We Don't Want to Know.


Nobody wanted to know.  That might be a fitting epitaph for the human species. They didn't want to know.

This blog used to have almost daily posts on the climate emergency. Used to. Not so much anymore. It's not that climate science, research and analysis, has dried up, anything but. Hardly. It hasn't gotten old. Not at all. You would be hard pressed to find a subject more fluid, evolving. 

It's just that nobody wants to know. Some do but it's a dwindling following. I still maintain an extensive collection of links to environmental and climate web sites - governmental, academic, NGO and informal. I review them. I just try not to post on their findings. My blog numbers show that people don't want to read these posts. They're beyond unpopular. So be it.

Today, an exception. I want to pass along a few important thoughts on the climate emergency from an essay written by Jeff Goodell.

The industrialized nations of the world are dumping 34bn tons or so of carbon into the atmosphere every year, which is roughly 10 times faster than Mother Nature ever did on her own, even during past mass extinction events. As a result, global temperatures have risen 1.2C since we began burning coal, and the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The Earth’s temperature is rising faster today than at any time since the end of the last ice age, 11,300 years ago. We are pushing ourselves out of a Goldilocks climate and into something entirely different.

We are in uncharted terrain. “We’re now in a world where the past is no longer a good guide to the future,” said Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor of engineering at Princeton University. “We have to get much better at preparing for the unexpected.”

there have been hopeful moments before: the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1997, when the nations of the world first came together to limit CO2 emissions; the success of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006; the election of Obama in 2008; the Paris agreement in 2015, when China finally engaged in climate talks.

But all of these moments, in the end, led to nothing. If you look at the only metric that really matters – a graph of the percentage of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere – it has been on a long, steady upward climb. More CO2 equals more heat. To put it bluntly, all our scientific knowledge, all the political speeches, all the activism and protest marches have done zero to stop the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The clock is ticking.

When it comes to the climate crisis,” says futurist Alex Steffen, “speed is everything.” ...Cutting carbon fast would slow these changes and reduce the risk of other climate catastrophes. But despite the world’s newfound ambition, political leaders are not moving anywhere near fast enough. Even the goal of holding future warming to 2C, which is a centerpiece of the Paris agreement and considered the outer limits of a Goldilocks climate for much of the planet, is nearly out of reach. As a recent paper in Nature pointed out: “On current trends, the probability of staying below 2C of warming is only five percent.”

The great danger is not climate denial. The great danger is climate delay.

As climate envoy John Kerry put it at the World Sustainable Development Summit in February: “We have to now phase out coal five times faster than we have been. We have to increase tree cover five times faster than we have been. We have to ramp up renewable energy six times faster than we are. We have to transition to [electric vehicles] 22 times faster.”

As the clock runs down the choice is obvious. You're either with the fossil energy giants or you're against them. Unfortunately our leadership is pro-pipeline, pro-dilbit and, so far, pro-coal while, at the same time, it wants you to believe it is earnest about fighting the climate emergency. That's prime ministerial-grade horseshit.

For more than 30 years now, scientists and politicians have been aware that our hellbent consumption of fossil fuels could push us out of the Goldilocks zone and force humans to live in a world we have never inhabited before. As Biden’s push for climate action gets real, we will learn a lot about how serious human beings are about living on this planet, and how far the powerful and privileged are willing to go to reduce the suffering of the poor and vulnerable.

If political leaders don’t take the climate crisis seriously now, with all they know, with all they have been through already, will they ever? “Climate advocates keep saying, ‘This is it, this is it, this is it,’ ” warns Podesta. “But this really is it. If we don’t amp up and accelerate the energy transformation in this decade, we’re goners – really goners.


  1. So what should we do? What are the consecutive steps we can take to force cowardly (and often stupid and deluded and/or corrupt) politicians to defy the commands of the fossil fuels industry and the financial sector charlatans to perpetuate the carbon-belching economy and thereafter build a more sustainable society?

    How do we convince the majority in the carbon-belching developed countries that sustainability is feasible AND desirable?

    How do we shut down the airlines industry (or reduce it to essential services only)? How do we ratchet-down the meat-economy? The automobile industry? The whole damned consumption-driven capitalist nightmare of producing junk that nobody needs?

    Shut all this down while providing alternative income sources for people who can't see beyond their own immediate self-interest and who would therefore range themselves against us?

    1. There's a theory, Thwap, that holds all intelligent life is ultimately self-extinguishing. I wish it was wrong but I'm not convinced it isn't true. Even if it is true that is no justification for capitulating, throwing in the towel.

      Everyone knows the line about how, when you're trying to get out of a hole, the first step is to stop digging. That may not get you out of the hole but it won't worsen your prospects either.

      The Guardian had a piece today, a blunt warning from the EU Deputy Chief, Frans Timmermans who said we either sort out the climate crisis or we will consign our children to a future of war over water and food. Someone has to sacrifice. We can do it today or our grandkids will pay for it in their time. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/30/climate-crisis-we-must-make-sacrifices-to-avoid-future-wars-says-eu-deputy-frans-timmermans

      We think of ourselves as superior, even noble creatures but put the lie to that in so many ways.

      I want to see how much progress Biden can achieve and on what issues. At this point it's a function of political will and the popular will. Lose one and you may lose on both.

      There are things we can do individually. There are things that can only be done collectively. There are things you may be willing to do individually that could prove futile if they're not accepted broadly.

      I don't have many answers but I know this - we have to keep fighting for change. We seem to be caught in a leadership vacuum. We have a "suck and blow" prime minister and an opposition leader who is even worse. They both treat the climate emergency as a political issue which almost guarantees failure.

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