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What is to be done?

Posted January 6 by John Birmingham

It’s a bit hard to keep smiling isn’t it? I know I promised to keep it light around here, and I intend to stick to that promise, but everything is so dark at the moment it’s not easy. Ash and smoke has literally blotted out the sun in so many places. In others it has turned the world deep, blood red - the sort of thing Cormac McCarthy might have imagined for one of his post 911 apocalypse metaphors.

It is easy to despair. Easier still to anger.

My patience with climate change denial is at an end. It now simply enrages me. Even sitting in my pleasant cafe as I do on a Monday morning, I feel my brain heating with fury as I typed the words ‘climate change denial.’

And yet I have friends who are skeptics at best, if not actual deniers at worst. I’d Iike to maintain those friendships. I don’t know if it will be possible in the long term, but I suspect the only way might be through changing myself first.

Everything I’ve learned about human psychology tells me people will not change beliefs that are critical to their self image until their actual existence is threatened AND EVEN THEN they will fight to hold onto as much as they can.

Eventually, I suppose, I’ll have to decide whether I can have people like that in my life, but if I expect them to change I should first look at myself.

What could I be doing differently?

One thing, surprising to me when I realised it, was this. I am almost as ignorant of the science of climate change as any casual, lazy denier. I haven’t read the reports I’ve cited in columns. I don’t keep up to date with the latest findings. I scan the headlines, get angry, send a tweet.

So as a start I can at least educate myself. I can read the reports, or more likely the executive summaries because, lets face it, there have been millions of pages of reports and papers and findings published now.

That would be a start and it would make it easier to talk with people who—in good faith—can't bring themselves to accept the science of climate change for whatever reason. I would at least have something other than my anger to offer them.

27 Responses to ‘What is to be done?’

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted January 6
Knowing the science will just make you more angry with the deniers. You will see so much more clearly how wrong they are.
I'm in a space where I can't be bothered arguing the points any more. It's impossible, and will remain impossible as long as Rupes is around, although as I've seen you mention, the more evil Darth Lachlan will follow. Having DT, SM and BJ in power can't be good either.
So we're talking forever in terms of argument and logic. These fires might be the thing that gets people moving, especially when they start happening every year. A bit of fire up the arse. The heat too. Records being broken, not just year on year, but day on day. And water...maybe not wars but certainly battles.
ms insomniac and I have four small grandchildren. The oldest is four. What world are they inheriting? The one for our children will be bad enough.

I need more vegemite.

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tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6
Starter pack: The Garnaut Review 2008, which has been widely cited the last few days

Someone might have a better link

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andrew reckons...

Posted January 6
Point them at xkcd 1732 "Earth Temperature Timeline". It's both entertaining and (IMO) convincing to those who argue that "climate has changed in the past".

What burns me most is those (like our Prime Minimal) who claim to acknowledge the science and the facts, but that "we can't solve it" because "we are only 1.5% of the world". As if that argument to pure greed and entitlement can be convincing. I prefer the Asimov quote I found when reading about his recent 100th birthday:

"There's no way I can single-handedly save the world or, perhaps, even make a perceptible difference -- but how ashamed I would be to let a day pass without making one more effort."

jl mumbles...

Posted January 6
Yes, climate has changed in the past. In a few cases with utter disaster. Google the K-T extinction, and the lesser known but deadlier P-T extinction. Frightening to read about.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 6
That was a good link. Thx.

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jl mutters...

Posted January 6
Here in the heart of the historical US coal country, I completely understand what you are saying. Try looking at the problem from another perspective; not at what may happen in the future, but what has happened (with overwhelming evidence) in the past. Simply Google "Geologic Climate Change" and read from any number of perfectly reputable university based, user-friendly websites. People who may get testy about future-based computer models will usually accept the evidence of past ice ages and warming periods without qualm. Go from there- it is but a short intuitive jump to compare current CO2 emissions, etc., with volcanic eruptions and weather fluctuations in the past. To borrow from Battlestar Galactica; "This has happened before. It will happen again."

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jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6
Yeah, reading about past climate change events can really curl the toes. Go here and check it out:–Triassic_extinction_event A real gem from that article? This sentence: "Studies in Bear Lake County, near Paris, Idaho, showed a relatively quick rebound in a localized marine ecosystem, taking around 2 million years to recover." Relatively quick rebound? Good God, a mere two million years.

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jason mumbles...

Posted January 6
I work in this sphere and my standard response to climate deniers is "it's like cancer, ignore it and you die, treat it now and it might get better". When it comes to cancer we trust the science and the people who have been studying this for years, there's no difference.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 6
I think I'll be using this one from now on.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted January 6
I admit to despair as I look around. On social media I found a post "Things aren't getting worse, more things are getting uncovered ...." which helped. But when the dispair threatens to overwhelm I find some genre speeches help - If I might paraphrase Lord of the Rings "I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of Fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand, men of the West!"

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted January 7
Well, I've read a fair bit.

I keep getting told something along the lines of, "We've got ten years."

Or, "The next ice age . . . "

Or, "We'll all be starving by . . . "

And this was back when I was a kid in the 1970s.

