Alex Steffen on Climate Defeatism

On 31st July 2018, Alex Steffen wrote (on Twitter) that:

Reminder that climate defeatism—arguing that we are already so screwed that there’s no real point in acting to limit climate emissions or ecological damage—is absolutely a form of denialism, and one that directly aids those profiting off continued destruction.

He quoted a 2017 tweet titled “The apocalyptic is itself a form of denialism” citing what he describes as the “most popular thing he has ever written”, an essay titled Putting the Future Back in the Room.

I agree.

I agree and need to say something because I hear, directly or not, from environmentalists and not, that some consider the problem too hard, the work done so far too small, the costs too high, the magnitude of the risk too great to contemplate doing anything about climate change and that it is better now to prepare oneself for the end, withdrawing, so to speak, into a seemingly spiritual cocoon.

Frankly, that kind of thing gives the spiritual a bad name.

I also hear from environmental activists of old, that they are unwilling to compromise on their ethical integrity, and refuse to have anything at all to do with corporations, or the well-heeled, or with compromises on the environment, endangered species, social justice, or anything else, even if these compromises could be basis of progress. In this respect I share the opinion and distaste for progressives which Bill Maher sometimes expresses, and I have said so. Progressives are also often reluctant to do anything in cooperation with the military or military people.

(This is taken from a blog report of a survey of inland flooding from Hurricane Florence by Air WorldWide.)

This kind of close-mindedness and failure to realize, particularly in light of the recent report from UNFCCC that it is necessary to triage now. This doesn’t mean compromising on emissions, or natural gas, or other aspects which Science says we cannot have if we are going to succeed in containing this enormous problem. But it does mean looking seriously at distant hydropower, sensibly routed, and looking at nuclear power, as long as it can be built cheaply and quickly. (Nuclear power along the lines of the present power station models cannot be.) If that means bringing back the breeder reactor proposals of the Clinton-Gore era, maybe it does. (More on this from Dr James Hansen.)

As Steward Brand argues, there’s no time left to be an environmentalist. It’s well nigh time to be an ecopragmatist, even if I don’t heartily agree with him, e.g., his promotion of Paul Hawken’s Drawdown ideas which disregard biological reality.

But the direction and spirit are right. Bill Nye-style engineering is what’s needed. We can do that. Those who don’t know, should learn. There are many places to go, such as Environmental Business Council of New England, or the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. There are plenty of leaders, like Michael Bloomberg, and Mark Carney, and Richard Branson, and Professor Tony Seba.

About ecoquant

See Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Solar Energy Society, Anthropocene, anti-science, attribution, being carbon dioxide, Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, Bill Maher, Bill Nye, Bloomberg, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BNEF, Buckminster Fuller, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, climate business, climate change, climate economics, corporations, denial, engineering, global warming, greenhouse gases, Hyper Anthropocene, investing, investment in wind and solar energy, investments, James Hansen, John Farrell, Kerry Emanuel, klaus lackner, liberal climate deniers, Mark Jacobson, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Mathematics and Climate Research Network, Michael Bloomberg, reason, reasonableness, science denier, secularism, Stewart Brand, the green century, the right to know, the tragedy of our present civilization, Tony Seba, tragedy of the horizon, unreason, zero carbon. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Alex Steffen on Climate Defeatism

  1. Pingback: “A Matter of Degrees” | 667 per cm

  2. ecoquant says:

    Well, solar panel prices have NOT inflated, quite the opposite, so what, pray tell, was the point of your wise crack about them?

    I’m also going to ask you to get to some pertinent point, soon, rather than filling my WordPress with what appears like drivvel.

  3. ecoquant says:

    Thanks to motivated reasoning, aren’t we always in a functional spiritual cocoon of one sort or another? Isn’t limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail also one? What privileged caterpillars would want to abandon the source of their privilege and comfort and enter into metanoia; mature into responsible living?

    Actually, there have been instances where corporations have exceeded norms and paid large penalties, including Hooker Chemical at Love Canal, GE in Schenectady, and possibly BP in the Gulf.

    That said, one problem is that environmental law as practiced in the USA has been hollowed out and become an agency-mediated system for issuing permits to destroy ecosystems. That’s exploited as much as (and, possibly, as a collective more than) corporations do by people, say, wanting to build fancy homes, or even upper-middle class homes, not to mention small businesses and the like. Attend any white suburban upper middle Town Meeting in Massachusetts and you’ll see it, or almost any Conservation Commission meeting.

    Facts are, while CapitalismFail might be present, ConstitutionFail is what’s impeding progress on climate. The Constitution was never intended to solve this scale or size of problem, with its international interdependencies, and, when it has been tried, such as the UNFCCC treaty, the Congress just blithely ignores it.

    Accordingly, like it or not, the only institutions in the world capable of doing something about this are corporations. Sure, you can suggest we all go into civilizations grave, wrapping ourselves in the purity of knowing we didn’t give an inch to “our enemies”, although, as Maher suggests, that’s hardly a moral stance and, to me, it’s just stupidity.

    No average American, even middle class, has been willing to pay more to advance environmental, let alone, climate matters, for fear of a deteriorating lifestyle or impacts to their jobs. And they still buy upstream-intensive crap for the holidays.

    And, based upon a recent episode of Years of Living Dangerously I watched, it seems, perhaps with justification, that some lower income communities and some people of color think of environmental concerns and climate change as “white people’s issues” and things they do. In terms of justice, they are right. White folk have exploited the environment and caused them harm, just as our largesse is stealing from our kids and grandkids.

    Want to do something aboutit ? Join a rally and send dollars to Our Children’s Trust. Otherwise, you have no standing.

