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Environmentalis


What’s the difference between a climate advocate and a climate denier?

Not much.

Most “liberals”, “progressives” and Democrats are climate advocates.

Most “conservatives”, “libertarians” and Republicans are climate deniers.

If climate advocates believe that fossil fuels contribute to dangerous CO2 levels and hence climate catastrophe, why do they fly around in planes for the slightest reason? Why do they hold conferences that require colossal amounts of carbon emissions? It is understandable that their work may require flying but flying for vacations?

Why do climate advocates drive around in SUV’s?

Why do climate advocates use paper hand towels when they could be using material?

Why do they drink out of disposable plastic bottles?

These and many more questions should be put before climate advocates. Right now there is no difference between climate advocates and climate deniers except talk. In action very little if anything. What kind of an example are they giving to climate deniers? What kind of hypocrisy are they giving their children who will have to bear the brunt of that hypocrisy in a world they themselves perceive?

If you believe something and are earnest in your beliefs (as many are, who lambaste climate deniers) then you shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for legislation (that will never be adequate) while you go around burning fossil fuels just like a Republican.

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The problem, the difference

You make a very clear and clarion call for help in understanding a seemingly great contradiction. It is a contradiction that has been noticed forever. Let me share some of the ways I see it.
To be sure it doesn't seem, on first impressions, that there is any difference in the consumption of energy, or the consumption of everything, between about everyone. Republican, Democrat, northerner, southerner, black, white, male female...It has always appeared to me that the only differences in consumption had mostly to do with, simply, how much one had to spend. The Republican may be driving a very high environmental impact eight cylinder pickup truck but lives in a small house. The Liberal has a fuel efficient small car but lives (and heats and maintains) a 2,500 square foot house. If one has $30,000 a year to spend one will spend that. If one has $130,000 a year to spend they will probably spend all of that. And each and every person feels justified in how much they consume. What, after all, is wrong with a $40,000 car that provides maximum safety? What is wrong with providing the best education for one's child at $40,000 per year? You may be retired but isn't it a good thing to live in and maintain a 3,000 square foot house so that all your children can come home with their families for the holidays? And if a full half of families have only $52,000 or less household income, often a lot less, well, they would be a LOT worse off in Ethiopia. In any case, as I say, and as we both noticed, these "finances" have little to nothing to do with political persuasions or anything else. Society looks askance at a person who voluntarily maintains a very small "footprint." And therein we begin to burrow down to a place where you might be able to see what you're looking for.

Whether we have chosen or whether we have really been forced into a competitive world I don't know but that is how humanity has organized itself in almost every culture. The highest expression of that is capitalism and the US is probably its most intense adherent. Virtually everything done is driven by profit and accumulation. Self-esteem, recognition and power accrue to a person along with accumulation. Not to mention the availability and maximum enjoyment of everything desirable from health care to safety to convenience, ease and the best seats. Most of us know we'll never get to the upper levels so we feel justified in consuming whatever we can. "Don't look at me, look at that rich man on the hill. He flies his own jet plane to sporting events all over the world." Isn't it foolish of me to conserve energy when the guy next door drives a three ton HumVee to bring back ten pounds of groceries? It is true, as you noticed, that most people say yes, it is foolish. And proceed to consume just as you say.

It appears that the only way out of this is for everyone to sacrifice equally. And therein is the thrust of environmentalism that you haven't seen in that light. Environmentalists aren't complaining about what any one person does. A change in one person's consumption is not going to make much of a dent in the magnitude of the problem we face. We all share one planet. We collectively live here. We are all befouling our nest. We are going to have to have significant federal and global restrictions, seriously and severely enforced like laws against contaminating public water supplies. Pointing fingers at those you see using more than you do and thereby justifying your own consumption does not get you nor them nor any of us anywhere except to a place where we are even less likely to co-operate to leave a world that future generations can enjoy as much as we do.

