@jan, by chance I saw your post in a public group on Facebook about climate change, and as I refuse to use Facebook and don’t have an account here, I write a reply here.
Globalization on an industrial scale is a fairly new phenomenon, connected and coinciding with the car leading to suburban lifestyle and peak oil. Two world wars, the atomic bomb, satellites, radio/TV/Internet etc. contribute to the notion of global interconnectedness. With advanced and advancing research in the ~70s, there were indications that some impacts on nature and changes in our ecosystem were largely a result or at least influenced by our activities, and how could there be none of those. But where previously nobody cared and such effects were considered to be only locally and repairable, the more recent realization is that there is a chance that such effects are interconnected, maybe even to a global level. If that’s the case (and we don’t have a way to reasonably convince ourselves that this is the case, just can deny it), there’s the risk that the natural systems that are in place and their design get out of balance and then ultimately collapse completely, which can be observed everywhere all the time on smaller scales, so it’s easy to imagine that the same can and might happen on the global scale as well, with the only protection that the globe is very huge, but unfortunately, so are our activities to mess with it.
So the first wave to address the potential issue was to create models of the climate. If we only had enough information about what’s going on, if we only would be able to understand the different effects and feedback loops that impact each other, then we would be able to project how the future develops and how we’re influencing it and what could be done to adjust the effects in our favour. Just a matter of more data, better models and more powerful computers to calculate the results, right? The trouble is: none of it worked. It turns out that the matter is much more complex than the naive models of these days anticipated, it might be one of the most complex systems there is, and why wouldn’t it, a global, fine-tuned ecosystem with a lot of inter-related effects and feedback loops? I guess there’s a reason why you don’t say “global warming”, there’s a reason why there’s not much talk about greenhouse gases any more, or about the ozone hole. Some of it was wrong, all of it is immensely difficult and complex, and nobody has any clue at all. It’s not that these risks and the interpretations of the observations are just made up, but we seriously lack the understanding and even the tools or language to properly address the issue. For example: all the talk about a +1.5° increase in temperature – how is that a useful statement if, on the globe, some places get a decrease of temperature by -48.5° and others an increase in +50°, that’s a +1.5° increase on average, without the need to talk about some fish and how even minor differences might impact their habitat. Or CO2 emissions: the largest emission is Methane anyway, for cattle and rice fields, with major implications on human lifestyle on earth, even without the cars. Speaking of cars, what about the oil that goes into fertilizers, that allow more humans to be fed, or the oil that allows more humans to live in more places that otherwise would be uninhabitable? Or what about the reduction of the ice surface that reflects back sunlight into space, if the darker oceans absorb more of the heat and get warmer, will an increase in plankton contribute to more reflection of sunlight back into space, but the Methane emitted by it consume the positive effect again? Some fake claim that there are 12 years remaining, which is only to keep things at the current rate, but even that might have ticked off some destructive downward spiral that can’t be stopped with any of our methods once they’ve started (and probably they have already, out of our view and without us having become aware of them yet – retrospectively, we’ll wonder how we could have been so stupid to not pay careful attention at what’s happening right today at some remote place on the earth or maybe directly in front of our eyes). There are tons of such complex interrelations, and we can’t foretell the future. In general, the main fear is that there is a point of no return, at which the sub-ecosystems and global ecosystem won’t stabilize any more, regardless of what’s done, because too much parts are destroyed and damaged beyond repair, and contribute only to further destruction. Our attempts to rescue stuff will likely have unintended consequences and be counter-productive, likely only worsening the situation than improving it.
I think by now, all the smart people and we as humanity as a whole have given up, and like an addict don’t want to admit that we’ve failed and there’s a major problem we can’t fix or even understand or even have a plan how it could be approached. The rich try to get off the planet onto the next, but there aren’t exactly a lot of decent planets around near us and in trying, even more scarce resources get consumed, wasted and fragmented. Politicians can be glad that they don’t have to face the consequences during their term of office, and the others don’t want their contemporary personal life be interfered with by potential global extinction far away some day.
So it’s legitimate to simply claim that none of this exists or is happening, that there really is no issue nor risk at all, but from the little we know about systems and the human condition, we can perfectly see how all of the global biosphere can easily go down in flames (or ice or jungle or some toxic gas or whatever, for that matter), for no other reason than our interference with our environment. And in case that there should be any confusion about how serious the issues are or why we don’t seem to be able to get a handle on it, you can learn in practice for yourself about the nature of complex systems, and that we don’t even have a clue where a potential solution might come from, if at all, ever.
Update: just this week alone, for example, there are claims that one of the typical arguments for natural climate change without human interference, the Little Ice Age, might have been man-made. Is that correct or not, who can check and how, what about all the implications on all the other effects and activities, what about the times before and what does it tell us about “normal”, natural temperature, etc., it’s just far beyond comprehension and our event horizon.
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