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The Hard Half: Within Climate Circles There Exist Two Basic Camps


The Hard Half: Within Climate Circles There Exist Two Basic Camps

David Goldstein

As the summit that everyone in the climate world has been pointing to as the "last best chance to change course" gets underway, there is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that the climate denial-sphere, most active in the "Anglo 3" - the United States, England and Australia - is beginning to lose traction. Just go to any on-line article concerning climate change. Until fairly recently, denialists commandeered nearly half of the comment threads. That number has dropped rather dramatically.


Author here - for sake of kickstarting conversation - I belong to the 2nd camp and, as a result, have little to no expectations that any truly macro issues - climate or otherwise - will be addressed until we examine our blind allegiance to Growth Capitalism. And our allegiance, collectively speaking, is as fierce as any allegiance that has ever existed.


“there has, in fact, been a slowdown of the SURFACE warming on the planet (a slowdown, not a stoppage).” is also false.

See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/11/hiatus-or-bye-atus/#more-18914

“… We have examined this issue in a series of three recent papers, which have converged on the conclusion that there is not now, and there never has been, a hiatus or pause in global warming.
We are not alone in coming to this conclusion; evidence for this has also been reported by Cahill and colleagues in a recent statistical change point analysis, which failed to identify a slowing in warming at any point in time during the last four decades.”


Yes, thank you...sometimes in an article-length piece, I find it challenging to cover all aspects of what I want to communicate in as thorough manner as I want to. As far as the pause....I was wanting to convey the reality that whatever very short-term (in fact, as the sources you reference point out....so short-term as to be not significant statistically) surface slow-down of warming may seem apparent, that this was, in fact, due to cycle natural phenomena - the El Ninos - and, now that we have the "Next Big El Nino", surface warming is - to no surprise - taking it's next "ratchet up". Whew..... it's a lot to try to convey in a couple paragraphs within a larger article context. Thanks for your correction. And, of course, when the all aeorsol "damping effect" from industrial pollution is taken into account....things get really interesting.


Well I guess I belong in a third camp because I believe that we can have pretty much the same kind of growth capitalism but without using fossil fuels or nuclear.

We can have full employment too by switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind on a huge scale ...on a civilization wide scale that incorporates local solutions as well as energies world leap frogging growth solutions as well.

How about an industrial capable Sahara by 2050 without fossil fuel or nuclear? A solar powered industrial capacity?

I don't believe in the no growth fatalism of some. The future is doomed but only because of fossil fuel use but if we mobilized a Manhattan project world wide switch off fossil fuels there is no reason why we couldn't have a very nice future (one devoted to extracting an excess of carbon already in the environment of course).

What about the third camp? The one where we all have to live here and get off fossil fuels in whatever camp we are in?


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I think we are locked in to the economic growth camp. I can't think of any political leader in the world who is not squarely in that camp. So, for all practical purposes there really is only one camp. The second camp only exists on paper. The question is how to make a transition away from fossil fuels fast enough while still having economic growth, at least for the time being. There are plans for this to occur by 2050 and maybe it is achievable if things fall into place. But, as this article points out there could be important positive feedbacks triggered beyond 1C and perhaps other unwelcome surprises. Therefore, there is no guarantee of success even if somehow we do the right thing but there does not seem to be any alternative but to try. The key is probably energy efficiency. Gains close to 50% with present technology seem to be possible and will be needed so we really should try to achieve that. And efforts to increase the use renewable energy must be increased.


Yes. I agree that there, for all practical purpose, do not seem to be other "camps" than the "growth" model. Something that is often left out of the conversation is that in since 1970, over half (52%) of ALL vertebrates have died-off/been killed under the "Growth" regime. This is terribly, terribly sad AND non-sustainable for a myriad of reasons. We seem to be under and a collective spell where everything begins and ends under the banner "What is the efficacy for human beings".


I predict (an easy if cavalier thing to do since I won't be here then) that by 2030 that people will be actively recreating our fossil fuel based technological economy into a renewable (solar, wind and tidal or river turbine) economy because...
We will have to and people will always do what is necessary no matter what just as long as they know that there is no other choice.


While it is very sad thAt our destructive growth model is reckless (in the classical sense of the word or 'reckon-less') nevertheless that is our species specific behavior. Or has been. Please explain how to not have continued growth ?
I think having positive growth (no fossil fuels etc) is possible but no growth is not. You seem to be suggesting no growth despite population projections?


Some years ago not far from me (in Lake City, Florida), a judge made the ruling that an obnoxious kid who was brought before him for blasting a boom box would pay--as his penalty--through listening to Bach and classical music.

I begin my comment with that creative form of administering justice to say that since Exxon was caught funding so much of the anti-global warming faux science lies told often... its punishment should be to fund ACCURATE information now.

Imagine if genuine scientists not on any Energy Company's payroll had enough air time to truly explain what's going on?

Each week all sorts of "once in a century" climate-related unraveling events are occurring. That means, on visceral levels, most people experiencing these catastrophes get it--that something is way off kilter.

However, until leadership takes a more serious role in all of this, even with public protests it becomes difficult to effect necessary policy changes and structural investments in very different infrastructure.


I think we've already passed some critical tipping pts. in the "natural climate system." The added Fossil energy caused heating is now kicking in the feared so called "positive feedback loops" built into the planet. Stopping the use of Carbon based fuels now won't stop the process. Even sopping up much of the carbon at this juncture might not stop it. We're going to have to learn how to adapt as a species or perish. Another bottleneck lies ahead for humanity and much of the remaining mega-fauna on this planet. The last bottleneck happened around 70K yrs. ago when the super volcano TOBA ( now lake TOBA) in Indonesia exploding lowering global temps by as much as 15C for 10 yrs. Most of our species and much of the rest of life in the warmer regions of the planet is thought to have vanished in a mini-mass extinction event. This time it will be coming at us from the opposite direction, with similar results if we don't somehow stop or reverse these processes. Forget growth survival is now the real situation.


