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Discussion in 'Political Discourse' started by Michael Scally MD, Oct 21, 2010.
Agreed. The problem is human emissions not the planet orbit
While I believe the population itself contributes to global warming, I don’t believe it’s as much as people say. Corporations with their emissions as well as dumping of toxic crap in our water is what’s going to kill this planet and until that’s solved, no amount of legislation against the every day public will fix a thing.
There is infinite hope,” Kafka tells us, “only not for us.” This is a fittingly mystical epigram from a writer whose characters strive for ostensibly reachable goals and, tragically or amusingly, never manage to get any closer to them. But it seems to me, in our rapidly darkening world, that the converse of Kafka’s quip is equally true: There is no hope, except for us.
I’m talking, of course, about climate change. The struggle to rein in global carbon emissions and keep the planet from melting down has the feel of Kafka’s fiction. The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it. Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.
If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.
Even at this late date, expressions of unrealistic hope continue to abound. Hardly a day seems to pass without my reading that it’s time to “roll up our sleeves” and “save the planet”; that the problem of climate change can be “solved” if we summon the collective will. Although this message was probably still true in 1988, when the science became fully clear, we’ve emitted as much atmospheric carbon in the past thirty years as we did in the previous two centuries of industrialization. The facts have changed, but somehow the message stays the same.
Psychologically, this denial makes sense. …
Shut Up, Franzen
Climate change is real and things will get worse—but because we understand the driver of potential doom, it's a choice, not a foregone conclusion
Shut Up, Franzen
We are, I promise you, not doomed, no matter what Jonathan Franzen says. We could be, of course, if we decided we really wanted to. We have had the potential for total annihilation since 1945, and the capacity for localized mayhem for as long as societies have existed. Climate change offers the easy choice of a slow destruction through inaction like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot.
And there are times when the certainty of inevitability seems comforting. Fighting is exhausting; fighting when victory seems uncertain or unlikely even more so. It’s tempting to retreat to a special place—a cozy nook, a mountaintop, a summer garden—wait for the apocalypse to run its course, and hope it will be gentle.
Science offers something close to certainty on many fronts, but on doom, it is ambiguous. The definitive things we can say are rooted in basic physics and clear measurements. The molecular structure of carbon dioxide means it can absorb the heat radiated by the planet. Carbon dioxide is the inevitable byproduct of combustion.
Combustion—setting fire to long-dead plants and animals, liberating the never-used energy stored in their fossilized corpses —is a convenient way to power an industrial society. Adding a heat-trapping gas to the atmosphere makes it hotter.
We have done so. We are not slowing down. Humans have emitted more carbon dioxide during my lifetime than in all the years of civilization that came before.
We are as confident as science ever allows us to be in some of the dangers in a warmer world. As the average temperature warms, the abnormal becomes the new normal, and the new abnormal becomes the unprecedented.
Heat waves grow more frequent and severe. We know, too, that warmer air holds more water vapor, and heavy downpours increase. Hurricanes feed off warmer sea surface temperatures.
We are less confident, but have reason to fear that droughts will become more severe and frequent, that fires will rage uncontrollably, and that the sea could swallow our coastal cities.
But it is precisely the fact that we understand the potential driver of doom that changes it from a foregone conclusion to a choice, a terrible outcome in the universe of all possible futures. I run models through my brain; I check them with the calculations I do on a computer. This is not optimism, or even hope. Even in the best of all possible worlds, I cannot offer the certainty of safety. Doom is a possibility; it may that we have already awakened a sleeping monster that will in the end devour the world. It may be that the very fact of human nature, whatever that is,
In the Guardian, environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey responds to Franzen’s argument that more focus should be shifted towards climate adaptation rather than mitigation. “The view that adapting to inevitable climate change should be our priority, over futile and ruinously expensive attempts to cut emissions, has been spread by those who want to continue to emit CO2, come what may. Fossil fuel companies saw adaptation, along with the idea that we could geo-engineer our way out of trouble, as a way to keep selling oil while paying lip service to the climate science.”
Elsewhere, Buzzfeed culture writer and editor Shannon Keating points out the differences between Franzen’s opinions and that of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. She writes: “As a young person, she’s more than justified in fearing for her future, but despite her anger and her sadness — because of her anger and her sadness — she still believes in something better. Why bother even trying otherwise?” Meanwhile, Vox takes a closer look at why Franzen’s New Yorker piece has “proved so controversial”.
