Climate Change Denial

February 28, 2007

DISHONEST CAMPAIGNING FOR PALTRY SOLUTIONS

George Marshall @ 3:39 pm

kingsnorth.jpgGuest blogger Paul Kingsnorth argues that “climate change campaigners themselves are in denial: Denial of how much good they can do. Denial of how much difference their actions will make. Denial of how much doodoo we are really in”.

Recently, I was having a conversation with one of the country’s most prominent campaigners on climate change. He’d been talking about what could realistically be done to prevent further emissions. He’d made a convincing case that, technologically at least, it would be possible to make the necessary transfers from carbon heavy technologies to renewables within the timeframe needed to prevent disastrous global warming. What was frustrating, he said, was the unwillingness of governments, and perhaps people in general, to make the necessary changes.

We were both a bit tipsy, so I asked him to be honest with me. What chance did we really have preventing disastrous climate change, I asked. Being realistic – being honest, how likely was it? After making me promise not to take his answer outside of the room, he told me: about 5%, he said. If we’re lucky.

Technically, I suppose I have now broken that promise, but since I’m not naming him, I don’t expect he’ll mind. The point is not this one person’s opinion in any case, because it’s an opinion I’ve actually heard enunciated by other climate change campaigners I know – and as an environmentalist of 15 years standing myself, I know quite a few. Pretty much all of them, if you get them alone in a room and perhaps give them a glass or two of wine, would admit to pretty much the same thing. The technology exists, perhaps, but the political will and the economic reality doesn’t. That reality dictates that stopping climate change is nigh on impossible.

This is my impression too, so I’d like to make a controversial suggestion: that climate change campaigners themselves are in denial. Denial of how much good they can do. Denial of how much difference their actions will make. Denial of how much doodoo we are really in.

Here, then, is the case for the prosecution. I’m no climate change expert myself, so please feel free to tear me apart. But as well as I understand it, the situation is this. Scientific consensus tells us that we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases by somewhere between 60 and 80% below current levels in order to stabilise climate impacts. This, of course, will not act to prevent climate change, which appears to be affecting us already, but it might prevent it from getting worse. Furthermore, we need to do this quickly – within three or maybe four decades at most. Climate writer Mark Lynas, in fact, goes further. He reckons that we have at best a decade to stabilise emissions at current levels in order to prevent us tipping into a situation where positive feedback to make disastrous climate change irreversible. And James Lovelock, of course, believes it’s already too late.

Meanwhile, we have a global industrial economy growing at the fastest rate in human history. It is globalised – linked together intimately – to an extent also entirely unprecedented. We have a human population, and a rate of human population growth, that is unprecedented too. Furthermore, the vast majority of the world’s nations have joined hands in a happy capitalist alliance, which puts industrial expansion and economic growth at the heart of their policymaking. That economic growth is based upon fossil fuels. Perhaps ‘based’ is to weedy a word, actually – it is entirely dependent upon them. They make it possible. Nothing else will provide anything like the rate of growth needed to keep that global economy from imploding.

Now, perhaps if we had a hundred years to make that 60 to 80% reduction we could do it, though it would still require a degree of international consensus and co-operation so far unseen in human history. But we don’t have that long. We have, it seems, a few decades at most. Meanwhile the world’s biggest polluter, the United States, barely recognizes the existence of climate change. The other major industrial economies, including those of Europe, may make the right noises, but the chances of them making such deep cuts in such a short time – and impacting on their own ‘global competitiveness’ in the process – are pretty much zero. And all of this is without taking into account the newly industrialising countries – Brazil, China, India etc – who have no intention whatsoever of slowing down the rate of fossil-fuelled growth which is bringing people out of poverty and finally making them players on the global stage.

Imagine you are a visiting alien from another planet. Appraise the situation for yourself, and give me an unbiased and honest account of how likely you think it is that this species, at this time, in this situation, can do what is necessary to prevent potential climate disaster. What is the answer you get? Not good, is it?