Seems to me that the problem is akin to slavery in America prior to 1865. They needed the slaves to run their economy, we need petro chemicals to run ours. We have alternatives, nuclear being the most effective at solving energy generation, desalinization (we have a water problem), and getting more electric vehicles on the roads. But then say, "nukes," and people freak out worse than the current problem.

As for wind and solar, up in DeKalb County, which served as the setting for Milo County in my own Tearing Down Tuesday stories, people are at each other's throats over wind turbines. Having visited the region a couple of years back . . .

The reality of the massive monstrosities, which have their own problems, I can see why people hate them.

So, I don't know, man. Seems to me, we're doomed to burn, because not only can no one agree on what the problem is, no one can agree on solutions, or if a solution is even needed.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted January 8
That's very defeatist Murph. It's not that people can't agree on solutions. People can't agree on anything. That's just human nature.

Sometimes that aspect of human nature leads to enjoyably unimportant distractions like "Who's the better starship captain; Kirk or Picard".

And sometimes that aspect of human nature imperils human civilisation. Like now.

There exists huge economic incentives to encourage conflict over contending solutions. A trillion dollar fossil fuel industry isn't going to pull its own plug.

But there also exists huge incentives to solve the problem. I read the other day that the first trillionaire will be the guy the who solves the energy problem.

It seems a legit prediction to me. Although I would not be surprised to see the big fossil fuel companies re-engineer themselves as renewables businesses. They've known what was coming since the early 1970s and they are some of the biggest investors in renewables research and development.

As for climate change denial, that's just entrenched interests and Russian bots. Yes, we have Russian bots here now too.

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted January 8
Realist, not defeatist.

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Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted January 7
And frankly, I'm far more interested in things I can actually fix.

Like keeping kids from drowning in pools. Small goals.

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Dave W swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 8
My issue with the argument that wind turbines are monstrosities or are terrible is that coal mines, trucks or trains carrying the stuff and the power stations are not exactly photogenic or without health issues themselves.

jason asserts...

Posted January 8
I may have a biased view but i see wind turbines as being a piece of art on the landscape. The slowly turning blades are hypnotic, the design sleek and beautiful. The only thing about coal mines is we tend to hide them away. Compare the two on an equal basis and there is no contest.

jl mumbles...

Posted January 8
The aesthetics are the least of the problem (even though very old coal mines can make good swimming holes, albeit dangerous). The real problem is the poisoning of the aquifer through Acid Mine Drainage. A little chemistry; H2O+Pyrite(FeS)=FeO+H2SO4. Translated? Add water to fool's gold (which occurs in coal veins) and it produces rust and sulfuric acid. The rust blocks out sunlight in the water, and the sulfuric acid lowers the ph of the water. This creates dead, unusable bodies of water.

insomniac asserts...

Posted January 8
Seeing an array of wind turbines from the air off the coast of England is infinitely more beautiful than the ugly scars you see flying over the Hunter or similar mining regions.

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted January 8
About half the residents of DeKalb County, Missouri have a decidedly different attitude about wind turbines. Namely, they hate them.

Never mind that the revenue taxes from the company that runs them renovated Maysville Public Schools for the first time since the 1960s.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted January 8
I was in Jordan in 2018 and we visited the ruins of a crusader castle. On the hill next door was a wind farm. The contrast was startling but beautiful.

Dave W would have you know...

Posted January 8
Yes, but why do they hate them, Murph?

Is it because power generation is happening in their backyard, rather than somebody else's? Because it has to happen in someone's backyard.

Dick asserts...

Posted January 8
Hi Dave.

My sister and brother-in-law have a large wind farm next door to their farm. The nearest turbine to their house is only about 200 metres away. Their concern is the sub-sonic noise. They ended up buying another house in town (about 40 km from their farm) just so they could sleep properly a couple of nights a week. I think there probably just needs to be more science on this, and a minimum distance prescribed between turbines and homes.

Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted January 9
Hi Dick,

I apologise- below (and I missed the respond button in my haste) I explain that I wished to retract the comment.


Dick asserts...

Posted January 9
Apology not necessary. Just pointing out my experience. I personally don't have an issue with them, but I don't have to live next to one.

Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted January 9
Dick covered it.

I drove up to DeKalb County back in 2017 for the first time in a long time.

The science fiction writer in me was a bit awestruck to see something I had written about in my stories manifest in my lifetime.

The boy in me who spent his summers up there? The things are creepy as fuck.

I don't hate them myself, but like Dick, I don't have to live by them.

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Dave W mumbles...

Posted January 8
I'd like to retract this, it is mean spirited and unnecessary of me.

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spiral reckons...

Posted January 30
Bill gates is trying to build carbon engineering plants and plans to be carbon negative by 2030 meaning it will have eliminated the entire carbon they have used since their inception (which is really damn impressive tbh).

it's a drop in the water given that other companies don't necesseraly do the same, but it helps me see that sometimes, even some people who could massively profit by letting things go as they have, try to do the right things and come up with really cool ideas.

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