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SAVING CIVILIZATION February 7, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Global Warming (climate change).
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At different times it has been alleged that those who see the need to take action with respect to existential challenge of climate change are by so doing putting in peril a perfectly good civilization.

I think by that they means closing down the fossil fuel business would destroy creature comfits and convenience, at least for some. Aside from any profound understanding of the ecosystem and human history, how might the current manifestation of the human social system, understood on a global scale, be assessed? How are societies and civilizations (even those that did not have cities!) to be judged?

Economist, Nicholas Stern, might be described by the Greenhouse Gas Rejectionists as a “warmist” and he is alarmed about the possibility of climate change. Heather Stewart and Larry Elliot reported in The Observer, Saturday, 26 January:

Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more “blunt” about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

Even apparent emergencies lead to short-term thinking. In early January, we received the phone calls and the text messages from the Rural Fire Service to advise us to leave our homes because of “catastrophic bush fire conditions”. Fortunately, in our areas there were no bush fires. Many us, including me, did not understand what the danger level meant. Some of us did a bit of last minute preparation. So much for having a plan. In retrospect, it was put to me what I would take with me from the house. Then there was a values clash. I intended to go to the fridge and take ice, food and beer – if there was any – and medical supplies. Suffice to observe, I should be the last to suggest that comfort does not matter, since it would seem it is a primary value.

If we are enmeshed in short-term thinking it means that we live within an economy, and not a civilization. Our economy is based on consumption and what passes for work, that once could be described as moving stuff about for most and symbolic manipulation for the few. Now the few have become the many, at least in richer sections of global society. So to save civilization we might first have to discover what it might be. So what is worth saving?

The Australian election may be done and dusted before the first installment of the IPCC Report on the Climate now being compiled. The Guardian reports on the current state of Australian Politics, while somehow failing to mention it could be described as pathetic, if not piteous:

Current polls suggest that while the coalition will win the lower house, the Greens will still hold the balance of power in the senate, allowing them to block any repeal with the support of Labour.

Abbott’s approach appears to be working. Carbon pricing is being disproportionally blamed by voters for bumper energy bills, while Abbott remains untroubled by questions over the cost and effectiveness of his own climate policy, which will see the government “planting more trees, delivering better soils and using smarter technology” to combat emissions.

Mindful of the record-breaking heatwave that roasted much of Australia in January – triggering a rare, almost nostalgic outbreak of national discussion over climate change – Abbott has been careful not to repeat his famous dismissal of climate change science as “crap”.

But a deep seam of climate change scepticism runs through his party. One 2010 poll found less than 40% of Liberal MPs believe climate change is caused by humans. Sceptics from outside the party are also set for plum roles in an Abbott administration. Recently, the opposition leader said he would, if elected, install business executive Maurice Newman as his top economic advisor.

Newman wrote in the Australian newspaper last year: “When mother nature decided in 1980 to change gears from cooler to warmer, a new global warming religion was born, replete with its own church (the UN), a papacy, (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and a global warming priesthood masquerading as climate scientists.”

“Regrettably for the global warming religion, its predictions have started to appear shaky, and the converts, many of whom have lost their jobs and much of their wealth, are losing faith. Worse, heretic scientists have been giving the lie to many of the prophecies described in the IPCC bible. They could not be silenced.”

Meanwhile, Labour, having only introduced carbon pricing in return for gaining the fealty of the Greens, appears more focused on downplaying the impact of the reform than championing the urgent need to reduce emissions.

In the troubadour tradition whose modern exponents include Lennon and Dylan, Eric Vedder propositions “Society”:

  • Morris Berman, The Moral Order (CounterPunch)

    Indeed, for all one can say about the scientific inaccuracy of the pre-modern world, at least it was imbued with meaning. This is not the case with the modern industrial-corporate-consumer state, which expands technologically and economically, but to no other end than expansion itself. As the sociologist Georg Simmel wrote over a century ago, if you make money the center of your value system, then finally you have no value system, because money is not a value. All of these scholars (a list that includes Franz Boas, Arthur Koestler, Jacques Ellul, and Lewis Mumford, inter alia) were, like Redfield, pessimistic, because they could see no way of reversing the direction of historical development. It was obvious that as time went on, the technical order was not merely overtaking the moral order, but actually obliterating it. This loss of meaning does much to account for the rise of the secular-religious movements of the twentieth century, including Communism, Fascism, Existentialism, Postmodernism, and so on. It also accounts for the depth and extent of fundamentalist Christianity in the United States. For there is no real meaning in the corporate-consumer state, which is at once empty and idiotic. On some level, everybody knows this.

  • Global Warming: Anthropogenic or Not? (wattsupwiththat.com)
  • Climate Change and Wetlands: The IPCC Weighs In (theenergycollective.com)

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