In this context, the demands of climate change campaigners for people to fly less, use bikes a bit more, insulate their lofts and go on an annual march look pretty paltry. In fact, they could even look counter-productive, winding people up into a frenzy of personal activity, only to have them crash to the ground when they realise how tiny that activity is in the context of the problem. If we really have perhaps a 5% chance of stopping climate change, don’t those who campaign on it have a duty to be honest with the public? And is their lack of honesty merely a mirror image of the lack of honesty of our politicians when confronting the same issue?

Tough questions, and not ones any eco-activist likes to hear. And I should make it clear that I’m not pointing the finger. I try to limit my own personal emissions, and I can rant about climate change with the best of them. Neither am I making a case for nihilism – for giving up, shrugging our shoulders and letting Shell and BP do what they want.

But I suppose I am making a case for honesty. I think climate change campaigners know more than they’re letting on, but they’re not telling the public. I think that my anonymous friend’s view – that we have maybe a 5% chance at best of fending off disaster – is pretty widely held. If it is, would we not be better off accepting the impossibility of necessary change in the available timeframe, and reworking our responses accordingly?

I suspect that we would. So why are climate change campaigners so reluctant to acknowledge what most people can see with their own eyes – that turning this oil tanker around in such a short time is an impossibility?

Firstly, and most cynically, no one would buy their books or go to their talks if they did. But this is just being mischievous. I suspect that they – we, actually – are in climate change denial as well. Denial of the scale of the problem, but also about the value of using traditional methods of environmental campaigning to solve it. And that’s the point. We are, after all, all professional campaigners aren’t we? It’s what we do. We are ‘activists’ – so we need to be active. Not being active is almost a crime within this world, even if the activity itself doesn’t actually do any noticeable good. Even if it’s displacement activity.

When I discuss this with the climate change campaigners that I know, their argument always boils down to one final point. Maybe you’re right, they say, but even if you are, it’s better to be doing something than to be doing nothing. We must be active. We must campaign. Not to do so would be an abdication of responsibility; it would be to cede ground to Bush and Exxon. This is unthinkable, and so we must be active, even if being active might be less useful than stopping to think about where activism for activism’s sake is actually taking us.

It’s perfectly understandable reaction. But what would you have done, if you were heading up the Light Brigade? Headed straight at the guns of the sake of being active, or stop to think about what you wanted to achieve, what was possible to achieve and how you might actually achieve it. Maybe charging mindlessly up the valley of death shouting, ‘reduce global emissions radically now! we have 10 years!’ is not the best thing to be doing. Because if the means to do it simply do not exist, it stops being campaigning and starts being wishful thinking. And what is the difference between wishful thinking and denial? Answers on a postcard please.

Paul Kingsnorth is a journalist and author or One No, Many Yeses, a travelogue of the anti-globalisation movement. He runs his own lively blog at www.paulkingsnorth.net

23 Responses to “DISHONEST CAMPAIGNING FOR PALTRY SOLUTIONS”

  1. To take up your useful example of the Charge Of the Light Brigade and stand it on its head: we do not want to be ordered by others in a position of power to blindly crash forward into the jaws of certain and inescapable death. Yet this is exactly what we would be doing if we followed the blindfold lead of politicians and big business. I think you are being rather unfair to big business in any case. To dismiss as mere window-dressing the recent efforts of certain supermarket chains to improve both their own environmental performance and that of their customers is disingenuous in the extreme: “Every little Bit Helps”. Climate change campaigners are at the very least performing an exercise in damage limitation: indeed how can they, or anyone know what the final outcomes for our world will be? Get anyone drunk, including climate campaigners, and their ability to reason is severely damaged. We are compelled to fight back because of our will to live. Deny that will, as you seem to be doing, and nothing matters at all any more. How much do you actually love life itself, Paul?

