This is apparently a new video of Dr. James Hansen, discussing climate change, politics, energy and China.
What causes climate change is not today’s emmissions, it’s today atmospheric composition, and we are primarily responsble for the excess CO₂ in the atmosphere, more the 3 times more then China, per capita basis, more then an order of magnitude, so to blame China is nonsense.
United Kingdom, United States and Germany are the most responsible for the excess c02 in the atmosphere (in that order).
Which is exactly what I’ve been saying all along. It’s self-evident and common sense that the industrialized nations with the highest living standards would be the ‘most guilty’ contributers to atmospheric concentrations of CO₂.
Hansen argues for alternative energy and a DC power grid in the video. Such a low-loss system (as opposed to converting to AC) would require an unspecified, but significant effort in terms of time, money, energy, infrastructure and effort.
Doable? Probably. But I’ll at least mention the obvious – what would it actually solve in the long run? Electricity for humans and ‘no more coal fired power plants’ while we keep consuming the rest of the world’s resources?
Someone should calculate the emissions generated by such an effort (from conceptual design to life expectancy, ie., the entire life cycle). But this does not answer other questions as to how we could hope to keep this up anyway. At some point, exhaustion of our energy supplies / infrastructure will still occur. I’ve often wondered if would occur sooner too, as we entirely retool our entire industries.
Even renewable energy like solar and wind (when stored) require massive energy inputs to capture, distribute and maintain. And there is the small problem that electricity alone simply isn’t sufficiently enough to mine and extract the resources to build the technology in the first place.
I’m only guessing here, but perhaps scientist cannot easily envision living in an entirely different way then we do now. In a way, this is contradictory to the basis of science, which seeks to advance knowledge and even application of that knowledge. Science itself is largely dependent upon technological advancements in order to advance knowledge, a kind of self-perpetuating exercise.
Building a DC grid would simply perpetuate the status quo we’ve already gotten saddled with. Someone like Exxon would own the power grid (or General Electric), a patent on sunlight would be granted to them by the US government, and everyone would be forced to buy their power from the same source at ridiculous prices. In other words, the names might change, but everything would pretty much remain the same, but only as long as it lasted, and that is the real issue that I’m still not seeing anyone address.
The ‘solution’ seems to be to keep everything going, just as it is, as long as possible, with a total lack of foresight on what this is going to mean in the long run. If we wind up consuming every possible resource like I think we will, we are absolutely positively guaranteeing the extinction of all life on Earth except mold, mildew, bacteria and an occasional arthropod.
Why can’t we honestly consider a new type of living, that does not rely upon constantly advancing technology? The truth is, if this is the best we can do, then we also need to understand the truth of what this ultimately means. Technology requires a constant stream of energy intensive inputs which ultimately come from solar power (even oil is a byproduct of solar power). Technology also requires a constant stream of raw resources, even recycling isn’t going to be sufficient.
Going further, technology helps create capitalistic competition among nations and companies (or even your neighbors) as they all jockey for position and the raw resources (including labor, ie., nothing is manufactured in America anymore). Even wars are sparked over technology, who is allowed to have what and who isn’t and who can use their toys first. Entire industries, such as the ‘military-industrial complex’ have been built around the entire to world to ensure this technological race is won by the fastest, bestest, brightest and deadliest.
Essentially, this entire quest for technology is a religion of “stuff”. More stuff, better stuff, faster stuff, glitzier stuff, cooler stuff, deadlier stuff. But stuff that is entirely isolated from the basic human relationship to the Earth’s natural production and maintenance of the essential elements for our existence: air, food, water and heat. We’re biological creatures, not robots. We don’t need any of this ‘stuff’ to maintain our lives in comfort and relative ease. But we’ll tear the entire world asunder to get it, because we’ve been sold a bill of goods that is now saying, “Payment due in full, or your life”.
Perpetuating this flawed paradigm of stuff is a problem I think. Even Richard Heinberg made a rather startling statement that caught my attention. He said “resiliency involves more redundancy“, which while true, he applied this to technology “stuff” also. His thought was for us to absorb the shocks headed our way and make a “come back”.
It’s becoming more evident to me that scientists and most others are having a great difficulty in embracing a entirely new paradigm for human existence. They appear addicted to the religion of stuff just like everyone else (including me). While we can agree that this is wrong for the planet and ultimately, all future human existence, we cannot seem to wean ourselves off the technological teat and grow up. We remain totally dependent upon technology ‘saving us’ from the world itself because we killed off the world we actually needed!
It’s a conundrum alright. Without technology today, we would almost all simply die for lack of water, food, shelter and heat (probably in that order too). Our environmental conditions are in such precarious plight right now from extensive overuse and depletion, that the vast majority of us simply could not live without our technological ‘stuff’ that is now keep us alive.
