The Truth About “The Truth About Climate Change”

This book is published by people who are experts in calling BS on everything they hear liberals say, and in not much else. The BS they are referring to is the consensus of thousands of professional scientists with decades of research on data sets spanning time periods from decades to millennia.

I posted the first draft of this on in the comments of a post on the book’s facebook page. I expect I will be personally ridiculed for it, although I also expect that what I’m actually saying will be mostly ignored. I’m obviously a “liberal” and therefore, by definition everything I say is “BS.” Saying that is, after all, their primary area of expertise.

The publishers might not remember the specific predictions their ilk were calling BS back in the 90s, but I do, and they should, because the things they predicted back then are all over today’s headlines. Ice and permafrost are melting; wildfires are rampant; global mean temperatures and sea levels are rising; storm severity and frequency are increasing… These are the predictions they very predictions they scoffed at in the mid-nineties. In fact, the official consensus “liberal BS” predictions of thirty years ago were actually more optimistic than the truth we are living today.

People like the publishers of “The Kids Guides” say that climate changes naturally, and it does, which means we shouldn’t be worried, which is farcical. There are natural climate rythms for sure, like the Milankovitch cycles, which describe how incoming solar radiation varies depending on the eccentricity of our orbit, and the precession of our axis of rotation, but that cycle is 41,000 years long and the spike in temperature we are worried about is at the most 150 years old. NASA’s satellite insolation measurements actually show a DECLINE of incoming readiation over the last 40 years, not an increase. ( We are technically still in an ice age, and this year started with us just exiting a solar minimum, and a record three year long la-nina Pacific surface cooling event, and yet it is hotter now than ever in recorded history. The difference is us, that’s as close to a fact as you’re ever going to get in this world, so stick your head in the sand all you want, people, you’re still going to get spanked. Because if you take humans out of the equation, none of the models that successfully in predicted what has actually happened would not have been even remotely close to successful at predicting the recent past, let alone the future we inhabit today. But, guess what, you include what humans are doing in the math, and suddenly the models’ output becomes a really good match with everything we’ve measured in the last century. What those models predict isn’t good. What’s worse is the changes in human behavior that are necessary to make those predictions become tolerable are pretty much impossible in the current political climate.

Calling, as they do, the predictions of today’s ever more sophisticated models “liberal BS” is as thoroughly unsurprising as it is idiotic. I’m open to the idea that there’s something very significant we don’t understand that will save us, but I’m just as open to the idea that what we don’t know might kill us all. Unfortunately, on balance, what out future holds is likely also to be worse than the new predictions. Why do I say that, when uncertainty exists? Perhaps because scientists have, as a rule, a bit more faith in the transcendence of human reason over actual BS than does the average person, more than is strictly warranted. Most people can’t tell the difference between Cassandra and Chicken Little. I used to be that we would trust experts in that situation, but between the “divide and conquer” and “consume, be silent, die” strategies of the oligarchy, and the eerily inhuman divisiveness of the social media algorithms, trust in experts is in desperately short supply these days.

While it does seems reasonable to hope that we will avoid total ecosystem collapse, there just does not appear do be any actions we have the political will take which would allow us to avoid a tragic period of unimaginable loss and catastrophe, however it is that you might personally define those things. That ship sailed in the 80s when we doubled down on fossil fuels again after the OPEC shock of the 70s. Nonetheless, we do still have an infinite array of choices about how those tragedies unfold, and how to mitigate, or exacerbate them.

There are, of course, low-probability, deus-ex-machina events which would be game changers, but even if they were to happen, they would likely not be enough to allow smooth sailing through the next few decades. The most obvious miracle would be the sudden global adoption of a new cheap, clean, inexhaustible energy supply to replace petrochemicals. But even if the magic fusion bullet comes online soon, we are still “a dangerous, child race,” and, in addition to the amazing good it will do, all that “free” energy will be also put to some horrifically destructive uses in the name of economic progress – think things like strip-mining the entire ocean floor, or hundreds of square miles of dead zone around places like Phoenix and Dubai because all the heat getting pumped out of the buildings is causing the air temperature outside to reach 150 degrees in the summer. Homelessness becomes a death sentence, and even the desert withers. This is without considering what happens if big-fusion projects, like the ITER and JET tokamak reactors turn out to be the winners. Big fusion would put virtually all political power into the hands of the people who controlled and supplied those reactors, and who supervised the distribution of the power from them. If today’s society were to receive that monkey’s paw gift, it could mean that the changes required to keep warming below the 1.5 degree threshold currently considered the best achievable outcome, and sufficient to save us from a bunch of really terrifying futures, control over society by the autocracies and multinational corporations that mostly run today’s world will because near absolute.

Without fusion, or some other equally transformative social or technological revolution, we are headed inexorably for the rocks. I just don’t see any course correction we can make that will be quick and effective enough, and yet still be politically possible. Which means there is pretty much nothing we can do to prevent disaster and loss to the tune of trillions of dollars, and millions, if not billions of deaths, and the loss of at least half, possibly upwards of 90% of all the species that exist. That last one is the one that makes me saddest. People will die, and that’s tragic, but there will still be people. Society’s willful ignorance of the abysmal depth of the poverty we are condemning future generations to by sacrificing so much of what is most valuable in universe, life in all its glory and diversity, on the altar of convenience, pride, and an “All for me, and nothing for you” attitude (Adam Smith’s “Vile Maxim”) is, to me, humanity’s darkest hour.

But I still have hope. I’m far from the only person who feels this way, and no power structure is completely immune to the will of the people. Things will get bad, but I hope that we save more than expected, and that we get enough wiser along the way that future forged in the crucible of the upcoming cataclysm will be the kind place where I always hoped I could live. Maybe my new granddaughter will get to see it before she dies. I really hope so.

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