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Government assuages existentialist climate anxiety

We certainly have seen it coming.   We have known about global warming for decades.  You can, and should find excellent science papers, government reports and planning scenarios.

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In the last few years we have been shocked to see it unfold faster than predicted.   Almost daily there are palpable indications and new science studies on the increasing rate-of-change.   We had better pay attention closely.   The inevitable sea level rise, drought, floods, biological disruption, species extinctions, and heatwaves that will lead to social disruptions and conflicts over diminishing resources.  Expect millions of climate refugees.

To those of us who read and listen and follow this, it gives us worry and general anxiety.   We who like to think we have both knowledge and civility prefer to carefully evaluate a next move.   But the world population may not.   People will soon discover the explanation for their inexorable suffering from drought, heat, flood and famine.   They will hear predictions of more of the same to come - unfolding as the climate destabilizes.   This is real global anxiety.   It is easy to see why complete denial of global warming is so comfortable.  The reality is far too disturbing.

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Greenhouse warming and climate destabilization does not halt magically in the year 2100.  That’s just a convenient calendar benchmark.  It will continue for many hundreds of years hence.   Today, humans forced to plan 20 or 30 years ahead will have to adjust and adapt in ways we never expected.   Back then, we were calm about our climate future; whereas now, you and they - will be - should be - very anxious.   To predict that within a few generations our species will completely perish - is not only possible, it is scientifically plausible.  Barring a technological breakthrough, an alien invasion or colossal volcanism, it is certain that young children today will face serious climate survival struggles in their adulthood.  No one wants that, and we might be able to mitigate the damage, but even a prediction of minimal climate calamities ahead cannot be avoided.

This means that our geography, agriculture and infrastructure will be changing radically and we will cling desperately to what remains of our civil society.   Worldwide hardship.  Curiously, the developed world may face the greater challenge, if only because we lack experience in simple, sustainable living.   In any case, future climate victims - with no resources, will seek survival, safety, food and water, from nations and people that have resources.   Many may wither and die, and many may panic to survive.   Those who have sufficient wealth and assets to insulate themselves from other human suffering, will be forced to manage and defend their wealth and resources from attacks by those seeking survival.   This may apply to many conflicts today: Darfur, Somalia, and Peru with it’s loss of fresh water glacier melt.   Increasingly, desperate people will conflict with the affluent in boundary squabbles.   Within any nation state, social destabilization is inevitable as climate destabilization moves forward.  Again, we do not know the rate of change.

GENEVA, June 23 (Reuters) - Global warming must be seen as an economic and security threat, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday, calling on poorer countries to speak louder about their climate change needs.
In an interview, Annan said he chose to focus his retirement energies on environmental risks because he believes that left unchecked, they could destabilize both rich and poor countries.
http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSLN472597

Over the millennia, humans have been blessed with a rich, stepped history of advancing civilizations - including Rome, Greece, the Mayans, the Incas, the Egyptians and China.   Measured culturally, legally, medically, socially, architecturally, scientifically, techno engineering, exploration and even by self-actualization or military conquest, we are at the peak of global civilization.   In an increasingly warming world with many feet of sea level rise, heat waves, disease, famine and climate strife, clearly not all these peaks of humanity will continue to rise.   Whether measuring a future in years or decades, the rate of social decline will be consistent with increasing climate destabilization.   It is hard to imagine many great, sustaining breakthroughs in Western civilization soon.   Or for many centuries.

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I would be thrilled to be proven wrong, but it seems prudent to face facts and plan appropriately.

We come together under our brand of social contract to serve our common interests, to abjure political violence, and protect peaceful interests of citizens.   Justice and law cement the social order.   Continuously escalating climate destabilization will severely test any social structure as humans strive to adapt.  Climate adaption is by definition is a local action, a social effort that serves the present moment.   Whereas, mitigating climate change requires a globally unified, shared effort.   In the slow chemistry of climate, acts of mitigation require up to a half-century for effects to be seen.   Without external political pressure, it is difficult to image any nation/state/organized society wanting to apply resources toward meeting a 50 year goal.

Governments are crucial to helping with local adaptation, and a world government is crucial to driving serious mitigation efforts.

The Precautionary Principle

Global Warming denialists have lost the ethical battle.

It’s fascinating to see people newly awaken to the issue of global warming.  They often stand with wide open eyes, stammering about the enormity of the problem.  Each seems to harbor an unstated foundation: the Precautionary Principle - Every mother tells her young child  “If you are ever unsure about whether something might hurt you - then don’t do it.” 

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  This rule applies to gathering wild mushrooms, using chemical insecticides, and talking with strangers.  Now mother’s rule can also apply to global warming: when our activities threaten to harm human health or the environment, then precautionary measures should be taken.  Even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not scientifically fully established.

…The principle implies that there is a responsibility to intervene and protect the public from exposure to harm where scientific investigation discovers a plausible risk in the course of having screened for other suspected causes.  The protections that mitigate suspected risks can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that more robustly support an alternative explanation. In some legal systems, as in the law of the European Union, the precautionary principle is also a general and compulsory principle of law.   from Wikipedia


This strongly ethical statement elegantly applies to global warming as seen in the introductory video to the Manpollo project.  It asks   “Given the risks and uncertainties of global warming, what is the best action to take?” 

Concluding that since the stakes are so high, we need to act appropriately despite any uncertainty.  Why is there anything less than full agreement?

