Movie Notes: First Reformed

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar DensityDuck
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    “[T]hat’s the most frightening thought about climate change: we might know rationally what actions would be the best to choose, and still be unable to choose them.”

    Hah. The action here would be to invade China and force them to stop burning coal, and then to invade the various Pacific island nations and force them to stop eating fish, and then invade the entirety of Southeast Asia and force them to stop having children. But that would be hard, and plus which it’s racist because those aren’t white countries, so we’ll just make American disabled people choke on milkshakes instead of giving them straws.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to DensityDuck
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      Its also unnecessary and both China and India have actually met their Paris Agreement emissions targets. China in particular has reduced coal significantly – which is why coal exports continue to fall and coal mines continue to close. Its also why china is the largest producer of solar PV cells – they have a ready built in market domestically and so what we receive to purchase here is in essence surplus.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Philip H
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        uh huh

        the Greenland icepack is melting because Chinese soot is all over it but keep telling me how China isn’t the problem

        and the chinese are not using those solar cells at home, sir, they’re going on the houses of idiots in America who don’t understand how solar panels work but sure do love them some government tax creditsReport

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to DensityDuck
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          The forces melting the Greenland ice pack were set in motion 40 years ago. China certainly contributed to that, but they have made decisions to reverse course.

          As for China’s use of solar:

          ” Since 2013 China has been the world’s leading installer of solar photovoltaics (PV). In 2015, China became the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic power, narrowly surpassing Germany.[1][2][3] In 2017 China was the first country to pass 100 GW of cumulative installed PV capacity,[4][5] and by the end of 2018, it had 174 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity.[6] As of May 2018, China holds the record for largest operational solar project in its 1,547-MW project at Tengger.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_China

          Granted it may not yet have captured the full share of the generation market left by moving away from coal, but its not nothing.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to Philip H
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            China must’ve ignored their directives to decrease coal capacity because they’re growing it from 960 gigawatts in 2016 to, with new capacity, to peak at 1,230-1,350 gigawatts. They’re basically going to add an additional United States worth of coal output.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck
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          This seems misdirected.
          The problem of environmental,devastation is much larger than soot, and even larger than global warming.

          By virtually every metric we can study, the earth is under tremendous stress.
          Everything from acquirer depletion, to declining fisheries, to coral reef die off, to pharmaceuticals polluting groundwater supplies to deforestation the earth is becoming less able to sustain life as we know it.

          There will never be One Big Answer, because there is no One Big Problem.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to DensityDuck
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      I meant on an individual level. That’s what seems troubling about human behavior- I know people who are gung ho that “we have to do something!” about the environment and who very much want to do something… but they don’t. I know, it’s easy to say they’re hypocrites or lazy or something, but what bothers me is maybe there is just something about human beings that we can say to ourselves “My life would be objectively better if I made this one change” and then just not make it. And in fact we do that all the time. Addiction is a pretty extreme example, but there are *all sorts* of other behaviors that play out much the same.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        I say the Bible’s a better guide here because there are all kindsa stories in there where God says “Stop doing this thing or I will smite the hell out of you!” to entire nations and they respond by shrugging their shoulders and saying “Meh… maybe tomorrow”.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    The big question which very few people (liberal and conservative, American, European, Asian, etc.) want to address is how much does fighting climate change call for drastic changes in our way of life. It might very well require it.

    The left does not want to admit this because they fear or know that drastic changes to ways of life might make the task of fighting climate change either harder. What does it mean? How does it effect the economy? Who has to bear the burden? Example, a lot of law firms in California handle litigation all over the state or Pacific Northwest. They can do this partially because of phones and e-mail but also because daytrips are easy. I have gotten on early morning flights to Los Angeles or San Diego. Done a court hearing, mediation, deposition, and then be back by the evening on a late afternoon flight. I could probably do Seattle or Portland in the same way if I wanted.

    But this requires lots of flying and that is a huge carbon emitter. Now add all the other business travel and the high flying executives and consultants who are in Europe for the first part of the week, Boston and Chicago midweek, and then back home in the west for the weekend. There are lots of fliers like this.

    How much will fighting climate change cause firms to cast smaller nets and lose money? How many areas will go underserved because they lack professionals willing to live there but are willing to travel there.

    Now how about developing countries that need to catch up with the West and SE Asia development wise. Do you tell them tough luck but you need to stay a backwater?

