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The Paris Climate Talks and the 1.5C Target: Wartime-Scale Mobilization is Our Only Option Left

The Paris Climate Talks and the 1.5C Target: Wartime-Scale Mobilization is Our Only Option Left

Margaret Klein Salamon, Ezra Silk

The Paris climate talks are over, and the postmortems on the final agreement are flooding in. Here’s our take:

  • After 21 years of negotiations, we finally have an agreement that the majority of nations are expected to ratify. This is a critical breakthrough in terms of shared global understanding of the crisis. We are grateful that world leaders have agreed to make an effort to collectively tackle the climate crisis.

Oh Gosh. This is brilliant. I’m getting on this ride, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.
I think at the worst, it’s a very GOOD IDEA.

Always first up is a shill prepared to blame the public for the lack of leadership and why that is so: the preponderance of corporate powers, primarily the weapons-producers, big banks, and fossil fuel energy cartels that hold would be lawmakers and policy-setters hostage.

And your NFL/Trump characterization mostly fits angry white guys. An accurate analysis of polls reveal: Trump has about 10% support of the full citizenry.

From the article (my emphasis):

Only a wartime-style mobilization… could possibly facilitate such drastic changes on such a tight time-frame without crashing the economy.

Once again we hear expressed the tacit agreement, from all corners, that the economy must be preserved at all costs. The absurd implication is that if this thing called “the economy” must be destroyed in order to preserve Life on Earth, then ecological preservation would just be too expensive.

People who argue this way generally mean well, but they embrace and sustain a depraved value system in which nothing is more important than prosperity.

Were they to address the conflict between economic and ecological health more honestly, and say we are now faced with the stark choice of one or the other, their message would largely fall on deaf ears. That is why I don’t think there’s much hope for us humans or the countless species we’re taking down with us. But you never know what might happen when you give truth a chance.

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What is your point with comment? Saying that you don’t think there is much hope is mindless drivel and if you are right (although there is no way to know that now) then there is no point in telling other people that there is no hope because that discourages people from even trying. The surest way to lose a race is not to to run in it!

There is great sadness ahead especially for diversity amid the Sixth Extinction but humanity will survive. Maybe we will sincerely regret and miss the diversity being lost but nevertheless people should survive… imo.

People do matter more than do polar bears. It is blunt but true. To lose Polar Bears when it wasn’t necessary to do so is a crime and a sin (like now). But in the end, people who are innocent of causing the extinction of some species are important.

We may all end up living in a terrarium Earth - Earth as a farm not a wilderness - oceans as an aquarium not as a viable water wilderness. That is all true and sad but even in a completely domesticated anthropocene Earth post Sixth Extinction… humanity should and will survive.

People matter.

Some people think we can terraform Mars (as if destroying only one planet would not satisfy our boundless hubris). Your fantasy of a “terrarium Earth” isn’t much more delusional. Have you ever heard of the Biosphere II fiasco?

Your post reveals a psychic disconnect from Life on Earth which breaks my heart, truly. The 6th Extinction will be “a great sadness” but humans will survive? I fear you cannot be reached, you cannot hear.

What is my point? My point is to free myself from anthropocentric delusions, to the best of my ability, and to tell the truth. I have no idea whether healing can result from honesty in this instance, but dishonesty doesn’t seem like a winning strategy either.

What do you do, what do you say, where there is little or no hope? That’s the focus of the Dark Mountain Project.

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While clearly this call for mobilization to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is unrealistic in a world where India has just announced it plans to double coal burning by 2020 (the equivalent of all US coal-burning plants) it does give a good standard to measure how short we are falling in efforts to combat climate change. For sure we should focus on adapting to a different climate and one that makes living on this planet more difficult as the amplification of global warming in the Arctic and the resulting passing of tipping points for positive feedbacks is likely to eventually result in global warming of at least 3-4C and most likely higher. There is no political will for a wartime-scale mobilization and hardly any political will it seems to reduce emissions at all in many places. At some point we have to accept our fate and stop dreaming up schemes that have no relation to what is happening in about 200 countries around the world.

However you’re an absolutist and I am not. Apparently you are already convinced that all is lost and there is no hope. I am not. There is no point in eloquence or even elegance when describing an all is lost scenario.

The extinction en toto that you envision is irrational. Yes we are astoundingly dense and fairly stupid and of course greedy but we are also amazingly inventive and when push comes to shove … we can shove pretty hard!

Look at how the Japanese went from the middle ages to modernity in fifty years? Astounding and absolutely impossible right? But they did it.

Look at the manufacturing totals of America soon after Pearl Harbor. Also astounding. We went from near zero (not quite of course ) to tens of thousands of planes a year, tens of thousands of tanks even etc. it is phenomenal to read about.

Will we is another story. Better it should be described as when will we!!! When will we begin the large scale survival mode? Not if we will but when!

