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Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse 
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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
.
.
Well, there ain't no use in cryin'
'Cause it will only, only drive you mad.
Does it hurt to hear them lyin'?
Was this the only world you had?

— James Patrick (Jimmy) Page, Robert Plant


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
...the indigenous welcome has major value on several levels. Matilda’s concept of mother earth is highly religious, but has been excluded from traditional patriarchal Christianity and from science, in a pathology that illustrates the dangerous alienation of western imperialism from the earth...
Quote:
...climate change as entirely compatible with capitalist economics...
Robert, I wonder if you could address what I see as, if not a true contradiction, then at least an extremely difficult reconciling of philosophies of life. You'll see what I mean by the two passages I've quoted. I have always associated adopting an ethic of nurturing and care with turning away from, not embracing, the emphases of capitalism, specifically that we are committed to economic growth fueled by consumption. The alternative doesn't need to be labeled socialism or communism, but it would certainly be a downsizing in terms of resources and energy used and the growth rate of the human population.
Thanks DWill, your comments raise a central problem in philosophy, politics and economics. One way to look at this problem is the tension between cooperation and competition as primary drivers of ethics, with implications for climate policy, and for social evolution more broadly.

Cooperation involves nurturing and care, recognising the unity of all life and the primacy of respect and empathy. These cooperative principles are central to ecological sustainability, protecting and stewarding the natural environment in a spirit of solidarity, recognising the broad damage caused by selfish and destructive actions.

This cooperative system of values is central to indigenous systems of spirituality, and to the whole idea of care for the earth that informs concern about our planetary future. The absence of cooperative values is a main cause of climate change, due to how modern culture has become alienated from nature.

Alienation is a dominant cultural syndrome arising from the history of western conquest with its self-serving apocalyptic pathology of the infinite providential frontier. A psychoanalytic philosophy can see how these cultural pathologies are present in much of the fantasy religion of the west, but how Christian traditions conceal a real potential for salvation from extinction beneath the supernatural veneer.

The downside of cooperation is seen in the socialist ideal of giving according to your ability and receiving only what you need, emphasising mutual equality over individual freedom. Enforced equality can become a way to prevent entrepreneurial risk, stifling individual innovation, motivation and creativity and producing conformity and stagnation.

The contrasting ethical value system grounded in competition stands in tension with these cooperative principles and problems, and is a primary driver of technological progress. Evolutionary processes of relentless competition for survival and reproduction generate ruthless efficiency, with only the most able and adaptive individuals and traits able to prosper, whether in nature or culture.

Competition promotes the market economics of capitalism, emphasising individual freedom rather than social equality, on the basis that freedom generates prosperity and opportunity. The task of integrating competitive values with the cooperative vision of climate restoration sees that climate restoration requires technological innovation, which can best achieve the required global scale and efficiency within a capitalist corporate framework, driven by private industry in cooperation with governments and scientists.

Human existence can rise above the fascistic Social Darwinism of colonial imperialism and its modern American versions that allow the weakest to fail in order to give incentive for the strong to improve and prosper. But finding the balance is complex, requiring public policy that resolves the tension between freedom and equality, integrating competition and cooperation as core values.

This tension between cooperation and competition appears strongly within Christianity, in what can be called the Matthew Paradox. Matthew 25 firstly promotes the ethic of competition, with Christ saying those who have much will be given even more. It then supports the contrasting ethic of cooperation, with Christ saying what we do to the least of the world we do to him. The resolution of this paradox is that only the abundance produced by competition can enable cooperative distribution of resources to meet the needs of all.

These principles underpin key debates in climate change. A broadly held communitarian view is that capitalist competition is destroying our planet, and only a fundamental shift of values to a simpler more equal and cooperative economy can reverse global warming. My view is that this focus on equality has important messages but is simplistic and misconceived in practice.

Efforts to decrease overall consumption face the immense barrier of popular democratic aspirations for improved standard of living. Even more importantly than this challenge of obtaining consent for a cooperative simplicity, the problem of destruction of the planet is not simply about the scale of human activity, but is also primarily about methods pf economic organisation. My view is that better management of the economy, within a capitalist framework, could actually increase real overall abundance while protecting ecology, for example by converting waste into resources, and especially by making use of the vast resources, energy and area available in the world oceans.

Solving the global warming problem requires a balance between shifting to less polluting lifestyles and cleaning up the mess we have made. Both these urgent objectives can best be achieved in my view through cooperation between governments and corporations to use the world ocean to convert the dangerous excess of carbon dioxide into valuable commodities.

