Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why ignorance?

Arrogance comes from ignorance; with knowledge comes humility.

It strikes me as absurd the way there are so many climate deniers, so many willing to believe that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing can or should be done to disturb the course we are on.

Yet, for me, the course we are on is one of disaster, cataclysmic disaster.  What is it that others who do not share this view don't see?  Or that I don't see that they do?

The others of course are legion and include the prime minister of Canada, one King Stephen.  And the CEO of Exxon.

Now that's a staggering thought -- the person in charge of perhaps the largest corporation in history doesn't see the precipice: He was quoted recently as saying that technology will be the solution to global warming.

Well what's wrong with that?  Technology has got us a long way, surely it will continue to enable us to pursue our dreams?

The fundamental issue is that technology cannot get around the physical limitations of our planet.  There is a physical limit to the resources available to us.  That physical limit dictates how far we can grow, how big our economies can become, how many people the planet will tolerate.  Reducing our individual footprint -- how much of the planet's resources we individually consume, will help, but since we are already consuming (in the west at least) more than 4 planet's worth, the reduction to be made are enormous.  We have to reduce our individual consumption by 75%!  And continue our current living standards?  No way you say!  We want to continue to grow our consumptive way.  In fact, unless we do, our economies will suffer!  We will individually be less wealthy and that is not desirable.

What a conundrum!  We must grow to keep our economies vibrant.  We cannot grow because there are finite limits to our growth.

Which is the real problem of global warming.  Anthropogenic contributions to global warming are incontrovertible except to those who don't wish to know.  The rate at which the levels of CO2 are increasing are unprecedented and directly relatable to our human use of fossil fuels.  We show a staggering reluctance (and worse inability) to do anything about this, in the way of substantial reductions in the consumption of gas and oil.  We need an 80-90% reduction in order to avoid catastrophic ecological failure in this century.  Some say we have 10 years in which to take the appropriate action to avoid it.

Since the start of industrialization, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has grown from around 280 ppm (parts per million) a level known to have existed for millennia, to about 390 ppm today.  Global warming has already led to an increase in dramatic weather events, to the loss of very large chunks of sea ice from the Antarctic, the Larsen ice shelves, and to the substantial loss of the arctic ice cap.  350 ppm is the rallying cry to attempt to end global warming.  It is being suggested that if we reach 450 ppm, then the climate will become one that will not support life on this planet sufficient to support our continued existence: at that point coral reefs will vanish.  In other words unless we take action on this, and this is not technology, it is social action, we will be committing genocide on an enormous scale.  Technology is not the solution.

But there is hope.  There are many groups and individuals who are raising their voices to counter the ignorance of both the masses and of our governments, for example: The Post-Carbon Institute, Chris Hedges, Chris Martenson, the Via Campesina, the Degrowth movement, the David Suzuki Foundation,  the Transition Town movement, and many more.

Having got to here, I don't think I have answered the questions I posed in my third paragraph.  That, then, will be in the next blog.

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