G7 leaders fiddle while Earth burns

The G7 governments saying they will phase out fossil fuels by 2100 isn’t closing the barn door after the horse has left. It is declaring an intention to consider closing the barn door after waiting for the horse to disappear over the horizon. It is okay to be feel underwhelmed by this.

The Group of 7 summit held earlier this month in Germany, representing seven of the world’s largest economies, ended with a declaration that these governments would commit themselves to a 40 to 70 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions and a complete phaseout in 2100, and an invitation for “all countries to join us in this endeavor.” A communiqué issued after the summit declared:

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050. … To this end we also commit to develop long-term national low-carbon strategies.” [page 17]

The G7 governments say they are acting under the impetus of last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and in anticipation of next December’s Climate Change Conference in Paris. In the conception of the IPCC report, greenhouse-gas emissions should be 40 to 70 percent lower globally in 2050 than in 2010 and “near zero” in 2100 to achieve a goal of holding greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million in 2100. Even that level is a substantial increase above the current level of 404 parts per million, at which the Earth’s climate is already undergoing dramatic changes.

Retreating glacier in Greenland (photo by Bastique)

Retreating glacier in Greenland (photo by Bastique)

The IPCC report, prepared by scientists from around the world but apparently watered down by the world’s governments, promises that mitigating global warming will be virtually cost-free and require no fundamental change to the world’s economic structure. Alas, there are no free lunches — the IPCC report’s insistence that techno-fixes will magically take care of carbon buildup, allowing humanity to continue the path it has been on since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, is dangerously unrealistic.

So what do the G7 governments have in mind? Their communiqué says they will increase the number of people in developing countries who have access to insurance, increase developing countries’ access to renewable energy and raise funds “from private investors, development finance institutions and multilateral development banks.” [pages 15-16] Try to contain your excitement when you read the G7 prescription for combating global warming:

“We will continue our efforts to provide and mobilize increased finance, from public and private sources. … We recognize the potential of multilateral development banks in delivering climate finance and helping countries transition to low carbon economies.” [page 15]

It may already be too late

Before we delve into the idea that the World Bank, funder of gigantic greenhouse-gas belching, polluting projects around the world, is the cure for global warming, and before we contemplate the idea that we can bind the policies of governments eight decades in the future, let us ask what actually needs to be done to prevent the climate from spiraling into a feedback loop that will accelerate species die-offs and dangerously disrupt agriculture and water supplies. The U.S. government’s climate agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued a study in 2009 that flatly concluded “there’s no going back.” The study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, found:

“[C]hanges in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped. … ‘It has long been known that some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” Solomon said. “But the new study advances the understanding of how this affects the climate system.’ ”

Carbon dioxide thrown into the air stays in the atmosphere for a long time, warming oceans will retain added heat and transfer that back to the atmosphere, and we have yet to experience the full effect of greenhouse gases that have already been emitted. Global sea-level rises and major disruption to rain patterns will effect billions of people. The NOAA study said:

“If CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.

The study notes that decreases in rainfall that last not just for a few decades but over centuries are expected to have a range of impacts that differ by region. Such regional impacts include decreasing human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts. Dry-season wheat and maize agriculture in regions of rain-fed farming, such as Africa, would also be affected.”

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology paper, lamenting the widespread conviction that global warming can be reversed quickly when and if it is decided to do so, notes such beliefs are in violation of basic physics. The paper’s abstract says:

“[W]ait-and-see policies erroneously presume climate change can be reversed quickly should harm become evident, underestimating substantial delays in the climate’s response to anthropogenic forcing. … [Greenhouse-gas] emissions are now about twice the rate of GHG removal from the atmosphere. GHG concentrations will therefore continue to rise even if emissions fall, stabilizing only when emissions equal removal. In contrast, results show most subjects [of an MIT study] believe atmospheric GHG concentrations can be stabilized while emissions into the atmosphere continuously exceed the removal of GHGs from it. These beliefs—analogous to arguing a bathtub filled faster than it drains will never overflow—support wait-and-see policies but violate conservation of matter.”

