Roberts on Anderson and Bows on Climate Change Mitigation

David Roberts has been producing some of the best writing on climate change I’ve been reading lately. This piece in particular really impressed (and depressed) me: The brutal logic of climate change mitigation. In it, he talks about the implications of a recent paper by climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows (original: Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world).

The whole Roberts piece is very much worth reading, but here’s what he ends with:

This is the stark conclusion drawn by Anderson and Bows: “The logic of such studies suggests (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.”

I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never happen. It’s political suicide to bring it up. Conservatives will use it against us. Very Serious People will take to fainting couches across the land. I’ll address those questions in my next post.

But for now, it’s enough to say: It is what it is. As Anderson says, we’re currently mitigating for 4 degrees C and planning for 2 degrees C. That is ass backwards. It is, almost clinically, insane. We need to be doing the opposite — mitigating for 2, planning for 4 — as soon as possible.

Like Copenhagen, the current Durban talks are challenging my sense of what’s possible, and this Roberts piece (and the paper it’s based on) really get to the heart of the matter. For people like shcb, climate change really is very nearly impossible to accept, no matter how much evidence exists for it, because if you accept that it’s real, and an existential threat to civilization, the only reasonable way to deal with it is through cooperative, collaborative global government action. Which is anathema to the current US conservative worldview. What is increasingly clear, also, is that it’s not enough to spur “green jobs” and “restore America’s place as the pre-eminent power in the 21st century”. We’re not going to be able to sustain economic growth along the same lines we’ve come to take for granted. We’ve binged our way through a huge fossil fuel energy expenditure, but we can’t continue, and the harder we squeeze our eyes and pretend we can, just a little longer, the worse a future we bequeath to our descendants.

It’s really quite spectacularly selfish. There’s a moral component to the crisis that really affects me on an emotional level. Climate change denialism isn’t just stupid. It’s evil. I’m not sure getting upset about that is conducive to true understanding or wise decision-making, but sometimes that happens.

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