    Suppose for the sake of this thought experiment the answer is yes to all of the above.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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      I think you mean East Asia, not SE Asia. Although, SE Asia is very developed.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Not for nothing but there are huge upside business opportunities in all those questions. Want to see high speed rail succeed regionally? Invest to make it happen across the west coast form LA to Seattle. Expensive – sure. But if its reliable and reasonably quick you get rid of some of those problems.

      Ditto commuting in urban areas. If we start now in a decade we could have cities that are largely carless – and where the power from the cars comes from a few emissions places where carbon capture technology could actually function. And on and on.

      Want to know why GE is not the largest assembler of wind turbines in the world? Because they didn’t market them and instead licensed their designs to a German company and an Italian company. Which is why Vesta and Siemens are the two big installers of wind turbines in the US. Talk about opportunity costs.

      But more to the point – as a liberal and a scientist who interacts with climate professionals daily, we are out of time to make meaningful moves. Will the world end tomorrow if we don’t? No, and not next week next month or next decade. But the costs to adapt and mitigate will go up the longer we sit on our hands. And with an order of magnitude more people employed in the solar industry then the coal industry markets are already (if far too slowly) making these decisions for us.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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      I’m reading a history of Germany in the 20th Century. The author notes that the German Left took a sharp turn against consumerism during the mid to late 1960s. This was precisely when the German working class, and nearly half of the West German population worked as factory laborers at this time, could start affording consumer goods. The authors notes that naturally people who knew material deprivation for decades were angry when they were told they can’t enjoy the good life because reasons. The same exists in the developing world now.

      The least well-off are going to bear must of the burdens of not doing something about global warming and doing something about global warming. Not doing something means that many of them will have to live in unbearable climates. Doing something means that they might be deprived goods and services that they could otherwise enjoy. During LGM’s over-tourism thread people noted that the proposed solutions would make tourism impossible for everybody but the really affluent.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq
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        I wonder about that- it might be easier the less well-off you are too. I decided to stop eating meat and sell my car and walk more places a while ago, and… it was hard at first, but now I have a few hundred additional dollars a month and am in better shape than I’ve been for a decade. It’s like I’ll listen to people talk about “buy nothing days” and think that’s pretty much most days for me. It’s not as hard to live with less when you don’t have that much.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F.
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          But this kind of creates a paradox of left politics, doesn’t it?

          The promise or fight of left-politics for much of the 19th and well into the 20th century (or 21st) was about getting more for workers. More stability, high wagers, better hours, better housing, health insurance, etc.

          This long struggle eventually produced good results in the mid-20th century and then left-wing politics (or a certain portion of it) decided “maybe we should more acestic.

          I find that kind of strange. Meanwhile there is still the fight for 15 here.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw
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            My connection to left politics is pretty limited at this point. I’ve been to a few rallies and listened, but that’s about it in the last decade or so. I have no idea who’s decided “maybe we should be more acetic.” I make about 30 k a year, so I decided to save money wherever possible a long time ago.

            As for the left, I’d heard they stopped caring so much about class in the late 70s and started focusing more on other axes of identity.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw
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            Its less a matter of aceticism, than of a growing awareness of the cost of the externalities and side effects of industrial processes.

            The reference to religion and God’s creation has the unfortunate effect of making environmental matters detached from us, as though the fate of the earth and the fate of mankind are entirely separate affairs.

            The irony is that the earth is in no danger whatsoever. The earth and most of the species on it will continue on no matter what.

            Human civilization, however, is predicated on assumptions that are completely and absurdly unsustainable.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Chip Daniels
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              A further thought-
              Often when people make predictions about a world changed by environmental destruction, it is couched in the future tense of hypothetical science fiction scenarios.

              Yet, we are already living with such a world, but because it changes so slowly we scarcely notice.

              Like, how, much of the food we eat didn’t exist a century or so ago. The “fish sandwich” is made of tiny particles of various types of fish, glued together by emulsions. Similarly, crab meat isn’t really crab but essentially more fish particles and emulsion. Hot dogs are just slaughterhouse sweepings which are run through a vast chemical factory to become a pink slime and pressed into a sausage shape.

              Or that wooden furniture is really just petrochemical veneer glued onto compressed sawdust and plastic resin.