  2. Michelle says:

    Okay. I’m willing to entertain this idea that it’s actually too late, and that the necessary global measures are not going to be in place in time. But then, I’ll take your suggestion that perhaps our response to this crisis needs to be reworked, and ask, “how?” What is an appropriate response? I think that this is actually a critical question to answer if one is going to make a statement about the impossibility of preventing a climate disaster, because otherwise our natural response may well be to simply give up.

  3. Roly Gross says:

    Paul I’m surprised you didn’t quote your old mucker George Monbiot, he’s talking about 90% reduction by 2030. I’m definitely in the ‘gloomy’ camp as far as how far climate change is going to damage the planet. In fact I’m even gloomier than most because I think that climate change is only a part of the problem. We are systematically destroying the ecosystems that support the biosphere and I think that this will bite us first.

    That said, I’m still trying to change my behaviour and campaigning for others to change. Why? Partly because I think this is a moral issue. If you understand the scale of the threat then you have to be pretty immoral not to try to change. Secondly, and for me probably more importantly, I didn’t enjoy the crazy lifestyle associated with the modern western corporate controlled consumer culture. I find I’m much happier since I actively started bucking the system and I’m planning to ‘drop out’ sometime in the future and concentrate on working in the environmental sector and studying. In fact these plans are what get me up in the morning!

    So I think the main driver for change should be the fact that most people in western cultures are ‘unhappy’. Once they recognise that and can see why that is then we have a chance for mass change which might, just might, save some part of the planet for future generations.

  4. Paul Kingsnorth says:

    Paul,

    You must be the only person in the world to be a gloomier sod than I am….:)

    I’m generally quite open about my estimate of our chances – except mine is generally closer to about 10%, rather than 5%. Why do I keep doing things? Because our chances aren’t zero! If I thought there was a 0% chance, I’d give up. But while there *still is a chance* – it behoves all of us to up the percentage as much as humanly possible…

    Matt

  5. Mike says:

    It seems inevitable to me.
    Global, social,economic; we have reached the penultimate.
    Somewhere along the road humanity has lost its direction, lost its purpose.
    As the planets in the skies above us shift into a new age, humanity will follow.

  6. Duncan Law says:

    5% is at least some chance. If you take action you may even increase that chance. With no action or fatalism you are already dead. I recently went to a lecture by Hugh Mongomery (consultant at UCH) on enables survival. Some of it is genetic. Some of it is bloody mindedness. Hope and positivity are foundations for action. If we care for the survival of some sort of civilised life on the planet then we have a duty to foster the conditions for action.

    There are tipping points in consciousness as well as climate change. We don’t know where either are. It is a race. Let’s back the consciousness.

    We as campaigners have to tell the truth or there is no sense of urgency. But unless we want to disable our listeners like bunnies in the headlights we have to have an escape route, a strategy, a network of support to offer. We have to wise them up and include them in the process of getting to a better future.

    A movement that is doing this successfully and is spreading like wildfire is the Transition Town. See http://www.transitiontowns.org . It is based on raising consciousness that change is going to happen and we can either action it or suffer it. Then visioning what a good future would be like in a zero carbon world and then working back to the present to create an Energy Descent Action Plan with milestones to ensure that future is reached.

    We’re just starting Transition Town Brixton. Many people are desperate to be doing ‘enough, soon enough.’

    And we have to walk and cycle our talk. We have to be able to say I count my carbon and I live on 4 tonnes against the average of 11 and I’m happy and health and I know 3 tonnes more stuff I could do to get me down below the sustainable level of 1.1 tonnes. And this is what I’m doing when. And you could too and it’s fun and powerful.

    Our place of knowledge is difficult, both to live in and to use. We have to use it wisely and if that involves telling that truth a certain way to achieve a result then that is better than ‘telling it straight’.

    Even if we ‘fail’ we may be able to strengthen communities and make the descent into awfulness less steep and less awful.

    Never say die till you’re dead. It depresses the crew.

