Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trains and Stations.

There has been quite a bit of ink and digits strewn about lately concerning the "Collapse" of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (1)

OK then. I agree that the glaciers in question are going away. The data is convincing. But we really need to sit down and talk about the desperate need for attention that is displayed in the media and in the sciences. The word "collapse" is what I want to talk about and the two differing schools of thought that the bandying about of this word shows in glaring relief.

I cannot really emphasize enough my feeling that global warming is real and, at this point, unstoppable. Hence the ham-handed reference in the title. But, the use of hyperbole in titles and language of scientific discussion shows that the scientists are being drawn into the politics of industrial society and are actually getting rather histrionic in the process. I think that they see themselves as Cassandra, always being truthful in their prophecy, but with no one listening. They are right about that. But there is nothing that they can do but change their own behavior and try not to meet with the same fate as the original Cassandra.

What really got me started down this line is a recent article in the NY times by Paul Krugman. Now, I just want everyone to know that my feelings re: Professor Krugman: He is definitely a mixed bag. I think he has a better grasp of politics than he has on that dark variant of cephalonomancy that goes by the name of "Economics". (As an aside my favorite line in the article is "The sheet's slide into the ocean, and the resulting sharp rise in sea levels, will probably happen slowly." Really Paul? A sharp slow rise?)

But Professor Krugman has the mindset of the bulk of our population down cold. Half of the population votes for the blockheads that Krugman describes in his article because-they-think-just-like-that. The remaining half consists of a 50-50 mix of techo-narcissists who tune into TED lectures and imagine that we are halfway to the singularity and the remaining poor confused sods just like your esteemed correspondent.

So, you may ask, what is the point of my rambling thus far?

Simply put, I kind of wish people would get over the idea that we can stop the train. The world will be massively different centuries from now. The population will be much smaller. The energy flows will be at the levels of the early nineteenth century. Our descendant's world will more closely resemble the Medieval than the Modern. This being said, the energy of the non-climate challenged really needs to get going on the creation of a society and a world system that will be able to live within the constraints we have oh-so-willingly imposed on ourselves rather than trying to out-shriek the boneheads who are doing the intellectual equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "I-can't-hear-you".

So, simply put, present your data, cut out the drama, and stop shrieking collapse when the timeframe involved is tens of generations.

The world is changing, not dying.




russell1200 said...

You pick on Krugman for his sharp slow rise, but your statement of "The population will be much smaller": visa vi "The world is changing, not dying" are along the same lines.

For us to all die peacefully in our beds, and still have a much smaller world population would take close to a century (4 to 5 generations). We need to find 8 Saudi Arabias of oil by 2050 to even keep the current growth fueled world economy going. That's only 35 years away, and I (statistically anyway) may very well still be living then.

Degringolade said...

Russell: You know I love you man, but the world is changing. I said nothing about mankind. Yes, the human population is due for an overdue trimming. But that really doesn't effect the world. When Protagoras stirred up a controversy with the statement "Man is the measure of all things", he did not mean that the health an well being of the human population was the measure of the health and well being of the planet.
Lotta folks gonna shuffle off this mortal coil sooner than they would prefer.

russell1200 said...

Given that mankind is probably the only thing reading the blog, I think you are parsing a bit too closely. A statement that implies a shortened lifespan to a large percentage of the readership shouldn't be stated as being a mere change. It would be more accurate to say something like "Looks like we are going get hit by a bus, but at least the scenery, for those of us who slip by, won't be so cluttered. Sorry kids."