              These things are all a result of the fact that the natural world simply can’t produce enough actual fish fillets and crab legs to sustain the appetite of people so far away from the ocean, and that we can’t produce enough clear all heart lumber to actually fill the demand for “wood grain looking” furniture.

              Freaky predictions about how people in the future will be eating bug larvae sound strange, but if those larvae were colored and flavored to taste like charbroiled steak I bet they would have a ready market, right now.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Chip Daniels
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                And, conversely, the large majority of the food crops grown a hundred years ago no longer exist.Report

              • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Rufus F.
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                I was just watching the updated/relaunched Good Eats episode where they were talking about native American Grains like chia and quinoa and how Cortez actively tried to suppress them as part of his “conquest” to the point of cutting off hands anyone cultivating them.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                +1.

                Yes. A lot of the doom and gloom things will happen, we’ll just find out the reality is pretty good.

                We will eat fake meat (Soylent Green).
                We will become cyborgs (The Borg, The Terminator).
                We will genetically engineer ourselves (Gattaca).
                We will genetically engineer other lifeforms (Mimic, Planet Of The Apes).
                We will put things in space (The Blob, Life, Aliens).

                These will all be good things, and not at all like their movies.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                It works the other way too.

                Nowadays building a home with a woodburning fireplace is inconceivable in many parts of the country yet no one thinks its odd at all, or even misses them.

                Parts of the Florida Keys are so regularly flooded that banks won’t offer mortgages for homes there, and the city won’t grant permits to build anyway.

                The fabled Northwest Passage, which was considered a myth when I was a child, has opened up and is now a mundane reality.
                And as a consequence, Very Serious People are just discussing the geopolitical consequences of purchasing Greenland.

                Someday the United States will cease to exist in its present form, and yet the world will continue to revolve.Report

  3. Avatar Andrew Donaldson
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    Rufus thank you so much for this, and also the great Sunday pieces you’ve been doing. I always learn something and find things to read/watch/ponder from them. I will put this film in the rotation to watch.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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      Thanks so much! It’s a good one. Amazingly it was his first academy award nomination for best original screenplay, which is insane because he friggin wrote Taxi Driver! My favorite Schrader is still Mishima: a life in Four Chapters. But I’d also recommend the hard to find Blue Collar, which has its flaws but has one of Richard Pryor’s best performances anywhere.Report

  4. Avatar Dark Matter
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    So, are we in enough trouble yet that we get Green support for nuclear power? As far as I can tell the Green’s first priority is to stop nuclear power, and GW is lumped in there with all of their secondary priorities.

    NO ONE behaves like they believe the rhetoric. Stop GW, stop it now… but not at the expense of any of my priorities, you can only stop it at the expense of other people’s priorities. You can’t hurt any fish, or destroy any jobs, or raise any prices, or insist that I give up flying my jets, or spend serious money that needs to go to entitlements. Those things are off the table. But stop GW.

    And to be fair, the vast economic/social damage is always about 10 years away.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Dark Matter
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      Hell, if it wasn’t for anti-nuclear activists in the 1970s and 1980s we might not even be in this mess. At minimum, we would be facing a much less severe problem.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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      Many of us who might wear the green label actually do consider Nuclear in the mix – we are just flummoxed by the disposal issue. Take the Yucca Mountain complex and the serious flaws in the politics of its creation. Better yet look at all the failures of the Hanford clean up due to shoddy but well paid contractors. Those issues need to abated from the get go with nuclear, and i don’t see the politic la will to do it.

      That aside the cost of a nuclear installation vs. its life span vs. the cost of fuel rod disposal makes it economically a non-starter.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Philip H
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        What is revealing is the free market can look at the tar sands as doable, yet a big pile of left over nuclear fuel….nope, that’s regulated and off limits.

        It’s not like the free market could ever figure out the stupid, stupid easy task of efficiently converting low level neutron flux to electricity.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Philip H
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        I don’t know any anti-nuclear activists, but I’m sure they exist. I was personally a bit more enthusiastic about nuclear when I lived in a French region where it was the power source than I was after Fukushima. I think it’s probably going to be a critical component, but not a magic bullet.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Rufus F.
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          The problem is none of the solutions to not burning fossil fuels is a magic bullet, but taken together they get us to a much better place. Why this is a problem is that politicians like certainty, the like magic bullets and they aren’t keen on mixed bags.