What this means should be obvious — we have leveraged the Earth, far, far beyond its natural ability and cycles to maintain and permit human life and we’re foolishly continuing to do so. Our ‘manufactured dependency’ upon technology is now our weakness and it is also our fault since it did not have to be this way, it was a conscious choice made long ago. This is a path of disaster, all we can really do now is worsen the situation (like the proposals suggest above) until such time it all collapses, and population levels die out, and the Earth naturally restores itself over a long period of time. Whatever life remains, if any, would be able to be sustained through the natural cycles and rhythms of the planet.
It might be possible, but probably not advisable, to ‘green the Earth’ again. But not to try and change things like climate change, which is going to happen no matter what we do now, but to restore the environmental imbalance. But I still think this would be better done by doing absolutely nothing at all, the biosphere on Earth is much better suited to doing this entirely on its own.
New plant and animal species would take over niches abandoned by other species, we need do nothing except leave it entirely alone. A natural balance would be restored automatically, but not of course, on human timescales or demands.
The only thing that I believe humans can do now that has any chance of actually ‘helping’ is by undoing or stopping almost everything we’ve already done. Here’s a short list of what that might mean, in no particular order:
- Stop all industrial activity; stop emitting all greenhouse gases and environmental pollution; stop all industrialized agriculture and farming; stop increasing population; stop mining the oceans and the Earth for raw resources; embrace a sustainable, low-impact, non-technological lifestyle;
- recycle everything already produced into durable, usable goods required for human existence and preserve the recycled rest for later essential use; abandon all fossil fuel usage; preserve as much remaining natural diversity and life on Earth as ‘humanly possible’; reduce human population dramatically;
- abandon capitalism; immediately return to localized growing and farming practices using sustainable methods; abandoned most cities, desert areas and any locations of high human density, reducing their usage by humans to a fraction of their present population;
- disband all the governments of the world; outlaw all corporations over fifty or so people; abandon fractional reserve banking and return to real money; abandon all “isms”; abandon all religions; abandon consumerism entirely;
- disband all military armies and bases; return all American military personnel to the continental United States; abandon the “war” on drugs, terror and everything else;
- create fair and equitable tribes with local governments; abandon all concepts of ‘nationhood’ and racism; promote human leisure and education at local levels; take back all ‘public lands’ and restore them to the people; remove all state and national boundaries and barriers, including Indian reservations;
- preserve all indigenous tribes still in existence; preserve critical habitats and oceans; restore essential wildlife corridors; remove most highways and roads; remove economic inequality worldwide.
Of course, absolutely none of these things will actually happen. Not one, which goes to show you just how seriously unserious we really are about learning to live on this Earth in ways which do not actively destroy it. If I was to be a part of a effort for a lifeboat community, something I now strongly advocate, I would be most interested in seeing all of the above as part of the goals to be accomplished (or at least worked towards).
The relationship humans have to their social and cultural conditions directly affects the denuding of the environment, which is really the heritage of all life on Earth, not just humans and not just the ones that live there. It is the lack of economic freedom (in the modern world) that creates oppression, inequality and environmental degradation and exploitation (which also encompasses all life on Earth too). The present concept of money, material wealth, possessions and ownership would also have to be abandoned.
I would fully support the abandonment of money, but that would only work if there were small tribal communities that could barter with each other. Humans will always remain dependent upon other humans, but ultimately our dependency is really rooted in the environment and what it offers to sustain us.
We can barter for our needs and requirements from other humans, but the only efficient and effective, non-intrusive way to do this is for human communities to remain small. Small communities, small tribes, small everything. There have been a number of studies that have pointed this out, we are ill-suited for large groups, large civilizations, or large anything. This contradicts our present world of bigger, better and supersized, but is an important fact to our psychological disorders and conditions that are epidemic today.
This ethic that treats the Earth as a living organism (we’re the fleas, remember?) recognizes the host as being essential to our survival. It is not a religion of ‘Earth worship’ as some have claimed, but the scientific and ethical understanding that we cannot live without a healthy planet. Our present lifestyle, particularly those in the modern world, are at serious fault. The rest of the ‘undeveloped’ world wishes to emulate our mistakes. We really ‘cannot let that happen’ but we already are.
China isn’t the real problem and really never was. The problem was always us in the developed nations of the world that believe we can always move upwards, taking and raping whatever we needed when we wanted it. Not anymore, or certainly, not for much longer.
Along the way, we truly forgot our inherent connection and dependency to the Earth. Only (and if) we return to this, can humans have any true hope of living very long on this planet. When you consider the tiny span of time that industrial civilization has been in existence, and how incredibly fast we depleted the majority of the planet’s resources, you will understand what this means. We traded away ten thousand years for a miserly one hundred of ‘regal splendor’ and squalor. Along the way, we manufactured bogus reasons to justify it all.
This is a crime against all humanity. Even George Bush hasn’t done this much damage (yet).
We need to stop now. If we can. Before it’s too late. Which to be honest with you, I think it is.