Climatize This

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

Related Post Roulette

45 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    I see “environmentalism” as a post-theist variant of religion.

    Save the world, save your soul, people who disagree are fundamentally wicked.Report

    • Travis in reply to Jaybird says:

      No, environmentalism recognizes that the ecosystem we inhabit is the only thing which enables human life. We cannot exist apart from it or outside of it. If we destroy it, we destroy ourselves as well.

      Environmentalism assigns importance to non-human living things, and suggests that we reduce our impact on them as much as is feasible. That doesn’t mean never build anything – it does mean find the least sensitive place to build.

      People who disagree are fundamentally stupid, because the future of the human species is dependent on the future of the Earth’s ecosystem.Report

  2. Sam M says:

    The problem with this, I think, is that our existence as a “post-industrial society” will come as a huge surprise to the millions and millions of people who currently work in… industry.

    Sure, that is changing in fundamental ways. But when people look at a place like Pittsburgh and gush about how all tsmokestacks are gone… that’s simply wrong. They are not. Heavy industry is no longer the sole driver of the economy there, but the Edgar Tomson works still churns out steel. The Clairton Works is still up and running. And while these places do not employ nearly as many people as they used to, there are still tens of thousands of really, really high-paying jobs.

    It seems pretty clear that any agreement that puts the US on the hook for carbon reductions but lets India and China do whatever they want basically forfeits those jobs immediately. Granted, it looks like those jobs are already pretty tenuous. But I am not sure that turning a gradual economic shift into an instant economic shift accrues to anyone’s benefit.

    This is less a concern for you or for me. We don’t work in that world. But not everybody works for a university or a health care system, etc. There really are people who still work as tool and die makers.Report

    • Chris Dierkes in reply to Sam M says:


      Good point. Van Jones has written on what he calls a green collar economy. If you look at McDonough’s talk design and industry are still there. Big time. They are just done in a way that mirrors nature’s nutrient cycle. There’s a huge future for that and if the cap/trade system starts pricing carbon domestically (if not internationally) at its actual price, then it could open the alternatives to actually overtake the current monopolistic ‘gamed’ (or fixed?) market. But if not, then it’ll lead to a serious economic crunch in the industrial side as currently practiced.Report

  3. North says:

    I’m pretty agnostic on the issue of Global Warming. Al Gore and the Day After tomorrow scenarios don’t seem believable or plausible nor do I find the assertion that global warming will kill all human life on the planet believable either. Humans biologically are mightily resiliant and their civilizations are quite durable as well. Don’t forget our societies managed a shift from a cold climate to a warm one once already. I am willing to believe, however, that global warming could cause massive disruptions and hardship.

    It seems that what we really need to do is ramp up our development of Nuclear power as a practical solution to the concerns about carbon emission. It’s capable of generating nearly limitless quantities of near carbon free energy on demand. The primary drawback is that the same global warming advocates who most strenously for massive cuts in human industry also seem to get an odd case of the vapors whenever the N word is brought up. Why is that I wonder?Report

    • Bob in reply to North says:

      Question. Does Gore, or anyone, assert”… that global warming will kill all human life on the planet…?Report

      • North in reply to Bob says:

        I believe Gore has mentioned the end of all human life multiple times in his speeches on the subject. It’s a routine assertion raised in global warming discussion. Certainly Chris Dierkes is saying or implying as much in his musings up above.Report

        • Bob in reply to North says:

          Honestly, I don’t know what Gore may has said or implied regarding the extinction of human life owing to global warming. But I do know that if you make such assertions you should have something to back them.

          Look, he may have said such, I don’t know. If he did I concur, on the extreme. But…..waiting for some documentation.Report

          • North in reply to Bob says:

            That seems perfectly fair to me. I’m no master of Google but I dredged this up.

            If we did not take action to solve this crisis, it could indeed threaten the future of human civilization. That sounds shrill. It sounds hard to accept. I believe it’s deadly accurate. But again, we can solve it. (talking about the environamental crisis)
            Al Gore – Environmental – Crisis – Solutions – Action

            • Travis in reply to North says:

              “Threaten the the future of human civilization” doesn’t imply “all humans will go extinct.”

              It does suggest that the organized, energy-intensive, highly-populated civilized society that now exists will be extensively disrupted and could no longer be possible.