          In this situation the ideal would be a robust smart grid – which we don’t have – generating electricity from solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear that could shunt power around as needed. Put the solar farms at lower latitudes in the country (augmented by residential and commercial solar everywhere), add in wind in the great plains and along the great lakes (where it already exists), slather on off-shore wind farms on the coasts, and top off with hydro from the PNW and nuclear.

          We can get there, but if we wait until we know for certain we need to, it will be too late, and far more costly.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Philip H
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            In this situation the ideal would be a robust smart grid – which we don’t have – generating electricity from solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear that could shunt power around as needed.

            The Western Governors Association and some of the national labs have done a bunch of work on this for the Western Interconnect in particular. In 2018, on the near order of 48% of the electricity generated and consumed in the WI was from low-carbon sources (about 8% from nuclear). The CalISO energy imbalance market is causing more and more renewable electricity to get shunted around around the region. I’ve been away from any contact with the WGA for several years now, but my perception was always that there was pretty much zero interest in building the big transmission systems across the Great Plains that would be needed to do any large-scale transfers between the eastern and western grids.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Michael Cain
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              Agreed – there isn’t much interest, nor is there much interest in upgrading the control systems either. There isn’t much of a smart grid on the east coast, which is a shame.

              Much of this is attributable to electrical providers in the east, south and parts of the midwest being localized monopolies who are now competing with each other for customers.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to Rufus F.
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          That’s the trouble with nuclear power, while it’s less harmful than fossil fuels, the harm it causes happens in big flashy incidents rather than as constant cumulative damage. The downsides of nucelar power are small, but highly salient.Report

          • Avatar Zac Black in reply to James K
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            Syllogistically, nuclear power is to the climate change debate what mass shootings are to the gun rights debate.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to James K
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            Additionally, among the political classes in the western United States, waste from nuclear power is often conflated with the government’s other nuclear undertakings and the resulting messes: Hanford, Idaho and Los Alamos National Labs, Rocky Flats, WIPP.

            The feds haven’t covered themselves in glory at Yucca Mountain, either. If the facility were opened for business today, every spent fuel cask going there would have to pass directly through Las Vegas. The feds still haven’t acquired the few hundred miles of right-of-way and built the rail spur that’s necessary to avoid the city.Report

          • Avatar JS in reply to James K
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            There’s also the distrust of corner cutting. I don’t really have any qualms about the safety of properly designed and operated nuclear plants.

            I do have qualms about actual waste disposal — as I’m very aware of what’s actually being done, which is store it on site and hope one day there’ll be a place for it. And I especially have qualms about the validity of any given civilian nuclear power plant being “properly designed and operated”.

            Corner cutting, especially on long-shots like severe external disasters — is something to be quite wary of. Humans in general tend to be too optimistic about such things, and the incentive to save a few million dollars by assuming there’s no possible way to have multiple disasters at once — say, an earthquake and flooding — is pretty high. After all, what are the odds, right?Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Rufus F.
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          I think it’s probably going to be a critical component, but not a magic bullet.

          In terms of getting rid of coal it certainly could be. They both share the same specs of turning on with a switch and not being dependant on the sun or whatever.

          after Fukushima

          Fukushima got hit with an extreme earthquake, and an extreme tsunami, and it was the type of plant where when things go wrong it stays on rather than turns off. For all that one person died from cancer which the gov attributes to radiation. They had more people drown at the plant from the tsunami (2) than die from radiation (0).

          Coal kills 13k people a year in the US when nothing goes wrong. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of it’s vast collection of environmental problems.

          Ideally we’d shut down all the coal plants and also all the 2nd(?) generation nuclear plants and build the nuclear plants on the blackboards which are much safer. This is something we could have done decades ago.

          When we use the word “ideally” with “green power” we run into unresolved engineering challenges like storing energy, and Green power itself wasn’t especially up to snuff decades ago. And we’d have to be good with having 21,250 square miles of solar collectors.

          For perspective, that’s New Jersey + Hawaii + Connecticut + Delaware + Rhode Island.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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        we are just flummoxed by the disposal issue.

        30 years ago my nuclear power professor walked us through the engineering solution of “the disposal issue” for the worst of the worst stuff. This isn’t an engineering problem, it’s a political problem.

        look at all the failures of the Hanford clean up

        First generation technology is problematic. Cleaning it up is often nasty. Hanford also suffered from a cold war mentality which assumed we’d be having a nuclear war any day now. However Hanford was professional paranoids building nuclear weapons which is a different issue than nuclear power and dealing with its waste.

