Saturday, January 23, 2016


Rich Pulasky refutes the Archdruid thus:

Rich Puchalsky 12.26.15 at 5:04 pm

Well, I started out upthread looking at The Archdruid Report as one of the best examples of doomerism out there, and here’s his latest specifically on the Paris Agreements. I think it’s worth looking at this one in a bit more detail.

Firstly, a lot of it puts me in mind about the old joke where someone says that “we need to learn how to die” (meaning that we need to learn how to accept individual death) and someone else retorts that actually 100% of the past population has managed to figure out how to die without any practice. It was always possible, from the beginning of contemporary concern about global warming, that we were doomed and that we already could essentially do nothing about it. That’s just physics. If we’re doomed, then we are, and so what’s the point in making plans? The plans made by doomers generally seem to me to involve thinking that they know how society is going to re-primitivise and how to prepare for this individually to a much greater extent than I think that they can actually know.

Secondly, if you take the rhetoric about methane releases, ice sheet collapses and so on seriously — in other words, if it’s true that in actual reality we’re at the high end of the range of possible climate sensitivities — then it was always too late to do anything. The article’s last paragraph includes “By the time COP-21’s attendees convened in Paris, it was probably already too late to keep global climate change from spinning completely out of control.” And, if you take the assumptions of the article as being true, then yes. Anthropogenic global climate change became something that the world had a chance of really responding to in, let’s say, 1980. The 1980s were the decade of Hansen’s testimony, the Green Party in West Germany causing some action to be taken, etc. Let’s say that resistance by fossil fuel interests delayed action for a full two decades, so that now in 2015 we’re at where we should have been in 1995. If climate sensitivity is really that high, I question whether those two decades mean much. The speed of global response, even had the politics been ideal, seems like a limiting factor. So not only can we really not do anything now, we really couldn’t have ever done anything.

But all of this assumes that we know more science than we actually do. The Archdruid writes: “Lurid scenarios of civilizational collapse and mass dieoff appeared in book after lavishly marketed book. Of late, though, that entire theme seems to have dropped out of the collective imagination of the activist community, to be replaced by strident claims that everything will be just fine […]” Well, there’s a market for lurid scenarios within a certain range, and yes, those get lavishly marketed. Activists don’t get lavishly marketed, and the lurid-scenario market gets a lot less popular as we actually get closer to having those lurid scenarios come true. I’ll believe that we actually know that they’re coming true when the IPCC says so. Suggestions that the IPCC is going to conceal the oncoming doom from us I regard as about equivalent to the suggestion that world scientists are in a conspiracy to concoct global warming as a plot for world socialism. There are complaints that the IPCC is always 5 years out of date, but if we’re doomed 5 years isn’t going to matter.

Thirdly, there are the complete “does not make sense” moments. Like this one: “[…] neither nuclear power nor grid-scale renewable power are economically viable in the real world. The evidence for this is as simple as it is conclusive: no nation anywhere on the planet has managed either one without vast and continuing government subsidies.” …but every form of grid-scale power has happened with vast and continuing government subsidies. Just because fossil fuel interests have successfully concealed their subsidies a bit better doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Grid-scale power is inevitably a function of government, and what “vast government subsidies” means is that essentially governments pay for it. Which means that our societies can pay for it. This is where right-wingerism is uncritically adopted where it becomes convenient.

I’ve been an environmental activist since some time in the 1970s, and I’ve seen a whole lot of doomerism since the 1970s. The people who predicted doom within the next few years have, of course, been universally wrong during that time — and have discredited environmental activism to the extent that anyone listened to and remembered them. The people who predicted doom within the next few decades have been kind of untestable. But there’s a Pascal’s Wager quality to the whole thing. If we’re doomed, how is ultimately futile activism going to hurt? And if we’re not doomed, saying that we’re doomed before we really are is sure going to hurt a whole lot.

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