Is Climate Change Inevitable?

Magdalenian Girl: a facial reconstruction by Élisabeth Daynès of a 24 year old woman whose ~15,000 year old skeletal remains were discovered in the Dordogne region of southwestern France in a limestone cave known as the Cap Blanc rock shelter.


Is Climate Change Inevitable?

Greg asks (28 April 2022):

(1) Do you believe that climate change is an inevitable consequence of our highly technical, industrial civilization?

(2) Is it necessary to abandon the American lifestyle to ensure the habitability of the planet?

I’ve asked this question to quite a few people recently, and the general response has been ‘if we don’t do anything drastic now, then yes’.

(3) Is there any data that particularly worries you?

(4) What do you make of this?


My response to Greg:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) Ocean acidification; ocean heating; seawater freshening in the North Atlantic; CO2 lifetime in the atmosphere (long); accelerating rate of deforestation; accelerating rate of carbon (CO2 + CH4) emissions; accelerating rate of fossil fuel use and planned use; expansion and severity of drought, aridity and “heat”; low use of regenerative agriculture despite increasing soil depletion and crop failures (food); biodiversity loss in general: plants, mammals, fish, insects; the low fraction of materials being recycled.

Forgive me for not quoting numbers for “data” here, but I am sure such can be found by any interested person with an Internet connection and who is willing to spend some time in the search.

(4) Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is an inevitable result of the high volumes of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions exhausted by powering our highly technical, energy-intensive industrial civilization with fossil fuels. That “powering” also includes the use of extensive industrialized chemical and factory farming for soil-depleting and high water use/irrigated monoculture food production; and for huge production and polluting waste of (hydrocarbon-derived) plastics.

I believe it is possible to have a worldwide equalization of the standard of living to a high and “modern” level, by a combination of (a,b,c,d):

(a) using “green” (a.k.a., “sustainable”) sources of energy (solar-electric, solar-thermal, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal),

(b) commitments to lifestyles based on efficiency instead of consumerism,

(c) the use of technology (e.g., aided by electronics and computers) to improve the harvesting of energy and its distribution through linked local networks,

(d) a political consensus to democratic socialism (since capitalism, militarism and fascism are inherently anti-egalitarian and tied to high uses of fossil fuels, for “power”).

It is only a GWCC Earth-degrading zero-sum game of “survival” if calorie-and-kilowatt exclusionary tribalism is paramount. That need not be the case, but the alternative “green” paradigm would require a global consensus to deep cooperation of indeterminate duration, and to large-scale, long-term economic planning.

The many dramatic scenarios about “the collapse of civilization” and “human extinction” in ‘X’ number of years, published (like most everything) as hyperbole to get attention, all presume (and most desire) a continuation of current trends — “business as usual” — and are thus only useful to the extent they prompt wider thinking and action along the lines of the Green Paradigm (GP) that I described.

By direct observation of our social reality today, all those scary predictions have so far been useless. The American Way Of Life (AWOL) and extreme worldwide inequity seem safely assured of being able to continue plowing on as the unwinding story of our civilization for quite some time. Perhaps some serendipitous shock will alter world consensus thinking before it is “too late.”

We are each and all wedded to our ways of life, our “lifestyles,” our routines and our expectations, and even the thought of making profound and permanent changes to those is resisted because in essence such changes would mean changing how we think of ourselves, and changing how we actually “are” and act.

There are always some people doing this, individually, at any time: when confronted by a sufficiently “life-changing” event, or tragedy, or flash of enlightenment, and they are then compelled by their new outlook to deconstruct and then reconstruct themselves into a new form. Some call this “rebirth,” others “recovery,” and some “conversion” or “satori.”

The great challenge of transitioning our current civilization to the Green Paradigm (or, the Post-Carbon World) is that most of the worldwide us would have to make such personal permanent changes concurrently within a timescale of at most a decade, and cooperatively on nested geographical scales from local to national to international.

The planetary-scale problem of Global Warming Climate Change and Biodiversity Collapse cannot be “solved” in a haphazard, piecemeal, sporadic, short-term manner; the solution procedure must be a permanently sustained comprehensive effort of planetary scope. Climate Change science has shown us that the weaker that effort, and the longer the delay before starting it (which ideally should have been decades ago), the sooner and longer (centuries? millennia?) and worse will be the sequence of environmental challenges and disasters we and our descendants will have to experience.

On the basis of my own calculations of Global Warming — which are generally consistent with the results of the professional climate scientists, and which I have described in numerous articles posted elsewhere — I see global warming continuing for a long time regardless of what we do or don’t do about it. However, the more timely and extensive and sustained our counteractions against it — that is, the extent and promptness of the “greening” of our civilization — the slower the rate-of-rise of that global warming, the lower the ultimate temperature plateau at which it peaks, and the sooner the world average temperature cools back to the lovely pre-industrial level that nurtured the 15,000+ year development of our human civilization. But we should think in terms of centuries of committed effort in order to achieve that complete recovery.

Finally, I wish to make a positive sociological point. Anything we do to improve human solidarity, social cohesion, “economics as if people mattered,” the worldwide standard of living and its uniformity (the Human Development Index) — because such socio-economic changes are needed in order to construct our response to GWCC — would make the experiences of life better for every individual regardless of whatever subsequent geophysical-environmental challenges came our way, and for however long our Green Paradigm civilization managed to continue.