More heating even if we stopped today

A commentary published on RealClimate, a Web site published by working climate scientists, calculates that if greenhouse-gas concentrations were kept constant at today’s level, there would still be an increase in global temperatures of as much as 0.8 degrees Celsius — combined with the global warming already experienced, that is close to the 2-degree overall rise widely believed to be the outer limit to avoid catastrophic damage to Earth’s ecosystem. But to achieve even that equilibrium requires immediate, significant cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions. The commentary says:

“[C]onstant concentrations of CO2 imply a change in emissions — specifically an immediate cut of around 60 to 70% globally and continued further cuts over time.”

“Immediate” as in now, not decades in the future. The actual proposed cuts, in the near term, are far less than that range, and less than initially meets the eye. The baseline of measurement is being shifted, for example, so that the benchmark against which the reductions are measured are higher than previously set. Environmental Defence Canada calculates that the Harper government’s switch to using 2005 rather than 1990 as the baseline reduces the goal by more than half. In a report, the group writes:

“The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and the Kyoto Protocol (1997) both used 1990 as the reference or base year. Most countries still use 1990 as the base year but some have started using more recent base years. Since the Copenhagen summit in 2009, Canada has been using 2005 as a base year. This makes comparison between targets more difficult. It also makes targets look stronger than they are since Canada’s carbon pollution increased significantly between 1990 and 2005. For example, the Canadian government’s pledge to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 by 2030 is actually less than half as strong … when expressed using 1990 as the base year.” [page 3]

Emissions from the Alberta tar sands have increased almost 80 percent since 2005 and the Harper government has every intention of boosting tar sands production as much as possible, including plans for multiple pipelines, while equating environmentalists with terrorists. Environmental Defence Canada notes that the Harper government has no intention of regulating tar sands oil and flatly declares Canada’s post-2020 target “the weakest in the G7 to date.”

The potential global warming just from the Alberta tar sands is so large that the U.S. environmental scientist James Hansen believes it will be impossible to stop runaway global warming should that oil be burned.

Assigning contributions isn’t straightforward

The point here isn’t to single out Canada. But its cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution is the ninth highest in the world, a ranking likely to rise if plans of current oil and gas companies come to fruition. So the argument sometimes made that Canada isn’t a significant contributor to global warming because of its small population isn’t true. The United States, not surprisingly, is easily the biggest culprit, having emitted 29 percent of the world’s cumulative greenhouse gases, according to calculations by the World Resources Institute.

China ranks second, with nine percent of the world’s cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions, and the top 10 countries account for 72 percent. (Italy is the only G7 country not among the top 10.) But even here, it could be argued that China’s ranking deserves an asterisk. Western multi-national corporations have eagerly transferred production to China, particularly U.S. companies such as Wal-Mart and Apple. So much of those Chinese greenhouses gases are the responsibility of U.S. corporations. A paper led by Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo estimates that, in 2008 alone, the U.S. imported as much as 400 million tons of carbon dioxide in Chinese goods.

Regardless of source, global warming does not come without costs. The nonprofit organization DARA claims that global warming already causes 400,000 deaths per year, and that “the present carbon-intensive economy moreover is linked to 4.5 million deaths worldwide each year.”

Can the World Bank and International Monetary Fund realistically be part of the solution to global warming, as the G7 communiqué would have it? No! The World Bank has poured billions of dollars into dams, power plants and other projects that worsen global warming, and shows no sign of altering its indifference to environmental costs. The World Bank and IMF also promote neoliberalism and austerity programs around the world; immiserating people makes them more vulnerable, not less, to the stresses of global warming and pollution.

The amount of industrial carbon dioxide emissions thrown into the atmosphere from 1988 to 2014 is equal to all the emissions from 1751 to 1988, according to the Climate Accountability Institute. That continually rising rate of emissions is reflective of the ever more intensive pressures for growth capitalism imposes, and the continual movement of production to the places with the lowest wages and weakest environmental laws imposed by capitalist competition, stretching supply chains ever longer, is itself a contributor to global warming.

The G7 communiqué is nothing more than wishful thinking that no real change is necessary. There are no free lunches: The world has to drastically reduce its consumption. As this is an impossibility under capitalism, another world is not only possible, it is necessary in the long run for our descendants to even have a livable world.