    • Greg Robie says:

      First, a minor correction to my previous comment: ’twas Bill, not Bob, Nardhaus who just got the Noble in economics. To the degree I understand his and Romer’s work, they molded technological mitigation as part of the calculations … and their rosie predictions; our hopium.

      From satellite maps I’ve seen the footprint of your home compaired to your neighbors. From what you write I conclude it’s relatively modest size is intentional. With your latest addition of ‘extra’ PV, the home likely is adorned with panels that cost more than the house did when it was purchased by you? Regardless, the point you make concerning conspicuous consumption also has tax policy driving it. Moving into ever bigger houses is a tax shelter concerning capital gains. As to residences ever inflated costs, such is, thanks to the unconstitutional Federal Reserve, structural (in a sufficiently expanding economy).

      You are correct about the Constitution, but if the 1913 Federal Reserve Act had not given away national sovereignty to the [now] too-BIG-to-fail-banks, and, early in the previous century, limited liability law had not countermanded English Common Law concerning responsibilities that follow ownership of property, would 44 & 45 have/be needed to fight the suit our children bring against us/US?

      I was a bit younger than you when dual income households became the norm; when the acronym “Dinks” was coined: dual income no kids. Fueled by debt slavery, the economy expanded after Nixon did his pre-peak oil Oil Era magic of breaking the Bretton Woods Agreement, canceling the Silver Certificate, and giving the House of Saud political indemnity in exchange for OPEC oil sales being denominated in US dollars. Fully fiat currency driven, and predicated on credit vetted by fossil carbon energy equilivant slaves, the [now] bullet train global capitalism left the station.

      In this sense you are correct about the responsibility corporations have in the current dynamics. But this assertion also misses the point that their stock (ownership) is integral to a responsibility-‘free’ zone: limited liability law enabled financial markets. The trusted mental construct of their ‘wealth’ is psychological. And it is a society’s social institutions that train the psyche that have, systemically, the root role in this training.

      Traditionally, such was religious. Education and lifestyles followed suit. With the religious institutions subsumed by the motivated reasoning of CapitalismFail, haven’t we grown ourselves a monoculture that is inherantly vulnerable to collapse?

      Peak credit, which arrived with peak oil, is one systemic threat. The twin threat is the triggered abrupt climate change. Or wealth and responsibility will be reintegrated. Freedom will again be understood to be the right to be responsible … and won’t this occur as the species with the cerebrum to think about such things gets flushed in this planet’s Sixth Great Extinction Event of our own making; of our GREED-as-go[]d’s design?

      • ecoquant says:

        From what you write I conclude it’s relatively modest size is intentional. With your latest addition of ‘extra’ PV, the home likely is adorned with panels that cost more than the house did when it was purchased by you?

        This statement is so ludicrous, I don’t know what to say about the rest of what you write. Also, you clearly don’t want to work hard, since both the description of the panels installation and the present value of our home are easily available online.

        Indeed, the payback period of these panels is seven years. They have a 25 year guaranteed lifetime, with no maintenance costs, except for about $1000 the next time we want to refinish our roof.

        And they earn a bit more than $1000 a year, ignoring avoided energy costs.

        Here’s another look at the more recent +10 kW added.

        • Greg Robie says:

          Paraphrasing Paul E. Newman: ‘What me work?’ 😉

          I doubt you have been as seditentary as myself, but the property I am responsible for was purchased by my parents in 1963 for $16,000.00. While the current residence is not the same as one (my brother and his friends managed to burn that one to the ground!), the [intended] point of my ludicrisness was how housing prices have inflated … as well as an inferred (guy-type?) compliment.

          That any misunderstanding gave you a chance to again post about home co-located PV is good. Constant reminders that such is both possible and ‘economical’ (for those with the ‘wealth’ &/or credit) … also assuming sufficient solar insidence.

          Without the knowledge of the year of your home’s construction, might it’s construction price, rather than your purchase price, be relevant to complimentarily qualifying the outlay you made for that PV array that adorns your home? The world map graphic I linked to in my initial comment incorporates data that suggests that those who can pay cash for installing PV on their residence is, in a globalized context of our globalized economic meme, minuscule. IBID, the credit to do so. Is responsibility-free privilege a moral blinspot?

          FWIW, I just read this New Yorker article on Romer and Nordhaus My previous comments have less-than-accurate assertions about their shared [not moldy! 😉 ] Nobel. Or another example of me not working as much as would otherwise be better. (Oh, and the “peak oil” point I intended to make relates to conventional oil supplies.)

  4. Greg Robie says:

    Thanks to motivated reasoning, aren’t we always in a functional spiritual cocoon of one sort or another? Isn’t limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail also one? What privileged caterpillars would want to abandon the source of their privilege and comfort and enter into metanoia; mature into responsible living?

    The IPCC Special Report is predicated on a 33% – 50% that ‘apolocalipso’ will continue to be danced with Dame Nature – even with a zero carbon economy in a generation or so. The Report indicates to me that “Gates’ Equation” needs to be updated to equal a negative number … & within the context I’ve tried to capture in this world map graphic:

    All human civilizations have collapsed. Consider how much an un-metanoia-ied hope – trusted hopium – has been integral to those collapses.

    Bob Nordhaus just got a Noble. He came up with 2°C because the scientific number of 1°C could not be modeled for CapitalismFail. I read he now feels 2.5°C is the best that can be accomplished with this economic meme!

    Honor is all that is left for liberals to learn to live with (& feel good about) in the work physics defines for a below zero economy. Hopium is just motivated reasoning. Hopium’s religious-like thinking, feeling, and sense of health will be a huge challenge regarding metanoia … as things enter the chaos prepared for us/US by our trust in GREED-as-go[]d.

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart


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