The actions that policymakers take in the next couple of years will have "profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies" for the next 10,000 years and beyond, warns a new report that examines the long-term consequences of the so called "fossil fuel era."
There is good reason that James Hansen has been calling for a plan to make it possible to return to 350 ppm CO2 atmospheric levels by the end of this century. His goal has been pretty much ignored, probably because it would be extremely disrupting, but as the article says, aiming only to stay below 2C will have dire consequences in the distant future and so far the pledges made by almost 200 countries would not even lead to achieving the 2C goal.
“Act Now” too often means, learn your lines quickly, wardrobe will dress you, makeup will work on your face, stand on your entrance spot and speak your lines on cue.
Really acting now means that you already know what you want done. Shutting down long-term fossil fuel investment is a start.
However, what “act now” means to me is, first, lowering the price of backyard solar to the point where the fossil fuel industry goes into a tailspin and ends up in some museum.
–Your house needs a source of stored solar thermal heat on winter mornings before dawn.
–Your house needs an attached solar greenhouse that stays at tomato ripening weather in January. Your store needs concentrated daylighting.
– Your electricity source needs to keep working after sunset. Stored solar thermal heat is one solution among many, but it’s going to be the low cost sustainable solution.
– If you’re in the South you’ll happily trade solar heat for solar air conditioning.
– Your transit system might still be comfortable for you, but it would be nice if it were a factor of ten more electricity-efficient than your current electric car. What, you still drive a Hummer?
In addition, we need to actively reverse an Arctic methane bomb in a relatively environmentally benign manner. Spending about $1 billion per year would be a true bargain for the planet.
–We need wind powered snow making machines that artificially put snow on the Arctic tundra in early fall and in late spring, so that the snow reflects sunlight back into space like the Arctic used to.
We need to be prepared to sequester gigatons of carbon. I recommend algae photosynthesis to create biodiesel fuel. Gigatons of the algae cell walls (cellulose) should be buried and capped into big lignite mountains.
We should be doing all of this research, like, now. It’s not getting done. If your house is catching fire and you’re busy watching cat videos, you’re going to regret the loss of that time.
We should practice economic sustainability by paying the inventors’ rent money and providing the lab space. Prayer doesn’t directly feed inventors.
Since US policy decisions are based on money and profits above all else and controlled by politicians, our scientists given a back seat if any at all, I’d expect the chances of really accomplishing what it takes to save Planet Earth and her creatures are slim to none.
Some other nations “get-it” but can exert little power themselves, the rest of the world are too ignorant of the consequences, too shackled to religious dogma, are ruled by corrupt regimes, or their national/personal ambitions/desires to “get what the west has”, that led to this crossroads, also condemn citizens of Mother Earth to oblivion.
This outlook may seem extreme, but many have warned of these and other consequences for decades but were marginalized, ignored, laughed-at, or bought-off. The quest for wealth and “growth” via capitalist economics ruled and molded the future - politicians of barely existent morality and less knowledge or wisdom calling the shots, empowering the very activities destroying us all, with a few feel-good “summits” convened of little real consequence or effect.
There is a time lag between emissions and climate consequences (and concomitant environmental break-down).
The climate chaos that the planet is now enduring is the result not only of present emissions (which are on the rise daily), but of all the damaging stuff that industrial civilization has spewed into the atmosphere, waterways and soils over its ‘life span’. Exponentially more severe events are already BUILT INTO Earth’s climate from past decades of intense - literally earth-shattering - industrial activity. Momentous climate changes, almost none of them supportive of modern life, loom on the horizon.
Even if the world as a whole magically sifts to 100% clean green energy in a decade or two (a pipe-dream that has little chance of happing), the Artic will not stop melting, the methane plumes will not stop gassing off, the coral reefs will not stop dying, species in great numbers will not stop going extinct.
Based on so much evidence, I’m aligned with those who say that we - and this once glorious and diverse planet - are well and truly fucked… AND that life is good.
From the headline:
“The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.”
Actually, the PAST few decades offered a brief window of opportunity.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, about the widespread devastating ecological impacts of DDT, was published in 1962. By 1970, the first Earth Day was organized, and in 1971, Barry Commoner’s The Closing Circle was published as a response. The awareness that the human economy was truly, seriously disrupting the ecology was spreading fast.
Had an awakened and aware humanity been able to turn civilization and the political economy off the road to destruction; wrest basic control of the economy from the militarists extractivists and looters; and interrupt the vast propaganda project that feeds ignorance, distraction and consumerism into our consciousness… we could have been reducing fossil fuel use, and the overall chemical and industrial assault on the ecology, every year since then.
Instead, the chemical and industrial assault on the ecology has been accelerating, alongside the accelerating propaganda assault on our minds, every year since.
