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Katharine Hayhoe on Fossil Fuels

Posted on 15 November 2018 by Guest Author

This is the latest episode of Global Weirding

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Arguably, our output of Carbon into the atmosphere started between 6000 and 8000 years ago (Ritter - Plows Plagues and Petroleum) and just managed to stop us sliding into the next Glacial.  In fact the Black Death and the disease caused demise of most of the population of North America with the accompanying re-growth of the forests, just tipped us over into the next Glacial Period.  The Industrial revolution came along and stoped the slide.  We now have the example of select farmers (Montgomery - Growing a Revolution) of how to get carbon back into the soil and so much more if we will only listen.  But at the core of the problem is the financing of our politicians.  Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune.  If we were to finance our politicians from the exchequer and make it illegal for anyone to contribute anything for any reason to a politicians, suddenly the brakes would come off of all the campaigns we must succeed in if we are to save our sorry selves.

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  2. "To continue to grow our economy"

    1% annual growth, doubling the economy in 70 years

    2% - 35 years

    3% - 23 years

    4% - 17.6 years

    Double the economy and to a good first approximation you double your use of water, wood and metal, double your pollution and garbage production and push nature even further back into a ever diminishing corner.  We have to somehow learn to live in a stable and then reducing economy and how to live well in a world with the demographics implied by an ever reducing population.

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  3. I have a concern with stating that burning fossil fuels has developed significant benefits for humanity. Humanity requires the development of sustainable benefits for the future of humanity. Implying that the burning of fossil fuels has been beneficial is misleading from the perspective of that awareness and understanding.

    Before people became aware of the unsustainability and harmfulness of the activity, people who benefited can be excused. But the global winners and leaders have been aware of the unacceptability for a long time (though they make-up unjustified evaluations that they claim justify the continuation of the activity they have developed an addiction to benefiting from).

    I appreciate the developed political preference, particularly in supposed democracies, to allow all opinions to be considered equally valid, and negotiating a compromise of those opinions to get along. But humanity advances by improved awareness and understanding. And that advancement is compromised when improved awareness and understanding is compromise, especially if popularity and profitability get to significantly influence how those compromises get made.

    While significant benefits were obtained by portions of humanity from the burning of fossil fuels, it is important to understand that almost none of the developed sustainable improvements for humanity have been a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

    In fact, a similar, and likely stronger, claim can be made that developments of sustainable improvements for humanity have been tragically compromised by the ability of already more fortunate people to unjustifiably obtain increased personal benefit, convenience, pleasure and enjoyment from the burning of fossil fuels.

    Any developed improvements for humanity, especially perception of reduction of poverty, that are due to burning of fossil fuels are as unsustainable as benefiting from the burning is. Therefore, stating that there were legitimate benefits developed by the burning of fossil fuels is not helpful. Many people will likely respond to that claim with a reinforced belief that burning fossil fuels should not be stopped, because of the harm that will do to the poor.

    A more sustainable statement is admitting that there have been no sustainable benefits developed that rely on the burning of fossil fuels. And it can be added that global leaders (in business and politics) have been aware of the unacceptability of the burning of fossil fuels since before the 1972 Stockholm Conference that documented that awareness at the global leadership level. And that understanding can be further reinforced by pointing out that the awareness and understanding of the unacceptability of burning fossil fuels has been steadily improving since the late 1800s.

    Honest altruistic pursuit of improved awareness and understanding is the only way to sustainably improve awareness and understanding. It is the only way to be on the Right side of history on any issue where reason can be applied to improve awareness and understanding.

    The development of perceptions of progress, grandeur and superiority relative to others as a result of burning fossil fuels has been understandably unsustainable and harmful for many decades. The people who have most significantly developed such perceptions through the burning of fossil fuels are likely to deserve to experience losses of such developed perceptions.

    A portion of the population can be seen to have divisively polarized themselves away from that improved awareness and understanding (and United with others divisively polarizing themselves away from many other improved understandings). Compromising with that portion of the population is harmful to the pursuit of sustainable improved awareness and understanding and the application of that understanding to develop sustainable corrections and improvements for the benefit of the future of humanity. There is no denying that. There is just the potential for some people to really dislike it because they would prefer to not be corrected (back to every opinion being deemed equally valid and compromise, to their satisfaction, being demanded rather than them being corrected).

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  4. #1 Absolutely spot on William. Well stated too.

    We really are as a society getting what we paid for with AGW. Even now fossil fuel subsidies vastly outsize renewable energy, and subsidies for industrial agriculture vastly outweigh subsidies for regenerative Ag that sequesters carbon.

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  5. Can't fault Williams logic either. We are inevitably going to have to live with a low or zero growth world, because resources are finite, and we could eventually see higher prices for many products due to scarcity of resources, but we can prioritise and waste less to reduce these problems.

    We can conserve resources and farm sustainably now, to ensure the best possible future supply of resources for future generation. Smaller population will reduce demand for scarce resources.

    All these things help the climate problem as well. Its all mutually reinforcing.

    We are going to have a huge demographic bulge of  elderly people. It will be a tricky transition. It's really important to progress health care research to make the elderly as independent and productive as possible, and it will need more carers and a lot of compassion.

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  6. I disagree with claims that the future is "zero economic growth".

    Once the economic activity is corrected to all be sustainable, improved efficiencies (better sustainable ways of living), will be developed to Grow The Economy.

    The current problem is the magnitude of correction required due to the lack of interest in starting to correct things since 1972. And the need to maintain the progress of reduction of poverty is the part of developments to date that needs to be protected (not the unsustainable perceptions of relative degrees of superiority that were developed by undeserving people who continued to try to get more benefit from the burning of fossil fuels)

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  7. OPOF @6, yes its probably too simplistic to say economic growth would stop. This is how I see future patterns of gdp growth: Growth based on mining industries is likely to slow and even fall eventually, given limits on reserves of minerals and higher extraction costs, although recycling woud partly offset this.

    Growth in the services sector is likely to continue especially with AI and more people working in this sector as manufacturing automates. But its likely to be low levels of growth as increasing output of services is notoriously challenging. 

    Growth in agriculture may continue quite robustly due to GM food and other innovations, but I would suggest the whole thing will slowly reach a limiting factor especially as land is finite, and if population declines there would be little reason for generating higher levels of output. Perhaps growth will be in quality.

    It all depends on how we define growth, and timeframes,  and low growth does not have to be a bad thing imho if it is in life promoting things and sustainable things as you mentioned. Japan has had low growth for years without major problems.

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