Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Climate Change -- Everyone is Noticing

And yet still, "nothing" is being done. Of course, "nothing" is not quite correct. A great deal is being done, if only through economic collapse and retrenchment, but whatever is being done is not enough to curb the climate change that has been under way for many years.

I suspect that "not enough" is being done because long ago, scientists determined that at best the period of climate change that we entered into 30 years ago or so could only be slightly mitigated through strategic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it could not be stopped or reversed.

No one has ever explained what "enough" would be, after all, "enough" to stop or reverse the change that's under way. What actually would have to be done?

No one will explain it, because it is not a pretty picture. Stopping or reversing climate change -- if it were possible at all -- would likely require a substantial reduction in human population around the globe. Like... I don't know... two-thirds reduction, or maybe even more. There is no way to do that... pleasantly.

It would require the survivors to live very simple lives in the few pockets of lush environment suitable for human habitat. Humans would have to vacate the rest or live so lightly on the land they would be barely perceptible.

In other words, it would require a return to a long-forgotten way of life for the survivors.

This fate may come no matter what, simply because the climate change that is under way, and which appears to be irreversible at this point, has already had and quite likely will continue to have increasingly catastrophic consequences, from earthquake, tsunami, violent storms, sea level rise, and so on.

One of the consequences is playing out in Japan right now with the unprecedented destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the release of large amounts of radiation and radiation products into the nearby and global environment. Exactly what is going on is still something of a mystery, but recent reports indicate that the reactor cores have melted through their containments and into the earth beneath and have reached the water table, contaminating the water and releasing radioactive products into the environment, including into the ocean. So far as can be determined, it will be impossible to even begin to control this situation for another two years, and even then there are no guarantees that control will be effective. It will not, in any case, be permanent. Though something will be tried, in effect, "nothing" can be done.

How many other catastrophic situations have been routinized and regularized is hard to judge, but the levels of destruction from storms and earthquakes alone have been almost unprecedented. It's not simply a matter of unprecedented destruction, either. In addition to all the lives lost and the ruin left behind, there's been a growing resistance to rebuilding beyond the provision of temporary shelter for survivors -- if that. Sections of cities and whole cities are being abandoned, whether due to the consequences of storm and earthquake or due to man-made economic collapse.

Economic collapse and neo-liberal reconfiguration seem to be working in tandem with climate change and other natural catastrophes to reduce the human footprint bit by bit. In other words, what "can" be done is being done -- to the extent that anything is being done about climate change.

The complaints that "nothing" is being done or "not enough" is being done about climate change seem to revolve around the notion that there ought to be a united global initiative to tackle the issue, and there isn't one. The notion that all peoples everywhere around the world can or should be united in common purpose has long been a chimera, an unachievable -- and perhaps quite an undesirable -- goal of some people for many generations. It's never been realized and it is certainly not being realized now, certainly not under the umbrella of Climate Change.

And yet...

It seems that perhaps unconsciously, perhaps quite deliberately, our ruling elites have figured out what has to happen for their own protection if not for the benefit of anyone else. Their goal seems to be to make life as miserable as possible for as many people as possible, let them fight among themselves, and let them perish from the earth in the process. This will inevitably lead to the desirable outcome of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; surprise, surprise. While the climate change that is under way cannot be stopped or reversed in the short term, the comfort and convenience of the ruling elites can nevertheless be assured -- with enough money. Enclaves can be prepared and protected and the rich can be taken care of -- no matter what happens to the rest of humanity.

That seems to be what's taking place. It's a rather simple scheme.

The question is will it work? And for whom? And for how long?


  1. I'm sure you've seen the discussions on Near Term Extinction? Guy McPherson at Nature bats last has some interesting points. He thinks it's going to come down to irreversible feeback loops. Am I totally convinced? Not necessarily but it makes you think.

  2. I'm not really on the collapse bandwagon or the near term extinction one. The relationships between various aspects of what's going on are too dynamic -- and too little understood by too few -- to be certain about what's in store.

    The End, after all, always seems to be Nigh. We've been hearing variations on the theme for -- literally -- thousands of years.

    Are we near or have we reached the final endpoint? Maybe. It's clear that natural conditions are largely beyond human control, and that things are changing rapidly. Whether they will change so much and so negatively that our own species cannot survive is not knowable. We'll find out or our descendants will, but in the interim, people tend to be highly adaptable... up to a point. And when that point is reached... I guess it's lights out.