DWill wrote:
If it turns out not to be within the capacity of our nature to voluntarily step down, then our only response to climate change can be adaptation to its effects, which won't "work," but will temporarily address some of the problems.

I disagree that the only alternatives are adaptation or shrinkage of the economy. A third option, grounded in the ideas of negative emission technologies, is that methods to remove carbon from the air at sufficient scale could enable ongoing economic growth. My vision of the planetary future is high carbon, in the sense that we will work out simple methods to transform the carbon in CO2 into myriad useful products, such as plastics and textiles, which will then enable sustained productivity at scale.

For example, shifting carbon from the air into the soil through systems such as biochar has major potential to improve agriculture while also addressing global warming, as other NET Conference speakers discussed, of which more later.

A Seven F program can focus on fuel, food, feed, fabric, fertilizer, forests and fish as the primary carbon industries needed to save the planet.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Dr Clare Heyward, of the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam Germany, spoke at the Canberra Negative Emissions Technology Conference on challenges and opportunities of negative emission technologies, reflecting on moral debates in political philosophy around geoengineering.

Dr Heyward noted that this is a new area of discussion, with the Canberra meeting only the second ever conference on NETs, following the conference in Sweden in May 2018. She said the need to discuss both solar radiation management and greenhouse gas removal arises from recognition of the severe impacts of climate change as an existential crisis for our planet, and commented that failure to find ways to stop dangerous warming presents an ethical imperative to consider technology, aiming to adapt to a changed world, rectify impacts of past emissions and reduce future emissions.

My own view is that placing this existential moral crisis for our species in a cultural framework can usefully draw on religious metaphors for the apocalyptic risks of conflict, collapse and extinction caused by global warming, portraying the human situation as imperilled by the four horsemen of war, death, plague and famine.

Dr Heyward did not use such religious imagery, but said that morality is inherent in our response to global warming, putting NETs in the context of normative values, the philosophy of what we believe we should do. The dangerous threats raise moral problems around how we should respond, who should be responsible, what priorities should be considered and implications around timing.

Dr Heyward suggested a good reference is the 2009 book Why We Disagree About Climate Change by Dr Michael Hulme (link is to a 3 page synopsis). A key issue in this book is that values are not explicit, presenting a challenge to science, so a philosophical discussion on values, for example around the primacy of relationships over technology, can help to clarify strategic directions and priorities. In this short summary Dr Hulme explains some rather provocative views on how to think about climate change that align with my views. Here are some key points:
Michael Hulme wrote:
Science may be solving the mysteries of climate, but it is not helping us discover the meaning of climate change... we must approach the idea of climate change as an imaginative resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can and should take shape...The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future... Creative applications of the idea of climate change... may be hindered by the search for [global] agreement. "


Dr Heyward recommends not using the rubric of geoengineering, given how carbon dioxide removal NETs are overshadowed (pun) by solar radiation management. Instead, she says technology-specific discussions are needed on ethics and governance, aiming for what she termed an ‘integrationist’ perspective, addressing themes of distributive justice, vulnerability, resources, moral hazard, compensation, unforeseen impacts, conflict, biodiversity, hubris, land use, values and liabilities.

Questions arising through efforts to integrate climate change into a wholistic worldview include whether technology advocates have an inflated sense of ability to intervene in planetary systems, who decides and how, and whether technologies can be imposed on communities who oppose them. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations present an example of efforts toward an Integrationist perspective, with linked goals addressing human rights. Some NETs affect goals under SDG 14 on oceans.

This philosophical perspective from Dr Heyward was welcome to me due to her effort to place the geoengineering discourse in the obvious and realistic strategic context that the dangers and costs of climate change are far greater than the risks of testing all options to prevent it.

Unfortunately that moral perspective of the balance of risks seems largely absent from public debates. Leaving aside the psychosis of climate denial, climate advocacy tends to be dominated by left wing fools who see climate change entirely through the class war opportunity of an attack on the fossil fuel industries, and who therefore automatically oppose all geoengineering efforts by invoking this class war narrative.

The moral imperative is to assess the impacts of options, and it is abundantly clear that the science shows that failure to geoengineer would definitely be catastrophic, whereas immediate testing of proposals offers some change of averting climate disaster.

I therefore disagreed with Dr Heyward’s opposition to geoengineering language. I argue in favour of geoengineering, and see questions of semantic framing as secondary. The concept of geoengineering has emerged from a technical mindset, among people who lack the capacity to frame the argument in political terms, even though the basic technical ideas are sound around the urgent need to cool the planet.

