denial, disinformation, deflection, delayism, doomism

The New Climate War: The Fight To Take Back Our Planet, Michael E. Mann, 2021

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Mann has devoted much of his professional life and focus in an effort to educate the public about climate change. His role model was Carl Sagan who had a remarkable ability to communicate complex science to ordinary people.
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Mann, Bradley and Hughes 1998 Hockey Stick Chart

How quickly are temperatures rising?

The true warming rate is about 0.2%C per decade. Since current warming stands at about 1.2%C, it would at current rates take a decade and a half to reach 1.5%C warming, and another two and a half decades to reach 2%C warming.

Without CO2 reductions, we would expect a rise of 1.5%C by 2035 and of 2%C by 2060.

Researchers believe renewables can be scaled up to meet 80% of global energy needs in ten years and 100% in thirty years. Clearly that last 20% which would include air travel and other hard to solve problems will take time and research.
Guardian’s Fiona Harvey:

investments amounting to trillions of dollars (estimated 1 to 4 trillion) in fossil fuels–coal mines, oil wells, power stations, conventional vehicles–will lose their value when the world moves decisively to a low-carbon economy. Fossil Fuel reserves and production facilities will become stranded assets, having absorbed capital but unable to be used to make a profit…If the bubble bursts suddenly, as it might, rather than gradually deflating over decades, then it could trigger a financial crisis.

Banks are already reducing their investments and many University endowments are pulling their funds out under pressure from their students.

Why look at non solutions when a solution is in hand. Solar costs about $50, wind $30-$40, and nuclear $100 per megawatt hour. Fossil fuels cost about $50. If fossil fuel subsidies were removed and a carbon tax were added to reflect the real cost of CO2 emissions, the cost of fossil fuels would rise dramatically.

One group of climate experts has in fact published a set of “concrete interventions to induce positive social tipping dynamics.” They propose as key ingredients, “removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivizing decentralized energy generation, building carbon neutral cities, divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels, revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels, strengthening climate education and engagement, and disclosing greenhouse gas emissions information.

Air travel is often sited as a way to reduce CO2 but air travel accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions. if everything is taken into account, travel by train can have an even higher carbon footprint than air travel.

We know that we can eliminate most CO2 emissions by converting to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Those who wish to continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy often propose “non-solution solutions” as a deflection tactic.

DEFLECTION DELAYISM
The most common of these is “clean coal” using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Global CCS Institute reports 51 facilities globally are under development. When fully deployed they would collectively capture nearly 100 million tons of C02 annually. We emit about 40 billion tons of CO2 annually so 100 million tons would represent about 0.25% of total emissions. It will take decades (which we don’t have) to determine the actual amount of CO2 that has been captured and stored successfully. Coal generators are rapidly being phased out. CCS is not a solution.

There has been much talk of geoengineering and Bill Gates has hired geoengineers to look into shooting reflective particles, sulfate aerosols into the stable upper part of the atmosphere. This is feasible and a muti-billionaire like Gates might even be able to try it without government assistance or approval. The big problem is “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Would Ozone layer destruction accelerate? Would polar ice melt faster? Would the sulfur falling back to earth result in catastrophic acid rain? If we don’t sustain the layer with continuous injections the earth’s temperature would rise suddenly. The danger here is not only from billionaires but from other countries that might attempt to solve their own problems without regard for the rest of the world. And we already have a known solution – renewable energy – so why even look at such a crazy unproven idea with huge unknown risks to the entire planet?

Reforestation sounds promising but at best, combined with modified agricultural practices, at absolute most 20 billion tons of CO2 could be captured or 50% of our current emissions. It would take decades to reach these levels of CO2 removal and meanwhile we would continue to increase emissions every year. We already have a real and proven solution, renewables, that can be implemented now so why focus on this. Reforestation and agricultural reform are important and should be undertaken but they are not a solution to our immediate CO2 problem.

Then there is the nuclear power option, forgetting the meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Nuclear cost is double that of renewables. Mann suggests we leave existing nuclear plants operational since the investment has already been made until they are decommissioned at the end of their useful lives, hoping they continue to have access to adequate cooling water and avoid other accidents. Building new Nuclear plants would also take far too long to displace existing fossil fuels.

Much of this important book is dedicated to educating the public in the tactics developed by monopolistic companies whose products are harmful in attempts to convince the public otherwise. These tactics no doubt originated in the 19th Century but came to public awareness over the dangers of tobacco, plastic trash, chemicals like DDT, CFC refrigerant destroying the ozone layer, Roundup, etc., Fossil Fuels and CO2 levels, etc. The playbook was even attempted for COVID-19 because the pandemic posed a threat to companies wanting business as usual (Urging us to take one (die) for the sake of the economy). The successes of these campaigns is due to the enormous resources available to these companies, their willingness to sponsor fake research (Koch and Mercer), their control over messaging and media (Fox WSJ, the petrostates led by Russia and Saudi Arabia), and exploiting the ignorance of the public about science and research (disinformation). Who does the powerful global fossil fuel industry most fear? Greta Thunberg and the international climate youth movement. Mainstream media is notorious for failing to report on climate change. Young climate activists have succeed in making the front page of major newspapers around the world, something climate scientists have been unable to do. As Bob Dylan would say “The times they are a changin”.
Stephan Schmidt, former presidential campaign co-advisor to McCain tweeted about the COVID-19 campaign “The injury done to America and the public good by Fox News and the bevy of personalities from Limbaugh to Ingraham will be felt for many years in this country as we deal with the death and economic damage that didn’t have to be.”

The Coronavirus crisis, in fact, underscored the importance of government. The need for an organized and effective response to a crisis, after all, one of the fundamental reasons we have governments in the first place. Crises, whether in the near term like COVID-19 or in the long term like climate change, remind us that government has an obligation to protect the welfare of its citizens by providing aid, organizing an appropriate crisis response, alleviating economic disruption, and maintaining a functioning social safety net.

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The book includes discussions of social media and the role of bots and troll bots, artificially generated internet postings with the ability to automatically analyze real people’s postings and create artificial responses. So then bot sentinel is created that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to classify accounts and their postings as being the creation of bots and trollbots and to automatically generate a trollbot score for the likelihood that the the account is automated. This is not a fictional dystopian world. Users of social media are facing this mad world of bots where it may be impossible to know if you are having a conversation with a machine or a person. Imagine an entire discussion thread generated completely by warring bots with no actual human participation. Forget annoying automated phone calls. This is total out-of-control madness.

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