        Take the Yucca Mountain complex and the serious flaws in the politics of its creation.

        And are the greens supporting or opposing it?

        That aside the cost of a nuclear installation vs. its life span vs. the cost of fuel rod disposal makes it economically a non-starter.

        Are we believing GW is a serious threat or are we not? Because for the last 50 years nuclear power has been the actual alternative to carbon, with “clean power” a utopian idea on which we wait while we build coal plants. The green movement had to pick between de-carbonization and denuclearization, and they went with the later at the expense of the former.

        And “cost of fuel rod disposal” would go down just like the cost of solar panels have gone down if we threw enough money at it and increased the scale.Report

  5. Avatar James K
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    The problem with climate change isn’t that people are being irrational, it’s that they’re being rational. Sure, it’s in our best interest as a society to deal with this problem, but societies don’t make decisions, individual people do and from an individual perspective the logic is reversed. No one person can materially effect the climate even if they accepted significant personal costs to reduce their emissions, so why do anything when it won’t make any difference?” Multiply that logic by 7 billion, and that’s how we ended up here. The dark logic of the Collective Action Problem is the evil twin of the Invisible Hand.

    Note that this logic not only predicts apathy, but hypocrisy as well – it makes sense to try and convince other people to do something, even to admit you ought to me doing something yourself, just so long as you can avoid doing more than cheap talk.

    Normally, the fix for this is to use a coordinating entity to force everyone to do their part – i.e. some form of government regulation (Carbon taxes would be the best solution in this case). Unfortunately, this is a global problem, and we don’t have nay global institutions to deal with this. Our national governments are all stuck in the same Collective Action Problem trap that we are are individuals.

    This is why I’m mot optimistic that we will get a political solution to climate change, our intuitions couldn’t handle this problem if they were at their best, which they clearly are not.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to James K
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      We have plenty of global entities to deal with this issue and three treaties in the last twenty years to prescribe how individual governments should act. The other major global industrial powers – China and India included – have all stuck to their parts of the agreement in independently verifiable ways. Only in the US is the Climate threat seen as Not a National Government Problem.

      Our institutions are all made up of individuals, and I work daily with many many people in those institutions who are passionate about doing everything they can both as individuals and as an institution. And let me assure you we are getting more pissed every day that our hard work is being met by derision like yours. Its bad enough we have to fight for our collective future against a distorted free market that doesn’t actually care about its most important resources (and that would be labor). Its even worse to have to battle 536 nationally elected officials who pass laws telling us to do things and then spend the rest of their careers undermining the very things they told us to do because that’s supposedly good reelection strategy. But to continue to also have to bear the brunt of the common insult that government institutions can’t do anything is over the bar. those institutions put men on the moon using computers with less power then the cell phone in your pocket. if you gave us 1/2 a chance and a 1/4 of an ounce of support we could do this too.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Philip H
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        You know, it’s funny I was about to do my normal response to “The rest of the world is doing its part” which to go and compare the European Carbon price to Nordhaus’s estimates of what the price needs to be. When I’ve done this in the past it’s been about EUR10, while Nordhaus suggested it needed to be at about USD30, but now I see the carbon price has come up a lot since then and is sitting at about EUR25. So, it would seem than this year the EU actually started making a non-token contribution. Now that price is still too low, Nordhaus thought the price needed to be ramped up over time and the USD30 price was supposed to be put in 10 years ago.

        But as for China, sure they signed the Paris agreement, but they don’t even have their carbon market up and running yet. By itself the Paris agreement is just a reporting regime, it has no teeth precisely because there are no global institutions capable of enforcing carbon abatement.

        To be clear, I’m not making a generic “government bad” argument. I work for the New Zealand government myself, and I know a lot government failure is due to either government being asked to do something it cannot do or politicians (or voters) desire to not acknowledge that a problem exists. What i am saying is that in the absence of a world government developing a functional political solution to climate change will require technological advancement so as to make the short-term costs of abandoning fossil fuels much lower than they are now.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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        Only in the US is the Climate threat seen as Not a National Government Problem.

        Pass a treaty, wait 10 years, evaluate it. Typically the US fails to pass the treaty but does better than most at living up to its obligations anyway. Not because of gov micromanagement but because of “random technology improvements” (gas, fracking) but whatever.

        If we’re interested in progress then we should measure progress, not treaties.