30 comments on “G7 leaders fiddle while Earth burns

  1. xraymike79 says:

    In times like these, dark humor reflects reality better than the nightly mainstream news:

    Humanity to keep tweeting positive slogans until point of extinction

    • “it’s a really nice day today; wish someone were still alive to share it with me.”

    • Dogtowner says:

      I’m reading Cordelia Fine’s book A Mind of Its Own, which is a fairly clear explanation of how most humans’ brains work. There is no doubt in MY MIND that your dark humor accurately reflects humanity’s last gasp (in my opinion a good thing).

  2. Naomi Klein is right: there is no solution to climate change under monopoly capitalism. The whole system needs to be dismantled.

    • Glad that Naomi has come around on this issue. In her Shock Doctrine, she claimed in the introduction that a cabal had taken capitalism in a bad direction, but in This Changes Everything she acknowledges that capitalism itself is the problem. I always recommended Shock Doctrine anyway, but all the better that she has come to understand our problems are systemic.

  3. tubularsock says:

    It appears to Tubularsock that the G-7 is rather rushing a little fast at setting 2100 as the phasing out date for fossil fuels. That would mean that they only get to meet in that castle in Germany 85 more times and with untold committee studies before fossil fuels will be a thing of the past.

    Tubularsock feels that 3300 is a far better date. No, really. Check out that German castle!

    And if committing to doing their part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term just think how MORE can be achieved in a LONGER-TERM.

    Another upside is by then we’ll be able to boil our eggs directly in the oceans. Think of the energy savings alone! Bon Appetit .

    And maybe by then we can even have the G-8 back! But in truth it seems to be heading to the G-1.

    • The castle should still be there for the leaders to enjoy as the German Alps will remain above water after all the ice caps melt. And since the ocean will be a lot closer, it’ll be no problem to boil eggs, assuming there are any left to boil by then.

      Thanks, Tubularsock, for thinking long term. Why, chancellor, what are you talking about? Düsseldorf has always been a shore city …

  4. http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-07-01/environmental-outlook-the-growing-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement

    Diane and Guests,

    Fooling around the edges with divestment and finance gimmicks won’t work to get our modern industrial society off of fossil fuels.

    To get off fossil fuels we must beat them on price – that’s the only thing that really works in a capitalist economy.

    There is a technology that can do it. The nuclear Molten Salt Reactor (liquid fuel, not solid) is a generation-4 concept which was demonstrated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s and 70s. It is technically feasible.

    Its commercial development will deliver electricity at 3-4 cents per kilowatt hour, equal or cheaper than coal. It operates at high temperature so there’s also plenty of process heat for the manufacture of petroleum-displacing hydrogen-based synthetic fuels.

    Only by this technical /commercial improvement can we displace fossils as society’s primary energy source.

    Lambertville, MI

    Right, divestment just concentrates stock ownership in fewer hands, consolidating economic power even further.

    The only way to beat these people is to undercut them on price – for electricity. While maintaining reliability – for manufacturing process heat.

    • As I have written previously, if it economic rationality we are after, then nuclear is the worst choice. Hundreds of billions of dollars have subsidized nuclear energy, and that might be a conservative figure. The entire nuclear industry would immediately shut down if all subsidies were withdrawn. The few new plants being built are all wildly over budget. There is no way to safely store radioactive waste, adding yet another gigantic cost, and one that is also subsidized by the public.

      At the dawn of nuclear energy, proponents declared it would be “too cheap to meter.” Instead, it is the most expensive and dangerous energy source. “New and improved” nuclear plant designs are more of the same.

      We have to stop the fantasies of techno-fixes that enable ever more energy usage. Humanity has to learn to use less, within the limits of nature. If we are going to invest on energy, it had better be on renewable-energy sources.

    • Alcuin says:

      Have you ever considered writing a paean to capitalism? What you wrote here is a fine starting point.

  5. Alcuin says:

    “There are no free lunches: The world has to drastically reduce its consumption. As this is an impossibility under capitalism, another world is not only possible, it is necessary in the long run for our descendants to even have a livable world.”

    We’re no different than any other species in existence: we consume and reproduce until it is no longer possible to do so. All other manifestations of the life force on this planet have predators to keep their populations in check but humans don’t. An inorganic predator for humanity is looming on the horizon, though: climate change.

