Monday, 7 December 2009

Climate change

Climate change seems to be the "flavour of the week",  no doubt prompted by the conference that is about to begin in Copenhagen,  but here,  in Australia, it is also being blamed for bringing down the leader of the opposition in the federal parliament. 

The leader of the conservative (Liberal) party was overthrown by one of the most conservative (socially and politically) members of parliament that  we have.  He and a number of his supporters come from the climate “sceptic” camp.
Climate "sceptics" prefer to believe that the sudden increase in carbon dioxide that coincided with industrialisation has nothing to do with human activity so that I think that they can no longer be called "sceptics."  (I even think that this term was adopted because it has some status among the serious thinkers in the world.)  They are climate change deniers and their denials will have as much effect on the earth as the "flat earth society" deniers (who argued with and persecuted scientists and astronomers back in the day) had on the shape of the earth.  The significant difference in this situation is that our lives and the lives of most sentient beings on the planet are at significant risk.  In fact there was nothing that either side could do in the "flat earth" argument that would change anything, but this is so much more serious and people who deny that there is any anthropogenic climate change are risking lives.
The difference this time is that there are good and plentiful reasons to believe that the changes being wrought are as a direct consequence of industrialisation that has benefitted the wealthiest 20% of the world's population.  These are the very people who are making the decisions about what we (collectively) should do and they have much to lose.  The very lifestyle that these people enjoy is a part of the problem.
For all of the platitudes about justice and democracy,  there is no realistic way that the poor and disenfranchised people of the planet can influence the decisions to even a fraction of the extent that the wealthy are able to...  even at a Copenhagen conference.

The decisions being made at the planetary level now should be considered as an issue of risk management and gaming.  
People who have been successful in the past industrial age have been the risk takers.  Some have won and some have lost,  but it has been necessary in the past to take a risk and work hard...  and, if you're lucky, you end up as one of the influential and wealthy of our society.  The prevailing strategy that has been successful has been one of significant risky behaviour but this may no longer be so productive.
Perhaps it's like the peacock's tail, it has been the best strategy in the past, despite the fact that it has led the participants into an extravagant dead end.

Given what we have at stake (our very existence as a species) it may be prudent to take a more cautionary approach...  but that is not what we have selected our leaders to do.   No, they are the successful risk takers....  and may be headed down that extravagent dead end...  with all of us along for the ride!

It's a pity that the decision makers in Copenhagen are made up of those risk takers,  and that the environmental activists will be excluded, isolated and harassed by the police who are paid for by those same risk taking leaders.

The vast amount of cheap energy is the largest contributor to economic growth in recent decades, and of course that cheap energy mostly produces large amounts of emissions. It is not possible to reduce carbon emissions without reducing profit, and this is precisely why the wealthy (decision makers) don't want to consider that option.  Many of them are willing to concede that eventually we will be forced to do something...  some small reduction in a few years time....  even more some decades away.  Apart from the fact that it may well prove to be too little and too late,  there is another strategy at play here.  Nations and other jurisdictions may know that they will have to change, but they also know that "he who blinks first loses the most."   Many governments even state that they will reduce emissions by x%....  but not until others agree to do the same....  "the economy would be ruined."

Peak oil is almost upon us (if we haven't passed it already) and with that, there will be a reduction in industrial activity and production.  There will be a reduction in emissions.  There will be a huge change in lifestyle for most people, especially those of us who live in countries that are so dependent upon this cheap energy and industrial production and over consumption. 

The added influence of the economic bubble that we have inflated and that now needs to be dealt with means that there will be significant problems for those of us that are dependent upon the amount and velocity of money in the economic system.

This post is venturing into more and more areas, but they are all related.  Within the next few years,  we will have three huge changes occurring at the same time...  a lack of cheap energy,  ecological collapse because of  global warming and the bursting of the economic bubbles produced by those risk taking people in our community.

We live in interesting times,  and to quote from Chris Martenson,  the next twenty years will be completely unlike the last twenty years.

Added later:   This video (available online) gives the climate context to the Copenhagen conference...
A talk by Dan Miller at Berkeley entitled A REALLY Inconvenient Truth and I wish that everyone could watch it.





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