Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Climate Change Paper

People are freaking out over a climate change paper. Very little of this is actually new; what's new is that some people are actually listening this time. Let's look at a few choice bits.

(Warning for, well, how very fucked we are in detail.)
("we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race with already two bullets loaded").

Actually it's more like FIVE bullets loaded. See, climate change dates back a few hundred years, and at first it didn't look like much. It's been quite noticeable for several decades. I started ragging on people about this about the time I could talk. Climate change has been causing significant problems for at least a decade, and now it's getting sharp.

But you see ... this is as good as it will ever be in human timescale. It is only going to get worse. If we stopped deforestation and carbon emissions instantly, it would still get quite a bit worse for a century or two. The things we could do won't stop that. It's a difference between "probable civilization collapse" and "likely species death" not "we're fucked" and "not fucked after all." The amount of impact right now is starting to exceed our global cope with things like wildfires, droughts, and megastorms; it's going to get a great deal worse, which means it will really exceed cope in the foreseeable future. Bang.

But most of all, there's the stark conclusions that it draws about the future. Chiefly, that it's too late to stop climate change from devastating our world—and that "climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term."

How near? About a decade

This is the closest thing I saw to anything new, and that's basically one guy's well-informed bet as to when the shit really hits the fan. I think it's a good guess.

Thing is, societies are already starting to collapse due to climate change. Look at Venezuela; it's coming apart at the seams. Behind the incompetent government is a withering drought that leaves the country with no water and no food. Look at Syria; it's mired in violence. Behind the religion-fueled fighting lies another devastating drought. So people are fleeing, and that's going to happen a lot more.

What happens to those people? Well, nobody else wants them. Nationalism is rising in many countries of Europe. They don't want the Syrians or other people fleeing doom in the Middle East or Africa. It's also booming in America. They don't want the fleeing South-and-Central Americans. For all Americans mock countries squatted upon by dictators, they're the ones who actually elected an internet troll. So we have a rising tide of refugees fleeing places because they don't want to stay and die, while other places not yet uninhabitable are increasing resistance to that flight. This is going to end badly, and it is going to be a lot worse than people wailing over one dead toddler on a beach.

Now, that ten-year mark doesn't mean every country will fail at once or to the same degree. An examination of collapsed civilizations indicates that among the reasons, changes in climate -- especially drought -- comprise a leading cause. Salination is another, when irrigation (without flooding) causes salt buildup that destroys soil fertility. These will strike different places at different times. As a nation's difficulties exceed its cope, it will collapse to the next-lowest level of complexity that is stable. Some societies collapse all at once, some pancake in stages, and a few manage to recollect themselves and survive the crisis to grow again.

Of course, there's one new thing compared to all those other civilizations: nobody else had more than about 10% of their populace in cities. They couldn't. Now, many countries have most -- 90% or more -- of their populace in cities. Talk about a deathtrap. Most cities have about a 3-4 day supply of food and other necessities, which becomes painfully obvious every time there is a trucker strike or a major storm. Now imagine what happens when those supply lines just don't come back. The potential for population loss is thus much greater than before.

Another new aspect is the fragility of modern technology, and thus, civilization. A simple power outage can cripple it, and things like electricity and running water are the first to go when real unrest breaks out. But it's more than that. Things like computers can only be built with a whole industrial web running smoothly; you can't make them from scratch with raw materials. We've also used up most raw materials and left the planet in a very sad state, which will be very hard on fleeing refugees. I don't think they'll denude everything, though, for the simple reason that most of them neither know what to eat nor how to obtain it in the wild. Hence the high population loss to causes not previously a concern, on top of classic ones like environmental deaths or violence.

The planet will survive, and so will the biosphere. It's survived vulcanism, megaquakes, and asteroid strikes; humanity is currently on par with the latter. Of course, if someone fires of nukes during the process of civilization collapse -- which is quite possible -- the biosphere will suffer more for a while. But then it will recover. Chernobyl is a wildlife paradise now. Evidently humans did far more damage than radiation.

