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Decades of Denial Have to End: We Need Radical Climate Leadership in 2020

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/12/30/decades-denial-have-end-we-need-radical-climate-leadership-2020

Then there’s the southern ocean - the one around Antarctica.

Award winning author Alanna Mitchell was down there recently, ten years after her landmark book “Sea Sick”, and reports ‘all is definitely not well’. This is a tough read !

“There’s no coming back from this:” Why the global ocean crisis threatens us all Ten years after the release of her seminal book Sea Sick, Alanna Mitchell again plumbs the depths of the latest research on the health of the world’s oceans — and comes up gasping (Canadian Geographic)

Alanna’s book sits beside my other ocean book - by Sylvia Earle, “The World is Blue”. Curiously, both books came out in 2009 - but much much more is now known, thanks in part to those Argo buoys.

The bad news is that there is no good news.

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From your link,

“In other words, the ocean is the biggest part of the climate system…”

This for me was the scariest part of the story. As I’m reading, I’m thinking I know very little about how the climate works on earth, but with the oceans covering 3/4ths of the globe, the fact that she has to explain this, is straight up scary.
My god our school systems have failed our citizens.


The Australian federal government is owned by fossil fuel and other corporations; the wild swings back and forth between lunatic criminal conservatives and merely lying, delusional semi-liberals have left a vacuum only partly filled by the states. There was a carbon price, then there wasn’t. There was willingness to confront racist colonialism, and the parallel colonialism toward nature leading to the climate and larger ecological crisis; then there wasn’t.

There’s no national plan in Australia to deal with the most dire crisis in history, so as in the US, it’s fallen on the states and cities to try to compensate. (They can’t.) While South Australia (grid now 60% renewable) and the Capital Territory (100%) have done some work and have inadequate-to-mediocre plans to decarbonize, Tasmania (100%) has done better–though far from well enough. Victoria (25%) lags behind.

New South Wales (18%), now devastated by fires, has done almost nothing, and has a pathetic to nonexistent plan, in keeping with the overoptimistic IPCC 1.5 report–reducing half by 2030, which we know is too little, too slow. Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are about the same. All that is shocking and shameful despite being no surprise at all; Australia has more renewable potential and money to develop it–compared to its population–than almost any country in the world. Hydro, an embarrassment of solar PV, CSP, onshore wind, and tremendous offshore wind all mean it could and should have been 100% renewablized years ago, not just electricity but all its energy, agriculture, forestry and other realms. It’s every bit as bad as the US, and with no better excuse.

Students and other activists need to convince the rest of Australia and the US to make the needed changes; that will involve kicking the right wing out and replacing them with progressives with the courage to face their climate fears and reasonable plans to do it. Now would be good.

Because, though the article says we’re headed toward 3°C over preindustrial temperature, in fact, if the policies of most major emitters are followed by the whole world (which they essentially are) we’re headed for at least 4-5° over, and that’s before tipping points are counted. It’s likely to be 6° or more–human extinction territory.

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Maybe more our so-called leadership Brian ~ since JFK.

"There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university," wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities–and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was "a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see."

You have one of the world’s great oceanographers in your country, Sylvia Earle. This book is ten years old, but a good place to start:

We have leveraged ourselves to the hilt to high technology, and so we must turn to our specialists for understanding. This is a truly co-operative effort, requiring a sense of shared community, of trust and faith in each other.

Best guess in my head - four deg C, with 5 or 6 a distinct possibility.

I’ve just finished this morning (at the local Starbucks actually), Gosden’s “Prehistory”, an Oxford Short Introduction to a fascination of mine. He is a revisionist - i.e., progress a myth, as he looks at prehistory with all of the new information now available.

I am not so sure, but I am looking for patterns.

Maybe this - we humans seem always to carry to the n’th degree anything we become enamoured of, be it a stone hand axe or Clovis point, a new metaphysics, a new domesticate - a new way of thinking, or doing, or being.

We do this until we hit the limits allowed by the natural world - boundary conditions - then we try something new, or simply move out of the neighborhood.

That tendency to explore - that’s us.

Well, we’ve hit those boundary conditions right now, right here.

So if the past is any indication, we are about to set sail and chart a new course ~

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Interesting direction to take this in. Looking at the archeological record we see that gatherer-hunters were healthier and lived longer than the farmers who directly succeeded them. That may have just been working the kinks out of farming, but apparently it took centuries to millennia for technology and society to catch up to the past health and well-being that people had had at the supposedly most primitive stage of our existence.

In my view, each “advance” in civilization has been a further attempt to fix that or some subsequent mistake, but the fixes have been tried through doubling down on characterologically* limited reactions. That almost always guarantees failure, as is being demonstrated once again with our continuing spiral down into fascism and ecological collapse.

People are happy to project and believe the evolutionary dead end theory (a metaphor phor characterological doubling down) when it comes to dinosaurs, and some are even willing to believe it when it comes to ancient civilizations (Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, for example) but are oblivious while it’s happening to us.
Of this argument, pay particular attention to these for the degree of destruction point:

If followed by all, the policies of the US, China, Russia, Canada, Australia would lead to 4-5°C rise

”2°C warming “would … expose 48% of the population [to deadly heat]. …4°C warming by 2100 would subject 47% of the land area and almost 74% of the world population to deadly heat, which could pose existential risks to humans and mammals alike.

”Warming of 4°C or more could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90% and the World Bank reports “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”.
Prof. Kevin Anderson says a 4°C future “is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable”.[ie, would lead, through tipping points, to even higher temperatures.] (37) This is a commonly-held sentiment amongst climate scientists.”

“In high-end [climate] scenarios, the scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model, with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end.”
Summary of National Climate Assessment, 2018

*Even after years of trying I despair of quick explanations of character theory or easily-understandable websites. Ron Kurtz is the originator of one important version of it, Hakomi, Body-Centered Psychotherapy.

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There’s more. Of particular interest to me personally, as I used to wonder if my penchant for risk was a death wish.

From “Prehistory” by Gosden p. 110:

"We are replacing an idea that intelligence is in the head, with a stress on the skills of the body activated by the properties of different materials. Skilled bodies appreciate the world through action and making. As an inseparable part of this process the world acts back on us and an appreciation of the world often takes a holistic form, which we talk about in terms of aesthetics and beauty."

The radical climate leadership that this article recommends - it requires the backing of the people.

Maybe we the people should get in touch again - a long term strategy ?

When I climbed full time, and after a big push say, next day I could actually relax, and not just physically. Apparently the breakdown products of adrenaline and nor-epinephrine are near identical to mescaline, as described in Aldous Huxley’s seminal “The Doors of Perception”.

That is surely a form of intelligence, to learn to relax, with the added benefit of actually being part and parcel of the natural world, with all that implies.

Compartmentalized and domesticated we have become - and it’s not working.

Many people will relate to my experience I think, including those in the military.

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Thanks for the links.
I believe we’re both right. In my post I was thinking about the basic science classes I attended through-out elementary and middle school in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The lessons from these classes, with no thought about climate change at that time, would have made it impossible to discount the effects the oceans might have on our climate patterns around the globe. The fact that MS. Mitchell has to explain this to people who have college degrees is astounding.
And I have no doubt you are correct also, that our so-called “political leadership” has helped implement the mediocracy of our citizens education, with very little push-back from the leaders of our educational systems.

Happy New Year and good luck to all here at the CD community.