By contrast, the extremists who oppose geoengineering are more effective at political rhetoric, so have been effective in their unconscionable tactic of whipping up groundless fears. Preventing research on geoengineering perversely undermines the claimed objective of stopping global warming.

Tactical retreat on language may seem helpful in a toxic culture, but indicates weakness and a lack of certainty about strategy. The context here is a war for the future of the planet. In this dangerous situation it is worth considering the advice from the Emperor Napoleon, that in politics one should never retreat, never retract and never admit a mistake, even if not to that blank extent. The basic ideas of geoengineering are urgent, sound and essential. Refusing any concession to opponents is the best way to frame public debate to prevent dangerous warming.

The urgent geoengineering path is immediate solar radiation management to stop the impending crisis of cascading tipping points, accompanied by public private partnerships to develop methods to remove carbon from the air and sea, alongside the smaller task of cutting emissions. Taxing carbon is helpful for these efforts, but could prove marginal to the main agenda of devoting massive resources to stopping global warming as the primary security threat facing our planet.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
An article in New York Times on 19 November on Climate Change Doom argues that a climate apocalypse is not inevitable. I fully agree, but find it very interesting that apocalyptic discussion today is so readily framed in the natural science context of climate change rather than imaginary supernatural terrors.

Carbon removal and other geoengineering options present a viable path to avoid apocalypse, but the subtext is that our current planetary trajectory is indeed apocalyptic, requiring a change in thinking. With a head in the sand attitude, and without major cultural and economic change, the prognosis for cataclysmic impacts of climate change is dire.

Worth noting in the NYT article the comment from Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University about scientific conservatism: “If they say something’s bad, you know it’s probably a lot worse than they said.”

The article also links to a book Climate Ideologies which offers the sarcastic comment that "The prior errors of prophecy proved that no one knew anything about anything; therefore, climate change was the merest hot air." The author William Vollmann cites the most widely accepted ready refutation of climate change - “Why should I concentrate on anything that stresses me out?”


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Hi Robert. The title of Vollman's series is The Carbon Ideologies, the first volume of which was reviewed in a recent Atlantic, where it was billed as "the most honest look at climate change yet." Unfortunately, "honest" in this case means that Vollman offers scant hope of escaping catastrophe.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
I have just one thought to give right now. Using the word "apocalypse" is not only hyperbolic, but it connects to a main reason that the vast majority of the world's people cannot get emotionally behind the imperative to counteract global warming. When I say "apocalypse" is hyperbolic, I only mean that such an event takes place suddenly, all at once. Though climate change will be catastrophic over time, it will manifest slowly in terms of human perspectives, which are based on our lifespans. People "know" this, and the knowledge allows us to continue short-terming. Thinking about Jared Diamond's book Collapse, I speculate that the seemingly inexplicable scenarios of civilizations' self-extinctions are parallel to the case of world civilization today. The eventual collapses are caused by a combination of denial of a future reckoning and such a strong attachment to a way of life that people would be willing to stick with that, no matter what. You appear to say that we can keep our way of life, no need to back down from it, but at the very least, the world regime you advocate will require the buy-in of citizens. They will have to consent to both the financial and political sacrifices (because they'll see them in such terms) that geo-engineering and massive exploitation of the oceans will entail, in other words a disruption to our way of life. If there was a large meteor headed for us, we'd be on board (though, these days, there would be cries of "conspiracy"), but we're the frogs in the slowly warming pot of water when it comes to climate.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
I only mean that such an event takes place suddenly, all at once. Though climate change will be catastrophic over time, it will manifest slowly in terms of human perspectives, which are based on our lifespans.


Are you sure about that? I'm not. I'd like to know Mr. Tulip's opinion.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
I have been reading “Sapiens” on page six Harari expresses doubt that our species will be around in a thousand years. I haven’t finished reading the book but In thinking of “apocalypses” I think climate is the foremost factor facing us. DWill has it correct but I also see this as a slow moving downward spiral. I have serious issues with geoengineering. Management and financing will require major government oversight particularly if we consider the issue as an Apollo style project, likewise as an Manhattan project, I mean there are heavy costs and the free market fundies have zero interest in anybody looking over their shoulder. As too the 1% investment by fossil fuel towards research, well that’s just green washing.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Litwitlou wrote:
DWill wrote:
I only mean that such an event takes place suddenly, all at once. Though climate change will be catastrophic over time, it will manifest slowly in terms of human perspectives, which are based on our lifespans.
Are you sure about that? I'm not. I'd like to know Mr. Tulip's opinion.
Evolution proceeds by a process called punctuated equilibrium. That means species and ecosystems have long periods of stability that come to a very sudden end when a tipping point causes a phase shift. The five planetary extinction events, such as the acid sea of the Permian that killed off 95% of all marine species, and the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, are examples of punctuations, rather like a full stop for species that were killed off.