Read's key disagreement with Bendell is his belief that we still have time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, saying, "I think it's hubris to think that we know the future."

A key problem in the fight against climate change, all along, has been the mistaken belief that climate change is ahead of us. In fact, it's already here and has been for some time. Current serious problems from it include droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, rising oceans, violent storms, crop failures, invasive species, and diseases. Climate change basically makes everything more extreme. and ruins people's health. Based on all the science we know, those problems are only going to get worse -- even if we take immediate steps to ameliorate them, which the people in power don't want to do.

What does he mean by harm? "Starvation is the first one," he answers, pointing to lowering harvests of grain in Europe in 2018 due to drought that saw the EU reap 6 million tons less wheat. "In the scientific community at the moment, the appropriate thing is to say that 2018 was an anomaly. However, if you look at what's been happening over the last few years, it isn't an anomaly. There's a possibility that 2018 is the new best case scenario."

Behold the clue, and the having of it! \o/ Seriously, as bad as it is now, people will look back on this and be amazed it was ever so easy.

That means, in Bendell's view, that governments need to start planning emergency responses to climate change, including growing and stockpiling food.

That would be a great idea. They aren't, and almost certainly won't until it's too late. Look at the nations already falling apart due to climate change. Did they know it was an issue? Yes. Did they do anything about it? No. So probably the others won't either.

You can't fix your dumbass government. You can make sure you know how to grow or find food and other necessities, how to do first aid, and other survival skills. Not just in case of societal collapse, which will strike less-developed nations before developed ones, but because at any time a major disaster could knock out your local civilization for a few days, weeks, months, or years before restoration. Not only individuals but also towns can prepare for future challenges.

Of the Silicon Valley financiers prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand, he says: "Once money doesn't matter anymore and the armed guards are trying to feed their starving children, what do you think they'll do? The billionaires doing that are just deluded."

Now there is a guy who knows that if a castle has 10:1 fortifications, you can take it with 11:1 odds. The elites never seem to understand that math.

Not everyone was so taken with the paper. Bendell submitted it to a well-respected academic journal for publication, with little success. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal (SAMPJ) told me that the paper was in need of "major revisions" before it would be ready for publication. Bendell ended up publishing it through IFLAS and his blog. "The academic process is such that I took that as an effective rejection," he explains, saying that the reviewers wanted him to fundamentally alter his conclusions. "I couldn't completely rewrite the paper to say that I don't think collapse is inevitable. It was asking for a different paper."

My official recommendation -- as a bard, a journalist, a scholar, a historian, an activist, and a hobby-scientist -- is that if someone tries to stifle your research, publish it yourself. They no longer have a bottleneck. Put it out there, and whether it is good or bad, other researchers are free to try to prove, disprove, or replicate your results. Yes, put it on your blog if you have to. Amazingly that just worked better than the last 40 years or so of warnings. Do whatever the fuck works.

Note that the censorship doesn't have to be personally or politically motivated. It can be plain old sphincter panic; people don't want to believe horrible news, and they don't want to spread it and maybe panic people. But the thing about facts is that they will absolutely bite you in the ass if you ignore them. Somebody has to tell the truth. Be somebody.

What it all adds up to is, we're not really dealing with predictions. Those are just arguing over the details. Sure, it would be nice to know that, but it's not necessary. Anyone can tell that climate change is going to fuck us, because the fucking is already happening. The problems are all around us. When we look at the past, we can see a trend of them getting worse, which strongly indicates they will continue getting worse. Even if we manage to avert some problems, others are still going to fuck us. Exactly how much we will get fucked remains to be seen, but none of the scenarios involve us getting less fucked than we are now, and we're already running out of cope.

This sucks. But it is important to be aware of, so that people can avoid the worst effects as long as possible.

I'm a little bit envious of this guy. However, I'm glad that he managed, somehow, to knock a clue through people's thick skulls.
Tags: activism, environment, nature, news, politics, science
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