I don't know where that vertebrate statistic comes from but in the long run it would seem that economic growth cannot continue. I believe emissions reductions in the order of 5% per year or less are compatible with economic growth but to achieve long-tern sustainability I think we have to find an economic alternative to growth.


Still won't be enough if we keep pouring carbon into the air at the present rates. The dreaded positive feedback loops are already rapidly kicking in. I live at the coast and the sea is now visibly rising if you know were and how to see it. The Ice is melting & west Antarctica is coming unhinged and huge amounts of ice are flowing to the sea , same thing even worse in Greenland. As lakes, rivers and seas heat more methane is released and more methane is more rapid heating and so on and so forth. Add to this the really huge one the rapidly disappearing sea ice in the Arctic in summer. This one alters the planets albedo ( reflective ratio) and that changes everything. The Arctic sea now is now absorbing more energy from the sun then it's reflecting back into space. Half measure now or 30 yrs. from now won't come near to cutting it. Honestly, I'm not sure were not already screwed.


Metrics for industrial growth are controlled by the industries, financing would appear to have no coherent metrics only manipulations. These have, taken in combination, centuries of rationalizations placing power over coherence. Western delusions of full spectrum domination, now globalized, has forced what the Tao te Ching calls 'the failure of success'. Sad thing is, there is no there there. One of the delusional packages is dominance by entities that are nearly fully dissociated from what 'full spectrum' actually means. Its comic to think about how narrow that construct really is while claiming that the corporate 'person' is a 'reality'. Its exceptionally good at hoisting itself by its own petard and does so with such zeal and regularity as to be clinically psychotic. One of the earmarks of psychosis is failure to recognize the condition. Add to that the equally bought and paid for media and technology now buying out science and you have primordial soup with the 'players' traipsing around like emperors with no clothes but plenty of weapons.


Moved response.


Yeah we are screwed but the reality is that we aren't going anywhere either. We made a mess and will live in it no matter what. People keep talking that big Hollywood ending for humanity but I doubt it. We may all have to eat GMO algae and fresh meaty flavored pond scum but I'm thinking we will do so if necessary. Eventually we will improve matters and go on and on talking about all that we have lost and how there used be fish in the oceans and stuff we will have look at videos to believe it but we will still be around. All ten or twelve billion of us.


Good Article Mr Goldstein,

There is a third climate-circle camp, which holds that increasing Earth's global population to ten billion as projected, will doom any temperature mitigation efforts since billions of poor people right now (especially in Indonesia and Brazil) are clear-cutting the last rain forests in existence to feed their families and raise beef for sale.

Although unpopular by numerical deniers, Overpopulation is the Blue Whale sitting in the room. Landless peasants account for a full third by some studies, of the global carbon footprint. They use fuel and chainsaws. They cook three times a day with dirty charcoal. They They harvest whole forests at the behest of paper companies. They blanket whole countries in what is referred to in South Asia as "the haze" (Google it.) And they are now buying cheap Chinese motorcycles which come with credit loans to anyone who qualifies as a warm body.

My tropical island is suddenly awash in them, where few private motorcycles were seen here just a few years ago.

We need, my camp holds, a global one-child policy like China successfully used for years. We need to outlaw the private auto and crash coal plants down immediately and just let much of the grid go dark to even have a prayer of reversing the 30 year heat-sink delay many scientists suspect the oceans trap (in other words, even if we turn off all internal combustion engines today, temps may rise for the next 30 years since the oceans will heat the atmosphere.)

GM now plans to put a billion new peasants behind the wheel of a private auto in China and India. Since private autos are the lion's share of greenhouse gas source, that in itself is enough to damn future generations to extinction.

Aviation, a dangerous undertaking, is the safest form of transportation in the world because we go to great pains to have redundancy of systems and airports and not rely on any one strategy for our survival.

Let's not cut the odds of surviving global extinction so fine, shall we? We need radical action and a green economy of solar and trains and buses and population control to have a snowflake's chance in hell of controlling this ongoing thermal runaway.



Climate change is more important than terrorism. It has to be, or our species is doomed.


"I don't know where that vertebrate statistic comes from..."

World Wide Fund for Nature's Living Planet Index:

"The Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures trends in thousands of vertebrate species populations, shows a decline of 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010. In other words, the number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish across the globe is, on average, about half the size it was 40 years ago."

This mind-boggling devastation is primarily NOT caused by climate change, although that is a significant and growing factor. But primarily this loss of animals has been caused by land-use practices and habitat destruction:

"Habitat loss and degradation, and exploitation through hunting and fishing, are the primary causes of decline. Climate change is the next most common primary threat, and is likely to put more pressure on populations in the future."

So EVEN IF CLIMATE CHAOS HAD NOT BEEN UNLEASHED, humanity faces a mass-extinction, civilizational crisis, from dis-integration of the ecosphere caused by the economy. WHATEVER our emergency response to climate chaos, we must reframe the entire construct of "the economy." We must accept the basic truth that "the economy" requires a healthy ecology, and therefore every economic process must SUPPORT and NOT DEGRADE the ecology. No matter what anyone steeped in the normal functioning of the modern industrial consumer economy "believes" is realistic. No matter what self-interested propaganda is spun by the humans who sit at the top of present-day economic pyramids.

We need to learn - very rapidly - to live as members of the ecology, not as members of the economy. There are powerful interests arrayed against us. But before we can face down those interests, we need to wrap our own minds, and our own lives, around this fundamental truth:

"No Ecology? No Economy."