Anthropogenic climate change is causing feedback amplifiers as I discussed in my post above on the comments of Dr Will Steffen, leading to sudden dangerous warming and other cascading tipping points. As Dr Steffen said, the image of a canoe headed over a waterfall is a good way to think about climate change. At the first tug of the faster current it is still possible to steer to the bank and escape, but the situation rapidly becomes impossible.

Climate change does involve apocalyptic scenarios of conflict and collapse. The question of whether impacts will be sudden is rather like the turkey who maintains everything is stable and safe until it receives a surprise on the day before Thanksgiving.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
The downside of cooperation is seen in the socialist ideal of giving according to your ability and receiving only what you need, emphasising mutual equality over individual freedom. Enforced equality can become a way to prevent entrepreneurial risk, stifling individual innovation, motivation and creativity and producing conformity and stagnation.


This is I think an example of overplaying the argument that the left is hell-bent on pursuing a socialist agenda. I keep referring to free-market fundamentalism for the specific reason to combat this false premise. The extreme left in the U.S. are marginal at best and that's for good reason, the same could have been said of the extreme right, that was of course until Trump. For two agonizing years pragmatism was on the ropes (Yay blue wave, thanks Orange County California), Anyway back to point: For decades the right wingers have pushed this false narrative that democrats in general are pure socialist and that their goal is nothing short of a total overthrow of capitalism. Robert relentlessly implies as much with regularity. Its a strange paradox to be so convinced of the doom of sapiens through their own handy work and yet to equate the organizational capacity of open government as some sort of downside towards mitigation. (leastwise that's an impression I sometimes get). For Robert, economics "is complicated", particularly with regards to Anthropogenic global warming, and I can certainly understand why. Libertarianism does not allow for government intervention in what is seen as a sovereign state issue.

Pure libertarianism places the overwhelming onus of cost on the consumer and by virtue unburdens producers of responsibility. (uninhibited laissez-faire). I call this "Ayn Randian economic materialism". The current global scene is towards this philosophy, We see it with Trump and the right here in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe and Australia, as well as South America, In short, Where ever we are witnessing the influence of Nationalism. In the U.S. uninhibited laissez-faire was put to the test I would suggest at the start of the American Civil War. Slavery is the ultimate form of "letting business do", We all know how that turned out. Ted Roosevelt and later his nephew FDR. Pushed back on libertarianism. It has been in the American tradition to recognize a social dilemma and debate the virtue, process and standards, goals, objectives. Whether the dilemma involves people physically or environmentally and solutions typically are found through both public and private cooperation. But not so much these days. That's what I see as Roberts paradox. Producers of pollution have the greater burden of responsibility, Yes, the consumer can forge an individual path but in what is seemingly virgin forest will undoubtedly have an encounter with an old discarded beverage container laying amongst decaying pineneedles.

Lately I've convinced myself that a progressive carbon tax is an acceptable form of mitigation finance. (I would like some time though to gather better thoughts on mitigation finance)



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Taylor wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The downside of cooperation is seen in the socialist ideal of giving according to your ability and receiving only what you need, emphasising mutual equality over individual freedom. Enforced equality can become a way to prevent entrepreneurial risk, stifling individual innovation, motivation and creativity and producing conformity and stagnation.

This is I think an example of overplaying the argument that the left is hell-bent on pursuing a socialist agenda.
Hi Taylor, my point was the need to balance cooperation and competition in defining the principles of political economy, noting that when either one is emphasised too much there are problems.

Global warming is caused by a badly regulated market, but that does not just mean more regulation is the answer. Obviously the USA is not tilting left while the Democrats are so closely linked to Wall Street, to say nothing of Republicans. But both sides are guilty of failing to engage with the security risk of climate change, and instead are just treating climate as a problem for political spin.