              The human species would still be around, but we wouldn’t be thinking about satellites or iPhones.Report

              • greginak in reply to Travis says:

                But how are the most extreme statements about what could happen really important? It’s off the point of whether something is happening and what is likely to happen. Ohhh Gore may have engaged in hyperbole, depending how you read that phrase. So what, does that mean climate change is not an issue. Attacking something Gore said or what ever color of sweater he wore is a petty diversion.Report

              • North in reply to greginak says:

                Greginak, Bob requested that I back up an assertion I made in the first paragraph of my post with a direct quote so I attempted to oblige. That is the only reason for my quote of the former VP.

                The gist of my original post is: While I am leaning towards believing that anthropogenic global warming does exist I am not yet convinced, hyperbole of the environmental movement notwithstanding, that the cost (in human welfare) of global warming outweighs the cost of the currently proposed solutions.Report

              • AC in reply to greginak says:

                I found Gore to be remarkably restrained. He doesn’t say humans will go extinct. He goes out of his way to say that relatively minor disturbances in food supply, coastal plain communities, and insect borne illnesses will combine to produce something very, very difficult to deal with. Perhaps we’ll be alright in most parts of the U.S.; after all, we’d lose only a small fraction of our coastline to rising sea levels. But there are millions of people around the world that would be put into more and more jeopardy. How big a deal was the tsunami in 04?

                I not only think it’s time to put the brakes on all kinds of pollution, but we need to find ways to mitigate the anticipated human disasters to come.

                Yes, the planet will be just fine, and the hippy-dippy environmentalists missed a great opportunity to frame the issue as one centered on human well-being (economically as well as physically and psychically), rather than quasi-religious appeals to nature.

                Of course India and China are going to balk. We did, and our economy hasn’t changed so much since Kyoto (we’re still ‘post-industrial’ (or not)). They’ll come around.Report

              • North in reply to AC says:

                Generally agree with you AC on the framing thing. But we’re not actually saying the 04 tsunami was caused by global warming are we?Report

              • North in reply to Travis says:

                Well I have limited time so I shall have to try and search for more quotes from the formed Vice President later but I don’t think I need specific quotes to say with 100% accuracy that the end of the world/human species is a common trope wheeled out in the arguements about global warming.Report

              • Travis in reply to North says:

                The effective “end of the world” occurs if our civilization is so significantly disrupted as to set back the species a thousand years or so.

                There’s no way 6 billion people can survive on this planet without our highly organized methods of agriculture and food distribution, water exportation, resource development, etc. The existence of large cities is wholly dependent on cheap transportation, storage and allocation of foodstuffs, often from long distances away.

                The metropolitan area of Los Angeles is a desert city wholly dependent on extensive water importation schemes, bringing water from as far as 400 miles away in Northern California. Much of this water is also used for irrigation purposes in the Central Valley.

                If global warming significantly disrupts the climate patterns of California, reducing snowmelt in the Sierras, there won’t be enough water to pump down to Los Angeles, and the city will have to shrink significantly – perhaps be abandoned entirely.

                The same can be said about Las Vegas, Phoenix and much of the rest of the Southwest.Report

              • North in reply to Travis says:

                True, but to play devils advocate, there are hundreds of thousands of miles of currently cold bitter plain in northern canada that would turn into prime crop land for due to a warming of the climate. And anyone with a brain is well aware that farming in California to grow strawberries in the deserty is a protectionist boondoggle that should have long ago been outsourced to suitable climates. If we were to end the pointless water subsidies of wasteful desert farming all the residents of California would be swimming in fresh water.

                Also it is not like Global warming will cause this to occur suddenly, it would occur over the course of decades and centuries which is a lot of time for resiliant technological societies to adapt.

                Now, I am not saying that nothing can or should be done about Global Warming, far from it. I merely am stating that environmentalists need to make a very good argument for concrete measurable changes. They can’t just say “do this or the world will end”. The timeframe of the potential disaster seems too wide (to me) and long for such an arguement to move people to dramatic action. But americans have already demonstrated how little they like having religions counting up and charging them for the moral sins that weigh on their souls. They’re not easily going to accept a new cabal of priests to count up and charge them for the enviromental sins on their life styles based on little more than apocalyptic end of the world scenarios.Report

              • greginak in reply to North says:

                But it is largely unpredictable how each region will benefit or suffer from climate change. So just hoping that other regions will offset the damage to other areas seems cavalier and risky. It may work out that way to some degree but it is a gamble.

