Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Send in the clowns

Fools rush in
Where wise men fear to tread 

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
    Bob Dylan


What can I say?  A bit heavy handed but fairly typical of this administration .       See also Glacier Park Ranger can't talk to Zuckberg about the future of glaciers. here.     The market place is at least slowing Trump's efforts to re-carbonized the economy.  As long as natural gas is cheaper than coal, less coal plants will be running.  Similarly Rick Perry's attempt to prove the fossil fuels are better than renewables seems to have hit a snag..

       As this op ed points out ,Trump trying to lobotomizing America, introducing The Golden Age of Stupidity
“The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. But the willful disregard of knowledge — regardless of motive — is stupidity. That is because those who battle facts are at war with reality. It is an unwinnable proposition. Furthermore, specialized knowledge, particularly that of scientists, is essential if we are to do what leaders must, anticipate change, understand its consequences and harness the opportunities it presents. Trump, in waging a systematic campaign to rid the government of the experts and ideas he sees as threats to his agenda, has done more than just usher in a Golden Age of Stupidity.  He is unwittingly asking a question it doesn't take an expert to figure out: "What happens when you lobotomize the world's leading power?"

        LOokingat th e bigger picture, it seems to me that the "big question "seems to have shifted from "Can we avoid "dangerous"climate change ( 1.5 or 2 degrees)"   To something like "Can we slow things down at bit, maybe decarbonize before we hit 4 degrees?"  

      Four degrees does look a little spooky:  Here's one description.  From here 

 "But according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists, John Schellnhuber, ‘the difference between two and four degrees is human civilisation.’ Thanks to the global paralysis since 1992, the ‘window of opportunity’ for reducing emissions fast enough to avoid this scenario is starting to look more like a crack in the plaster.
Four degrees of warming, Marshall tells us, is likely to bring heatwaves of magnitudes never experienced before, and temperatures not seen on Earth in the last five million years. Forty per cent of plant and animal species would be at risk of extinction, a third of Asian rainforests would be under threat and most of the Amazon would be at high risk of burning down. Crop yields would collapse, possibly by a third in Africa. US production of corn, soy beans and cotton would fall by up to 82 per cent. Four degrees guarantees the total melting of the Greenland ice sheet and probably the Western Antarctic ice sheet, which would raise sea levels by more than thirty feet. Two-thirds of the world’s major cities would end up underwater. And we aren’t looking at a multigenerational timescale: we may see a four-degree rise over the next sixty years. ‘The science around four degrees keeps moving,’ Marshall notes, ‘usually in the direction of greater pessimism.’
       Trump and his fossil fueled friends seem happy to push ahead burn what there is, and deal with 4 when that comes. 

          I've been reading an interesting book called Defiant Earth, by Clive Hamilton.  He explores some ideas about what it means to be in the Anthropocene.  Stuff like :  In the post anthropocene - what is "nature", what is  "progress", and what is humanity's role?  Its pretty dry, but  worth a look,  One quote sticks with me:

"What kind of creature interfered with the Earths functioning and would not desist when the facts became known?"

           So, Trump's "plan" is pedal to the metal.  What about the rest of the world?   Plan B seems to be green growth,  as growth is apparently non negotiable .  For instance see here.

'There seems to be a complete inability for senior policy makers to even countenance the possibility that a period of economic contraction may be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the rate required to forestall dangerous climate change. This inability was on display in an interview given by Christiana Figueres, the former UN Climate Chief, to Radio New Zealand[1]. She went out of her way to state that the decarbonization of the global economy was not inconsistent with continued economic growth. The desperation to not question the growth paradigm, and the many misleading tactics used to keep questions of growth at bay, were fully on display in the Figueres interview and the recent paper she published with others[2]:

       Arguably  both Plan Trump, and Plan B are both versions of what has been called "the politics of unsustainability ".   Consciously, or unconsciously, the unsustainability of our life style is accepted.  Therefore the only real strategy is how to adapt to its effects  -  rising tides, drowning cities, burning forests, climate refugees.  These are all just facts of life in the Athropocene.  Expressing ourselves through consumption,  travel,  and other high status displays are the highest good.  Maintenance of nature, the biosphere get lip service only.    We are in a post e ogical era    This is described in a somewhat academic way as follows:

'Whatever its declared commitments, this politics of unsustainability is no longer powered by the ecologist attempt to change individual lifestyles and societal structures in such a way that environmental integrity may be sustained and ecologist visions of authentic social well-being achieved. Instead, its primary concern is to manage the inevitable consequences, social and ecological, of the resolve to sustain the established order. Rather than tryingto suspend or even reverse the prevailing logic of unsustainability, its main preoccupation is to promote societal adaptation and resilience to sustained unsustainability.

The mechanism is described below.   This may seem a little cynical, but consider this little factoid from the head of the IEA.
"Fossil fuels accounted for 81% of the world's energy consumption in 1987. Thirty years later it's still 81%."  (Kyoto was in 1997, ever since CO2 concentrations have been accelerating)

"For their politics of unsustainability, so the theory of post-ecologist politics suggests, advanced post-industrial societies are relying, in particular, on strategies of simulation. These strategies entail the production and maintenance of societal self-descriptions in which modern societies portray themselves as having fully recognised the seriousness and urgency of the sustainability crisis, as having a clear understanding of what remedial action is required and as commanding the political will and ability to implement it. These societal self descriptions provide reassurance that the problem is taken seriously, that it is being researched and addressed with all available expertise, and that appropriate counter-strategies are being pursued with undivided determination. They create discursive spaces in which individuals, collective actors and society at large can present and experience themselves as ecologically virtuous and committed without compromising the post-ecologist value preferences which condition their thinking and behaviour otherwise. These narratives of reassurance include, for example, the above-mentioned stories of ecological modernisation and the Green New Deal, the story that a ‘science of sustainability’ can ‘provide the rock-solid foundations upon which the structures of sustainable development’ can then be raised...

         What would the politics of sustainability look like?   Here's  a critique of green growth and decoupling.   Here;s a possible  Plan C  Avoiding Collapse, An agenda for sustainable degrowth  

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