Within the climate activist community, the socialist agenda is more prominent than your comment suggests. The goal of decarbonising the world economy would require an authoritarian system to get anywhere near the scale of emission reduction needed to have material impact on climate. My view is that climate stability should be a fundamental goal, but it is essential to decouple this goal from socialist methods that have proved in the past to be unworkable, authoritarian and harmful.

Instead, the more practical path is to work in cooperation with affected industries to promote investment in carbon removal. That means reducing the focus on socialist agendas that are now intimately linked to climate change, especially the climate justice idea that compensating the poor should be a core climate priority. In a two degree warmer world there is little hope of finding resources for such redistribution of wealth.
Taylor wrote:
I keep referring to free-market fundamentalism for the specific reason to combat this false premise.
It is a distortion to imply that any criticism of socialist thinking must reflect free market fundamentalism, although that seems to be a widespread view in the current polarised political context. My own view on economics aligns mainly with Hayek (eg here), who emphasised the benefits of preventing growth of the state while focussing on the need for good regulation.
Taylor wrote:
The extreme left in the U.S. are marginal at best and that's for good reason, the same could have been said of the extreme right, that was of course until Trump.
There is no need to pitch this debate as only between extremes. My comments were in response to the argument that climate action requires ‘downsizing in terms of resources and energy used.’ That is a widespread view, central to the idea of taxing carbon, that is not much supported outside left wing political circles.

The right wing backlash against climate action reflects popular hostility to measures perceived to increase poverty. Given the scale of support for fossil fuels, with Trump’s departure from Paris just the tip of the iceberg, it is important to discuss ways to achieve climate security that do not involve economic harm. R&D into carbon removal is the best option, and has actually got some tax breaks from Trump.
Taylor wrote:
right wingers have pushed this false narrative that democrats in general are pure socialist and that their goal is nothing short of a total overthrow of capitalism. Robert relentlessly implies as much with regularity.
No, I have never implied that exaggerated caricature, let alone ‘relentlessly’. The problem, as with any memorable rhetoric, is the grain of truth, for example with the United Kingdom facing exactly that prospect.
Taylor wrote:
Its a strange paradox to be so convinced of the doom of sapiens through their own handy work and yet to equate the organizational capacity of open government as some sort of downside towards mitigation. (leastwise that's an impression I sometimes get).
I am not convinced of the doom of our species, but I do think that salvation from climate change requires a free market economic model, using government regulation to harness the power of capital to turn CO2 from harmful waste into useful commodity. The role of government is mainly to steer rather than row, setting a policy framework for private investment, but the scale of the climate crisis means that warming is a security emergency, so solar radiation management should be funded by governments as a defence priority.

Where I reject what you so kindly call ‘the organizational capacity of open government’ is the idea that subsidies for renewable energy can be a main path to climate stability. Unfortunately that example of ‘organisational capacity’ is corrupt rent seeking as bad as corn ethanol.
Taylor wrote:
For Robert, economics "is complicated", particularly with regards to Anthropogenic global warming, and I can certainly understand why. Libertarianism does not allow for government intervention in what is seen as a sovereign state issue.
My next post, continuing my reporting from the Canberra Negative Emissions Conference, will discuss this point of the political economy of climate change in more detail.
Taylor wrote:
Pure libertarianism places the overwhelming onus of cost on the consumer and by virtue unburdens producers of responsibility. (uninhibited laissez-faire). I call this "Ayn Randian economic materialism".
We did have a good discussion of Atlas Shrugged here at booktalk.org a few years ago, and I do find Rand’s hero John Galt inspiring as a model for how to fix the climate, but Ayn Rand suffers from the endemic corruption of right wing economics of refusing to see that externalities must be regulated by government. It is possible to admire John Galt as an entrepreneurial inventor while criticising Rand’s selfish philosophy surrounding his story.
Taylor wrote:
The current global scene is towards this philosophy, We see it with Trump and the right here in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe and Australia, as well as South America, In short, Where ever we are witnessing the influence of Nationalism.
But what is the answer to this problem? I don’t accept that mobilising a popular front of progressive forces is a workable strategy to fix the climate. What is needed to break the political logjam on climate change is dialogue about good policy, integrating key themes from left and right to restore the climate in a way that supports economic growth. My view on how that is possible is to use the world ocean as the new frontier, using the space, resources and energy of the ocean to sustain growth while also protecting biodiversity.
Taylor wrote:
a progressive carbon tax is an acceptable form of mitigation finance.
I agree, but acceptable does not mean effective or desirable. Taxing carbon is too small, slow and contentious to be an effective brake on global warming, and its only benefit is in raising funds for geoengineering deployment.