Wild nature is a likely loss in that we agree. Lions, Tigers and Bears Oh my??? Um…nope no room no more!!! No Polar Bears except maybe a few. No elephants except in zoos. All the Earth gone anthropocene. Yeah that is probable and given our stupidity maybe inevitable. Oceans devoid of fish? Yeah possible.

An Earth without humans …I don’t think so! We are survivors of even the worst… we are survivors of even us! A domesticated Earth? Like a big farm devoted to feeding 12 to 15 billion people… sounds like something we would do to paradise… it really does.

We may have made paradise into hell but we will still be looking for an affordable apartment there just like we do now.

Yet another article that ignores the fact that the meat industry produces half of all greenhouse gases and which therefore fails to call for everyone to reduce or eliminate meat consumption. http:/www.cowspiracy.com/facts. And just because the meat industry pays on-the-take “scientists” to argue a lower percentage, the unbiased science supports the cowspiracy facts.


India is vulnerable to a world wide boycott and from internal protests about those coal plants. As yet they figure as we reduce emissions that they can increase them like that is okay for them to do. Their “its our turn to pollute” attitude reflects why they have such dire poverty in their country. They are inured to people suffering. Not good! Not good!

However India wants to use coal because it is cheap. Solar furnace energy plants may be cheaper and India might be persuaded to concentrate on building them instead. We will see. They see how our republicans are still in denial and their politicians do the same. Dumb but not too surprising

India has plans for so many large solar facilities that the plans have been called unrealistic. Nevertheless, they say to bring about the economic progress the want that much more coal burning is essential. I think it hard for Americans to relate to a country with 1.2 billion people including several hundred million without access to electricity.

I know Lrx. You stated it very well but I believe that free energy is more attractive than cheap energy. India does not lack sunlight. They may find as the pace of innovation for solar and wind continues to speed up that those coal plants may not be that necessary. Things are not written in stone and perhaps some international pressure either positive through investment in Indian solar or through a boycott on India’s coal use may change the picture.

Free solar may prove more attractive to India in the long run.

Solar energy isn’t free. You know that. It involves paying for solar panels and the installation. Also, if you are talking about large scale solar installations there is also probably the cost of building transmission lines. That involve quite a bit of money. And to make solar more useful expensive batteries are needed. India isn’t a rich country. The overall standard of living in India is quite low. They already have many coal-burning plants so the cheapest thing for them is to keep supplying these plants with coal. People have been complaining for decades in India about the lack of electricity so I think to speed up delivery of electricity they plan to rely on coal. Solar is usually added to an existing grid. I think creating a grid based on solar for India would be difficult and if might not be reliable. They would need vast sums of money from Western countries to avoid using more coal. It looks to me that such vast sums will not be available.

New coal plants cost money to be built and will need the same transmission lines …plus the cost of mining and transporting the coal. Plus the health aspects from mercury to carbon and smog.

They don’t use batteries they use molten salt which is in underground insulated tanks (not under pressure so it is cheap to make and maintain) to store heat for use to make steam at night. No difference between adding a solar plant or a coal plant to the grid. You are thinking solar roof (personal solar) I am talking solar plant the equivalent of a coal fired plant but cheaper to build, run and maintain.

They wouldn’t need all that much money which is why they want to build so many solar plants. Perhaps they want coal as a bargaining chip to get aid (extensibly to avoid building coal plants?)

“We believe humanity can still prevent civilization-destroying global warming”: O.K. this is where you loose me–this “civilization” has been the driving force of destruction and one would rather hope that climate chaos be seen as LIFE-destroying. History is paved with the remains of “civilizations”.

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India doesn’t see it as solar or coal. They see it as solar and coal. In their view solar is more expensive than coal. I am sure if they thought solar was cheaper they wouldn’t be planning to build hundreds of new coal plants. It wouldn’t make sense to spend more and also cause more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions if solar were cheaper for them.

It is curious isn’t it. They have their own corrupt politicians and fossil fuel industry (as I mentioned).

There is also the possibility that is a bargaining chip. Too early to tell as yet.

I’m no misanthrope or cynic, but I also don’t take it for granted that humans will, or even should, survive. This piece is exactly on point about the need for a WWII-style mobilization. I agree with you, wereflea, sometimes humans have risen to impossible tasks in short periods of time.

I also feel it’s crucial, though, that our species develop more humility. I agree that humans are extremely ingenious and that we can work our way out of lots of problems. Yet this can lead to arrogance and overconfidence, which could be our tragic flaw on a species-wide level. Homo sapiens have very little genetic diversity compared to other large mammals, which makes us more vulnerable biologically. Cultural and linguistic diversity–and along with them diversity of thought–have been on the decline for several hundred years due to forces like colonialism and globalization. So as clever as our species is, at some level we’re like an army of clones (Borg?) that has some serious blindsides–some of which could even be totally outside of our cognitive grasp.

