Deep in the soup

When I comment on environmental matters, I start from the assumption that we are (and in this case, “we” really does mean everyone), so to speak, deep in the ecological soup (or some other four letter word starting with “s”). Not just climate change either, the whole limits to growth scenario appears to be panning out. I see no reason to pile up the evidence for this – that has been done and is being done in a zillion other places (and anyway, who on earth is going to be reading my words, or take any notice of me?). So what I’m interested in is: what can and cannot be done about this, what is and is not likely to be done about this, and most of all, what I, me, personally, can and cannot do about it.

That said, from time to time it is worth reminding myself quite how bad things are, and how nothing, pretty much, is being done about it on the larger scale. I’ve just read a recent recent piece by Kevin Anderson. His words are addressed to the “climate modelling community” rather than the general public, and accuses them of self-censoring their findings so as to be more politically palatable. (I’m inclined to wonder if they would be listened to at all if they actually told it like it is. A dilemma that faces all bringers of unwelcome news perhaps). What is of interest to me, not being a member of the intended audience, is the re-iteration that the scientific findings are not compatible with business-as-usual, and that, if the necessary steps were taken, life would radically change. Here are some excerpts from Anderson’s piece, all the emphases are mine.

[I wish to draw attention to] the endemic bias prevalent amongst many of those developing emission scenarios to severely underplay the scale of the 2°C mitigation challenge. In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. […] With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.

[…] it is easy to be left with the impression that the shift away from fossil fuels needs to be much more an evolutionary transition than an immediate revolution in how we use and produce energy.

[…] The carbon budgets aligned with international commitments to stay below the 2°C characterization of dangerous climate change demand profound and immediate changes to how energy is both used and produced.

[…] it would be inappropriate to sacrifice improvements in the welfare of the global poor, including those within wealthier nations, for the sake of reducing carbon emissions. But this only puts greater pressure still on the relatively small proportion of the globe’s population with higher emissions. The strains that such 2°C mitigation puts on the framing of our lifestyles cannot be massaged away through incremental escapism.

[…] there remains an almost global-scale cognitive dissonance with regards to acknowledging the quantitative implications of the analysis, including by many of those contributing to its development. We simply are not prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly.

The message I take from this is: “the so-called extremists are actually right about the seriousness of the situation and the changes needed are radical”. The challenge might be directed to the “climate modelling community” but the last eight words in my final excerpt apply to me also. More on this in future posts, I hope.


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