Saturday, November 24, 2018
The Surprising Part of America's Fourth National Climate Assessment
The big surprise in the US government's Fourth National Climate Assessment is that there are no surprises.
Sure the outlook is dire. Bad things are happening to America and much worse to follow. Thirteen federal government departments say so and they've written 1,600 pages to back up their claims.
Media reports tout it as alarming. I don't know why. There's really nothing in it that's new, nothing that those who follow such things don't already know.
If there is a message to this two-volume report it's that those who regularly thwart action on climate change because it may set back the US economy are, in fact, about to ruin the US economy.
We have the same mentality in play in Canada. We may make a show of implementing gestural measures, such as carbon taxes, but it's always with the proviso that we must never harm the economy, never restrain our quest for perpetual exponential growth. And yet, just like in the States, the path we're on will hammer the economy in the long run - just not before the next electoral cycle or the one after that. The long term future of the country and of our future generations is a distraction compared to how our political apparatus fares in the next election.
Neoliberalism is the milieu that brings substandard leaders to high office. We wind up with second-raters who just close their eyes and trust in the invisible hand of the marketplace to save our bacon. That's like leaving a tiger to safeguard your prime rib roast.
With the environmental Sword of Damocles hanging over our head, neoliberal ideology is genuinely nihilistic. It is a commercial bargain, one that places little value on what may befall our grandkids or even the economy itself twenty or thirty years from now.
It is no accident that the current environmental calamity took hold when the twisted theories of Hayek and Friedman were made reality by Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney. Nothing changed even when Friedman renounced his own theories as failures. That's the power of nihilistic thinking.
Six months into his premiership, Justin Trudeau was asked how he wanted to be seen. His answer was he wanted to be seen as a free trader. Not exactly the leader he touted himself to be in the run-up to the 2015 election yet, at the same time, probably one of the most honest things he's said since his Liberals formed government.
I sometimes wonder if Mr. Trudeau sees that other locomotive, the one barreling down the track, heading straight for us. That's the locomotive we're being warned is drawing ever closer in all the reports now flooding in, each warning more urgent than the last. Of course once the question is asked, it leads to even grimmer questions.
If he does see the smoke pouring from that locomotive eating up the track, why does he want our locomotive to run ever faster toward it? How does he imagine this ends? Worse yet, what if he doesn't see that oncoming engine? What if he thinks it's something else that just happens to be on the same railway track? What if he believes that two locomotives bearing down on each other at full speed somehow won't collide? What if it simply doesn't matter to him? Maybe he would like to act but thinks he cannot.