Climate Perspectives

It can be helpful sometimes to consider the ideas of other people. This page has essays and videos from a variety of sources. Some describe the details of the climate crisis, others offer perspectives on how to handle that. I have found all of them thought provoking each in their own way. Perhaps you will too. For videos, where possible I have embedded them below. Mother Gaia cartoon is from Humon Comics. Click it to go to the original.

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Humon Comics: Mother Gaia

‘We’ve created a civilisation hell bent on destroying itself – I’m terrified’, writes Earth scientist
If growth is the problem, then we just have to work at that, right? This won’t be easy, as growth is baked into every aspect of politics and economics. But we can at least imagine what a de-growth economy would look like. My fear, however, is that we will not be able to slow down the growth of the technosphere even if we tried – because we are not actually in control. It may seem nonsense that humans are unable to make important changes to the system they have built. But just how free are we? Rather than being masters of our own destiny, we may be very constrained in how we can act ... To understand you are in a prison, you must first be able to see the bars. That this prison was created by humans over many generations doesn’t change the conclusion that we are currently tightly bound up within a system that could, if we do not act, lead to the impoverishment, and even death of billions of people.
http://theconversation.com/climate-change-weve-created-a-civilisation-hell-bent-on-destroying-itself-im-terrified-writes-earth-scientist-113055

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Why everything will collapse

If you sense that the future looks bleak, that there is little chance that this whole mess will end in joy and good humor, that there is a tiny chance that we will escape a systemic collapse of the thermo-industrial civilization, you are not far from reality. In this video, based on the available data, we try to explain why we think the situation is inextricable and that a systemic collapse is now inevitable. Includes copious documentation and source material. Published on Dec 25 2017, situation has deteriorated since then.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsA3PK8bQd8

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Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) 1984 Climate Change Documentary

We knew everything decades ago, yet did nothing. From the notes: "During the late 1970s it became increasingly clear that the planet was warming, culminating in the landmark Charney report, published in 1979. This 1984 documentary outlines our understanding of global climate change at the time."
https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-greenhouse-effect-and-planet-earth

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Shell Oil Company: Climate of Concern

Shell Oil Company made Climate of Concern in 1991 as a warning against the dangers of climate change; then they ignored it. More at https://thecorrespondent.com/6285/shell-made-a-film-about-climate-change-in-1991-then-neglected-to-heed-its-own-warning.
This video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTlYYlRN0LY

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Dancing with Grief, By Dahr Jamail
The next morning, I read his message to the congregation, and went on to speak to them honestly about how it is now far too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe. I reminded them of some facts that they surely already knew, but which we are often too uncomfortable to sit with for long ... Meanwhile, the business-as-usual economic paradigm continues, and it, too, shows no indication of changing in the radical way necessary ... A sober reading of the latest climate change science indicates that we are now genuinely in free fall, and are in a non-linear situation of climactic disruptions, runaway feedback loops, and their effects. We are locked on a course towards uncontrollable levels of climate disruption, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war. There can no longer be any question that life as we know it, at least for those of us in the privileged West, is now ending.
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-07-15/uncertain-future-forum-dahr-jamail-essay/

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Human Population Through Time

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion. From the American Museum of Natural History.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE

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Biodiversity loss is the very real end of the world and no one is acting like it
For the past 20 years, [we] scientists have been trying to scream about widespread biodiversity loss without being defeatist, struggling to thread the needle of conveying the urgency about our situation – and what happens to humans when we drive every other living thing on our planet extinct – while still sounding upbeat enough to spur positive change ... our time to avoid catastrophe is quickly slipping away ... humanity has now painted ourselves into a corner where our continued existence can only be met through “transformative” changes to our economic, social, and political systems. If that sounds unlikely to you, join the club.
https://massivesci.com/articles/climate-change-ipbes-global-assessment-biodiversity-loss-extinction/

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Watch 25 Years of Arctic Sea Ice Disappear in 1 Minute

In 1985, 20% of the Arctic ice pack was very old ice, but in March 2015, old ice only constituted 3% of the ice pack. Animation by NOAA.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7GfNR5PLA

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Carl Sagan on science, knowledge, and ignorance
"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance" (Carl Sagan, from his 1995 book Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)

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How to Enjoy the End of the World

Dr. Becker Sidney Smith, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Hampden-Sydney College speaks at Virginia Tech on March 26 2019. His talk covers climate change, capitalism, and how human society will have to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WPB2u8EzL8

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A Full Life
This story from the MIT Technology Review is perhaps the most powerful piece I've seen on the climate crisis.
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613349/a-full-life/

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Global Dimming: The Aerosol Masking Effect

Global dimming masks part of global warming yet causes its own harm. It is caused by the particulates we constantly put into the air reflecting away some of the sun's heat. They fall to earth quickly but we keep putting up more, which causes more masking. The dilemma is that this effect is caused by the same industrial processes that create global warming, which we're trying to stop. But if we do stop, global temperatures will rise significantly almost immediately, far too quickly for adaptation. Here is a 2005 BBC documentary on this, archived at https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/global-dimming/. There is also a transcript at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_trans.shtml, a summary at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_prog_summary.shtml, and a q&a backgrounder at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_qa.shtml.

