The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'global warming'
Even before the summer arrived in Australia, large swathes of the country are already on fire. The images coming in from Sydney of the city immersed in a soupy brown haze, the sun a baleful orange circle, a dusting of ash covering everything and every second person wearing a white PM2.5 mask, look like something out of dystopian fiction. Meteorologists are predicting that this situation may continue through the summer, quite possibly becoming the “new normal”; throat-searing brown smoke being a feature of Sydney as much as diesel smogs are of London. Meanwhile, Australia is doubling down on fossil fuels, with the conservatives charging ahead, passing laws to prevent energy companies from divesting from coal, and Labor (who got so thoroughly thrashed in the last election that they still don't know what year it is) joining in.
Officially, in Australia, the bushfires have nothing to do with climate change, if that even is actually a thing, which there is just no way of knowing. The bush has always burned, there have always been heatwaves, also something about 4000-year sunspot cycles and/or there being no wookiees on Endor. Which is not to say that climate change denial is official Australian orthodoxy; by now, it's more of a paralytic agnosticism. It's not known as a fact, for example, that the idea of “climate change” is a Cultural Marxist plot to destroy the foundations of Western civilisation. That's one of the many possibilities; it could also, for example, be aliens, or Bigfoot. Or, for that matter, the whole crazy idea could be true.
The mainstream consensus would probably read somewhat like this: we have no idea what's causing the bushfires, or even if they are out of the ordinary. While some on the left say that it's global warming and coal (and, by definition, in Australia, people who hold that climate change is true and coal mining is irresponsible would be “the left”; much like how, according to the Murdoch press, the Australian inner cities and university campuses are full of “Marxists”, most of whom in reality wouldn't know historical materialism from a halal snack pack), other people may say it is the Lord punishing us for gay marriage/Womens' AFL/turning away from traditional values/shops being open on the Sabbath or something. (And note that this sentiment is attributed to “other people”; not “God-botherers”, “crazies” or “outer-suburban snake-handling pentecostal churches comprising the local Liberal Party branch”, but just other people; suburban battlers and daggy dads with MMM stickers on their Holdens; the Quiet Australians).
Or it could be just the way it has always been. Which, going forward, may become the official line. There is no global warming; it has always been like this. Just as there have always been
40° 45° 50° heatwaves, the Summer Smoke has always been a mildly annoying yet quintessentially Australian feature of life, like the intrepid blowflies. Don't listen to stories of clear-skied summers with maximum temperatures rarely touching the mid-40s, they will warn; much like tales of a vibrantly colourful Great Barrier Reef teeming with exotic fish, or public-service ads telling kids they can play outside if they put on a shirt, some sunscreen and a hat, those are a fantasy with a sinister political agenda behind it, spread by ratbags and troublemakers.
Lambasted for climate change and scorned by the green set, car companies are tailoring their marketing to the asshole demographic:
First to India, where an advert for the Ford Endeavour finds this 4x4 behemoth leaving slushy tracks on a melting polar landscape. Behind the two-tonne, seven-seater vehicle, which does just 7.5 km per litre in city driving conditions (compared to 22kmpl for India's new "People's Car", the Tata Nano), stand two rather forlorn-looking polar bears, an animal that has become the symbol of climate change. Could Ford India have chosen a more inappropriate setting to sell its wares? A children's playground, perhaps?
Ford in the UK goes for a much simpler approach with its Fiesta Zetec Climate (why would you ever use the word "climate" to name a car?) ads by accompanying a picture of the car with just a short sentence: "Most people would prefer a hot climate." It wouldn't appear as if Ford's survey of people's climatic preferences extended to those living in already parched regions of the planet now fearing the kinds of sharp temperature rises predicted by climatologists.
The messaging still not blunt enough for you? Try Hyundai's "Greed is Good" adverts then. Reprising the mantra of Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas's odious city-trader character from the film Wall Street, is exactly what the environment needs right now, isn't it? Oh, how we need a return to the devil-may-care, me-want-now consumerism of the 1980s.Aside: when the line "greed is good" was penned for the film Wall Street in 1987, it was obviously an extreme, fringe view, that of a despicable character. Is this the case now, in the age of the Blatcherite "shareholder democracy" and "enterprise culture", where we are all encouraged to be marketing characters, constantly engaged in commerce, leveraging and monetising our assets much as sharks must constantly keep moving?
