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A Warning from Scientists

climate change

I urge you to consider this. As we deal with the short term issues of DC, think about the climate emergency. More than 11000 scientists have endorsed the warning from scientists that we are past the point of no return. What comes next will be great sufferings and deaths beyond imagining.

The short document starts with some history:

Exactly 40 years ago, scientists from 50 nations met at the First World Climate Conference (in Geneva 1979) and agreed that alarming trends for climate change made it urgently neces- sary to act. Since then, similar alarms have been made through the 1992 Rio Summit, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as scores of other global assemblies and scientists’ explicit warnings of insuf- ficient progress (Ripple et al. 2017). Yet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still rapidly rising, with increasingly damaging effects on the Earth’s cli- mate. An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis (IPCC 2018).

They remind us that the emergency is accelerating. They also point to a mass extinction event that we seem to have triggered. We face the kind of ecological collapse that we can barely comprehend and imagine. In our hubris, we have brought forth the apocalypse. However, our wrong-headed dominion over the earth will not see God come and save us. It is up to us to act.

But on ideological grounds, we are frozen. Or at least our leaders are, and cannot fathom their role in this. Yes, it is time to move beyond fossils, but we have a president that is stuck in the past and is doing all he can to stop progress towards a carbon-free economy.

Some of this is cultural. After all, conservative parties around the world are not denying this emergency. Ours is. And I am going to bet it is in the makeup of the culture, where technology and tools are seen as superior to nature. We are a nation that built its way on the world through the use of advanced technology and tools. Adds from the pharmaceutical industry depict ours as a nation of innovators, for example.

Our culture is deep in the acceptance of new technology and industry. The rejection of what modern science is telling us about the climate and how it is changing is partly and aberration, party rejection of the darker side of science. It is not the first time this happens. We fought propaganda wars over both Lead and Tobacco, to a lesser extent over opioids, wonder pain drugs that were prescribed like candy. (To be clear, there are people who need them.)

So this latest episode of denial is not new. However, it puts our survival as a species at play. The stakes are that high. The scientific community is very aware that we have reached and breached physical limits to growth. We need to revise how we manage whole economies and perhaps move away from our blind faith in the market.

Both of these go against the grain of American culture, and in particular, the powerful economic elites that still control our politics. This is why the present administration is doing it’s level best to slow down, even reverse, the turn to a green economy.

This new green economy should be a shoo-in for a nation that built itself with innovation, tinkering and scientific knowledge. However, there is another strain in our make up. This is marked by distrust in authorities and knowledge. It is the belief that my knowledge is as good as yours and we both have a right to an opinion. No matter that some opinions are fantasy filled. Some are motivated by personal interests that fear changes. This is why the lead and tobacco industries engaged in the propaganda campaigns that questioned scientific knowledge. It destroyed their business model.

This is the same reason big oil is fighting so hard to prevent a green economy. It is also why it has lied over the effects on the atmosphere. Why we also have a president who wants to open the last ecological resources to mining and oil exploration. There is a lot of money involved, and if it stays on the ground the value will suddenly be zero.

Suffice it to say, workers in these industries face changes that will affect them. White-collar employees such as geologists and engineers will have an easier time changing fields. Blue-collar workers, like coal miners before them, face a crisis like no other. They are facing the transformation from good-paying jobs to the service economy. Whole towns may go extinct in the switch unless we retrain large swaths of workers. They have to be invested in these changes as well, and so far they are convinced this is a liberal plot to end their way of life. The new economy that emerges from all this needs to consider our effect on the planet. It is way past time to not consider all these factors with economic activity. We also need to start moving away from a pure market economy where growth is eternal. At this point, we know better. The planet cannot sustain that fantasy.

Our new economy also has to deal with income inequality and basic human needs. The stakes are very high and no, God will not save us. Which brings me to another factor. Americans will have to abandon the prosperity gospel, and adopt a new form of belief that incorporates nature, and is not presupposed on dominion over the earth. Whether some forms of Christianity will be able to adapt, or not, is a good question. It is past time to listen to the science, and stop believing conmen.


This article was originally published by Nadin Brzezinski,

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