  7. Mark Ritzenhein says:

    I have decided, after realizing that my own personal efforts at environmentalism were wholly inadequate, to try and sound my own alarm at what the human race really is facing. I hoped that this would make people stop and stare our self-demise in the face. People only take collective action when they feel truly threatened; otherwise, it is human nature to sit and wait something out first.
    The results I have garnered so far add up to total failure. My writing has been viewed as alarmist and extreme, and not printed. Yes, even evironmentalists walk on eggshells about this matter, because they know that no one will listen to it or want to hear the message. I think a 5% chance of the human race saving itself in time is accurate; human beings always squeak through any crisis (by definition, really).
    If everyone keeps shouting about the end of the human race, then we might actually survive by hitting the most realistic target–which is all anyone can hope for, ever.

  8. Phil Korbel says:

    no hope? no campaigning and so double no hope.

    I campaign in hope, and to look my two small daughters in the eye, when the truth hits home to them, and say that I did something. Shallow for sure but…

    re alarmist messages – sure it’s the truth but time and again we’re told that it doesn’t work – people shut down and go back to business as usual rather than look the threat in the eye [best e.g. smoking]

    so do we all pack our bags and head for the hills?

    yours profoundly glumly,
    Phil

  9. Kevin Meaney says:

    Paul,

    I’m surprised that you haven’t seen the answer. What did your experience of direct action in campaigning against more road building teach you. I have the concerns you do, that climate change is just a talking shop. But we can make a difference.

    It is time we started thinking about being unreasonable. Direct actions that interfere with business as usual, demand a date by which a climate change bill with real bite will be passed and if that date approaches with little sign of anything being achieved then more actions that disrupt government and business get carried out.

    I’ve never done anything like this before, it frightens me from my middle class comfort zone. But I can’t help but think that we know what the problem is and if we don’t take action when we know then who is responsible?

    Kevin

  10. Thanks for these thoughtful responses, everyone. They’ve helped me to think this through a bit further too. A few quick responses:

    Diana – ‘denying the will to live’ is a bit strong! I am questioning the ability of climate change campaigners to prevent climate change. Not quite the same thing. As to how much I ‘love life’ – well, it depends what day it is, for a start. But more seriously: human-induced climate change may end civilisation as we currently know it, but it will not end ‘life’. Life and humanity are not the same thing.

    Michelle: what would the ‘appropriate response’ be? I am beginning to think that adaptation to a far less energy-intensive lifestyle, at both personal and societal level, is the answer. The current global economy is not going to survive, I suspect, and neither are the carbon-dependent societies we have built on it. This being the case, we should start moving at every level to a more sensible and less-destructive form of existence. This is one reason why, on a personal level, I am trying to make my life as low-impact as possible. best to be prepared.

    Roly: I think you have hit the nail on the head. I also think, incidentally, that CC has become something of a cover under which environmentalists can campaign for something else they actually want to see but find it much less acceptable to say: the end of industrialism. CC is, as you say, just one symptom of this system’s sickness: others are ecological, social, psychological and even economic. It may be that CC will stop this system in its tracks. I doubt the ending will be pleasant, but that’s even more reason to be personally prepared.

    Matt – why are you pretending to be me?!

    Finally, I think it’s worth considering what we are campaigning for when we work to stop climate change. A chance for human industrial society to continue its work wrecking the planet and the health of its inhabitants? Hmmm…

  11. Kevin Meaney says:

    Paul,

    This is my second attempt to post a response to your article. My first disappeared.

    I’m surprised that you haven’t already realized what the solution is. Your previous direct action campaigning to stop new road building should have provided you with the experience to know what is required. Doing actions that others might consider unreasonable and uncompromising.

    I think the main issue is timing. There is no “date” as such which you can point to that if nothing happens climate change disaster is inevitable. I know that if nothing has happened in ten years time were doomed. In 5 years time it is questionable. What I think we need is a “C Day”, a day by which the UK has to have passed a law that requires real targets for reducing carbon emissions. I think that day needs to be this year and that full implementation needs to be within the following 12 months.

    To get the law to be passed I think will require a campaign that ratchets up direct action depending on the progress of the cabinet at getting a bill prepared.