                The whole priest stuff is just silly name calling that gets in the way of debate.

                It certainly will take a long time for climate change to have its worst effects. The problem is any solutions will also take a long time to have an effect. Part of the challenge is if we can deal with a threat that takes place over such a time scale. If even the moderate predictions of the problems with climate change prove to be true it will be a serious problem for those alive in 50-75 years.Report

              • North in reply to North says:

                Perhaps that is the case Greg and the priest stuff was hyperbolic.

                I agree with you about the Global Warming problem and that’s what makes it pervasive. The unpredictability of it makes it really hard to sell and starts moving you back towards my priest metaphor.
                When people ask what global warming will do to them we say “I don’t know but here’s a guess.”
                When people say what can we do about it we have a list of solutions a lot of which are a lot like causes environmentalists have always championed.
                When peopel ask how we’ll know if it’s working we say “Well the bad stuff we weren’t sure would happen in the first place shouldn’t happen. But since it’s unpredictable it’s hard to say.” It’s a hard sell.Report

    • greginak in reply to North says:

      I think building more nuclear plants is a possibility. But where to put the waste, the high cost and safety seem like pretty reasonable concerns.Report

      • North in reply to greginak says:

        I think it’s a huge possible solution. I actually think it’s the most practical response to the issue. To address your noted concerns:
        -Most nuclear waste has a natural disposal location: back in a nuclear reactor. The vast majority of nuclear “waste” can be reprocessed and used again in a reactor. When you burn nuclear waste down to its most unusable components you’re left with a significantly smaller amount of waste than you’d probably expect. The French (to use a commonly cited example) have been running their country on nuclear power for nigh on 50 years now and their currently unusable waste is stored under the floor of a room the size of a large university gym. (This is of course assuming we don’t use the waste to produce heat, in which case it becomes another energy source rather than waste per say).
        -High Cost is significant, especially with water cooled reactors which require a very specialized containment vessel. But a large component of the cost of a plant is the layers of government regulation and legal obstructionism that opponents of nuclear power have erected. The government could make it a lot cheaper to build nuclear plants simply by cutting a lot of red tape or limiting the amount of environmental challenges and NIMBY actions that interfere. Also reactors that use molten salt to cool themselves (the same technology being used in experimental solar thermal plants) can operate at normal pressures and thus wouldn’t hit the bottleneck that older style reactors have.
        -Safety is the big misconceived one. If you don’t count insanely designed reactors run by corrupt communist regimes and designed to crank out weapons grade plutonium (Chernobyl) then the record of nuclear power is arguably better than any other base loan power producer except for hydropower. Contrary to what movies tell us, a nuclear plant is incapable of exploding like a bomb and modern plants are designed so that system failures cause reaction failure rather than a build up of pressure and a release of radioactive steam (a la 3 mile island which by the way never escaped its’ containment structure).Report

        • greginak in reply to North says:

          I’m not disagreeing that nuclear has a lot of potential. I’m not sure cutting back on regulation of something with huge potential safety concerns is wise. Nor do I know how the gov can stop NIMBY reactions.

          Nukes along with solar, wind and anything else should all be pushed. We should have been pushing them all for the last 30 years, but that is different issue.Report

          • North in reply to greginak says:

            I’d agree no need to cut safety standards. But I think a lot of the restrictions on building one at all, restrictions that were instituted mainly by administrations and officials genuinely hostile to nuclear energy, were put in place not to preserve the safety of potential plants but to make it literally unfeasible to build them at all. I hate to admit it but the French have one upped us badly on this subject. They run their entire country off nuclear power and have they had any disasters of any significance at all? That ought to tell us something.Report

    • Bob in reply to North says:

      North, your original statement struck me as some cage-shaking feces-throwing scare tactic. I just wanted to encourage restraint. If Gore said such I would describe it as cage-shaking feces-throwing scare tactics.Report

      • North in reply to Bob says:

        Bob, you’ll have to elaborate for me. Which portion of my original post contained the cage-shaking feces-throwing scare tactic component? Wouldn’t I need to be trying to scare someone for it to qualify as that?Report

        • Bob in reply to North says:

          Well, the part where you repeat the “…global warming will kill all human life on the planet….” I just found that questionable, asked if Gore really held that position.Report

          • Chris Dierkes in reply to Bob says:

            some clarification of my view. The article I was responding to was about global warming/climate change. And I don’t think climate change represents per se a threat to human existence as such. It could represent a threat to our current way of civilization.