    Nature bats last. Life will continue, even if humanity doesn’t.

    • Should we continue down the path we are on until collapse and runaway global warming, humanity will continue, but in much smaller numbers and likely in a dark age that will not have no good escape route, having used up the world’s resources. A future that does not have to be, if enough of us are willing to organize to change it. No easy task, to put it mildly.

  6. Norman Pilon says:

    Although I am not convinced of the anthropogenic thesis for climate change (see, for example, this introduction to Henrik Svensmark’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANMTPF1blpQ) — which is not necessarily to deny climate change but to question the maturity or completeness of the science on the issue — I am pretty much in agreement with your conclusion: capitalism is irredeemably destructive of the environment and for this reason alone must be euthanized. The sooner, the better..

    I also believe, as you do, that nuclear power will be the end of us unless we somehow manage to put an end to it before our luck runs out. In contrast to what many have been led to believe, nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl, Fukushima or Three Mile Island are inevitable and interminable events: some of their deadliest radionuclides have half-lives that run into the millions and billions of years. From the standpoint of our species, that inevitable and life destroying contamination is forever and on the scale of the entire planet.

    What is of the utmost urgency, regardless of what the truth may be on the issue of global warming, is getting a critical mass of people to finally recognize that unless we find a way of suppressing the values underpinning our current mode of economic existence, we are doomed to more of the same, and likely worse, ‘systemic disorders’ afflicting us. Capitalism is simply in all of its ramifications inimical to life, human and otherwise. It itself is the greatest threat confronting humanity.

    And so indeed: “There are no free lunches: The world has to drastically reduce its consumption. As this is an impossibility under capitalism, another world is not only possible, it is necessary in the long run for our descendants to even have a livable world.”

    • Alcuin says:

      I had not known of Svensmark before reading your comment. I find it incredibly ironic to read that while you largely agree with SD’s stance on capitalism, you have reservations about anthropogenic climate change. Did it escape your notice that before the invention of capitalism in about the 15th century, the climate was remarkably stable for thousands and thousands of years? Or that, even after capitalism had become entrenched in Europe and America by the beginning of the 19th century that the glaciers had not begun to melt? It is only in the last 50 years that the deadly fruit of capitalism has begun to mature. One of those fruits is anthropogenic climate change.

      I found an article for you to read. Please get back to us with a report.

      • Norman Pilon says:

        Well, Alcuin, I don’t have time to write a “report,” as you have requested I do. Obviously, the author of the article regards Svensmark’s hypothesis as something of a heresy, an affront to established doxa. You merely have to pay attention to the ‘tone’ of the article. Thus, for example, you read lines like, ” cosmic rays have remained one of the few torches left for climate contrarians to carry in their rebuttal of scientific consensus.” Nothing appealing to the emotions, here. And everyone knows that nothing new under the sun was ever discovered in scientific terms by attempting to go against, of all things, a consensus that is “scientific,” whatever that may be.

        I did note, however, that according to the article Kirkby’s CLOUD experiment is not at an end. So a question appears to remain and perhaps even more than one. One can therefore, I think, adopt a perfectly legitimate agnosticism toward the anthropogenic thesis, no? Unless you are committed to a belief that brooks no alternative, like a “scientific consensus,” despite what may be well founded reasons for wanting to keep the issue open for discussion, not the least of which is its ‘scientific’ character.

        I also find a tad entertaining the idea that coming to an understanding of how cosmic rays “may” contribute to the formation of cloud cover has little bearing on climate. Really? I don’t know about Paul Voosen, but I have often taken note of the cooling effect of overhead cloud cover. What might happen if cloud cover became persistent or more frequent over long spans of time, I wonder. But let us permit Paul to have his way, and allow him to emphasize in his eagerness to, the fact that CLOUD is all about ‘cosmic rays’ and has absolutely nothing at all to do with ‘climate science.’ Because you know, ‘clouds’ and climate effects are only ‘apparently’ related but not really.

        In response to Paul Voosen, then, two words come to mind: either obtuseness or obfuscation, or both. If anthropogenic climate change is beyond doubt, what is also beyond doubt is the existence of a professionalized lobby arguing for the ‘catastrophisism’ of ‘global warming,’ actively bidding for the institutional power and prestige that grant money and university chairs confer. Another instance, actually, of the model of ‘capitalistic bureaucratic’ control in the realms of both ideology and ‘science.’

