19 April 2006


See here. Do read Mark Lynas' blog for the results of the general trend, as helped along by the BBC:

According to my upcoming book Six Degrees (where I set out the likely impacts of each degree of warming with one degree per chapter), here's what three degrees could bring.

- Permanent El Nino, with worldwide weather shifts
- Collapse of Amazon rainforest
- Eventual total disappearance of Greenland ice sheet
- Near-extinction of tropical coral reefs
- New spreading deserts in western United States and southern Africa
- Stronger hurricanes across the tropics
- Global net food deficit with grain prices soaring
- Crippling water shortages in western South America and Australia
- Extinction for between a third and half of all life on Earth
People are already asking "where should I move?" among other questions.

Frankly, I don't think scientists urging governments to do X is going to save the world. Governments won't do X, because the stability of each government's leadership is dependent upon economic factors, and capitalist economics depends upon growth. Christina Larson asks: "how do we know wily conservatives won't be able to dance their way out of ambitious and necessary reforms with toothless rhetoric, more industry subsidies, and 'fake solutions'?" The answer is that the toothless rhetoric will continue as long as the leadership has a capitalist system (with its necessary corollary, "economic growth,") to defend. Until you come up with an answer to that defense, your rhetoric is toothless as well.

The most alarming attribute of the rhetoric of the "stop global warming" chorus is that it fails to address the arguments of the Bush Administration against global-warming curbs. Take a look at the end of the BBC article:

President Bush's chief climate adviser, James Connaughton, said he did not believe anyone could forecast a safe level and cutting greenhouse gas emissions could harm the world economy.
Well? If cutting greenhouse gas emissions is bad for the world economy, and if a healthy world economy keeps these people in power, then how are you going to motivate them to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

Look, if two of the main culprits are India and China, and if they've already signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, then what good does it do to have a Kyoto Protocol? Symbolism is cheap; only action will count.

Instead, apparently, what we have is environmentalisms such as "renewUS," which suggest that all we have to do is convert to clean energy and the problem will be solved. See the movie. My response to the movie:

Not likely under the current economic structure.

The main physical force driving continued fossil fuel use in the global economy is what the energy specialists call EROEI: energy return on energy investment. If it costs too much energy per unit of "alternative" energy, if the EROEI of "alternative energy" is low, then there's no profit in switching to relatively "cheap" energies to "alternative" energies. And by "cheap" energies I mean energy sources with a high energy return on energy investment. The "cheapest" of these energies is oil; second-place is tar sands/ coal.

Basically, the "renewUS" film is suggesting that we can save the Earth by switching to energy sources with a significantly lower EROEI. The problem is that this suggestion is being made from within a capitalist economy that consumes 83 million barrels of oil each day, in order to support the economic hegemony of a McDonalds, the candidacies of a McCain and an Obama, a thousand urban transportation networks, and so on. Now, lots of solar panels and windmills might create a lot of energy for a lot of people; but 83 million bbls./day worth? Indefinitely? At what energy cost? At what cost to the individual capitalist businesses which must stay in business by lowering energy costs while at the same time consuming a hefty portion of those 83 million daily barrels?

(And, by the way, people, "hydrogen" is not an energy source, but rather an energy transfer device -- you still need an energy source to produce the hydrogen.)

There's no way out of the reality that, to save civilization, we will simply have to move off of the "cost-benefit analysis" that makes oil the world's cheapest energy source, ever. Otherwise the economy will perpetually privilege those who use oil, because oil has the highest EROEI of all the fuels. In other words, to change the energy-use pattern, you must change the economy, and move away from capitalism.

Therefore, until capitalism is stopped, global warming won't just continue; it will accelerate.


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