            But it goes much deeper than climate change. Listen to McDonough’s talk where he mentions that if China builds housing for its expected urban migration over the next 30-50 years it will burn all its coal, use up all its brick, and then have cities as he says without food or heat. Which is not global warming.

            My point about loss of human civilization was to get people to stop thinking about saving the earth. It’s saving human ecology on the planet by making it non-destructive of the prior natural ecology.Report

            • North in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

              Thank you Chris, that’s a perfectly fine point and one that is significant. There is no arguing that we as a species are living on resources that aren’t going to reappear. Absent a threat like global warming though we’d probably organically transition away from them. We’re not going to wake up one day and BOOM all the coal is gone. Coal will just get gradually more and more expensive making the alternatives more attractive. The global warming issue just raises an interesting side question: should we use artifical laws to cause this natural transition away to occur earlier and is the benefit of doing so (to us) greater than the cost of doing so. That’s a tough one, I haven’t made up my mind personally.

              I probably should have left the first paragraph Bob objects to out (Bob I did try and provide an at least semi relevant quote above).Report

              • Travis in reply to North says:

                The climate changes caused by carbon emissions have a real-world cost now, a cost that will continue to rise as the effects become more pronounced. Forcing those who create carbon emissions to pay for the costs they are responsible for creating is not artificial in the least.

                In fact, it is artificial to ignore those costs or to subsidize the emissions by generalizing those costs throughout society.Report

              • North in reply to Travis says:

                I think what you mean Travis is that we’re told they have a real world cost. The weakest part of the global warming issue is the unpredictability of it. If everyone could point to tornadoes or Katrina or any other disaster and say unequivacably that this was caused by global warming then there’d be CO2 reduction legislation stampeding through the legislatures. But since we can’t accurately predict stuff like that, and worse, the majority of the consequences are decades out from the here and now. It’s hard, really hard, to persuade those who aren’t already inclined to believe.

                So if the emissions do have a real world cost now then it’s being passed off onto the future. And people find it very easy to pass things off into the future. Look at deficits and credit card debt.Report

              • Travis in reply to North says:

                Yes, and there are people who still believe humans were made by some magic sky being 6,000 years ago and the fossil record to the contrary was put there by said magic sky being to throw people off the scent.

                Point being, there are lots of people who disbelieve well-supported scientific conclusions. We should be studiously ignoring them.Report

              • North in reply to Travis says:

                Unlike faith, which is by definition impossible to prove scientifically, Global Warming makes a claim to science. So I think your comparason is inapt.Report

  4. Michael Young says:

    If you have ever been to India you will find very quickly that they don’t give a damn about global warming and rightly so. They are more concerned about their children starving. Global warming or not, there is no evidence of human impact. No reasonable scientific information exists to support that humans can do anything about it one way or the other. Politicians exploit science and prey on people’s emmotions at a whim. It is not the responsibility of the American taxpayer to pay for this insane obsession. Nor is it governments role to legislate on these topics. We are a soverign nation with a constitution of limited government. These types of pursuits fall outside of the Constitution and these discussions should be off limits for our Congress.Report

    • greginak in reply to Michael Young says:

      I suppose this debate will go nowhere, but there is pretty obvious impact on humans by rising sea level and changes to climate. Cities get filled with water and become untenable. Climate change make some arable land unable to grow crops.

      What section of the constitution dealt with global warming?Report

    • North in reply to Michael Young says:

      I don’t agree. Anthropogenic global warming seems to have some pretty good evidence behind it. I’m not in their camp exactly; I am not convinced yet that the cost of the consequences is greater than the cost of the solution; but I don’t think it’s accurate to call it a hoax.Report

    • Travis in reply to Michael Young says:

      They’ll be even more concerned about their children starving when sea levels rise and shrink the Indian subcontinent.Report

  5. greginak says:

    Climate change is the worlds biggest attempt at seeing if we can deal with a collective action problem.Report

  6. mike farmer says:

    “This is the most serious challenge the world has ever faced.” And: It “could completely end human civilization, and it is rushing at us with such speed and force.”

    Al Gore — speaking to congress on Jan. 28thReport

  7. mike farmer says:

    “If Gore said such I would describe it as cage-shaking feces-throwing scare tactics.”

    So, now, we can expect Bob to lay into Gore.Report