    • I haven’t had time to watch the video you linked to, and as I am unfamiliar with Henrik Svensmark’s work, I am reluctant to pass judgment on him. But in finding a summary of his thesis on the DeSmog web site, I should note that his theory that global warming is caused by increased solar radiation is, to put it gently, controversial. He is quoted in one of his books as saying:

      “During the last 100 years cosmic rays became scarcer because unusually vigorous action by the Sun batted away many of them. Fewer cosmic rays meant fewer clouds—and a warmer world.”

      He is also on record as saying that, although greenhouse gases are being emitted, the supposed new reduced activity of the Sun has countered those gases to the point that we are now in “global cooling.”

      Clearly that is wrong as 2015 is on course to being the warmest year yet, with 2014 being the current record-holder. His thesis appears to have similarities with a theory that Earth’s climate warms and cools in response to sunspot activity, a theory based on the European “Little Ice Age” that occurred within the “Maunder Minimum” when sunspot activity ceased for decades. That sunspot theory, however, has been thoroughly debunked.

      NASA’s Cosmicopia web site says of Professor Svensmark’s thesis:

      “[T]here is not much scientific evidence [cosmic rays] are the driving cause of the terrestrial warming, and there is sufficient counter-evidence to bring a lot of doubt to the ‘conclusion.’ This correlation is still being actively studied, but it appears that the controversy has been overblown for political reasons, not scientific ones.”

      The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research did say, in a 2004 report, that solar activity had been unusually high during the previous 60 years. But that increased solar activity is not uniform; the sunspot cycle continued as normal. And in fact we had a sunspot minimum of unusually long duration just a few years ago and the current sunspot cycle is the weakest in 100 years. Global climate changes have not tracked these sunspot activity levels.

      The Max Planck article concludes by saying, “the relation between the Sun and climate remains a challenge for further research.” Fair enough. But the rise in global temperatures has tracked well the rise of greenhouse gases thrown into the atmosphere by human activity, and the effect of the various greenhouse gases and their relative contribution to global warming is well established. So although I would never flatly say that being among a 3 percent minority among scientists automatically means one is wrong, given the balance of evidence, Professor Svensmark has an extremely difficult case to make.

      • Norman Pilon says:

        Hi Peter,

        It was never my intention to get into a debate over AGW. My focus, as is yours, is primarily the disaster that is capitalism.

        However, I do encourage you to take the time to watch the video and confer, so to speak, with the primary — as opposed to secondary — sources. Being as experienced a reader and researcher as you are, you well know the importance of this.

        Svensmark’s theory has nothing at all to do with “solar radiation,” that is to say, with how intense or not the light from the sun reaching the earth may be. Rather — and if I may quote myself if only to save me a few minutes — “Svensmark has established that when the solar magnetic field peaks in strength, the surface temperatures of our planet tend to be markedly warmer; and when the solar magnetic field ebbs to its weakest, the surface temperatures of our planet tend to be markedly cooler. Svensmark’s hypothesis for explaining these correlations is that cosmic rays raining down on our planet from disparate parts of the sky play a crucial role in building up the particulate aerosols necessary to the genesis of clouds. The denser the flux of cosmic rays raining down on us, the denser become the cloud forming aerosols in our atmosphere, and the more clouds we have overhead to counter our sun’s radiative heat emissions. And the density of the incoming cosmic flux, given its ionized and therefore electrically charged state, varies according to the intensity of the sun’s fluctuating magnetic field: the more intense the solar magnetic field, the more attenuated, because deflected, the cosmic flux will be, and conversely. It remains for the Svensmark’s hypothesis pertaining to the influence of cosmic rays on aerosol formation to be confirmed or disproved. ‘The Cloud Experiment’ at CERN being conducted under the supervision of Jasper Kirkby intends to do just that.”

        Again, to emphasize: Svensmark’s theory does not implicate “Solar Radiation” but fluctuations in the Sun’s “magnetic field.”

