Jan 30, 2015 by

It’s really hard to know what to say about the future of global warming and climate change, or of the possibility that sufficient nations will take it seriously enough to reduce the growing threat on us and our children.  I tend to be pessimistic in that regard, and expect to see the global temperature rise considerably above the 2 degree C target.
This week and next week the world’s nations are meeting in Lima, Peru, to try to craft the basis for a new binding agreement for reducing global warming emissions.  By next March it is hoped that all of the nations will be prepared to go public with their specific goals, much as the U.S. and China have just done (although China’s “goal” is ridiculous, allowing at least a full doubling of their present world-leading emissions).  And then in December in Paris will be the big meeting to replace the Kyoto Accord with these new binding targets–supposed to be actual, enforceable commitments.  It will be an interesting year, and will go a long way to showing us if we can stop this juggernaut or even slow it.
The latest New York Review of Books (Dec. 4) has an Elizabeth Kolbert (fabulous New Yorker writer) review of Naomi Klein’s new book (also to be a movie) “This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate”.  She blasts environmental groups and organizations as basically being in bed with the polluters. She even asserts that the environmental movement “has itself become little more than an arm of the fossil fuel industry.”  Strong words.
They’re not all, of course, but her point is that to wish that by all of us working together–polluters, oil companies, and environmentalists–we can come to meaningful solutions, is fantasy thinking.  No way, she writes, for the polluters have no interest in solving anything. She blames our tepid action (or inaction) on addressing global warming as a structural problem, based on the premise of endless growth.  She claims that so long as environmental groups avoid suggesting that structural changes must be made in our political and economic systems, “they are just as dishonest as the global warming deniers they vilify.”
But Kolbert notes that Klein actually feels positive.  (Quoting from Kolbert’s review) — Climate change, she writes “if treated as a true planetary emergency, could become a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well.”
Quoting from the book:  “I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become a catalyzing force for positive change–how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence, to block harmful free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land right–all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them”
But Elizabeth Kolbert then notes that Klein fails to figure out and tell how any of this might be accomplished!  Kolbert ends with “The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the “warmists” do, telling a fable she hope will do some good.”  And there’s the rub (me, Don, now speaking).  These are all just words and, from a practical possibility of real political responses to this great global crisis, just pie in the sky.  I don’t see how a book like this can be of any help.
So do I see a way out?  Possibly climate change will become so messy and disruptive and expensive that nations will finally discover that their own salvation depends on trying to halt any further progression of the threat, that is, to be serious about reducing and then halting global warming emissions.  This would mean that we have a future where we will have to go through some pretty awful stuff, with some nations collapsing, before meaningful action will be taken.  And at that point the remaining nations trying to be viable will be stuck with the incredibly difficult climate conditions.  This is a dismal view, and one that I, unfortunately, hold.
So should we throw up our hands and say “I quit.  My little contribution to solving global warming will, in the long run, be meaningless?”  Absolutely not.  There will always have to be some who introduce some sanity and promise and hope into the system, to show by their own life examples and ethics that s sane world is possible, even if, for a long time, this evidence of a way out is ignored.  Without it, no one will have any idea that there can be, ultimately, a way out and back to a saner, safer, cleaner, more just and equitable world.  We will be like a crack in the armor, which eventually–unfortunately only after a lot of bad stuff happens–will be there to show the way toward recovering what’s left of humanity and civilization and a beautiful, living world.  That vision must stay alive!
Consultants in Sustainable Energy Policy and Architecture
Donald W. Aitken, Ph.D., LEED AP, Principal
(Office in Mexico, with mail routed through Texas, as follows:)
5802 Bob Bullock C1
Suite 328C-52
Laredo, TX  78041
Ph: (510) 355-0026
(Phone is still California, not international)
Web:  www.donaldaitkenassociates.clm

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