So instead of being Wile E. Coyote skidding to a stop just before racing off the edge of the cliff… we are now in the position of Wile E. Coyote hanging briefly in mid-air, looking down, and beginning to plummet. The drastic shift that is needed now, is far more drastic than it would have been 45 years ago.
We need to challenge, and disrupt, and change, the basic “identities” that have been constructed for us - as consumers, as voters, as employees, as students, etc. - and embrace a full identity as HUMANS, emphasizing our participation as part of the Earth’s ecology.
“Consumers” need to reject that identity, and recognize that we’ve been gamed, lied to, manipulated, and used. DO NOT BUY what you DO NOT NEED, and be very real about the meaning of the word “need.” Missing out on a living planet that can sustain a population of humans, is far worse than missing out on the iPhone 13 or whatever version they are up to now.
“Voters” need to insist that candidates address the whole-system crisis, and refuse to vote for candidates who do not.
“Employees” need to reject the proposition that you lose your full humanity when you allow yourself to be the “employee” of a business.
The sociopathic predatory personalities that proclaim themselves “Masters of the Universe” and “The Smartest People in the Room” must be stopped from all manifestations of their orgiastic looting and warfare madness.
We need to construct or reconstruct society so that roles and careers, from student to elder, all emphasize full humanity within whole systems, instead of egoistic superiority of separated individuals. Society as an elegant weave of circles and spheres, rather than as a gigantic pyramid.
Imagining that we will “save humanity” or “save the world” by switching to renewable energy and tightening environmental regulation, without altering the foundation of the economy which is currently based in extractivism, looting, propaganda, warfare and egoism, is too limited a vision.
Our technological and organizational capacity to disrupt and destroy ecological and human systems will only continue to increase in coming decades. Building a humanistic, ecological, whole-systems society, simultaneously alongside restructuring the energy economy, is prerequisite for humanity surviving.
Webwalk, I like all your prescriptions but not your image. If we were really suspended in midair beyond the edge of the cliff, nothing we did now would matter. It’s too late to prevent severe climate change, but probably not too late to prevent catastrophic change. What we do now DOES matter. But we really need to do it now, not wait until the ground is racing up at us.
Time to weep but also time to get to work. LIFE is good. It ain’t over either. The world will go to 100% renewables in a couple of decades because we broke the mental impasse and the technological barrier that kept everyone thinking that 100% renewables can’t actually happen. Well it can and is because it is cheap energy and guess what? Cheaper than fossil fuels is THE most convincing argument. Plus it is easy to set up while nuclear etc is not.
Yes the world will not be the beautiful garden that nature has always offered us. We have done our worst and now we must pay that overdue bill. Species lost forever and the natural world in a mess but humanity is the loser.
Imagine losing all that beauty… that is our punishment.
We will live in our billions upon billions, crowded one upon the other in a world that looks like Hong Kong and the slums of Brasil. Too many people all crowded together struggling to make a life with the cards they’ve been dealt.
So get is straight. The end is not nigh. It ain’t over… only the good times will be over. Only the room to breathe and walks through the forest and wilderness parks… they will be over. The oceans filled with fish will be over.
We make paradise into an industrial farm simply to feed ourselves >>> tens of billions of us.
The Earth will not be the glorious gift that evolved us… but it will still provide for us.
Your great grandchildren may never see a forest but they will be just like big city kids are now all surrounded by concrete and asphalt and tall buildings and things and places to provide them amusements.
In that world you’ll need to buy a ticket to see the woods and make a reservation to sit on the grass.
Wait your turn!
In a way, when you write in this way, i’m happy for you, because your beliefs about the future are comforting for you.
But you clearly have no real grasp on how ecological systems function. They function as systems, not as mere collections of things. You can’t destroy a bunch of key components and still continue the rest of the system.
We have entered into accelerating dis-integration of ecological systems. This unleashing of ecological chaos is not simply a function of fossil-fuel energy and atmospheric carbon, but arises from a comprehensive economic assault against multiple key components of the ecology. Changing the energy systems that power the human economy, without deeper systemic change to function in harmony with ecological systems, will not “save the Earth” and will not “save us.”
The ecology of the Earth will not function as a planetary industrial farm. We need a whole-systems switch from extraction, looting and war as the basis of the economy, to regenerative ecology as the basis of the economy.
Understanding what the world is facing:
i love their book 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial.
