It was thought blowing smoke up the ass could save drowned people from death. Common enough a human affliction – carrying out an earnest if comical act in the face of calamity, in order to give the appearance of doing something.
With the dissolution of Neo-Malthusianism the underpinning ideologic elements merely mapped to different domains. Formerly, too many people meant wretched existences and eventual ‘collapse’. Drought, famine and disease would stalk the land. There were ‘limits to growth’. Now there is a climatic limit to growth.
David ‘ Climate Nuremberg’ Roberts of Grist.org, who now works for a different website, has written yet another article on the 2C conundrum and Paris. To get to its conclusion, recall the progression of the climate movement:
1. First, the concept of global change blossomed and with it the question of human-influenced global climate change. How sensitive was the climate to human influence? Climate models gave answers.
2. We got a bunch of numbers for sensitivity. The Schellnhuber School for priests of climate alarm astutely realised such figures alone were not enough. Limits were needed to make the woolly climate debate concrete. 2C was invented. Surprise, surprise, climate modelers came up with the goods – the host of bad things that were to happen. 2C it was then – the limit for human civilization, the guardrail, the safe space.
3. The world (finally) had a problem to be solved — 2C. As solutions go, killing off people (communism, nazism) and preventing them from being born (malthusianism) had fallen out of favour. Carbon taxes, trade permits, solar panels, onshore windmills and emissions trading had not. Climate mitigation models came with the answers. Surprisingly it was the same every time: with a magical combination of the above it was possible! 2C could be avoided. All that was needed was ‘political will’.
4. 2C imposed limits on everyone but cruelly and ironically on climate activists first. There was a price for saying ‘all is needed is political will’ every 5 years. The amount of carbon to be cut kept increasing and time left to come up with a plan, decreasing. The solution? More smoke-blowing. REDD, negative emissions, BECCS … all cooked via integrated assessment models. It was still possible! All that was needed was suspension of disbelief.
So, in the end, two circles of blowing smoke up policymakers’ asses with models to get them to solve problems created by two circles of smoke-blowing with models. A whole lot of smoke and contact with reality is finally lost.
For a long time the climate story remained the same: A ‘target’ would be set. It would be high enough to demand significant ‘cuts’ in emissions, by far enough a deadline to appear possible, painful enough to bring tears to the eyes and joy to the hearts of activists, and fake enough to be called off each time. Throwing up your hands and pointing fingers – at Bush, Luntz, Exxon, Inhofe, the Koch Brothers, USA or the BRICS – was enough. The Paris endgame will have no scapegoats and it is time to deliver. The joyride is coming to an end.