Meanwhile, someone at EDF's ad agency doesn't seem to have read Jared Diamond's Collapse:
The French energy giant EDF appears not to have done its homework before deciding to use the statues of Easter Island to reinforce its message that, "We develop tomorrow's energies for future generations." EDF is one of the world's largest suppliers of nuclear energy, an irony that ClimateDenial.org is quick to point out: "The Easter Island civilization collapsed from deforestation and overpopulation. The statues are a symbol of hubris and denial in the face of an impending environmental disaster. What staggering stupidity to use them to promote nuclear power".
Some say that global warming has already passed the point of no return, it's too late for even the most radical CO2-reduction regime to save us (let alone the pitiful compromises politicians are squabbling over) and that we're all going to roast to death and/or starve when the food chain collapses spectacularly. Not to worry, says Nobel laureate Professor Paul Crutzen; if it gets to the point of global catastrophe, we could always release sulphur into the upper atmosphere, reducing the amount of sunlight getting through, and cooling things down:
A fleet of high-altitude balloons could be used to scatter the sulphur high overhead, or it could even be fired into the atmosphere using heavy artillery shells, said Professor Crutzen, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany.
His plan is modelled partly on the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991, when thousands of tons of sulphur were ejected into the atmosphere causing global temperatures to fall. Pinatubo generated sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere which cooled the Earth by 0.5C on average in the following year. The sulphate particles did this by acting like tiny mirrors, preventing a portion of incoming sunlight from reaching the ground.Some scientists aren't too happy with the plan, lest it encourage people to keep driving Hummers and leaving their VCRs on standby, secure in the knowledge that they can always spray some sulphur into the upper atmosphere if things get too bad.
This is only one of several proposed "geo-engineering" ideas to remedy the symptoms of climate change by technological means; others involve boosting the growth of CO2-swallowing plankton and floating white plastic islands on oceans to replace all the highly reflective sea ice that has melted. (Speaking of sending the wrong message, one can't top the last one; I wonder how many people will use it as an excuse for throwing plastic bags into drains.)
London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, now claims that global warming may soon make the Tube unusable in summer, with temperatures in the uncoolable, Victorian-era system becoming threatening to life:
Ken said "You reach a point where the underground will become literally intolerable and you could face the prospect of loss of life." Although he's offered hundreds of thousands of pounds as a reward to find workable air conditioning for the underground, it sounds like the heat will eventually defeat the system. He believes we will have to resign ourselves to closures "if the temperature goes up faster than we fear it's going to".
The latest consequence of global warming: starved of food because of longer iceless seasons, polar bears are eating each other.
Mediterranean drinking and café cultures may so far have eluded Britain; however, a scientist at University College London says that Britain will have to adopt mediterranean-style siestas by the second half of the century to help people cope with global warming and prevent them from dropping like flies as the mercury increasingly hits the 40s.
An artist's impression of a British siesta, circa 2060.
Which is odd, because Australia (and, I believe, the US south) keep Anglo-Saxon working hours and have quite hot days in summer. Either British temperatures are expected to exceed current Australian temperatures significantly, or the Australian solution of installing air conditioners everywhere has been ruled out (perhaps because there won't be enough fossil fuels to power air conditioners by then?)
When the global warming apocalypse comes, we'll all be wearing air-conditioned jackets. Hopefully, by the time the oil runs out, they'll have figured out how to make them solar-powered as well.
Want to see the Great Barrier Reef? You've got fewer than 50 years before it dissolves, thanks to global warming.
Good news: the Earth can, and did, recover from global warming. So we can rest assured that, 150,000 years after the impending mass extinction of humanity and most other life, everything will be back to normal.
How much does global trade, and the economic reality of centralising production of types of food, contribute to global warming? (via jwz)
Sustain, a U.K.-based food and farming alliance, has shown that iceberg lettuce flown from Los Angeles to London requires 127 calories of fuel for every food calorie. Sustain also reports that countries often end up swapping food instead of importing critical items that cannot be produced locally. The U.K., for example, imported 126 million liters of milk and exported 270 million liters in 1997.
Researchers at Iowa State University have found that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles within the U.S., a 22 percent increase since 1981.
The very essence of trade -- transporting goods from producers to consumers -- takes a toll on the environment. Free trade may appear to be the solution to many economic problems when social and environmental "externalities" are ignored. Global warming is only one such externality, but its sheer scale and complexity make it a litmus test for whether the emerging global economy can be sustained in the long run.