Friday, September 07, 2012

Why Climate Change is not a Problem

Climate change is popularly touted as one of the greatest problems humans have encountered since we emerged from the last ice age. A great deal of political capital is expended in attempts to explain how we can solve the problem of climate change so we can continue our civilization as we have gotten used to it over the past 300 years or so.

The foremost social agency involved in this process is the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN sponsored subcommittee of  the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The purpose of the IPCC is to provide policy advice to world leaders on how to deal with Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), that is, human caused Global Warming. The position of the IPCC is that climate change is a human caused “problem,” and therefore, it has a human generated solution. In other words, we caused climate change, therefore we can stop it. World governments, political and environmental organizations, scientists and science organizations have been pummeled into line with the climate change hockey stick, in order to produce a “consensus” conclusion that the climate change “problem” can be solved, given enough money and resources.

John Michael Greer, in his book, The Long Descent, makes the distinction between a “problem” and a “predicament.” Problems, by definition, have solutions. Predicaments do not. 

Pollution is a problem. Humans create air and water pollution. Humans can stop producing air and water pollution. No problem.

Drought is a predicament. There is nothing humans can do about drought, except learn how to accommodate to it. Drought is beyond human solution.

As it turns out, global climate variation is a predicament, not a problem. The Earth’s climate has varied naturally as long as there has been a coupled ocean/atmosphere on this planet. Climate has responded to terrestrial, solar and cosmic influences for hundreds of millions of years, long before humans came on the scene and started creating problems for themselves and all the neighbors.

Do humans influence climate variation? Certainly. Humans change landscapes, particularly forest cover, that influence local and regional climate. However, non-human influences on climate, the long scale cycles of solar and cosmic activity, affect the entire planet in a magnitude that far overwhelms these small and temporary human effects.

Why then do organizations such as the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, prominent political figures such as Al Gore, and assorted bloggers, media pundits and self-identified climate alarmists honk on interminably about the perils of global warming, irreversible climate change, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, forest fires, unending drought, floods, famine and plagues of insects?

The simple answer is that if climate change were a normal phenomenon, not caused by human action, then it would be a predicament and not a problem. There would be no solution. There would be no excuse to extort money from developed countries to pay for “sustainable” development in as yet less developed countries. No excuse to donate money to large international environmental groups to “save the polar bears.” No reason to support political campaigns or politicians offering cap and trade schemes to buck up big business. No basis for extravagant government grants to fund climate change research that supports the AGW hypothesis.

In other words, if climate change were a predicament rather than a problem, the whole global warming industry would come tumbling down around the ears of the climate change community. There would be no recourse other than learning how to accommodate to natural climate variation.

Therein lies the rub. 

When we come to an understanding of climate variation as a normal feature of the planet we call home, we are cast, stark naked and trembling, against the very obvious conclusion that the course of human civilization runs counter to the natural processes that make life possible. 

We live on a tiny, trembling planet, with a thin atmosphere between us and the empty immensity of space and time. All that we know, all the history of our species, lies within the tremulous vapors of our atmosphere. We suddenly realize this is a finite world, containing the only sources of energy, food and shelter available to us. We are suddenly exposed to the concept of limits, boundaries and natural cycles, predicaments over which we have no control, cannot get around and for which we cannot provide solutions.

There is no way out. No one, religious, terrestrial or cosmic, is going to appear in a burst of celestial trumpets with the magic silver bullet that will release us from the constraints of the planet on which we evolved.

This is it. This is all there is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

It’s think or thwim. 

We have two choices: we admit to our feet of clay and get on with the process of reshaping our social arrangements to those that can continue comfortably within our limits, within natural cycles of resource availability, within natural climate fluctuations. We create resilient societies based on change rather than stasis. 

Or we close our eyes to reality, continue on this path as we have for the past three centuries, and sail blithely down the porcelain parkway.

It’s very simple really, and when one gets over the dramatic hand to forehead, deep sigh and resignation stage, it’s very liberating. We can forget about socialism versus capitalism, Democrats versus Republicans, east versus west and north versus south. We‘re all on the same planet, faced with the same challenges and the same inevitable consequences of failure to act.

Let’s just get on with it. No problem!