  Intentional commercial pressures stifle unified action on global warming and feed the ideological resistance.  It is easy to blame the persistent but effective PR campaign pushing global warming denial , producing bad science and promoting the false notion that the problem is not really serious and humans cannot do anything about it.  Such blather - funded and promoted by the carbon fuel industry - is readily accepted by the carbon devoted public.  But cheerleading for carbon loyalty is so far outside of ethical principles that it amounts to encouraging species suicide.  Professional denialism is a short term business tactic.   By contrast, the insurance industry deeply understands global warming and expects to profit from it.  They follow the science closely in order to stay in business.  Carbon fuel companies feel compelled to do the opposite.

This is why professional global warming deniers are beginning to be so reviled, because beyond denial, they reject the precautionary principle - hence losing the ethical battle and reveal their ideological and corporate colors.  This was expressed recently by Patrick Michaels of the CATO institute who has been promoting the business-as-usual line “Nothing to worry about here, move along”.  The CATO institute is a paid messenger of the Coal Industry.


One prefers to see the well-behaved skeptic/denier retain some human ethics while expressing doubts about global warming.  It seems wise to add a phrase like “since the stakes are so high, we better proceed with caution and act prudently no matter what the science says”.   When the CATO institute treats us to the blatant advocacy of carbon capitalism then it touches the twin evils of scientific duplicity and amoral actions.   

The newest denialist tactic is to demand a change in terminology. Some global warming treaties have had to abandon the term: ‘precautionary principle’ changing instead to the ‘precautionary approach’.   Possibly because a principle can be a legal foundation for law, whereas approach is diffuse and carries no commitment.  My mother would never have allowed her edict to be called an approach, and I hope all mothers will stick with principle.


Up until now our civilization has thrived on high risk innovation that ignores principles of precaution.  Risk has been the essence of Western capitalist growth.  And it is no longer working, either in matters of finance or atmosphere.  Risk should be managed, controlled or insured.  We have either ignored or strategically ignored the fundamental axiom of respect for the future of human life.

Today, all the basic questions about global warming science are sufficiently settled to make public policy.  This is not rocket science. So much has been written by universities and science foundations that any reasonably dedicated person can come to understand the basic science.   Today, no sane and sober scientist will deny global warming

or that it is is caused by greenhouse gasses.  However public opinion remains vulnerable to mass media marketing schemes, and humans maybe hardwired to ignore the threat. And very big and serious lobbyists have redoubled their efforts.   But now we enter an era where the real impacts of global warming will directly touch all populations and denialist challenges will mean little before real heat, real melting, real privation and sea level rise.

The Precautionary Principle continues to guide us as we grow to understand that the cost of mitigating climate change is far less than the cost of adapting to change .  Denial, or to refuse to act on either is a short-sighted, immoral choice.

Royalty shows how it is done

Britain’s Prince Charles knows how it is done:   Step forward, say what needs to be said, demonstrate leadership through tough-love.   He breeds admiration and loyalty.

By speaking up, royalty calls out the power and the money of the world to do the right thing.   Our modern Captains of Capitalism need to ascend to a new role of nobility at least.  And they are not good at it.  Capitalism lacks a future, has no leaders and is rapidly losing it’s foundation and following.

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The Fresh Prince of Clean Air
Prince Charles says financial crisis is ‘nothing’ compared to climate change

RIO DE JANEIRO — The current global financial crisis is “nothing” compared to the impact of climate change, Britain’s Prince Charles warned Thursday as he called for urgent environmental protection measures.   “We are, I fear, at a defining moment in the world’s history,” he told a meeting of Brazilian business leaders and officials in Rio deJaneiro half-way through a Latin America tour. “The global recession is far worse than any seen for generations,” he said, adding that growing demand for energy and food created the potential for “political uncertainty in every continent.”  But, worse, he said, was that “the threat of catastrophic climate change calls into question humanity’s continued survival on the planet.”

He stressed: “Any difficulties which the world faces today will be as nothing compared to the full effects which global warming will have on the world-wide economy.”   http://www.grist.org/news/2009/03/12/Charles/index.html

The US has (or used to have) vast wealth and the most power held by individuals and institutions.  But what we lack is nobility or a royal class.   I am not asking for a return to the King George, I am asking our economic leaders to stop the denial, halt the squabbling and step up an attitude that reflects care and respect for their subjects.   People, subjects and markets are crucial to the future of their markets.

It is sad that we have to plead with the captains of our corporatocracy to preserve the very class of people responsible for their wealth and power.   What short-sighted, narrow minded idiocy this is - that we must petition the corporatocracy to halt the destruction of our people and our mutual future.  Off with their heads!

After WWII - then Princess Elizabeth, in her first trip overseas said  “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

That is royalty.  Serve your subjects.  Even in business this is a common goal; “partnerships” is the jargon.  Instead, our rapacious idiot corporatocracy has plundered our future.   Now they are losing the campaign and desperate for change.

Now they need to be reborn, be reformed or die.   They might take a lesson from the multigenerational monarchy.   It is a small request to ask our leaders to take charge and take a lead and act like a caring monarch.

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Thanks goes out to a prince of a man, Joe Romm for his link — his ClimateProgress.org is the key to staying current about global warming and the political change surrounding the issue.   Recently Joe ran parallel pieces on his site and in Salon about the Gates Foundation and its failure to acknowledge global warming.