Ostriches lead us to our doom

While a global catastrophe looms before us, one symbolically presented to us by the melting of the Arctic ice, George Monbiot exclaimed:

Our governments do nothing [about global warming and its causes]. Having abandoned any pretence of responding to the environmental crisis during the earth summit in June, now they stare stupidly as the ice on which we stand dissolves. Nothing — or worse than nothing. Their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes.

The companies which caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it. On Sunday, Shell requested an extension to its exploratory drilling period in the Chukchi Sea, off the north-west coast of Alaska. This would push its operations hard against the moment when the ice re-forms and any spills they cause are locked in. The Russian oil company Gazprom is using the great melt to try to drill in the Pechora Sea, north-east of Murmansk. After turning its Arctic lands in the Komi Republic into the Niger Delta of the north (repeated oil spills are left unremediated in the tundra), Russia wants to extend this industry into one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, where ice, storms and darkness make decontamination almost impossible.

Drill baby, drill….

Consider Corn

You don’t, do you. Well, you should because corn is a component of ethanol and meat production. People eat it too. Corn prices have risen a bit over the last month because the drought of 2012 has punished America’s corn producing states. Thus:

A wise person will adjust her personal spending habits to account for this problem.

Apocalypse now

In a recently published monograph (.pdf), James E. Hansen and Makiko Sato began by stating that:

We conclude that Earth in the warmest interglacial periods of the past million years was less than 1°C warmer than in the Holocene. Polar warmth in these interglacials and in the Pliocene does not imply that a substantial cushion remains between today’s climate and dangerous warming, but rather that Earth is poised to experience strong amplifying polar feedbacks in response to moderate global warming. Thus goals to limit human-made warming to 2°C are not sufficient — they are prescriptions for disaster. Ice sheet disintegration is nonlinear, spurred by amplifying feedbacks. We suggest that ice sheet mass loss, if warming continues unabated, will be characterized better by a doubling time for mass loss rate than by a linear trend. Satellite gravity data, though too brief to be conclusive, are consistent with a doubling time of 10 years or less, implying the possibility of multi-meter sea level rise this century. Observed accelerating ice sheet mass loss supports our conclusion that Earth’s temperature now exceeds the mean Holocene value. Rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is required for humanity to succeed in preserving a planet resembling the one on which civilization developed [citations added].

Hansen and Sato support their conclusion with statistical data, not the products of a climate model. I want to point this out although no one should infer from my remark a rejection of climate modeling (as if I or most critics were competent to make that judgment). The point I want to make is a simple one which an outsider like me can make without fear: The critics of the anthropocentric thesis cannot rely upon their reservations about climate modeling which criticizing the defenders of the anthropocentric cause thesis. The climate change controversy is, of course, is an effect of a red herring strategy. Eventually, we may expect this strategy to give way to a use of the idiot defense: “We did and could not have known that we were causing the apocalypse.”

But we do know.

Quote of the day

Shamus Cooke reports that:

The U.S. heat wave is slowly shaking the foundations of American politics. It may take years for the deep rumble to evolve into an above ground, institution-shattering earthquake, but U.S. society has changed for good.

The heat wave has helped convince tens of millions of Americans that climate change is real, overpowering the fake science and right-wing media – funded by corporate cash – to convince Americans otherwise.

Republicans and Democrats alike also erect roadblocks to understanding climate change. By the politicians’ complete lack of action towards addressing the issue, the “climate change is fake” movement was strengthened, since Americans presumed that any sane government would be actively trying to address an issue that had the potential to destroy civilization.

But working people have finally made up their mind. A recent poll showed that70 percent of Americans now believe that climate change is real, up from 52 percent in 2010. And a growing number of people are recognizing that the warming of the planet is caused by human activity.

Business Week explains: “A record heat wave, drought and catastrophic wildfires are accomplishing what climate scientists could not: convincing a wide swath of Americans that global temperatures are rising.

It is sad that the elite in the United States could care a damn about global warming, ecological catastrophe and the socio-political causes which produces these outcomes. It is also sad because this unctuous and vain elite enjoys a secure existence with respect to the majority of America’s citizens. We have a managed democracy designed to undermine the ability common Americans ought to have and will need if they are to hold their leaders accountable. The commoners, of course, will suffer badly from the catastrophe. Members of America’s elite will also suffer although they will manage to live through the catastrophe in much better shape — for a while. Eventually, everyone will confront the vast burdens produced by America’s sloth and narcissism. That is an inescapable entailment of the impending global catastrophe. It will be a totalization which none could resist. Need I mention that this future is unlikely to be a moment in which one would want to live?