need designers to take "dress casual" another step and develop styles that don't show the wrinkles, or if they do wrinkle, they still look good. For example, I have polyester pile jackets and vests that I never dry. I just put them on a plastic hangar and hang them somewhere that they get some air. My new energy-efficient washer spins them so hard that there is barely any water in them anywhere.
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