While it would have a marginal benefit in improving the profitability of carbon removal enterprises, tax is far from the main issue for climate security. The priority should be developing consensus on the need to first reflect sunlight back to space and second to remove carbon from the air.

Taxing carbon is a second order issue. To understand this point, we need to consider the orders of magnitude involved in climate change. Business As Usual will lead to annual global emissions of 60 gigatonnes (GT) of CO2 equivalent by 2030, a roughly 50% increase from today, as shown in this NYT graph. The Paris Accord, if fully implemented, including by the USA, would cut that increase rate by just 10%, to about 54 GT. That presents a trajectory of dangerous warming, a climate apocalypse with 4°C of warming this century, leading to the cascading tipping points documented by Steffen et al.

To prevent that catastrophe, the urgent practical task is to physically remove as much carbon from the air as possible while also reflecting sunlight back to space. That might be speeded up marginally by taxing carbon, but the more likely scenario is that a focus on tax would only lead to more political bickering, fiddling while the planet burns. Far better to set aside ideas that are marginal and instead ask why we cannot agree on the main game of geoengineering.

A main reason for this lack of agreement on geoengineering is the notorious Slippery Slope fallacy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope the argument that geoengineering is intrinsically morally repugnant and that research would inevitably lead to deployment, discussed in this article. The fallacy in this anti-geoengineering logic is in the premise of moral repugnance, with its baseless claim that deployment would inevitably have bad results. This moralistic premise is usually asserted on the basis of religious ideas about the sanctity of nature, and the alleged moral hazard that geoengineering would reduce political pressure for decarbonisation. These assertions are vacuous and immoral, given that geoengineering has high potential to be the only possible path to stop the current sixth planetary extinction. Opponents of geoengineering have the blood of all the vanishing species who could be saved on their hands.

The melting of the Arctic and the death of coral reefs will happen in the next decade without geoengineering interventions, leading to cascading environmental damage and opening potential for going over the waterfall of severe global climate disruption. Decarbonisation via carbon tax is not a viable path to stop such damage or to restore the climate, due to its small scale, the authoritarian politics that would be needed to enforce it against mass popular support for fossil fuels, and the fact that it only slows the increase of carbon without addressing the problems of committed warming or immediate cooling.

While decarbonisation is beneficial for air quality and economic efficiency, it is marginal to climate restoration, and is even arguably a stalking horse for a socialist political agenda. Its primary effect of increasing the price of energy would increase the intrusion of the state into daily life. Broad cooperation on climate restoration is hindered by treating fossil fuel corporations as the enemy rather than as potential allies. I will say more about these issues in reply to Harry Marks’ recent post.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Dr Heyward noted that this is a new area of discussion, with the Canberra meeting only the second ever conference on NETs . She said the need to discuss both solar radiation management and greenhouse gas removal arises from recognition of the severe impacts of climate change as an existential crisis for our planet, and commented that failure to find ways to stop dangerous warming presents an ethical imperative to consider technology, aiming to adapt to a changed world, rectify impacts of past emissions and reduce future emissions.

One of the reasons I like NETs is that a commercially viable lobby is needed for climate remedies. In trade, "doing the right thing" almost always came down to lining up pressure from the exporters (who would benefit from reciprocal commitments by trading partners to reduce protectionism) to counter the importers who would lobby against our country reducing protectionism.

One might argue that renewables are already such a lobby, but their size is still small relative to the fossil fuel industry. Another problem with my argument is that NET's will have trouble getting paid, without anti-carbon incentives. Robert has the ambitious goal of making carbon sinks commercially viable, to which I shout "Hallelujah!" but until his concept is proven, iron salts in the ocean and cloudy reflective particles in the atmosphere, etc. will require taxpayer funding. Still, once some major financiers and banks are invested in NET's, even if they are flaky Elon Musk types, the lobbying will start to even out.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My own view is that placing this existential moral crisis for our species in a cultural framework can usefully draw on religious metaphors for the apocalyptic risks of conflict, collapse and extinction caused by global warming, portraying the human situation as imperilled by the four horsemen of war, death, plague and famine.
I think a good mix of such traditional imagery with more modern frames such as "The Road" and more personalized, inward frames (are there any? anyone remember "FailSafe" about the horrible dilemmas of nuclear arsenals? I don't think there is anything like that yet for climate change), would help to keep the dialogue away from the issues dear to the heart of rapture fans and on the moral, political and social issues central to John's "Revelation."

