Today I do a part two to my climate change Cheat Sheet I did up a few weeks ago. The debate continues, louder, more urgent, daily. I aim to alarm us all. Sorry. Not. Sorry. The alarm is real.
This article in the New Yorker points to something I fear like nothing else – the most viable solution presented by some scientists to being able to continue human life beyond the next 100 years is to… move to Mars. I rail against this. We belong here on earth. We are symbiotically connected. The beauty of the planet is my source of truest joy, its vastness feeds my spiritual innocence. I’d take a bullet for it. Which is to say I’d rather die than go to Mars. I weep right here, as I bang this out,thinking of how disconnected the folk who even suggest such an idea as a hopeful solution (and throw billions at its pursuit over shutting down carbon emissions). Where have our souls gone? Where is our awe at?
It points out a few digestible facts amid a wonderful broader treatise. I like to reduce things to snapshots, to invite you to read the rest.
- The world is going backwards even in areas where we’d made progress (with world hunger and child labour, for instance):
Late in 2017, a United Nations agency announced that the number of chronically malnourished people in the world, after a decade of decline, had started to grow again—by 38 million, to a total of 815 million…and child labor, after years of falling, was growing.”
Both are due to climate-induced disasters.
- CO2 emissions are going through the roof, such that:
The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day (my emphasis) is equivalent to the heat from four hundred thousand bombs the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.
As a result, in the past thirty years we’ve seen all twenty of the hottest years ever recorded.
- The writer a few months back visited Greenland, where he took a boat to a glacier on a nearby fjord.
As we made our way across a broad bay, I glanced up at the electronic chart above the captain’s wheel, where a blinking icon showed that we were a mile inland. The captain explained that the chart was from five years ago, when the water around us was still ice.
- We have already managed to kill off 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife since 1970.
- The most startling thing is the historical background he gives to why the warnings have been ignored for 30 years. First, industry intervention in Government policy saw a concerted campaign to spread the message that there is no climate change consensus. This is bullshit. But the campaign has worked.
In 2017, polls found that almost ninety per cent of Americans did not know that there was a scientific consensus on global warming.
- Sickeningly, Exxon has almost singlehandedly fucked us. They got hold of the science, acknowledged the warning signs were legit and then…
They used (the science) to figure out how low their drilling costs in the Arctic would eventually fall. Had Exxon and its peers passed on what they knew to the public, geological history would look very different today. The problem of climate change would not be solved, but the crisis would, most likely, now be receding.
Did we all get that? Fossil-fuel companies have been allowed to determine whether we survive as a species, save migrating to Mars. Many of you (and I too) are despairing. What can be done. The writer arrives at the only conclusion I’m seeing among informed voices like his – we have to stand up to it. Protest. With all our gusto.
We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever. We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale….The possibility of swift change lies in people coming together in movements large enough to shift the Zeitgeist.
To this end, the writer Bill McKibben is founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org.
While you’re there I recommend you read this by George Monbiot (read anything by George Monbiot if you want to stay woke). This grazed my heart – a young woman raises her hand at a conference at which he was speaking after a suggestion was made to find some softer, intermediate aim to the advice that CO2 emissions are reduced to zero by 2025 (which by now you’d know is really a bare minimum solution to a crises bigger than we can imagine).
“What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?” We had no answer.
Monbiot admits she’s right:
Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.
- He points to the ingenuity argument (possibly the only argument of hope I’ve been convinced by) – that we humans are great at fixing problems when we put our minds to it:
When the US joined the second world war in 1941, it replaced a civilian economy with a military economy within months. As Jack Doyle records in his book Taken for a Ride, “In one year, General Motors developed, tooled and completely built from scratch 1,000 Avenger and 1,000 Wildcat aircraft … Barely a year after Pontiac received a navy contract to build anti-shipping missiles, the company began delivering the completed product to carrier squadrons around the world.” And this was before advanced information technology made everything faster.
- But bear in mind, the issue is our obsession with growth…which depends entirely on resources.
While 50bn tonnes of resources used per year is roughly the limit the Earth’s systems can tolerate, the world is already consuming 70bn tonnes. At current rates of economic growth, this will rise to 180bn tonnes by 2050.
Which brings me, as always, back to my radical response. Stop consuming. Please. Happy Black Friday.