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Closing the Books on Global Climate Change

Gordon Davis

July 23, 2013

Category: Science and Technology > Earth Sciences

The title of Martin Wolf's column in the Financial Times on May 22, 2013 got it right: "Climate Skeptics Have Already Won."  No remotely realistic strategy exists in the US, to say nothing of China, for reversing climate change within the life spans of anyone now alive.  Regrettable?  Of course.  An avoidable, unforced error?  Certainly.  We just stood there as the paleo-energy pimps, with their trash science, shrill PR, and political contributions, slimed the nearly unanimous judgment of climate experts that the earth is warming, the ice is melting, the seas are rising, and the storms are cresting.  And certainly we didn't forego our SUVs, our cheap gasoline, our jet travel, our air conditioning, or any of our other necessities.

Pity the deluded idealists who will continue to press quixotically for policy interventions like a global carbon tax even as large parts of still verdant areas of the planet brown, thousands of plant and animal species disappear, and the eco-migration of a billion hungry and thirsty people as unstoppable as locusts converge upon us, disrupt our polities, devour our resources, and transform our comfortable world into a hardscrabble existence not seen in Western societies for centuries.  Think mass starvation.  Think water wars.  Think WMDs deployed against the invading rabble.  Inconceivable?  Think again. 

Our species evolved so successfully that it has materially overburdened the carrying capacity of the entire planet with our greenhouse gases, with devastating long term consequences.  Why should this be surprising?  Such cataclysms are common in the natural world.  We are no different from birds, rodents, or insects, all of which are capable of bringing on their own collapse by being too successful.  Our species has evolved its capacity to think, and a few thinkers like James Hanson even understood what we were doing to ourselves, and sounded the alarm.   But like birds, rodents, and insects, we mindlessly acquiesced in our fate. 

And the time for action has now pretty much passed.  Averting global climate change was always about as hopeless as neutralizing our species' addiction to genocide and war, which would certainly require, as a preliminary and equally hopeless goal, exposing as cruel and corrosive the mind games like Christianity and Islam that call themselves religious faiths but promote violence.  Averting global climate change would have required three missing factors:

  • Leadership
  • Effective, responsive and accountable political systems at the national and international levels
  • Cooperation on a scale, and with a sophistication, that is simply unimaginable.

None of the three materialized.  If you doubt this, just start with the leadership factor. Where were the leaders?  In the White House?  In Congress?  On the Court?  At Zhongnanhai?  At the Vatican?  At the UN?  At the World Bank?  At JPMorgan Chase? At ExxonMobil?  At Yale?  Please.

To such posterity as may survive, we acknowledge our embarrassment and offer our regrets.  It's true that some of us saw it coming as clearly as Canute predicted the rising tide.  But like Canute, we were helpless to prevent it.  At least that's our pathetic excuse.