GLOBAL WARMING VI
I think it’s now clear that fighting Global Warming is International Public Policy Issue Number One for the foreseeable future and beyond. Not “illegal immigration,” not Islamicide, not undermining the Russian Federation, not Israel, not even AIDS. (Though having a Number One does not preclude Numbers Two, Three, Four, etc.)
That means slowing the global anthropogenic net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, then stopping it, then starting to reduce them. We address the “net” by addressing its component parts as we are able. Therefore, it’s geocidal and sui-genocidal for “neocon” or quasi-neocon federal governments in the United States, Canada, and Australia to stand back from the Kyoto Protocol – as a start – simply because Communist China and India do, or because it means economic change for us. We now know that temperatures and sea levels, set on an upward trend by First-World (and more recently Second-World) fossil-fuel-based industrialization, will continue that way for the next 200 or more years. But to lessen those effects and eventually reverse them, even if it takes centuries, we must begin to act now. We know that desertification will increase over the next 200 or more years, hot summers will become increasingly more deadly, coastal and low-lying areas will be swamped, hurricanes will continue to strengthen, kill, and destroy: large parts of the currently-inhabited Earth will become actually or virtually uninhabitable. Plant and animal species will die-out at a faster rate, and desert and tropical plants and diseases will invade the temperate zones, just as temperate ones invade the Arctic. If the Gulf Stream slows or shuts down, paradoxically, far western Europe, Iceland (whose name actually doesn’t evoke frozen water but a Scandinavian pronunciation of Island, and whose inhabited zone actually enjoys relatively moderate winters currently), eastern Canada, and even the northeastern United States could be plunged into a Little Ice Age, within the space of just a decade whenever it happens, and lasting anywhere from a century to a milennium-plus, if not tempered by warm-water outflow from the North Polar region. (Did you read that?: “warm-water outflow from the North @#!$% Pole“!!!) Widespread human death and migration – and/or war and social/economic/religious/cultural upheaval – are certainties throughout the world.
The picture will be complicated by “Peak Oil,” the overall global decrease in oil and natural-gas availability that may already be under way, not to be substantially affected by the comparatively small deposits that may lie in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or off the coasts of the Lower 48 United States, in the Caspian, the Rockall Shelf, the South China Sea, etc etc etc. *I* believe governments will subsidize petroleum extraction when business gives it up as no longer profitable, a certainty which Peak-Oil catastrophists neglect. However, the end is certain this century or soon after, and as they point out, we do not currently know of any richer energy source besides highly unsafe nuclear power – sure to become even less safe amid planetary upheaval. Petroleum fuels electric plants, transportation, manufacturing, even “a material we call plastic” on which modern life highly depends. It is also a key ingredient, believe it or not, in vaccines, many modern chemical compounds, and chemical fertilizers. Without it, it’s hard to see how the hypermodern technology and economics we’ve gotten used to in the last generation can persist, nor, perhaps worse, the medical and agricultural advances of the whole 20th century. Famine and pestilence, anyone? Coal, “clean” or dirty, will be no substitute for petroleum – but it will intensify Global Warming…along with the other things an increasingly-desperate humanity may take to burning for heat (in winter, still) and energy….
So, anything and everything we can do ASAP, anywhere, to fight Global Warming is IMPERATIVE. So if the First World can start cutting before China and India, GREAT! And of course, we must help them cut, too. And all the pre-industrial cultures/economies as well, most of which will need help dealing with the heat, in-place or where they migrate. All the known non-nuclear alternatives to fossil fuels won’t make up for petroleum, so humanity might need to take the advice of Orthodox Christianity and voluntarily cut back its demands and expectations – not essentials, but think how much of our current economies aren’t so necessary, are even harmful. Some technological “fasting” or abstaining will do us good, here and hereafter. Orthodoxy’s asceticism ethic dovetails nicely with those of faiths such as Buddhism and Quakerism (John Woolman’s “seeds of war,” etc.), as well as many of the remaining Indigenous cultures who live more within-their-means than many of us. The less dependent humanity – read The (so-called) Developed and Developing World – is on the things we use the fossil fuels for, the better for the whole human race and the planet. It’s wise to live within our means, and not ruin our nest, nor kill ourselves. Let God decide when to end the world.