    Kevin

  12. Matt S says:

    Ooops…for some reason I posted as ‘Paul Kingsnorth’ in the comment above. Mistake – I’m actually Matt Sellwood (clearly suffering from a temporary online identity crisis!)

    Matt

  13. David Hirst says:

    I think this is unduly pessimistic. I do think that, if we can harness the huge capacity for making change that exists within businesses, big and small, as well as communities and institutions, we do have a reasonable chance of leaving a world in which it is possible for mankind to have a reasonably civilised existence. It will be a different world to today’s, probably impoverished in all sorts of ways, but one in which there is a future for people, and hope for the future.
    Clearly, this will need political change, with governments setting frameworks within which good planetary behaviour becomes profitable, perhaps even very profitable, and where bad planetary behaviour becomes unprofitable. This is difficult, but possible, and, once done, there is our vast ingenuity to call on, as well as our capacity to adapt to circumstances.
    I do not believe we can achieve a survivable world by looking backwards towards rural and pastoral self sufficient living. We need technology – appropriate technology – to enable us to shrink our planetary footprint, and still achieve most of the things that we value in our lives and our society. I think this means mobilising capital and business, and moving the campaigning from a village perspective to the “city” perspective. There are many signs that this is happening, and so much more needs to be done and quickly.
    So do not despair, and get on with all that you can do.

  14. Miriam says:

    While of course it is necessary to think about political solutions and to campaign at the political level, I think a big part of climate change campaigning has to happen at the grass-root, or rather individual level. I truly believe that people protect what they love, I do not think that fear or panic will induce the same kind of (necessary) behavioural changes. I think environmental campaigners have to at least partially rethink their approach in this respect. While “negative messages” and some sense of a threat will definitely bring us somewhere, fear is not the appropriate sentiment to make human beings embrace a project like preventing climate change. I think what we need more is positive messages – emphasizing the chances a more climate friendly behaviour offers, and encouraging an engagement with nature that helps people to reconnect with “the soil”. Thus, I also refuse to be completely pessimistic or maybe, someone would say, even realistic. If we stop believing that there is hope, there is really no point in talking about climate change anymore.

  15. Nova says:

    There is time to do something if we act now, I believe. I do not believe that we will do so. Like the Easter islanders who must have known they were felling the last trees on their island, we will carry on until it is much too late. Is this not the real reason for increased military spending, so that we rich westerners can hang on to our way of life while the rest of the world starves or drowns. The only fair solution is contraction and convergence to a sustainable way of life. As our present existence does not seem to be bringing much in the way of fulfillment this might seem attractive. However, selfishness will triumph. Private jet trip to go and watch a drowning island anyone?

  16. Jim Scott says:

    I think campaigning is not so much ‘dishonest’ as based on assumptions that have been fairly useful up to now, but no longer serve us:

    1. that its methods are limited to political pressure based on scientific evidence;

    2. that campaigning groups are largely working in isolation;

    3. that the circumstances within which it works remain largely constant, thereby making linear predictions reliable.

    Brief elaborations

    1. I can only contrast this assumption with that we are developing with our proposed Movement for Survival, in which we claim that
    behavioural change will not be sustained without changing the habits, attitudes,motives, priorities and values – that lie sequentially behind behaviour. These psychological elements, therefore, have necessarily to be incorporated within campaigning approaches and activities. This is true at all levels, from individuals to local involvements, nation states and international activities. In other words, we need to work on the habits, attitudes, motives, priorities and values of governments etc., whom we are trying to change, not just on their political behaviour.

    2. Others are already working on and transforming these habits, attitudes, motives, priorities and values. There are signs of huge cultural shifts taking place, outside the arena of ‘campaigning’, whether you look in the direction of faith groups, deep ecology, new spirituality, astrology, personal development – even in education for sustainable development, from the classroom and eco-schools through to the UNESCO Decade for ESD or higher education. Even the arguments about intelligent design may play a part.