By the way, the people who do consume in the manner you describe aren't environmentalists. A genuine environmentalist does do everything possible to minimize their footprint. Most of the people you speak of are people who sense an impending disaster and voice their fears. Those fears simply aren't strong enough yet to translate into action. We'll see what happens when the disasters begin piling up and we can no longer remediate them. This is happening already. Eleven and a half years after Katrina and New Orleans is only about half restored.

On a related subject...I was recently speaking with my cousin and his wife who visited China last year. One of the things he learned was that in Beijing they are beginning to put some clamps on car use. One can only buy a car in the first place by having one's name pulled out of a lottery that one paid $500 to enter. Once one has a car it can only be driven in the city on even or odd numbered days that match a number on your license plate. This latter, if I recall, is already in effect in London. China is well aware that it is the world's biggest polluter, the severity of which they suffer from terribly from the smog in their cities, but it is also doing more than any country to confront the issue. Nevertheless, globally, there is hardly a dent yet in the problem.

 
 #

Degrowth and depopulation

Spoon really hit it on the head as far as consumption is concerned but this frames the debate in terms of 'climate denial' and misses nuance. Spoon, our health outcomes are not the best in the world, they are getting toward the bottom of the developed countries in the OECD list, and we are just about the worst in terms of efficacy of healthcare dollars. That being said, the fact that we spend less on food may also be a factor.

When we talk about impending climate disaster, we are referring to the kind of colossal events as hurricanes that were supposed to be happening at the rate of one every few years or so, now that we are ten years past "An Inconvenient Truth", and the CO2 PPM in the atmosphere is headed to 500 and beyond.

What do the data say?

Sea surface temperatures, storm intensity and frequency are unchanged over the past decade, and three successive rounds of revelations regarding manipulation of the temperature datasets have been reported, and during this period we have emitted more carbon into the atmosphere than any point prior. This is a conclusion in search of corroboration.

Other planets in our solar system have shown temperature and weather anomalies far beyond what we have been experiencing here on earth, and the climate models are blithely unaware of the more subtle forcing mechanisms that contribute far more to the global temperature than human CO2 emissions. Even if we were to go to zero GHG emissions today, the effect would be slight to none, compared to a 'business as usual' scenario.

Not to say that climate change isn't real, or that efficiency and reasonable consumption are not things to be wished, but that the link between anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide and other GHG's is far more tenuous than you might think, and the true drivers of climate are going to do what they will regardless of the effect that our emissions (or their lack) may cause.

In the meantime, if you aren't convinced just reduce your consumption of everything tangible you can. It's good for the soul, and the soil, and water, and all the rest. Just don't keep others from being able to have hot water, food, light and the rest of it in the name of progress.

 
 #

I notice you don't have a name

And you haven't provided a shred of evidence for the claims you make (that sea surface temperatures, storm intensity and frequency are unchanged over the past decade)

And just say sea surface temperatures haven't changed, what about the sea depth temperatures? This has an enormous effect on melting the below-surface ice. As if it's just a matter of three things or thirty! Nature is complex and to whittle it down to something as simplistic as you mentioned shows you are not well informed or cognizant of the big picture.

But you're still entitled to your opinion of course and I for one, welcome it and all opinions. I think we need to discuss these issues much, much, more and find the flaws in our collective thinking.

The last paragraph where you state to lower one's own consumption is a good one, however the rest of it is faulty thinking. Humans like all living things, are dependent on nature. To use nature's resources without a care in the world for the future generations' ability to have the same access is a violence that is never called for what it is. Why should one person have more access to nature's resources than another? Our entire society is based on violence and rapaciousness. And you fail to see it for what it is, preferring the "right" to use resources as each so desires (but the choice to use renewable energy is prohibitive and not made easy)

Since we're the lucky ones who have sanitation, electricity and transportation, shouldn't it be our task to extend such luxuries to those who haven't? And do it in a way that allows us to live healthfully on the planet, without unnecessary pollution? We allow the prohibition of rapidly-renewable energies, technologies of free energies are hidden from us, and we are still going to the IV pumps to get our fix of our addiction to fossil fuels. This has not changed in my lifetime. Nobody seems to notice that we're stuck on doing things the same way. Yet in my lifetime, the Arctic is almost gone.

 

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