You may be right, that we still can do something, to stop planetary extinction… and that ACTION… would be extreme powering down of civilization… I have written here
many times, that the economic system we use is THE problem along with fossil fuel uses… so, power down by re vamping our values… which in turn, would help us get rid of activities and products that are ridiculous, considering the consequences to our survival and that of earth… FOR INSTANCE… I saw that there would be 1,000 private jets going to the super bowl… and then, of course, there is all the “other traffic”… we will not make any progress if we think we can live in lala land… along with making war… along with keeping nuclear power plants alive and kicking instead of putting them away… and if we do not start putting them away right now… we are going to gone…
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From the video presentation, i also like their brief sketch near the end, of a process of praxis:
- raise consciousness;
- build organizations;
- exercise power (which raises consciousness)…
Good advice but you missed out switching to a vegetarian diet.
Don’t hold your breath!
Your carbon footprint is the carbon that you create. Your carbon handprint is the carbon that your work puts back into the ground or displaces. I respect that people are lowering their carbon footprints, with an eye for other people following suit, but your good handprint can be many orders of magnitude more powerful than your footprint.
To withhold your good carbon handprint from the world is far more egregious a loss than any good that lowering your carbon footprint can balance off.
From the “Global Emergency”"… You are going to have to cool the planet–a task far beyond what has ever been achieved, but still achievable. But it will require a radical redistribution of resources, a redirection of human will & purpose, a great utilization of all of humanity’s science & capabilities. You are going to have to cool the planet." And… “It(the global emergency) will change everything that humanity is doing right now. You will have to replant the forests & restore the soils & cleanse the rivers. People will have to live very simply, for all the wealth of he world will be spent on this.”-- The Global Emergency (Revelation!) Marshall Vian Summers- The Messenger.
During an El Niño year in Texas, on Memorial Day a forty foot high flash flood virtually destroyed the Blanco River. The day before Halloween 2015 a twelve inch rain caused the second highest flood I’ve seen. On Halloween of 2013 another at least twelve inch rain flooded the area. The local weatherman, Jim Spencer considers these to be 2000 year floods. Two in two years. Now it is the middle of February and it hasn’t rained in well over a month with no rain in sight. We were counting on El Ninõ to build up soil moisture this winter.
If 2016 follows the way El Niño spiked temperatures in1998 by the time elections roll around it will be hotter than most folks ever anticipated.
You have every right to be afraid. This is just the start of it. What will happen in the next ten years is already in the pipeline.
Does anyone remember 1972’s “Limits To Growth” of the human ecological footprint on our finite planet?
Of its 12 possible scenarios and recommendations, the “standard run” included “overshoot and collapse” of global populations by 2030-35 if that was the scenario we chose
The “tipping point,” for the standard run, aka “business as usual,” was 1975 should we fail to begin development of an effective, global detoxification response by then.
Prior to Fukushima in 2011, that research was updated using modern technology and current data. The results? “Overshoot and Collapse” remained inevitable but in 2024. Unfortunately the kerfuffle over the “Inconvenient Truth” of global warming obscured that fate. We now know that Big Oil new about that probability thirty+ years ago. If they knew then the rest of the 1% knew yet neither has said or done anything.
Does anyone remember NPR’s obit for Claude Levi-Strauss?
Frankly, I’d never heard of him, but when NPR reported that his greatest fear was “the poisoning of the planet” I knew exactly of what he was so fearful.
Didn’t generate much of a response, did it. Neither did James Burke’s 1989 “After the Warming,” but Al Gore’s more colourful presentation did. Ineffective, wasn’t it? NOT
By now, most folks know that our planet is warming. It has been since the most recent Ice Age, and will continue to do so regardless of our vain attempts to reduce carbon emissions. Those arguments remain a very effective smoke screen preventing us from seeing the far graver threat to all life forms posed by the other 90,000+/- man made chemicals gradually accumulating in our biosphere, ie, Levi-Strauss’ “poisoning of the planet,” and our air, weather, water, soils, seas and food chains.
The “Sixth Mass Extinction,” like four of the previous five, will be from methane adding to the globe’s warming. That process seems to be exacerbated by our man made chemicals poisoning us and our planet. Nonetheless, up until Fukushima began spewing its particular set of man made chemicals into our biosphere and us, I had the hope that evolutionary survival of our descendants was possible.
An article confirming that impossibility came from a totally unexpected source - a report concerning Netanyahu and his Lizard Brain. Derogatory though it was, it exposed the dominance of the lizard, or reptilian, evolutionary brain in my decision making processes.
That process helped us homo sap’s evolve to where we are now, but the Military, Industrial, Congressional and Financial complexes and their decision making processes for survival are still dominated by our Lizard Brains.
How does one kill the threats posed by the chemicals we made, inhale, absorb and otherwise consume?
Given enough time, 10,000 years perhaps, the other 90+% of our brains might mutate, change, adapt or evolve enough to survive the poisoning of our planet?
What thinkest Thou?