    3. The climate crisis is intrinsically connected with one for our whole western civilisation, in which many other changes could and probably will occur, that will make any linear projections of ours erroneous pretty soon. We are familiar with complicating issues of Peak Oil, but major upsets in the the supply of other resources, the functioning of the global economy, migration etc., could herald the need for multiple concurrent recalculations among a whole range of different sectors. You can either regard this process as blind or as part of conscious evolution.

    In order to engage with all of these perspectives, I think we urgently need to develop our own powers of flexibility, intuition, faith and endurance, and reveiw our philosophies of life.

    Best wishes from Jim Scott

    Sign up on-line to VALUE LIFE ITSELF ABOVE ALL ELSE !!!
    and support the
    NEW MOVEMENT FOR SURVIVAL
    http://www.m-4-s.net & http://www.save-our-world.net

  17. common cents says:

    Underlying much of this, is a power trip of unbelievable dimensions borne of adolescent obsession with computer gaming and left over Power Rangers.

    We are entering the age of the CLIMATE ENGINEER!…someone who can seed the oceans with iron filings so CO2 eating algae will bloom; or who will invent a car that runs on water and hydrogen inexpensively, or perfect a sustainable, closed loop household complete with microwaves and HDTV’s…

    ~flash up picture of Al Gore pontificating~

    Face reality; despite five years of exceeding KYOTO goals temps have–as currently measured, continued to rise in Europe.

    Controlling the weather and in turn climate is along sought dream often carried out by the CIA and USSR–with disasterous results in the case of cloud seeding, or even dam removal.

    By making it a GLOBAL WARMING CRISIS, power hungry climate engineers can gain money and resources to engage in massive projects to halt the inevitable…maybe they will succeed, but if past is prologue they won’t and could make things even worse.

    So with this caution; I leave you to your schemes and dreams…meanwhile I’m happily looking at a lower electric bill on the demand side and a higher charge on the supply side!

  18. Vernon Brechin says:

    The above article suggests that Paul Kingsnorth holds out little hope for the future.
    On Friday, July 6, 2007, Paul posted, on his blog, an announcement that he would become a father in January 2007. On the blog he proudly posted a sonogram of the fetus. Many readers sent in their congratulations. I think I see a disconnect here. http://www.paulkingsnorth.net/blog.html

  19. You’re quite right. The disconnect between my head and my heart perhaps. Or my human instinct and my human brain. If only everything in life worked on rational lines. Then we probably wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

  20. Helen Miller says:

    I frequently feel very pessimistic that we can turn our whole social, economic and environmental priorities around quickly enough and yet I still want to try. I can remember some environmental successes, like getting CFCs out or aerosol propellants and refrigerants, and hope we can perform another miracle.

    Another reason I have hope is that people have created huge changes in beleif in the past. We’ve moved from thinking human slavery is OK, we’ve moved from having signs outside accommodation saying ‘ No Dogs, No Irish, No Blacks’, sexual discrimination has reduced enormously. We’ve made massive changes in the past and so we can again. We may even find the internet helps with making this happen faster.

    Should campaigners be forthright? I don’t know. Sometimes it is easier to start the conversation if we ask people to make small changes – if we ask for radical changes they will walk away. Do we have enough time if we do it all by many small changes – personally I think not. So, I agree that we’re in denial about how serious the problem is, and the speed of change needed, and yet we trying to keep the conversation going and begin the process of change. What would make it happen quicker? Possibly a charismatic leader, like Gandhi, or Martin Luther King because sdaly enough we seem to be living in the age of the celebrity.

