My take away from the Franzen article was that in his opinion, our chances of limiting warming to ~2C are realistically nil, in which case, according to Franzen,
If you disagree that we have no chance of limiting warming to ~2C, tell me why.“If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.”
All told, our reliance on fossil fuels has actually increased since 1990, to the point where we are, at last approximation, adding almost 40 billion tons to the atmosphere every year. So, about 8 billion [molecularized] African Elephants a year.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing every year at an accelerating rate having now reached 415 ppm — a level unprecedented in human history. According to a survey done by The Guardian at a Copenhagen science conference in 2009, 85% of the 1756 experts asked said they didn’t believe holding global warming to 2C would be successful. So, nothing Franzen said about this is really controversial, is it?
What’s controversial about Franzen’s opinion is his calling out hopefulness. Franzen said, “The goal [2c] has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it.” That’s correct, as I stipulate above. Franzen says we’re going to experience,
- “massive crop failures,
- apocalyptic fires,
- imploding economies,
- epic flooding,
- hundreds of millions of fleeing refugees,”
- ocean acidification,
- the bleaching of coral reefs,
- the die-off of anadromous salmon, and other species extinction,
- the intensification of hurricanes,
- the forced shutdown of nuclear reactors because their cooling ponds were too hot to effectively cool the reactors,
- the fact that today’s babies will, by the time they are adults, live on a planet without an Arctic,
- and that, according the NIH, "fossil fuel combustion is the most significant threat to children’s health, now and in the future, including impairment of cognitive and behavioral development, respiratory illness, and other chronic diseases."
Jonathan Franzen is not a “doomsayer” as Bina Venkataraman says, he’s a truth teller. His article isn’t about defeatism, it’s about realism. Franzen is realistic about the inexorable global temperature rise, the inevitable crossing of the 2C boundary, and the consequences of that dubious achievement. And also about the inevitability of human organizations, agencies, governments, and movements failing to initiate "draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy." I'm not a climate scientist. I'm a behavioral scientist (PhD, Texas Tech, '74). I agree with Franzen.
Human behavior is shaped by its consequences. The more immediate the consequences, the more effective the shaping. The more distant and disconnected the consequences, the less effective the shaping (see B.F. Skinner on operant conditioning).
Moreover, entrenched interests have been unswerving in their efforts to cast doubt on the science of climate change, and when failing that, to slow the development and/or implementation of technology that threatens their bottom line. For example, according to Politico, oil-backed groups are countering utilities' plans to expand electric vehicle infrastructure, specifically charging stations, with regulatory and lobbying campaigns against the proposals in at least 10 states so far.
When Kate Marvel in her September 11, 2019 SA “Shut Up, Franzen,” article says, “When we pass the 2C limit, as we certainly will without immediate action, we will receive no warning sign. Things will carry on much as before,” I have to ask, where and for how long has she been hibernating?
|An aerial view of devastation after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. Photo: Reuters|
When we consider what Lopez has called, “the throttled Earth — the scalped, the mined, the industrially farmed, the drilled, polluted, and suctioned land,” it isn’t the planet we are hoping to save, it’s us, the human race.