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Wrong ways - June 11

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North Carolina Ignores Science, Tries To Make Sea Level Rise Illegal

Beth Buczynski, Care2
It’s the legislative equivalent of plugging your ears, closing your eyes, and screaming “I can’t hear you!”

North Carolina’s General Assembly has proposed a bill that would prevent scientists from using modern, scientific models to accurately predict what might happen to sea levels if climate change continues unabated.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Rather than use science to accurately predict what might happen to its valuable coast areas, and thereby educate its citizens about what can be done to prepare for this change, North Carolina’s political leaders would rather just make the truth illegal.

Typically, scientists use an exponential model to predict how much sea levels will rise if global temperatures continue to do the same. They have to use a non-linear model because each time the climate warms even a fraction of a degree, it has a major impact on the ocean’s current volume as well as ice cap melt rates.

Taking these variables into account, most climate experts say that sea levels will rise at least three feet by the end of the century. But this doesn’t sit well with a group of legislators from 20 coastal NC counties whose economies will be most impacted by the swelling seas. So, they’ve introduced Replacement House Bill 819, which makes it illegal for state scientists to use exponential models to predict changes in sea level.
(2 June 2012)



The 2012/Aliens/Consciousness Movement: a potential New-Age Tea Party?

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
Image I'm gaga for Gaia, which I don't expect many modern consumers to relate to. So it's harder for me to point a finger at anyone believing in scientifically unproven ideas. But I draw a line between spiritual experiences and claims such as "aliens are among us and are here to raise humanity's consciousness because it's 2012."

Such were my biases when I covered the New Living Expo in San Francisco, Calif., April 27-29 this year at the massive Concourse Exhibition Center. It was a convivial big-tent experience of happy, positive beings, with a dash of sound, radical activism. A boost of interest no doubt materialized from this year's being the Mayan Calendar's stopping point, bringing on fear for some and for others greater faith in a blossoming of cosmic consciousness.

The San Francisco Weekly describes The New Living Expo, formerly known as the Whole Life Expo, as "a signature event in the Bay Area. It brings together pioneering speakers, lecturers, and exhibitors specializing in health, healing, relationships, higher consciousness, and sustainable living." Many of those attracted to such a convergence may, however, be seekers of feel-good writing and talking rather than rigorous inquiry as a basis for changing the real world.

The question for some attendees must have been whether the folks back home could really get behind much of the vision or message of the Expo. To consider one representative speaker, Laura Eisenhower, the greatgranddaughter of Dwight David Eisenhower, she was billed as a Cosmic Mythologist, Global Alchemist and Clairvoyant Healer. We all might do well to be somewhat open about such matters. But when Eisenhower kept saying in her talk that she was repeatedly invited to Mars, and she refers to the "lizard-being elite" of non-humans secretly running the world, with no-one in the audience batting an eye, how can her other, more activist-oriented statements and self-help advice become palatable for a larger audience?

Truth be told, people are for the most part so scared in today's crisis-ridden world, they need to find "an answer" to believe in and dwell on a happy outcome. Petrocollapse and climate disaster are for wrong-thinking negativists, according to many New Agers as well as more conventional types infused with patriotism, faith in technology and fundamentalist monotheistic religion. While climate change and peak oil are somewhat understood by many today, these facts are often gently and gaily swept aside by 2012 New Agers because, as one told me, peak oilers' concerns over resource limits are "a reflection of (my) negative generation" (I'm pushing 60), and "global warming is not such a big deal because the whole universe is warming anyway."
(29 May 2012)



The Denialism of Progressive Environmentalists

Bill Blackwater, Monthly Review
In 2003 Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, two prominent environmental lobbyists, founded the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank dedicated to modernizing what they call “liberal-progressive-green politics.” Its focus is on winning support from mainstream businesses, politicians, and consumers with an attractive message: by developing the right technologies and policy tools, tackling climate change and increasing wealth can go hand-in-hand.

In their essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” (2004) and book, Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists (2007) Nordhaus and Shellenberger focus on educating and disciplining environmentalists to work with the grain of capitalism, rather than against it. Most of all, this has meant attacking that core principle of environmentalist thought—there are limits to economic growth. They say that this is both too negative in tone, and fundamentally wrong when it comes to tackling climate change. It will require massive investment in low carbon technologies, they argue, which in turn will depend on strong and ongoing growth.

In practice, the approach they have adopted to boost the influence of their message (and themselves in the process) is to characterize all opinion within the environmental movement that is redder or greener than theirs as marginal, unrealistic, immature, or elitist. Far from being alone in this, Nordhaus and Shellenberger are representative of a wider school that might be called “progressive environmentalists.” They have even spawned a number of imitators, which David Roberts has described as “the Breakthrough crowd.” Their position is essentially the same as that of the New Democrat and New Labour camps regarding the environment; and their tactics of triangulation are precisely those pursued by the New Democrats and New Labour since the early 1990s.

The faults of this progressive environmentalism, in trading long-term transformational ambition for short-term success, are equally familiar.

... Both in the content and practical effects of their positive ideas progressive environmentalists are not dissimilar from the environmental spokespeople (or self-styled “skeptics”) of the right—the kind, exemplified by Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg, who churn out panglossian accounts of how every environmental challenge will be overcome by the genius of capitalism. By virtue of their starting positions, however, they are very different.

... Nowhere is the gap between analysis of the problem and prescription of the solution wider than in Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s writing on the “rebound effect.” Sometimes called the “Jevons Paradox” (after the nineteenth century British economist, W.S. Jevons, who first wrote about it), the rebound effect describes the phenomenon by which an increase in the efficiency with which energy is used tends, by lowering its costs, to result in an increase in overall consumption. In February 2011, Nordhaus and Shellenberger (along with Jesse Jenkins, Breakthrough’s director of energy and climate change) published a compendium of research on the subject.2 It is an astonishing read.

What makes it so remarkable is its detailed exposition of the problem. It is a devastating critique of the positive arguments around achieving a business-friendly salvation from global warming through investing in energy efficiency, which are the stock-in-trade of progressive environmentalists—specifically including Nordhaus and Shellenberger themselves on other occasions.3 But the truly extraordinary thing about the report is that at the end of this relentlessly critical analysis, the authors are still parroting their faith in the good news: all the problems in cutting emissions will only work to our collective advantage, by…fuelling economic growth, which is, they assure us, the only path to decarbonizing the global economy!

Bill Blackwater is a freelance writer and journalist, living in London. He is an associate editor of the quarterly Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy and author of the blog We Are All Wotan.
(June 2012 issue)

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