  21. Ann Moorhead says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Paul- for putting into words so many of the thoughts and feelings I struggle with myself on a daily basis. I am so with you! I am trying to figure out what my own response and path will be now that I know what is happening and what our “chances” of truly turning it around are. I see it similarly to what you have described, very, very unlikely. ( I have been reading voraciously to educate myself for about a year now). Shall I resist and fight, if so where and with whom? and for what stakes? To what degree shall I work at emotional acceptance of our inevitable demise and try to live a pleasant life in the face of it? Shall I push myself to constantly do the (what is for me) unpleasant work of trying to convince others of what I see? In the face of their maddening denial no less. And at what personal cost? Personally, I would feel MUCH MUCH better about everything if the elephant in the room were being named and called out. That would actually make me feel safer, and like there might be more of a chance to make a meaningful change. I would feel hope. But even if meaningful change came too late or not at all, at least more of us could go down knowing, being conscious, having named what is real and what could have been. This is important in and of itself. …. I have learned that I am different from most people. Most people are optimists at any cost. I am not an optimist, I tend toward pessimism. Unfortunately people assume this means one is unhappy or gloomy etc which is not the case at all- I am full of joy and life – it means I enjoy and have the ability to hold my mind and emotions OPEN to REALITY- what ever that is. It is very creative and free and enlivening. It is brave, it is being able to contain the whole of whatever I can see/discern (even if it is ugly or sad) within my joyful awareness. The challenge then is to act out of calmness in the face of what is. Most humans have a built in need for staying in a state of optimism – evolutionarily it has enhanced our chances of survival. It’s also been shown that it has helped our chances of survival to have some (at least a few) people in the tribe who are pessimistic (btw: research shows pessimists are far better/more accurate than optimists at predicting reality) People are hardwired differently along this optimist/pessimist scale (more optimists than pessimists in the population) and society needs both approaches, but we may be undone by the fact that a majority of the human population cannot tolerate anything other than optimism. I say yes, let’s start laying it out for real. We have nothing to lose by doing so since we are truly lost if we do not. Anyway, very refreshing to read your comments, a welcome call to a true sobering up. I will be on the look out for more thinking along these lines. …

    Cheers to you and yours! May you walk in beauty.

  22. Anna says:

    I disagree with the premise that we have a 5% chance of turning it around.

    In 2005, we had a 5% chance of turning it around. Since April 2006 (Release of An Inconvenient Truth), the chances of us turning it around have increased DRAMATICALLY. Maybe even doubled to a 10% chance, in two years.

    The UN negotiations in Bali, for example, the emergence of global carbon trading in the next few years, new start-up green companies, green investment, mainstream opinion saying ‘yes, we have to fight it.’ We had no chance of these things happening only 2 years ago. We have come a long way in the last two years, and will go at least that far in the next two. Maybe we’ll double our chances again by the UN Copenhagen Protocol in 2009.

    2005/6 – 5% chance of stopping climate change
    2007/8 – 10% chance (An Inconvenient Truth)
    2009/10- 20% chance (UN Copenhagen, US election)
    2011/12- 40% chance (Global Economic system set up)
    2013/14- 80% chance (Industry subsidies transition)
    2015 and we’ve done it. The year that the IPCC says that we have to level our our emissions by, 2015, that is the year that we will know, 100%, that we can solve climate change. Our emissions will decrease year by year after that until we reach 80/90%.

    IN SUMMARY: Political will and economic realities about carbon emissions are currently changing faster than ever. Right now, you are right, we are 5-10% of the way around the bend – we will fail if we stop now. But if we maintain and escalate our efforts for the next 90% of the way, until 2015, then we will have turned the system the whole way around and set it on the right path. If we stop trying now we will still skid off into disaster.

    It will take A LOT of effort, but we’ve got buckley’s chance if we cease our efforts now. Keep going!

  23. Chris Harries says:

    This whole debate is framed in terms of Armageddon. We either survive or we are all done for.

    In reality, nothing can be done now to avert significant human trauma. It is too late to avert a certain level of climate chaos. While that may seem depressing, we can have a big hand in limiting the trauma and the numbers of casualties. And in creating an aftermath that is well worth aiming for.

    We need to be brutally frank about the emergent crisis but, almost in the same breath, point to the challenge over which we do have power. What makes me tick is not the thought of civilisation’s collapse but the thought of what it can be. There will be a future, after all.

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