        But follow up or not as you see fit. For a more detailed statement of my take on the issue, you can find it here:




      • Norman Pilon says:

        In case you are interested:


        Some initial reactions by Judith Curry to Svensmark’s work. See also the comment section. Many well informed voices joining in the scrum, as is Judith Curry herself, who for a while was a darling of the IPCC, until she started questioning, yes, the politicized nature of the intergovernmental panel.

        Her C.V.: http://curry.eas.gatech.edu/files/currycv.pdf

      • Norman Pilon says:

        In connection to the “thourough debunking” to which you refer (I’m quoting J. Curie, here):

        NRC Report

        There is a recent report, “The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate,” available from the National Academies Press. A NASA press release entitled Solar Variability and Terrestrial Climate provides a good overview. The punchline is:

        There is, however, a dawning realization among researchers that even these apparently tiny variations can have a significant effect on terrestrial climate. A new report issued by the National Research Council (NRC), “The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate,” lays out some of the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our planet.

        Note, this report was published early Jan 2013. Something else the IPCC ignored.

        JC conclusion: What a relief that the IPCC consensus has decreed with high confidence that solar variations won’t influence the 21st century climate. For a minute there, after reading the NRC Report, Svensmark and Vahrenholt, I thought us scientists might have more work to do to figure out how the Earth’s climate system works.

        (source: http://judithcurry.com/2013/10/01/ipcc-solar-variations-dont-matter/)

        • Norman, your point that we don’t yet understand sufficiently the connection between Earth’s climate and changes in solar activity, and that a better understanding is necessary, meets with no disagreement with me. Also, I do understand that the theory is that solar activity triggers the cascade of effects you describe and I will admit that the term “solar radiation” was unduly imprecise on my part.

          Nor, again, am I suggesting that legitimate scientific work should be dismissed simply for being in the minority. I recall well the dispute in astrophysics over the age of the universe, and that Allan Sandage was an embattled minority opinion. I had always believed Professor Sandage to be correct, and ultimately it was shown he was and prevailing majority opinion to be mistaken. And, finally, I would not argue that a controversial theory should be dismissed simply because it would be misused politically by right-wing climate-change deniers.

          But the weight of the evidence remains heavily on the side of a position held by 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists, and there is little evidence to date to support Professor Svensmark’s thesis.

          The “thorough debunking” in my previous comment refers to the sunspot theory as the cause of the Maunder Minimum, not the theory of Professor Svensmark, which, despite what I just wrote, can not be said to be disproved as much more research is necessary before a definitive conclusion can be reached. My point in bringing up sunspots is that sunspot activity is to some degree a proxy for solar activity, and thus should have some effect on incoming extra-solar cosmic rays. That lack of connection between sunspot activity and Earth’s climate does not disprove the Svensmark thesis, but I believe is another problem the theory should address.

          • Norman Pilon says:

            Just a brief comment: it was clear both in my mind and in what you wrote just what it was you thought had been “thoroughly debunked.” No misunderstand was afoot. And the NRC report specifically addresses that issue, I think, although Dr. J. Curry lumps Svensmark and Vahrenholt and the NRC Report together in her conclusions as though all three related to but one aspect of the sun’s emissions. What she is doing in her post, however, is highlighting three different aspects of solar emissions that most probably have significant climate forcing effects but that are as yet poorly understood. Fluctuations in solar irradiance or radiation is a topic that is about to be, or is being, revisited by, so to speak, mainstream climate science.

            I highlight Dr. J. Curry because her blog is very active – she posts several times a week – and she happens to be abreast of pretty much all of the pertinent climate issues. She also happens to be a climate scientist, Chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology.



  7. Norman Pilon says:

    Usually irony implies a contradiction. I therefore presume that you believe that being anti-capitalist also by definition means you must believe that the current phase of global warming is anthropogenic in origin. However, that is a ‘scientific’ question, and very obviously if ‘science,’ as the research of Svensmark underscores, has not yet solved the ‘cloud mystery,’ i.e. the near perfect correlation between cycles of high cloud cover and Solar activity — then clearly, the scientific underpinnings of our understanding of climate change remain largely unresolved.

    The link between radionuclide contamination of the atmosphere on a planetary scale is far less controversial than what may be driving climate change and to my mind more urgent and catastrophic.