If I were forced to say, perhaps I’d say it’s more important that humans survive than polar bears do. Yet more to the point, I see both as part of a broader community of large mammals facing common threats to our survival. In the arctic, there might be some competition between humans and polar bears over more limited prey. Yet as a whole we’re in the same boat in that both humans and polar bears are threatened by climate change.

As far as whether humans should survive, I think that all depends on whether we’re able to learn some serious life-changing lessons from our experience of binging and hitting rock bottom. If our arrogant & anthropocentric attitude continues unabetted, I’m not convinced that we should. Imagine a future in which the richness & diversity of the world were drastically diminished (and our mighty civilizations & technologies along with them) yet post-collapse civilizations continued as warring exploitative heirarchies, squabbling over the scraps that were left. If that were the case, we would be continuing to shackle down other species and probably driving ever more of them to extinction.

Yet I don’t really agree with AlephNull’s criticism of this piece: “The absurd implication is that if this thing called ‘the economy’ must be destroyed in order to preserve Life on Earth, then ecological preservation would just be too expensive.” While economic destruction might reduce industrial emissions, it would also push billions more people into desperate measures like burning anything (e.g. rubber tires) in order to survive. Half the point of a wartime-style mobilization is that in order to take urgent action, people need a concrete, hopeful goal to latch onto. Sacrifice will be necessary, but “destroying the human economy for the benefit of other species” is never going to be a selling point that billions can rally around. IMO, the point is that we need shift our standard of success from GDP to transitioning away from fossil fuels. We will need to utilize our vast economic resources to do so.

It may be overly idealistic to hope for human nature to become less vain & greedy than it has been for hundreds of thousands of years. Yet my understanding of evolution–and human evolution in particular–is that it’s driven not just by biology but also by culture. Climate change could be the transformative “near-death experience” that it takes to get us to take a step back and reevaluate our greedy ways. If we were to do so, then I’m sure the world would be better off with us than without us. We might put our technological ingenuity toward addressing the toxic legacies left by our forebears: climate change, ocean acidification, oceans full of plastics, vast areas of contaminating waste, invasive species, habitats fragmented by human infrastructure, regional extinctions, etc. Discussions of carbon sequestration often involve the hypothetical development of newfangled technologies that would suck carbon from the air. Yet there are known agricultural & pastoral methods that easily turn the world’s farms & rangelands from carbon sources into carbon sinks…if the impetus of urgency were there on a planetwide scale.

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I liked reading your cogent and comprehensive post. As you already know I agree with pretty much everything being said. However I take issue with some of your projections for the future and motivations for the present.

Yes it may be crucial for our species to develop more humility but IMO we have waited too long and the window of time has grown too short for that. We may be humbled by that narrowing window of opportunity to effect a non fossil fuel civilization but more as an involuntary action rather than voluntary humility.

We have many and quite direct blindsides and a tendency to homogenize culturally and linguistically but we also have a equal if not greater urge towards creative expression. Moreover much cultural diversity was based on the isolation and limited opportunity of primitive societies. When people never traveled more than fifty miles from their home town in their whole life then people two hundred miles away had a funny accent when they spoke. When everyone spoke Latin in Europe we’d immediately recognize the beginnings of Spanish in the way latin was accented in the province of Hispania. We’d recognize those Gallic accents in Gaulia and so forth. The differences between Italian and Spanish are often a matter of word endings and their pronunciation of basically the same root words. Why did that happen?

It does because even if everyone were a clone and exactly the same then over succeeding generations differences in replication would begin to creep in and those would be passed on to the next generation and so and so on. If everyone started out exactly the same then given enough time then everyone would end up different from each other.

My point wasn’t about the Sixth Extinction or man’s place in it. I was proposing (not advocating) that in a future scenario that humanity could continue to exist even after the Sixth Extinction. It would be like the oceans are our fish farms and the continents of the Earth are our croplands and plantations and wild nature as we know it is long gone. Say 25 billion neighbors? Lions. Tigers and Bears Oh my? Oh gee no room for them no more not anywhere. As far as climate change goes, humans are in the same boat as are the animals but in the end, humans would eat them.

Should humans survive hat is … in our anthropocentric arrogance at the expense of the rest of nature? Should or would becomes can and likely will. You posit a reciprocal diminishment of man and beast (post collapse civilization and damaged ecosystem). Maybe a post wilderness (ancestral) environment (the whole world is one big farm/fish farm/and city. The ultimate anthropocene Earth. Man and only man ( think of a whole planet having a hard time finding a parking spot…sheesh!).

I’m hoping humanity will find a way to spread across the galaxy because even though the rotten kid won’t clean up his room, he’s still our one and only and we want him to succeed in life. My guess that is what our destiny is for. To seed the empty universe (maybe sterile and empty, lifeless…maybe not so lifeless?) with life. I think there is life out there but probably easier parking.