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The Math of Runaway Warming
A good overview on how this all ties together and builds on itself. Title is misleading, there's no actual math :)
https://leftymathprof.wordpress.com/runaway-warming/

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Meteorologist Nicholas Humphrey on fossil fuels
"Fossil fuels are essentially chemically stored sunlight from plant growth ... All the carbon released by humanity in the past 25 years is equivalent to over 50 million years of plant growth which was needed to sequester it. This comes to around 250,000 years worth of plant growth in 45 days and 5,576 years worth of plant growth per day ... it is estimated humanity has burned nearly 200 million years worth of plant growth in just 160 years."
https://www.patreon.com/posts/26036417

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Kurt Vonnegut on climate change
“Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t the TV news is it? Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on … All lights are about to go out. No more electricity. All forms of transportation are about to stop, and the planet Earth will soon have a crust of skulls and bones and dead machinery. And nobody can do anything about it. It’s too late in the game. Don’t spoil the party but here’s the truth: We have squandered our planet’s resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn’t going to be one.” (Kurt Vonnegut, from his final book, A Man Without a Country)

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Climate Change Is Giving Us 'Pre-Traumatic Stress'
Scientists on the front lines are speaking out about how their climate data drives despair, but these emotions may also be the most potent force for change.
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/vvzzam/climate-change-is-giving-us-pre-traumatic-stress

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When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job
Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can't really talk about it.
https://https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a36228/ballad-of-the-sad-climatologists-0815/

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Chris Hedges on the situation we find ourselves in today

Journalist and ordained minister Christopher Hedges gave this sermon at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada on January 20th, 2019.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9MnG7FTooE

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Kate Marvel: We Need Courage, Not Hope, To Face Climate Change
A theoretical physicist by training, climate scientist Kate Marvel is an associate research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics.
https://onbeing.org/blog/kate-marvel-we-need-courage-not-hope-to-face-climate-change/

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Catherine Ingram: Facing Extinction
Ingram's essay on finding meaning in these times has resonated with a great many people. "I suspect we are facing extinction in the near future. Can I speculate as to exactly when that might happen? Of course not. My sense of this is based only on probability. It might be similar to hearing about a diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer."
http://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/

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An apology from an environmentalist
"I was one of the people who told you changing your light bulbs or buying organic couscous would make things OK. I was wrong and I knew I was wrong at the time ... Earth’s immune system has rightly identified us as a virus. It’s firing up its antibodies and stimulating a fever to rid itself of the disease. We are like any other organism. Much like bacteria, with access to an abundant energy source — in our case, fossil fuels — we fill up our petri dish. We engulf or expel everything else. When we run out of energy and resources to exploit, the overblown population crashes back to something manageable; or it dies off completely. It’s not evil, it’s just the way life works ... We were blindsided by climate change, even though we had known about it for more than a century."
https://thespinoff.co.nz/science/01-07-2019/an-apology-from-an-environmentalist/

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Climate Change: Why is it so often “sooner than predicted”?
"[H]ow often does a climate change headline or story use a phrase like that? “At levels not expected until” or “faster than expected” or “sooner than predicted”? I opened a search engine and started plugging in these and other variants to find out. It didn’t take long to answer my question: regularly, as it turns out. There are several reasons: #1 IPCC As Standard Setter: the bureaucratic process that produces IPCC reports [where] political concerns come into play. Additionally, because this process is slow, the data is not current. #2 The Situation is Complex: multiple feedback loops are in effect which are not fully understood or easily predictable individually, let alone in the aggregate. #3 Lack of Big Picture Perspective: The increasing specialization of the sciences ... we must look at the big picture but very few people are doing that. #4: No Money for Predicting Undesirable Outcomes: few (if any) are interested in hearing about unhappy endings. #5 Most scientists not only don’t want to deliver a dire message, but they don’t want to believe it themselves."
http://macskamoksha.com/2019/06/climate-change-always-sooner-than-predicted

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Aldous Huxley on learning from history
"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." (Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays, 1959)

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Don't bet on the UN to fix climate change - it's failed for 30 years
Is it a vain hope for 197 countries to agree on any meaningful climate action at all, especially when it involves so much money and power? Scientists knew from the late 1950s that carbon dioxide was building up and that this could be a problem. By the late 1970s, they knew it would be – it was just a question of when. By 1985, at a workshop of scientists in Villach, Austria, the answer became “sooner than we thought” ... negotiations towards an international treaty to do something about climate change itself did not begin until February 1991. The world’s media largely ignored them ... The sticking point was – and still is – what the US government, and the business lobbies behind it, would find acceptable ... since 2015, many nations are failing to meet their Paris commitments. Even if they did, global average temperature rise this century would be far in excess of the two degrees above pre-industrial levels that the deal is supposed to ensure. The US pulled out of the Paris agreement in June 2017. A clear pattern has emerged ...  the stakes could not be higher. If political, economic, technological and cultural solutions aren’t now found, the outlook for humanity – and the other species we share this planet with – is exceptionally bleak.
https://theconversation.com/dont-bet-on-the-un-to-fix-climate-change-its-failed-for-30-years-123308

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Guy McPherson: Finding Meanings in Life
An interesting presentation on gracefully facing extinction. “Finding one’s meaning in an ambivalent universe is one thing. After all, one’s authentic purpose must come from within and it might take years to discover. Finding one’s meaning on an indifferent planet rapidly running out of habitat for humans is the ultimate raw deal. It is as though you have worked tirelessly to become the greatest sound engineer in the world . . . immediately before every sentient organism, including you, loses its hearing.”
https://weeklyhubris.com/finding-meanings-in-life/

 


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." (Upton Sinclair)
However, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

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