    As for the stability of climate change, a span of centuries is insufficient to gauge what may or may not be so called ‘natural’ and predictable oscillations. Or did it escape your notice that some 10 or 15 thousand years ago there was this thing called an ice age (which lasted and thus was a stable earth climate condition over many thousands of years, let alone centuries) which came to an end. Was mankind responsible for that ‘warming?’ Probably not. So other things may be happening and on time scales larger than the terms in which we are accustomed to thinking.

    To emphasize my point, however: there is nothing mutually exclusive about questioning a scientific hypothesis on scientific grounds and being convinced that capitalism has got to go. CO2 may be responsible for what we are currently witnessing in terms of climate change. But there are actual empirical observations that run counter to the thesis, that is, alternative and, dare I say, more cogent explanations for why earth climates alternate between cold and warm periods on geological scales. If Svensmark is right, the global warming issue if a distraction form more urgent considerations, urgent because they are issues whose origins are not controversial and about which we can and should be doing something, e.g., shuttering nuclear power and doubling down on educating people in a language accessible to them about the connections between the capitalistic dynamic and poverty, war, and the more obvious environmental impacts of capitalistic industrial practices upon our environment, in particular, the unsustainable depletion, contamination and destruction of sensitive ecosystems.

    So I fail to see your irony. And I promise to follow up your link.



    • Alcuin says:

      I’m sure you will find a way to sever the link between capitalism and AGW because in your mind, GW is not caused by humans. Since capitalism was invented by humans, capitalism can’t be the cause of global warming. I really shouldn’t post this, because you’ll find a way to deny the truth of it, but I’ll do so anyway:

      “A similarly horrifying genocidal tendency for which capitalism is responsible is the next one briefly examined by Leech: that of the specter of catastrophic climate change. Leech claims it to be a “truly inconvenient truth” that the capitalist system itself is incapable of mitigating the total threat posed by global warming and instead precipitates this grim eventuality due to its incessant need for ceaseless expansion and profit, based principally on the indefinite exploitation of hydrocarbon resources. Clearly, it is the world’s poor who so far have suffered the most from capitalism’s degradation of the climate, despite having contributed next to nothing to the perpetuation of this world-historical problem: the estimated 2,000 Kenyan farmers who killed themselves upon the failure of rains in 2008, as Leech mentions, or the 260,000 Somalis murdered in the 2011 famine that followed from the worst drought in the past 7 decades. Leech observes that the ever-increasing annual death toll for which capital-induced climate destabilization is responsible will merely cause the overall number of 10 million annual preventable deaths to burgeon, leading ultimately perhaps to the deaths of “millions – or even billions,” in what may well develop into the extermination of humanity altogether.”

      This is an excerpt from a review of Capitalism: A Structural Genocide, by Garry Leech, that was published on the TruthOut website on June 16, 2013. Its’ author was Javier Sethness.

      I visited your blog and you have some great information sources in your blogroll, so your blind adherence to the ideas of an AGW denier like Svensmark is puzzling. But then, heuristics are remarkably resistant to challenge by facts.

      No need to respond – I have nothing further to say on the subject.

      • Norman Pilon says:

        Interesting: until you stumbled upon my reference to Svensmark, you had never heard of him. And in less than a weekend, you’ve managed to sufficiently weigh the subtleties of the man’s provisional theorizing on climate change to conclude with apparent certainty that he is an AGW denier and, moreover, that his empirical findings are utterly without merit.

        While he advances his position in tentative terms, you advance yours as an incontrovertible certainty. But he is the dogmatic AGW denier, as am I, and you are the only truly critical, versatile and discerning participant to this exchange, apparently chagrined and bemused as you are by my apparent inability to credit in my own mind the certitude with which you apparently embrace your convictions.

        And I thought that my position was that I wasn’t yet convinced one way or another, as is that of Svensmark and Kirkby and a great many others, and this on the basis of what strike us as being genuinely pivotal and unresolved issues.

        But from your standpoint, a questioning stance with respect to AGW automatically makes one a dogmatist and, in addition, betrays a mind incapable of thinking but by simple heuristic strategies of reflection.

        And you wanted a report.

        And then you didn’t want a reply.

  8. Norman Pilon says:

    You got me, Alcuin.

  9. Scary to read Norman but very true…

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