Thursday, June 03, 2010

To hell with global warming

Take one glance at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico these last 45 days and you will see a vivid example of why it does not matter a flying copulation at the moon whether or not fossil fuel burning is warming the planet. There are many other really good reasons to drastically reduce our burning of fossil fuels. Even if the global temperature remains right where it is now, fossil fuel extraction, consumption, and (soon enough) scarcity will wreak havoc with economies, politics, and ecosystems time and time again. Once upon a time issues of energy, environment, and society were considered in a multifaceted, multidimensional framework. That was before the monolith of global warming subsumed and displaced all other topics (thanks, Mr. Vice President).

Unfortunately, recent history has pretty well demonstrated that fossil fuel consumption will only reduce (in the large-scale and long-term) in response to economic forces, not because of well-thought out (or ill-conceived) policies. When the economy either gets too sick, or the price gets to high, or both, consumption drops. Nothing else does it. Our last chance to actually transition smoothly to a less fossil-carbon-dependent world passed 30 years ago, when the American populace resoundingly rejected reality and embraced instead three decades of insane and obscene gluttonous consumption. Those who lived then might remember that for most Americans the 1970s actually afforded a fairly comfortable lifestyle (and those who were left out then are still left out now, the booms and bubbles haven't helped them). But then the decade turned, the politics turned, and "money became the long hair of the 80s." Ask an old hippie what this means if it baffles you. As a result we have run so far beyond sustainability that there's really no hope left of a soft retreat.


At 4:09 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

Jimmy Carter tried to warn us, but few listened then and few listen still, so entrenched is corporate control over minds and behavior... oy veyy!

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Jim R said...

Yup, that about sums it up, Bill.

I have gotten into discussions with co-workers about GW, guys who read the right-wing echo chambers and assert that it is a fraud. I disagree with them, and expect that we will notice the climate effects.

But I have to agree with them that this notion of trading "credits" to reduce our carbon output is nothing but financial fraud.

We are going to conserve now, and we are going to do it the hard way. (and me without a doomstead plan yet) :-(

At 6:04 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Cy - I'd add government and public discourse to "minds and behavior." And that's only going to get worse now that the so-called originalists on the Supreme Court have enshrined corporate personhood as a constitutional principle.

I fear we've passed the point where any of this matters.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Iaato said...

Hi, Bill. I did some archaeology on a comment you made to Greer about the functionality or lack thereof of the transition town movement, and ended up here. "The Workshop," ha.

Take one glance at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico these last 45 days and you will see a vivid example of why it does not matter a flying copulation at the moon whether or not fossil fuel burning is warming the planet.

What a great comment; something people haven't realized yet about the GOM crisis is that it restores balance to the conversation about the relative dangers of oil. Eventually this meme will get out into the MSM; too bad your message is so hidden here. I agree with Taibbi that carbon trade and perhaps the GW hype is a meme of the corporation to make more money out of our fix. When people start talking about GW, I turn off, shut down, click away, because it means that they don't really see the whole picture.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hello Bill,

Came over here from JMG's blog. While I agree that little things like habitat destruction and general biological systems malfunction are the truly serious issues, I also find global warming to be of concern because of its effects on said systems, both in terms of greenhouse gases leading to warming and physical destruction such as mountaintop removal. I've always thought that if we take care of the environment like we ought, global warming would take care of itself.

But: I find that many people I talk with don't know much, hence don't care much about "nature," haven't been taught to think in terms of systems and find global warming easier to relate to in terms of their own selves and the need to conserve.

I agree that economic forces have the largest impact on consumption, and I believe it's important to share our awareness and get the message out in terms of things people care about--their own lives and families. Some of my most productive conversations have started with "suppose gasoline gets more expensive, have you thought about what you'd do?" and stay on that kind of practical level.

Happy bird watching,


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