There is a long history of industry-funded “deflection campaigns” aimed to divert attention from big polluters and place the burden on individuals. Individual action is important and something we should all champion. But appearing to force Americans to give up meat, or travel, or other things central to the lifestyle they’ve chosen to live is politically dangerous: it plays right into the hands of climate-change deniers whose strategy tends to be to portray climate champions as freedom-hating totalitarians.
The bigger issue is that focusing on individual choices around air travel and beef consumption heightens the risk of losing sight of the gorilla in the room: civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy and transport overall, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of global carbon emissions. We need systemic changes that will reduce everyone’s carbon footprint, whether or not they care.
Amnesty International awarded @GretaThunberg for her leadership in the Fridays for Future movement against climate change.
"Activism works. So what I'm telling you to do now is to act."
When Greta Thunberg stepped onboard the Malizia II — a 60-foot racing yacht owned by the royal family of Monaco — it had been less than a year since she first walked out of school as an unknown, awkward, nearly friendless 15-year-old making a lonely protest outside the Swedish Parliament against her country’s absolute indifference to the climate crisis, which she saw in uncannily black-and-white terms.
She painted her now-iconic sign in those colors, which she carried across the Atlantic on the two-week carbon-free journey she documented periodically on social media. Black capital letters on white: SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET (or “School Strike for Climate”).
By the time she stepped off the yacht in New York on August 28, two weeks after she’d set sail from Plymouth, England, wobbly legged from the weeks at sea as she walked to address a crowd of many hundreds, she had become something even more unusual than an adolescent protester or even a generational icon. She was the Joan of Arc of climate change, commanding a global army of teenage activists numbering in the millions and waging a rhetorical war against her elders through the unapologetic use of generational shame.
The comparison might seem hyperbolic and may come to look even more strained than that, depending on what the future brings for Greta and for climate action. But for the moment, there is simply no other appropriate analogy from political history to draw on in describing just how much she has achieved at such a young age and in so little time. …
ROME–When Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg was 11 years old, her body had started to shut down due to severe self-starvation tied to debilitating depression. She spoke to almost no one but her immediate family. She was afraid of crowds. She was lost in her own world, and the world very nearly lost her.
But thanks to the formal diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome coupled with high-functioning autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, the now-16-year-old Swede has become quite literally the poster child for the generation that will have to deal with the destruction of our planet. Once she started receiving multifaceted treatment, Thunberg was able to channel her anxiety into something we should all be concerned about: the health of the planet and the science behind apocalyptic warnings of its demise.
In October 2018, Thunberg started having anxiety-ridden 3 a.m. nightmares, but unlike before, they were not about her. The recurring nightmares were about the impact of global warming on the planet, according to the book, Scenes From the Heart, she wrote with her parents and sister Beata, who also suffers from many of the same emotional conditions.
This time, instead of holing up in her bedroom as she did before treatment, she decided that her anxiety about the climate needed to become everyone else's, too. One of the aspects of her complicated diagnosis is obsession. Her family says she just wouldn't let the idea go that the planet was burning up and there was ample science to prove it. She did not understand why no one was doing anything. She could not comprehend why adults and policy makers were ignoring the issue.
She started skipping school on Fridays to protest, all alone, on the steps of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm where she grew up. Slowly–and in some ways inexplicably—the protests, which were dubbed Fridays for Future, caught on and soon she was joined by tens, then scores, then hundreds of Swedish children demanding that adults start paying attention to science when it comes to climate change.
Soon, the girl who once would not leave her bedroom was traveling across Europe to draw her peers out of the classrooms and onto the streets for the sake of the environment. …
On September 23, the United Nations will open its Climate Action Summit here in New York, three days after the Global Climate Strike, led by Greta Thunberg, will sweep through thousands of cities worldwide. To mark the occasion, Intelligencer will be publishing “State of the World,” a series of in-depth interviews with climate leaders from Bill Gates to Naomi Klein and Rhiana Gunn-Wright to William Nordhaus interrogating just how they see the precarious climate future of the planet — and just how hopeful they think we should all be about avoiding catastrophic warming. (Unfortunately, very few are hopeful.)
