Tuesday, June 05, 2018

An Obituary for a Planet? "Climate Change Has Run Its Course" - WSJ

Has the plutocracy outwaited the climate change issue? According to the Wall Street Journal the global political caste has lost interest in the whole carbon emissions cutting thing. That's over.

Climate change is over. No, I’m not saying the climate will not change in the future, or that human influence on the climate is negligible. I mean simply that climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers.

Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hearings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious withdrawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becoming evident. 
This outcome was predictable. Political scientist Anthony Downs described the downward trajectory of many political movements in an article for the Public Interest, “Up and Down With Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention Cycle,’ ” published in 1972, long before the climate-change campaign began. Observing the movements that had arisen to address issues like crime, poverty and even the U.S.-Soviet space race, Mr. Downs discerned a five-stage cycle through which political issues pass regularly. 
The first stage involves groups of experts and activists calling attention to a public problem, which leads quickly to the second stage, wherein the alarmed media and political class discover the issue. The second stage typically includes a large amount of euphoric enthusiasm—you might call it the “dopamine” stage—as activists conceive the issue in terms of global peril and salvation. This tendency explains the fanaticism with which divinity-school dropouts Al Gore and Jerry Brown have warned of climate change. 
Then comes the third stage: the hinge. As Mr. Downs explains, there soon comes “a gradually spreading realization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed.” That’s where we’ve been since the United Nations’ traveling climate circus committed itself to the fanatical mission of massive near-term reductions in fossil fuel consumption, codified in unrealistic proposals like the Kyoto Protocol. This third stage, Mr. Downs continues, “becomes almost imperceptibly transformed into the fourth stage: a gradual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem.”
...Americans have consistently ranked climate change the 19th or 20th of 20 leading issues on the annual Pew Research Center poll, while Gallup’s yearly survey of environmental issues typically ranks climate change far behind air and water pollution. 
“In the final stage,” Mr. Downs concludes, “an issue that has been replaced at the center of public concern moves into a prolonged limbo—a twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest.” Mr. Downs predicted correctly that environmental issues would suffer this decline, because solving such issues involves painful trade-offs that committed climate activists would rather not make. 
The article, written by Steven Hayward of the Department of Governmental Studies at Berkley, may sound cynical but it's fairly accurate. You would find few environmentalists of the Dark Mountain community who would dispute Hayward's central argument.

Government, certainly the Canadian government, is not going to rapidly decarbonize our society or our economy. That much should be obvious from the childish and gestural responses of the current government which, as we know, at least pays lip service to climate change as the greatest single threat facing our nation. What we're getting from Ottawa is not the way any nation facing a great, existential threat responds to that looming danger.

I have for years argued that fighting climate change as a standalone threat is futile. That will simply not work because climate change is just one component of a much larger and infinitely more lethal peril. It is responding to a house engulfed in flames and deciding you'll fight the fire in the diningroom while the rest of the house is consumed.

Speaking of which, the Global Footprint Network, has announced that Earth Overshoot Day 2018 will fall on August 1st. That's the day on which mankind - us, you and me - consumes an entire year's worth of the planet's renewable resources - water, air, biomass. It is the day on which we exhaust Earth's annual ecological carrying capacity. We manage to survive, some of us thrive, for the remaining five months by "eating our seed corn." That's a term for unsustainable consumption, raiding the already dwindling planetary reserves of life-giving resources.

To illustrate our predicament, we're currently devouring the Earth's resources at 1.7 times our biosphere's carrying capacity. To be in balance we would need Earth plus a donor planet 70 per cent as large as our own. And that's only because so much of humanity is impoverished and unable to rapaciously consume resources as we do. If all 7.5 billion of us had the same ecological footprint as Americans and Canadians, we would need at least four planet Earths to break even. Here's a neat graphic that illustrates this dilemma, nation by nation.

Ya see? If only everybody on the planet was a Canadian, we'd consume a whole year's worth of resources by March 18. That's still better than those damned Americans at March 15. August, are you kidding? That's for Third World punks.

If you really want to get your "guilt on" you can even work out your very own, personal, individual ecological footprint here. Sinners, repent.

The point is that Potemkin environmentalism of the sort practiced by our governments doesn't just look gestural, it is gestural. It's strictly for show.

Justin Trudeau, like every prime minister before him, is still obsessed with the pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth. The global economy is already 70 per cent bigger than the environment. We have gone beyond the breathable atmosphere. It's like being on a space walk and removing your helmet. You simply cannot live out there - not for very long.

Trudeau and his predecessors are and have been blind to the idea of a global economy shrunk so that it once again is within the safety margins of our environment, our one and only biosphere. They can't picture what that would mean, how it might be achieved.

Whether Steve Hayward is being unduly cynical really doesn't matter.

If you find this all too vague and theoretical but you did manage to handle grade school math, David Suzuki will explain our predicament in the most basic, easy to understand, manner.

So whether it's climate change or over-consumption of life-sustaining resources or overpopulation, you can go to bed at night knowing that your government hasn't got a fucking clue how to deal with any of it. They are stuck in a "don't worry, be happy" mentality. Trump is the worst, okay, fair enough, but the rest aren't far behind him.


Trailblazer said...

The world has turned away from science and fact as it demands self control and concessions.

Fact is increasingly being replace by faith.
Faith does not require critical thought or sacrifice.



Lorne said...

A very dispiriting reality check, Mound. It would seem that we are hell-bent on our own destruction.

Northern PoV said...

Potemkin environmentalism


is it original?

Michael said...






Tal Hartsfeld said...

Planet earth will survive just fine.

The humans and other life forms? Probably not so much. But planet earth will do whatever it takes to ensure its long-term survival---even if that means resorting to radical and extreme measures at its own self-preservation (more intense storms, more frequent volcanic activity, increased earthquake activity, rearranging the land/sea ratio, shifting the magnetic poles, reducing or eliminating present life forms and later creating new ones in their place).

The future of planet earth will be similar to the area around Mt. Saint Helens two decades following the May 1980 explosion.

Benjamin David Steele said...

It's important to keep in mind that Hayward is a paid corporate shill. Take everything he says with a grain of salt. It's all bullshit. And if he happens to say something that might have some actual significance, it surely was not intentional.