Friday, December 14, 2007

Sterner days

In Beyond the point of no return, Ross Gelbpsan writes:
There needs to be another kind of thinking that centers neither on the profoundly dishonest denial promoted by the coal and oil industries, nor the misleading optimism of the environmental movement, nor the fatalistic indifference of the majority of people who just don't want to know.

There needs to be a vision that accommodates both the truth of the coming cataclysm and the profoundly human need for a sense of future.

That vision needs to be framed by the truly global nature of the problem. It starts with the recognition that this historical era of nationalism has become a stubborn, increasingly toxic impediment to our collective future. We all need to begin to think of ourselves -- now -- as citizens of one profoundly distressed planet.
And he recommends policies that include redirecting at least $250bn in subsidies and creating a fund of about $300 billion a year for a decade to transfer clean energy to poor countries (to which John Rynn responds we need to spend trillions) [Interestingly, Gelbspan does not headline large-scale transfer of funds for adaptation.]

I sympathize with much of what Gelbpsan writes, but can't help thinking that the prospects of such a set of changes and policies may be even smaller than the odds of avoiding dangerous climate change. So while working to overcome stubborn nationalism, reduce subsidies and increase investment in green energy and so on, we should not be unduly surprised or dismayed if things continue to go horribly wrong.

I think, therefore, that Patrick Mazza is right to quote Al Gore with regard to political will, and that we should think hard about what that means. A standard trope is to compare the current situation to the (late) 1930s: combine Roosevelt's "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" with Churchill's "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."

The changes in the Earth system may well be even more rapid than previously thought (e.g. Arctic summers ice free 'by 2013'), but we do not know for sure that climate catastrophe is a done deal.
They're morbid in Mongolia
And querulous in Quebec,
There's not a man
In Baluchistan
Who isn't a nervous wreck,
In Maine the melancholia
Is deeper than tongue can tell,
In Monaco
All the croupiers know
They haven't a hope in Hell.
In far away Australia
Each wallaby's well aware
The world's a total failure
Without any time to spare.
Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!
Suffering and dismay.

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