        And let me assure you we are getting more pissed every day that our hard work is being met by derision like yours.

        Allar in apples is the next big problem and is going to kill us. Whoops, no it isn’t. Cyanide in grapes. Global cooling. Remember that one? Cover page magazine pictures of Washington under an iceberg. Genetically modified foods, i.e. “frankenfoods” (current bodycount: zero). A century ago if the wind shifted air pollution could kill a hundred people, but our air quality is getting worse. Fracking. This was off hand from memory, I’m sure the real list is MUCH longer.

        And now we have Global Warming… where the planet is in danger (again), the current bodycount is roughly zero (again), the claims seem like hysteria (again), missed deadlines for action pass without the many meters of ocean rising and so forth.

        Oh, and the solution can’t involve nuclear (because that would actually work), nor can it be hydro power (because that would kill fish), or fracking (earthquakes), it has to be a Green restructuring of the entire economy so politically favored boondoggles are supported and no Green needs to do without his Jet.

        Twenty years ago I told people I’d know the planet was actually in danger when the Greens started screaming for nuclear power. I’m still waiting. The number of dead bodies I see from GW supports that concept.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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          Given that global climate change means all weather related phenomena-like heat deaths, hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornadoes, floods, droughts and famine are all made worse by a changing climate, the body count from global warming is easily in the millions right now.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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            the body count from global warming is easily in the millions right now.

            Multiple problems with that kind of analysis.

            First, weather predates humanity.

            2nd, we adapt quicker and easier to the heat than the cold. The snow storms that aren’t happening could easily have produced more dead bodies than the heat that is.

            3rd, and most importantly, the world benefits massively from carbon energy. If your plan to “save” those millions of people is to keep Billions in poverty, and/or eliminate other massive human “goods”, then any reasonable evaluation of the alternatives says those millions are a cost of doing business.

            Measure the amount of human good that comes from a course of action, or government spending, and divide that by the cost of the action. Global Warming’s problem isn’t just that the numbers are big, it’s also that the good-per-dollar to oppose it is small.

            For example we’re going to eliminate Malaria for a few dozen million or so dollars. That same amount of money spent on GW does… what? Anything?Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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              There isn’t any reason to think that the deaths from climate change are less than the alternative timeline in which carbon buildup didn’t happen.

              In any case, that becomes a false dilemma where we can only choose between runaway warming, or Medieval poverty.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                There isn’t any reason to think that the deaths from climate change are less than the alternative timeline in which carbon buildup didn’t happen.

                There’s lots of reason. The story of economic growth for the last century plus is the story of carbon fuels.

                Carbon is responsible for transportation (trains, cars, planes, and even ships), electricity generation, and various materials (plastics, steel). Yes, a lot of this can exist without carbon, but it can’t exist at scale. Whale oil can’t replace normal oil because every whale on the planet dies and it still wouldn’t be enough. Not every city is next to a water source that can be turned into a power dam. Mass steel production is very energy intensive and so on. Without transportation and electricity we become a 19th (or even 18th) century third world nation and still have the associated problems.

                The second and third order effects are also really bad. Eliminating pollution is effectively a luxury good, making everyone poorer means we should expect lots more pollution and devastation of the environment. Without cars New York (and every other city) are covered with horse shit which dries, becomes a dust, and is inhaled by everyone working there. At this level of economic development, slavery might still be viable and around. Starvation may still be an issue because food may be too expensive to transport.

                Industries and technologies that depend on energy, transportation, and/or money aren’t viable or developed. Penicillin probably goes back to it’s “natural” price of “worth more than gold”, and that’s if it exists at all. Green energy won’t exist. Solar cells depend on the computer chip industry which doesn’t exist without electricity. Useful windmills depend on metallurgy and research which doesn’t exist. Nuclear power requires components which are extremely energy intensive.