Shifting vast resources? Yeah I hear that a lot. Odd that concept. Solar and wind are technologically simple to operate. Solar especially so. Odd that it is described as needing vast economic resources though. Sure if looked at from a single utility providing it/installing it but kind of no big deal when looked at from the opposite end. Each home owner installs a few solar panels at minimal cost and that’s it. Takes a day or two. Contrast that with years building each nuclear plant etc. To go nuclear would require immensely vast economic resources and likely bankrupt us in the process halfway through.

Idealistic to hope human nature will become less vain and greedy? Yeah well the fact remains that we encourage vanity and greed because we may be smart chimps but chimps we are and vanity and greed are survival traits. Nevertheless we are more than just that too. We love and socialize, we party and laugh, help each other in extremity and so forth.

If people were given plenty of food and the choice to cooperate and they knew everyone would be treated fairly everyone would choose that…

But if they were given the same amount of food (actually more than enough for everyone if they cooperated) and the choice was of only 10% having an excess amount of food and 50% doing with less food in descending order but still having enough and then the bottom 40% having almost enough but then in descending order not having enough then humans would fight like crazy to make sure they were the ones who had enough and not want to share because they didn’t trust each other to share with them.

Think of the first choice. If we created a less greed based civilization then humans would act less greedy. A hungry man hoards food even if he can’t eat it all before some of it spoils. To have more than we need is comforting. Ask any billionaire.

If we knew that we wouldn’t risk doing without… we wouldn’t be so obsessed with having more than we need. A solar and wind based civilization might actually be a lot more fun to live in because everyone would be richer.

The real War Plan for the US during WW II was to redirect the huge resources devoted to Auto Addiction to the War effort by basically stopping the production of cars and massively promoting Green public transit. Yet once again the “mobilization” in the first plan is the usual electric car nonsense which is incredibly expensive, will not help say all those people in Brazil before the World Cup demonstrating for better public transit like the millions throughout the world who cannot afford any kind of private car let alone expensive electric car, will still pave over 10 times the land for private Auto Addiction, kill 30,000 a year in the US and injure many thousands more.
During the actual War mobilization in the US for WW 2 in just 3 years from 1942-45 the US elite managed to increase intercity train ridership by 4 times, intercity bus ridership by 4 times, trolley ridership by 4 times. This saved huge amounts of oil, rubber, metals, asphalt and all the vast resources required to run a 2 ton private car carrying a 200 pound person.
To electrify transportation it is a lot quicker to use existing already electrified Rail than to get 300 million cars to change to electric cars including investing in the huge infrastructure required for charging stations. The Dutch already use renewable energy for 50% of their Rail and have concrete plans to have their whole Rail system 100% powered by renewable electricity by 2018. Also as pointed out by the excellent analysis in “Transport Revolutions; Moving People and Freight without Oil” by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl GRID electric vehicles like trains, LightRail or trolleys are way more energy efficient than electric cars or buses due to the loss of 30% of energy for the batteries and their weight. See Resilience Review of Transport Revolutions.
Here is the plan for the US, the world’s worst Auto Addict:
1)Restore the Federal operating subsidy for Green public transit which existed for decades until Reagan so Cities and towns will actually RUN the trains they already have instead of wasting them all weekend, all night or non-peak hours. This should be paid for by a Federal gasoline tax increase which has not happened in decades.
2)Besides increasing frequency which is critical to make Green Transit viable, also institute Local/Express service so that people going longer distances are not stuck waiting for every local stop.
3)Leverage Rail, LightRail, Trolleys as the Hubs. These can operate more quickly than cars or buses on streets because they are not stuck in traffic. Shuttles and buses, bicycle paths and sidewalks would provide the last mile connection from Rail Hubs.
4)Invest in additional sidings where required on existing Rail/LightRail lines to allow for Local/Express and 2 way traffic where these lines are currently single-tracked
5)Electric charging stations should go FIRST to electric shuttles and buses terminals NOT for private electric cars. Shuttles and buses already have fixed routes so this leverages charging stations strategically.
6)Restore Rail Lines all over the USA - which has 233,000 miles of Rail most of it doing nothing. In New Jersey, the US most densely populated State, more densely populated than China we have about 20 Rail rights of way which have been preserved but are not carrying any passengers. These need to be restored to electrified service.
7)Run new Rail Lines down highway medians. One of the original purposes of highway medians was for future Rail service. Since development has already concentrated around highways running Rail provides an option to ever increasing traffic and highway lanes and also
can connect quickly existing Rail lines without requiring eminent domain, purchase of property etc. This has been done successfully to Manassas Virginia among other places.
This investment all is needed for Green Transit which will be cheaper to use, save oil, save land, save lives and also improve the sense of community by socializing and health by walking