Instead of tribes competing to “live longer” than the rest, we would be cooperating to all “live well together” for whatever timespan of habitability Planet Earth would be willing to allow us.

My advice: be grateful, be kind, have fun, and give life and love your best efforts throughout your time alive.


The Five Allegiances


The Five Allegiances

“We be of one blood, ye and I” — Mowgli, in The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling

The hierarchy of the five allegiances is: nepotism, tribalism, classism, nationalism, humanism.

Family connection is the emblem of conformity with nepotism.

Group identity is the emblem of conformity with tribalism. That emblem can be: race, religion, language, ethnicity, cult bondage.

Money wealth is the emblem of conformity with classism.

National identity is the emblem of conformity with nationalism.

Species-wide identification as homo sapiens is the emblem of conformity with humanism.

Each allegiance is a strategy to gain competitive advantage over other human beings. That competitiveness decreases from extremely intense with nepotism, to absent with pure humanism.

For each allegiance, those above it are barriers to its complete success. Humanism, being the least competitive relationship between humans, is also the most stymied by the combination of: nationalism, classism, tribalism and nepotism. We see this reflected in the inhumanity of homo sapiens world society, for which deprivation there is no compelling physical nor sociological reason.

Nationalism is stymied by the combination of classist greed, tribalist bigotry and family-linked corruption; and it is slightly diluted by expansive humanist cosmic consciousness. The managers of national governments, who are too often motivated by the three higher ranked allegiances, may at times try to unite a multicultural national population with the imagery of democracy, equality, inclusion and diversity. This is particularly so when armies have to be raised for wars of national defense and foreign conquest.

Nationalism is most successful when applied through a lush and expansive economy providing a high standard of living for all. In providing secure and fulfilling jobs with good pay, and which ease the existential anxieties of individuals and gives them roles they can adopt as emblems of self worth, economic nationalism in essence pays people off to relinquish their reliance on classism, tribalism and nepotism. As the equitable economics of any nation withers, so does its mass appeal to national allegiance, and deepens its fragmentation by classist greed, tribalist bigotry and nepotistic corruption.

Homo sapiens world society is devolving through a planetary sustainability crisis, of which global warming climate change is one compelling symptom. That crisis is driven by classism — economic greed — which is exacerbated by the other allegiances except humanism. The solution for overcoming that crisis is well-known: humanism applied with reverence for Nature and All Life, and in perpetuity.

Merely stating that solution illuminates all the barriers to its implementation. Besides being structural and non-personal in the sense of nationalistic competitions and economic exclusivities, such barriers are also weaves of egotistical personal attitudes and failures of moral character dominated by selfishness and bigotry.

It is clear, from looking at the aggregate of homo sapiens world society today, that the prospects for reversing that devolutionary planetary crisis are very dim indeed. For too many people, the idea of eliminating all the old socio-economic structures along with all their personal prejudices, and replacing them with a planetary humanism of species-wide solidarity to fashion a sustainable human-with-Nature world and truly radiant civilization, is just too fearful to even imagine let alone seriously consider. Certain death inequitably distributed by relentless impoverishment is by far preferred, even though most people suffer from it. The tragedy of human existence is that most people prefer to live out their lives and die without changing their ideas even when those ideas are harmful to them.

Frustrated humanists can easily imagine a worldwide French Revolution breaking out in defiance of that tragedy, with the decapitation of the nepotistic, tribalist and classist national managements, and with the eruption of a liberating world socialist nirvana. This is like the aspirational dream of Christianity held by the millions of slaves in the Roman Empire.

But in the sad reality of our present world, could any violent outburst by the impoverished and oppressed be motivated by a globalist liberating humanism, instead of merely reactionary survivalism for family, tribe and class? What few revolutions of this type not quashed in their embryonic stages by the economic and national managers, would soon recycle the same poisonous exclusivities of former times but with a new cast of leading characters.

To transcend this pernicious eddy and actually evolve humanity out of its present decaying stagnation would require a universal enlightenment of human attitudes and consciousness. And that is an unrealistically utopian thought indeed. But incredibly, it is neither a logical nor physical impossibility, just an extreme improbability.

Is it possible for us as individuals to increase that probability? Based on a realistic view of the long arc of human history the clear answer is “no,” despite the numerous temporary blooms of localized enlightened society that have occurred during the lifetime of our homo sapiens species. But it is depressing and dispiriting to live with that “no” dominating one’s thinking. The mere fact of having been born entitles you and every other human being with the right to enjoy a fulfilling life with a liberated consciousness, the right to seek achieving your full human potential.

One can seek that fulfillment along the simultaneous parallel paths of supporting a family of whatever kind, caring for others through both personal and societal means, creative immersion in arts, sciences and craftsmanship, and championing global socialist humanism by both intellectual allegiance to it and personal engagement with it in the political and societal arenas you are a part of, at whatever level. Ultimately, the course and fate of humanity is the sum total of the courses and fates of the individual lives comprising it, and the greatest impact we each can have on helping to steer that great stream is made by the quality of the choices we each make regarding the conduct of our own personal lives.

Achieving a morally enlightened personal fulfillment in no way guarantees the morally enlightened success of any subgroup the homo sapiens species — your family, your tribe, your class, your nation — and least of all of humanity as a whole; but it helps! And living with that as personal experience is very satisfying indeed.