                Technologies build on each other, and yes, the higher technologies can replace the lower ones after you have them. But removing carbon is like trying to use a ladder with the bottom 4 rungs removed. If you’re already on the upper rungs you won’t care but if you’re not then it’s difficult or impossible to move up.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Well I’m glad we’ve finally addressed the issue of “horse shit lung” deaths.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            “Given that global climate change means all weather related phenomena-like heat deaths, hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornadoes, floods, droughts and famine are all made worse by a changing climate, the body count from global warming is easily in the millions right now.”

            that’s right it fillets
            it chops, it dices, it slices
            it never stops
            lasts a lifetime, it mows your lawn

            and it mows your lawn
            it picks up the kids from school
            it gets rid of unwanted facial hair
            it gets rid of embarassing age spots
            it delivers the pizza

            and it lengthens
            and it strengthens
            and it finds that slipper that’s be enlodged under the
            chaise lounge for several weeks

            and it plays a mean rhythm master
            it makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
            and it’s only a dollar
            and it removes embarassing stains from contour sheets
            that’s right

            and it entertains visiting relatives
            it turns a sandwich into a banquet

            tired of being the life of the party
            change your shorts
            change your life

            change your life
            change into a 9 year old hindu boy
            get rid of your wife
            Report

  6. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    I saw this movie a few months back and wasn’t thrilled by it. In part, that was because I didn’t understand its cinematic allusions to other works that I learned about after reading a review of the film. I get the sense that this film was made for other film makers or those who appreciate film as an end in itself (a sort of le cinema pour le cinema mentality). In other words, I guess you can say it was over my head.

    I found the movie disturbing, but not in a good way. The global warming argument (to the extent there was an argument….whatever message the film wanted to impart was mostly inscrutable to me) seemed in some sense “tacked on” and an afterthought. I know that’s a strange thing to say given how central global warming is to the main characters, but I couldn’t escape the possibility that the pastor would have acted very similarly regardless of the cause. He just needed something to challenge his hope and he got that something by meeting with the global warming activist and his wife.

    The pastor’s relationship with the deceased person’s widow just seemed weird to me and kind of unhealthy (and the scene where they seem to transcend space and time seemed…..to come out of the blue…..gratuitous given the rest of the movie). The pastor’s rejection of the parishioner with whom, we’re given to understand, he had had some kind of romantic relationship was under-explored.

    I’m not at all a connoisseur of film so again, I missed most of the film’s messages. It just didn’t work for me.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Gabriel Conroy
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, I can see that about the film references. It’s a weird thing- I have the same problem with Tarantino movies because I’m not sure what it adds to a story that it alludes to other movies. At times with Kill Bill I wanted to say “Yes, I saw that movie too” but so what?

      I felt like the story was probably written the opposite way though- that it was Schrader working through his thoughts about global warming and faith and then adding the widow and the suicide belt and all the rest. I wasn’t as interested in the whole anniversary of the church subplot either.Report

  7. Avatar Zac Black
    Ignored
    says:

    I can’t be the only one who’s had the extremely dark thought that perhaps the “best” solution to climate change would be a global thermonuclear war. Carbon emissions would plummet for a good while, and the resultant nuclear winter would cool the atmosphere substantially. Still probably wouldn’t be enough to *fully* undo what we’ve done, but it might be a good start.Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    The intersection of immigration and climate change:
    https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/43kdk9/this-is-the-new-face-of-climate-change

    “Parts of the Golden Triangle, which expands into Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, have experienced such devastating drought in the past few years, they’re now known as the Dry Corridor. This year, Mejía’s corn harvest only brought half a yield, which slashed the earnings he uses to support his wife and two teenage children.
    Now, Mejía and other farmers worry that the Golden Triangle can no longer guarantee them work or provide enough food. And they’re not alone. Worldwide, climate change will displace an estimated 150 to 300 million people by 2050. The so-called “climate migrant” has increasingly become one of the many faces of migration.”Report

  9. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    another thought I had: the thing that the guy in the movie realized and couldn’t live with is that the christian religion isn’t actually about saving other people. A virtuous life is good for you but your virtue isn’t going to lift anyone else out of misery; maybe you can bear someone’s cross for a time but at the end of the day it’s them who has to get up on it and die. Recycle cans, go vegan, eschew plastic, and then the Brazilians burn down the rainforest.
    You can witness, but that gets back to the same joke about therapists changing a lightbulb; it only takes one but the lightbulb has to want to change. You can be environmentally virtuous but if the rest of the world doesn’t think that’s worth it then what you want doesn’t really matter.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to DensityDuck
      Ignored
      says:

      This is a great point. Catholics, at least, are already accustomed to the idea of the “small church” or the remnant in the midst of a perverse generation that doesn’t really care. I believe (although it’s been a *long* time) that the remnant keeps the faith, even if it’s just among two people. Which saves the faith, even if it doesn’t save other people.Report

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