Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Don't Trust Your Government
The Trudeau government has chosen, yes chosen, to do harm rather than good. It says it recognizes that climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and then it switches faces and says that no nation would just leave 173 billion barrels of the world's filthiest, highest carbon and toxic ersatz petroleum sludge in the ground. There is an internal contradiction there especially when scientific opinion holds that, if almost all of that bitumen isn't left in the ground, we don't stand a chance on preventing runaway global warming.
So Trudeau is the scorpion atop the frog's back in mid-pond. He can't help stinging the frog to death even though it means he's going to drown too. Unfortunately, we're the frog.
Mastering cognitive dissonance should not be an admired quality of political leadership.
But we're also going to take action on climate change at the same time, right? In a purely token sense, perhaps. In a meaningful way, no.
Here's the problem. Climate change in all its dynamics is a scientific issue. It's physics, atmospherics, hydrology, geology, chemistry, virtually every "earth science" is involved. It's a scientific problem that requires scientific responses to be effective.
Climate change, however, has been hijacked. It's been taken out of the realm of science and into the forum of politics. It's now treated as a political matter with political targets and political solutions.
There's a disconnect between the political theory and scientific reality. Here's an example. Science has convincingly shown that the progress of climate change is not linear. It doesn't follow a steady, predictable pace. It's unpredictable. It proceeds in spurts and it is accelerating. It's now been named the Great Acceleration.
The political response is to set political targets such as 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.0 degrees Celsius as the limits of warming. And we set political timelines of 2025 or 2030 or 2050. They're linear projections. How do these political targets and political timelines comport with scientific reality, what's really underway? They don't. The political numbers don't jibe with the scientific numbers.
And even though climate change is a global threat, we don't respond to it globally, as a civilization, as a species under threat. We all sing kumbaya and then go back home where each nation comes up with its own plan. And the commitments, even if they were kept (and we have no track record of achieving that) still leave us in the 3.0 - 3.5 degree Celsius range.
Why don't we all just sit down, every country and every region, and hammer out something that might bear some resemblance to the scientific reality? There's a problem. That would give rise to all manner of issues of equity, equitable treatment, and the wealthy nations aren't in the mood for sharing with the Third World. We've committed to giving the have-nots money to spend on adaptation and we're not even keeping that promise. Maybe we realize it wouldn't make any goddamned difference at this point anyway.
The irresistible advantage of framing this as a political issue is that our leaders get to define the scope of the problem. They can pretend that this is a matter of trimming our carbon emissions a bit here and there: so much by this year, so much more by that year. Think of it as a Potemkin response. Why? Because climate change is just one part of a much greater problem. It's one symptom of a terrible disease. Our political approach leaves out all the rest. It leaves out ocean acidification. It leaves out the broken hydrological cycle. It gives scant to no regard to the natural feedback loops, a.k.a. runaway global warming, we are already triggering. It omits two other biggies - overpopulation and over-consumption of rapidly dwindling resources.
Our political approach, flagging as that is, turns its back on the reality that our species has grown vastly beyond the sustainable limits of our finite environment. No provision will be considered to bring humanity back within the ecological carrying capacity of our one and only biosphere, our planet, Spaceship Earth. We shall not be restrained. We intend to pursue perpetual, exponential growth.
Only by bringing humanity safely within the finite limits of our environment can we hope to solve all of the existential challenges that confront humanity and, even then, there are no ironclad guarantees.
Our prime minister with his bitumen fetish will not be restrained. He is content to add insult to the global injury, assuring the gullible that we can have it both ways, that we can have our cake and eat it too.