Robert Tulip wrote:
Dr Heyward did not use such religious imagery, but said that morality is inherent in our response to global warming, putting NETs in the context of normative values, the philosophy of what we believe we should do. The dangerous threats raise moral problems around how we should respond, who should be responsible, what priorities should be considered and implications around timing.
And of course, most critically, it raises values issues about how to handle a problem that is political at its core, and not just at the national level, while it can still have the technical issues decentralized through market-like incentives. Are we going to have action stymied by prejudice against solving issues faced in common? Or by prejudice against decentralized technical approaches?

Michael Hulme wrote:
Science may be solving the mysteries of climate, but it is not helping us discover the meaning of climate change... we must approach the idea of climate change as an imaginative resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can and should take shape...The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future... Creative applications of the idea of climate change... may be hindered by the search for [global] agreement. "

Of course there is a serious problem with trying to bypass a global agreement. Not only is there a free-riding problem with finding solutions to public problems on a family-by-family or even country-by-country basis, but the resource involved (atmosphere as dumping ground) cannot be privatized, so that incentives to ration its use must be centrally established.

I agree in principle with the idea of developing rich cultural resources around our relationship to the future. This is vastly neglected, with an overhang of militaristic science fiction and a terrible shortage of "inner revelation." But it's important not to make it "either/or" about coming to understand the need for globally addressing the problem. This mess is squarely in the middle of three of the most vexed issues in human affairs: the power that government power shall wield; the need to "make peace with our enemies," that is to learn to cooperate with other nations traditionally seen as rivals, if not enemies; and the ease of putting off reckoning with cumulative issues.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Unfortunately that moral perspective of the balance of risks seems largely absent from public debates. Leaving aside the psychosis of climate denial, climate advocacy tends to be dominated by left wing fools who see climate change entirely through the class war opportunity of an attack on the fossil fuel industries, and who therefore automatically oppose all geoengineering efforts by invoking this class war narrative.
It could be that you just notice the "left wing fools." What I see is a broad base of awareness among leaders, teachers, journalists and administrators, outraged by the fossil fuel lobby behavior, yes, but quite clear that the issue is carbon, not class warfare.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The concept of geoengineering has emerged from a technical mindset, among people who lack the capacity to frame the argument in political terms, even though the basic technical ideas are sound around the urgent need to cool the planet.
You ought to do some more thinking about this issue of "framing the argument in political terms". If you can't even persuade the technical people at the heart of policy making, who are tough birds but not fools, then it may not be them who are refusing to listen.


Robert Tulip wrote:
By contrast, the extremists who oppose geoengineering are more effective at political rhetoric, so have been effective in their unconscionable tactic of whipping up groundless fears. Preventing research on geoengineering perversely undermines the claimed objective of stopping global warming.
Awareness of geoengineering is so low in the U.S. that I have no idea where you are getting this "political rhetoric" stuff. You seem to be focused on a few governmental committees who handle the purse strings, and their staff, without showing much awareness of the political process that actually matters, at the electoral level. I understand the sense of urgency that wants to write the electoral level off, but geoengineering is not even on the radar screen there, so political rhetoric doesn't sound like the nature of the problem you face.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Tactical retreat on language may seem helpful in a toxic culture, but indicates weakness and a lack of certainty about strategy. The context here is a war for the future of the planet. In this dangerous situation it is worth considering the advice from the Emperor Napoleon, that in politics one should never retreat, never retract and never admit a mistake, even if not to that blank extent. The basic ideas of geoengineering are urgent, sound and essential. Refusing any concession to opponents is the best way to frame public debate to prevent dangerous warming.
Framing the public debate as Napoleonic sounds like taking a loss at the outset (and we know what happened to Napoleon). Everything we know about economics indicates that decentralized "strategy" is most effective. Study the wisdom of getting things done: focus on priorities, not on positions.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The urgent geoengineering path is immediate solar radiation management to stop the impending crisis of cascading tipping points, accompanied by public private partnerships to develop methods to remove carbon from the air and sea, alongside the smaller task of cutting emissions. Taxing carbon is helpful for these efforts, but could prove marginal to the main agenda of devoting massive resources to stopping global warming as the primary security threat facing our planet.
It depends heavily on the ability to earn carbon offsets by "solar radiation management". And that in turn requires calibrating the urgency problem so we know how a decade of radiation management trades off against many decades of on-going effects of CO2. These are hardly simple problems, but I promise you that an approximate solution is far better than waiting for an exact one, and half a loaf is infinitely better than none at all.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Disclaimer: All my comments in this thread citing statements by speakers from the Canberra Negative Emissions Conference are solely my interpretation based on my own written notes of their plenary addresses, and have not been discussed with the cited speakers or anyone else. Any errors are my responsibility. I am happy to amend if anyone sees mistakes in attributed comments.


