This is to some extent a simplification, or recasting of this piece, reducing the main number of defenses to four.
1) Climate change is real but we only need to do one or two things to solve it
This is a standard position amongst the supposedly concerned.
- We just need to put renewable energy in place.
- We just need to curb population
- We just need to follow the sustainable development goals
These points generally forget the massive, widespread and systemic, nature of the ecological decline we are facing, and the almost certain arrival of tipping points, such as methane release from those frozen ‘wastelands’ which are heating up and melting. The position minimises the problems and we may need to bother about all of these factors at once, and more. We cannot keep destroying ecologies through over-extraction, we cannot keep polluting and poisoning. We need to change the economic system which only flourishes through destruction and siphoning wealth up to a relatively small group of people – who probably think they can buy survival. Population will eventually become a problem if it does not plateau and decrease, but at the moment, the main problem is over-use of resources and destruction by the hyper-wealthy and powerful.
The crisis calls for almost a change of everything. Sure, this is difficult, and let us go one step at a time, as long as we take those steps. But just changing to renewables will not solve the problem. Culling population will not solve the problem (and how do we do this?). How do we attain the sustainable development goals, in the current system, without increasing use of energy and pollution?
2) Climate change is real but not that bad, we have no urgency to do anything. Everything is ok. We are already doing enough
This is the classic set of moves by those who don’t want to risk social change or disruption to the power and wealth arrangements. But ecological destruction and upheaval of the magnitude expected, will cause social change and social upheaval. The only way to preserve a destructive regime when the destruction bites back hard is through violence and enforced stability. This can only hold change back for a while until it becomes unavoidable for most people.
In this ‘relaxed’ set up, corporations who benefit from pollution simply lie about what they are doing to reassure people all is well. Carbon Capture and Storage is nowhere near being able to reduce emissions either significantly, or to zero, anywhere in the world. If they claim they are moving into renewables while actually increasing gas and coal production, they are not helping. If people are engaged in large amounts of destructive mining, deforestation or pollution, they are not helping, they are making the situation worse.
3) We can do nothing about Climate Change as it is natural. “The climate is always changing.”
The argument is that humans have done nothing to cause climate change and can do nothing to stop it. This is silly, humans have done lots to survive events they did not cause. They have not always given up immediately a ‘natural problem’ arises. Even if we did not know what human actions make climate change worse (pollution, greenhouse gases, ecological destruction) we could still start preparing for adaptation to the problem and surviving it, if this acknowledgment of Climate change was sincere. We could still ask: How are we going to deal with increased intense flooding, increased intense fires, increased intense storms, increased intense droughts, changes in weather generally, decrease of Ocean life, decrease in water supplies and dying rivers? etc… If we don’t act then many people will die and wars will be fought. The problem here is that the position surrenders to a fatalism which seems unnatural and overly defensive. The position is again from people who don’t want to do anything or recognise the problem.
4) Climate change is a complete falsehood
This is still relatively popular, with those embedded in the old system, who seem system change as fatal or massively uncertain. They are right. System change is fatal to the old system, and the results of conscious change are incredibly uncertain. However we are as certain as can be that ignoring the problem will not make it go away. It will just get worse and harder and more expensive and disruptive to deal with. We need to start acting now, even if we don’t completely know the effects of what we are doing.
The main obstacles to action are defensive political formations, not technology.
The system of destruction has grown up in a world of relative plenty, and we don’t know, for sure, how to get prosperity without it and this arouses fear.
The fact that society can grow around technology and particular forms of extraction and pollution, means the technology, extraction and pollution become ingrained into regulation and custom. Everything in the system tends to be geared to reinforce each other. Regulations assume centralised fossil fuel energy and need to be changed to support localised community energy, because they stop social change. This is not always visible until lots of people try to change and run into social, political and regulatory problems – which can discourage them if they don’t know what is happening.
- Renewable energy
- Electrification of most energy uses
- Stopping new fossil fuel mines.
- Reducing all pollution – even from renewable construction.
- Reducing the damage of extraction in general.
- New ways of large scale and small scale agriculture.
- Conservation of fish stocks, and other natural bio-worlds.
- Reducing the ecological footprint of populations.
- Not exceeding the capacity of the planet to supply our lives.
- Political change and experimental and exploratory policies.
- Social and economic change, so destruction and pollution no longer look sensible.
- Collapse of distant concern, so that pollution and destruction events which happen elsewhere, cannot be ignored.
- Recognising, discovering and tending to planetary boundaries.
Non of this is impossible, and the main obstructions are political.