Today, September 17, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released its annual “Goalkeepers” report — a data-heavy status update measuring global progress toward the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. (It always doubles as a report card on the work of the foundation.)
On August 5, in Seattle, I talked to him about balancing the prerogatives of adaptation and mitigation, the scale of the challenge of climate change and whether we have any realistic chance of avoiding catastrophic levels of warming, and just how punishingly unequal the impacts of climate change will be when they do arrive.
The key to carbon dioxide's strong influence on climate is its ability to absorb heat emitted from our planet's surface, keeping it from escaping out to space.
The scientists who first identified carbon dioxide's importance for climate in the 1850s were also surprised by its influence. Working separately, John Tyndall in England and Eunice Foote in the United States found that carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane all absorbed heat, while more abundant gases did not.
Scientists had already calculated that the Earth was about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) warmer than it should be, given the amount of sunlight reaching its surface. The best explanation for that discrepancy was that the atmosphere retained heat to warm the planet.
Tyndall and Foote showed that nitrogen and oxygen, which together account for 99 percent of the atmosphere, had essentially no influence on Earth's temperature because they did not absorb heat.
Rather, they found that gases present in much smaller concentrations were entirely responsible for maintaining temperatures that made the Earth habitable, by trapping heat to create a natural greenhouse effect.
Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases have molecular structures that enable them to absorb infrared radiation. The bonds between atoms in a molecule can vibrate in particular ways, like the pitch of a piano string. When the energy of a photon corresponds to the frequency of the molecule, it is absorbed and its energy transfers to the molecule.
Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases have three or more atoms and frequencies that correspond to infrared radiation emitted by Earth. Oxygen and nitrogen, with just two atoms in their molecules, do not absorb infrared radiation.
Most incoming shortwave radiation from the Sun passes through the atmosphere without being absorbed.
But most outgoing infrared radiation is absorbed by heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Then they can release, or re-radiate, that heat. Some returns to Earth's surface, keeping it warmer than it would be otherwise.
Finally, national climate mobilization would have cascading unforeseen consequences, perhaps even contradicting its original goals, just like America’s total mobilization during World War II. Looking at the myriad ways that World War II changed America, for better and worse, suggests that it’s difficult to know in advance the ramifications of such a sweeping agenda.
Nevertheless, total mobilization may be our only hope. Ecological collapse is happening all around us. We may be nearing or have already crossed the line where it becomes unstoppable. Piecemeal, consensus-driven, incrementalist solutions are tantamount to global suicide. According to a summary paper last year from leading scientists on global climate trajectories, the changes needed to stabilize the earth’s climate “require a fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions.”
Such a program would be another order of magnitude larger and more complex than America’s military mobilization during World War II. The problem of climate change is bigger than the New Deal. It’s bigger than the Great Depression. It’s bigger than war. The problem of climate change is the problem of how and whether human beings can live together sustainably on this planet.
In a highly anticipated speech in Congress after travelling half the way across the Atlantic by boat, Greta Thunberg urges US senators to learn from the sacrifices of Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists in the fight against climate change. Here are some transcript portions.
Some of you may have heard that we have 12 years as from 1 January 2018 to cut our emissions of carbon dioxide in half. But I guess that hardly any of you have heard that there is a 50 per cent chance of staying below a 1.5 degree Celsius of global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels. Fifty per cent chance.
And these current, best available scientific calculations do not include non linear tipping points as well as most unforeseen feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost. Or already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Or the aspect of equity; climate justice.
So a 50 per cent chance - a statistical flip of a coin - will most definitely not be enough. That would be impossible to morally defend. Would anyone of you step onto a plane if you knew it had more than a 50 per cent chance of crashing? More to the point: would you put your children on that flight?
And why is it so important to stay below the 1.5 degree limit? Because that is what the united science calls for, to avoid destabilising the climate, so that we stay clear of setting off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. Even at 1 degree of warming we are seeing an unacceptable loss of life and livelihoods.
And you must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin.
Instead, you must unite behind the science.
You must take action.
You must do the impossible.
Because giving up can never ever be an option.
20 August 2018 ... My name is Greta, I live in Sweden and I'm 15 years old. I refuse school for the climate until election day.