Home > Uncategorized > climate change: a Greek tragedy?

climate change: a Greek tragedy?

January 11th: Feeling more under the weather again today, I didn’t go for a walk, nor did I take a photo. But I did do plenty of reading and contemplating of the extraordinary events unfolding in the USA, where the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s run up to inauguration as US President just gets more intense and more bizarre. His press conference today was just chaotic and anything but presidential in manner, exposing a complete breakdown in trust between himself and all the US intelligence agencies he has to work with, which bodes very badly for a harmonious presidency. It’s becoming clear to most people, I think, that this is not going to end well.

At the same time, today, several nomination hearings were held in Congress for some of Trump’s cabinet picks, most of them climate deniers and promoters of fossil fuel interests. One hearing featured Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil and nominee for Secretary of State, who is  extremely compromised by Exxon’s history of funding climate denial and denigration of climate scientists. Exxon is such a big oil company that if it was allowed to exploit fully its own oil reserves, then the planet is pretty much fried!

As it is, at least 75% of all known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, permanently unextracted, if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. The carbon budget left for using fossil fuels is small and declining fast, as this very clear infographic I saw today shows. There’s even a carbon clock to show just how fast the carbon budget is disappearing! Under one scenario, the budget for preventing a 1.5 degree Centigrade increase in global warming – an aspiration in the UN Paris climate agreement – has already disappeared!

Indeed, so fast is the carbon budget disappearing that prevention of catastrophic climate change is increasingly seen by many people as relying upon the use of technologies for removing carbon directly from the atmosphere, to create ‘negative emissions’, which would be very difficulty and costly to do on a global scale. Professor Kevin Anderson is one of those commentators on climate change who points out again and again just how difficult it would be to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to meet the targets set by the Paris agreement, and how policy-making by most governments is just not up to the task, so far, of making any real progress on reaching those targets.  I read today a very amusing but despairing account of one of Anderson’s presentations.

So where does that leave us? Watching the unfolding of a political drama, especially in the USA, that intersects – and at times clashes head-on –  with an unfolding climate disaster. It’s like watching an ancient Greek tragedy: you know it won’t end well, you know there’ll be blood all over the carpet, but it’s still endlessly and intensely gripping stuff, even cathartic, and you still want to see how the denouement plays out.

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