Henry Adams, from the small Australian management consultancy firm Common Capital, spoke at the Negative Emissions Technology conference on Integrating negative emissions into climate change discourse. He said NETs need a new policy toolkit for a changed paradigm, that getting NETs right can break the political deadlock on climate. The aim is to remove a trillion tons of CO2 from the air, deploying planetary technology with massive investment to move from laboratory to field.

Emission reduction has not worked due to policy failure. Using incremental ‘carrots’ to slow emission growth makes no sense, with success in politics requiring support from those who disagree with current climate policies. The politics of mitigation should not be seen as left or right, but as a shared goal to restore the damaged climate. Solutions are a value laden political football.

Emission reduction strategies have confected means and ends, confusing the means of emission reduction with the end of climate restoration. With carbon pricing at the heart of integrated assessment models of climate change, the price is only a means to the end of climate stability, but so much political effort has been invested that obtaining agreement politically at Paris has compromised on goals.

Stepping back to consider the problem, in light of Nordhaus’ 2004 essay on the death of environmentalism, the danger is that options and the effects of choices are obscured, especially the implications of the partisan views on carbon pricing. Lakoff’s 2009 book The Political Mind : A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics, usefully explores the progressive mode of thinking.

Political issues such as equity, distributive justice and the polluter pays principle engage with neoliberal ideas on efficient markets and the invisible hand, but much political discussion on climate jars with conservative values. Conservatives who focus on property rights, small government and personal responsibility often see climate as an excuse for a left wing agenda of tax and spend. These political divisions are tribal.

The realpolitik of who pays for climate protection involves discussion of power to block policy action, in view of the potential of decarbonisation to close millions of businesses if costs are borne by emitters. The massive transformation needed to stabilise the climate in the immediate time frame has to be open to consider new policy.

Lessons of climate policy give grounds for optimism on carbon dioxide removal, with its focus on cleaning up the planetary mess we have created, modelled on mass urban sanitation. The social costs and benefits mean that NET sanitation infrastructure is needed now on planetary scale.

Industries best placed to engage include mining, oil, gas, cement and chemicals. National boundaries don’t matter to climate change. NET offers huge opportunities for Australia. Startup firms are proposing innovation to remove carbon at gigatonne scale, in a new climate paradigm. Industries can become powerful advocates, shifting from opponents to allies, focussing on outcomes rather than on blame.

The essential task is to focus on outcomes to mobilise investment funding for carbon removal, addressing the existential risks of a world that is already too hot.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
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Taylor wrote:
Anyway back to point: For decades the right wingers have pushed this false narrative that democrats in general are pure socialist and that their goal is nothing short of a total overthrow of capitalism. Robert relentlessly implies as much with regularity.

Robert Tulip wrote:
No, I have never implied that exaggerated caricature, let alone ‘relentlessly’. The problem, as with any memorable rhetoric, is the grain of truth, for example with the United Kingdom facing exactly that prospect.


Dear Robert Tulip: I fear that I projected my local politics at you, Please accept my sincerest apology. I appreciate the time and effort that you have devoted to this vexing issue,and that you are genuinely involved in developing an honest picture of the enormous task at hand. Thank you.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Taylor wrote:
Dear Robert Tulip: I fear that I projected my local politics at you, Please accept my sincerest apology. I appreciate the time and effort that you have devoted to this vexing issue,and that you are genuinely involved in developing an honest picture of the enormous task at hand. Thank you.
No worries at all Taylor, and thanks for the apology. I am sure I have provoked your projection because I advocate a somewhat eclectic mix of radical and conservative ideas, suggesting that the radical aim of climate restoration can only be achieved through respect for the conservative values of entrepreneurial initiative. That naturally leaves me way open to misinterpretation, especially since I have some emotional sympathy for deluded conservatives.

My argument that a popular front of the union of progressive forces is a recipe for climate failure meets deep hostility among those who advocate that strategic vision. As something of a climate obsessive, I am constantly reading new analysis and information. For example, I highly recommend Alex Carlin's recent article The Climate Twilight Zone, on this problem of how left wing ideology is incapable of delivering climate security.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.



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