Friday, June 27, 2014

Too Stupid to Live - Literally

Mound of Sound has a post at Disaffected Lib about the likelihood of doubling GHG by 2100.  If we don't do something very quickly and very intentionally, then, based on temperature projections from the 1970s on, we won't be able to live in this part of the world sixty years from now.  Most of Canada and the U.S. will be basically uninhabitable - not to mention most of the world.

I commented there:
We're no longer at a point where we need contests or incentives to get people to recycle more. We need concrete restrictions - corporate and individual. I'm all for personal freedom, but not if it's costing us our lives. For instance, we could save millions of trees from being cut down each year if we just made disposable cups illegal, forcing people to remember their travel mug or go home un-caffinated. Screw roll-up-the-rim! And that doesn't have to be a slippery slope to totalitarianism, like I'm sure some will suggest. It'll be a difficult road for politicians to face, but it'll be far worse for us all if they wimp out.

Then at Progressive Economics, Marc Lee wrote about the absurdity of our times: the North Pole melting, extreme weather, and the disasters caused by extracting and transporting oil.  There I commented (still in moderation),
I get flashes of pure panic now and again when I read about the atrocities happening worldwide – largely because I can’t fix it myself, and I don’t really know where to begin. We need collective action immediately, but I continue to merely spread the word. I ignore it all from time to time and get lost in house renos all the while recognizing that it’s just a way to distance myself from reality. How does the revolution begin? Where do I sign up?
Mound suggests the solution is a decarbonized economy.  I agree, but how do I encourage that along beyond blogging and letter-writing?  It just doesn't seem enough to provoke the powers that be who are in such intense denial that they can laugh and roll their eyes at the notion that there's a serious problem here.  In April, our Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, said,
"I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees,...Scientists have recently told us that our fears [on climate change] are exaggerated.”
I'd like to exchange him for John Oliver, please.  He has better dimples.

According to The Breakthrough, the key salient factor in solving this crisis is "the active role of the state in driving energy technology development and deployment an the transformation of the national energy system."

What does this decarbonization economy look like?  It depends who you ask.  Some countries (Sweden and France) managed to reduce emissions by switching to nuclear power.  Do we want to go down that road?  We're at a crisis point, and it will solve the GHG issue completely without destroying the economy, but Fukushima anyone?  If we're having more severe and unpredictable "weather events," then is it wise to surround ourselves with nuclear power plants?  Are nukes our saviour, or will they merely take us out of the frying pan and into the fire of hellish radiation?  I fear the latter is the case.

ETA: Nuclear is NOT a low-carbon energy source.

Another option is to withdraw all subsidies currently going to fossil fuel extraction, production, and transport and shift all that cash, and then some, towards renewables (solar, wind, tides...).  We'll still need fossil fuels to make that all run well, but a tiny fraction of what we use now.  That's something that could start today if we can get our shit together.  But, if it's implemented gradually, so nobody's too inconvenienced by the shift, it might not get us to our goals soon enough.  But if it's implemented quickly, it will be a really rough change to manage economically.  Nobody will drive anywhere unless absolutely necessary.  People who need to drive as part of their job might be out of luck.  But electric cars that can be plugged into electricity generated by solar panels will have to be dramatically cheaper and more widely available.  They'll  have to be the only kind of car that's made anymore.  But worse that transportation issues, most people will suddenly be unable to afford to turn on their lights until the new system is in place,

Are we willing to sacrifice our present for our future?  Do we really have a choice?

Whatever we do, it has to be a worldwide change rather than a country by country challenge to decrease GHGs because one quick way for a country to get its numbers down is to outsource all their manufacturing.  But that won't help the big picture.  At all.

Munk School focus group came up with a few suggestions beyond shifting subsidy money.  They want to change the culture of our cities to make us more interested in being carbon-neutral, to "encourage low-carbon activities."  I agree a change in attitude is needed, something that makes us willing to keep that old table instead of tossing it for something shinier, but I also think we're so far beyond encouraging individuals to want to walk instead of driving.  At this point, we need to be made to conserve.  Creepy, I know.  But there it is.

The Munk group's last suggestion is to use LED lighting everywhere.  This seems laughably minor in comparison with changing the entire energy system of the world, yet it will have an effect.  It makes me feel less crazy for being obsessed with single-use cups.  An article in The Tyee says we use 50 million trees to make disposable cups every year.  (Elsewhere it's only 6.5 million - but still.)   That's a whole lot of trees that are destroyed because a travel mug is inconvenient.  Yes we need to change the energy system, but we also need to intensely protect the forests and oceans.  We need to figure out what's a necessary use of trees, not just what would be handy, and then legislate logging.  How many crappy IKEA dressers and desks do we really need??  Forests dramatically help absorb GHG emissions.  And it would be really nice if we could to keep the tar sands from leaking into the boreal forests at least!!

Timothy Garrett, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, says we actually have to choose between civilization and earth:
"Effectively, it appears that civilization may be in a double-bind. If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv; but, if CO2 levels rise by this much, then the risk is that civilization will gradually tend towards collapse."  
Again I ask, to what extent are we willing to sacrifice our present for our future?  That's a decision we have to make - really soon!   And, unfortunately, according to Simon Fankhauser, "Achieving [decarbonization] is a question of policy competence and having the political will to drive economic and social change."  So nothing will even begin to happen until October 2015, if and when we can get the NDP or Greens in power.  (Liberals love oil too.)

At least there's Louis CK to help make it better by distracting us from it all as we laugh at our own abject stupidity (many swears),


Cross-posted from A Puff of Absurdity, July 28, 2013

No comments: