Global Warming Problem Solved

Yes we can keep our environment cool and pristine. The medicine, however, is a little strong. (Photo by Mohri United Nations University)

Yes we can keep our environment cool and pristine. The medicine, however, is a little strong. (Photo by Mohri United Nations University)

The paper was published in 2009, and those who have not ignored it since, have ridiculed it. (Sort of like Darwin’s theories, or plate tectonics, or Hubbert’s view of peaking oil.) Odd, because in a way it confirmed the fervent hope of millions that technology, which has sickened the world with its pollution — never forget, please, that climate change is a pollution problem — would restore our health with a magic pill we could take, and wake up to find the problem gone. The paper, by Tim Garrett of the University of Utah, applied the laws of physics to the cumulative behavior of human civilization, and thus discovered the magic pill. Unfortunately, it was cyanide.

But let’s focus on the good news. Garrett found that we can absolutely, completely, avoid the catastrophic warming of the planet already under way, and stabilize the economies of the world. But there is only one path to success: a total crash of the industrial economy.

Okay, to be honest, he did mention one other possible way we could maintain business as usual while mitigating climate effects; all we would have to do is bring on line one new, large nuclear power plant every day for the foreseeable future.

Garret’s methods were controversial because he treated the whole of civilization as if it were a single organism, somewhat like a child, whose capability for doing work (economic output) is in direct proportion to the amount of food consumed (i.e. energy inputs). The problem is that the child is growing, and thus requires ever increasing inputs, and although he delivers steadily increasing economic output, the side effects of the manufacture of his inputs is making him sick.

Solution: kill the kid.

Hey, it’s a metaphor, okay? And not a very good one, much as I admire Garret’s courage. If the world economy were like a child, it would not grow forever, it would grow for a few years and then mature and then age. The only thing in nature that grows without limit is cancer.

But if we are going to cling to the cancerous notions that money is the final arbiter of worth, and that growth is the only sign of health, then we are at some point going to hit a wall. And that, as  Tim Garrett deserves credit for pointing out, solves the problem.

All the other highways to heaven have toll booths that require you, before entering, to renounce profit, embrace privation and place the public good above your own. And this has to be a collective decision, made by governments, because so far there’s only about half a dozen people who have made it. So why does Garrett bet instead on our blowing ourselves up? Because, he says “ it’s not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the future course of civilization.”

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Global Warming Problem Solved

  1. Tom says:

    Amen, Mr. Lewis. It’s been a nagging question my entire life – why don’t we learn from our mistakes? When it’s clearly been pointed out by numerous people that we’re not doing it right, why can’t we straighten up and fly right? Now that i’ve got that one figured out (greed, basically) the rest is the road to perdition. It’ll be bumpy, hard and in a downward trajectory with no brakes until we hit said wall (or “bottom”). The signs become clearer every day.

  2. SomeoneInAsia says:

    With all due humility, I would like to propose a better solution than Garrett. It is to force all the world’s leading policymakers and corporate leaders to go through some brain surgery, so that all the loose screws in their heads will get fixed and they’ll see clearly the idiocy of the whole ideology of unlimited growth. And act accordingly.

  3. Apneaman says:

    Hello Tom.

    In some ways, Tim Garrett’s paper is the most inconvenient truth of all. It is so powerful that it united climate deniers, environmentalists, and many scientists alike. Even among doomers, I only have to take one sock off to count how many truly want to live without electricity and the internet. Methane and the scientists studying it are getting similar treatment. The same was/is true for Global Dimming. Your a good man Tom.

  4. Tom says:

    Apneaman: good to see you again. I enjoy reading your comments everywhere I find them (we visit a lot of the same sites). Where we disagree, it matters not to now and going forward. Be well and keep writin’!

  5. icarus62 says:

    I love the idea of having a low impact, small eco-footprint kind of life, but human nature being what it is, the people living this kind of life are exactly the people that everyone else walks all over. They’re the people whose trees get cut down for profits, whose land gets turned into a quarry or palm oil plantation, or drowned by a newly dammed river. They’re the people who get conquered or slaughtered by their more powerful and more resource-hungry neighbours. Being eco-friendly means being powerless and vulnerable.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that any solution which involves voluntarily making ourselves less powerful either (a) isn’t going to happen or (b) would just end up with us getting walked all over by someone who doesn’t know or care about being ‘eco-friendly’.

    Sorry to be negative!

  6. Past says:

    “In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions – the major cause of global warming – cannot be stabilized unless the world’s economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.”

    I hope he’s not advocating we build ANY more nuclear power plants. Over 900 already exist – and we’ve no way at all to safely deactivate them and get rid of their toxic waste products (which are leaching back into the environment).

    Screw the “economy”. This is a false god and always has been. We need a habitable planet first and foremost. Virtually everything else is a distant second.

    Economists are a curse to humanity. They’re god is money and profits and maximization of capital. These have always been incompatible with humanity and the environment. They’re part of the problem with our civilization and should be ignored.

    The capitalist model needs to be utterly abandoned. We need an environmental model that does not place profits above everything else. Habitability and the restoration of the planet should be the primary focus.

    Which of course, won’t happen. It’s bloody obvious we are going to run this stupid and insane “civilization” right into the ground and we pollute the air, soil, oceans and fauna into extinction. We’re so fucking dumb, we’ll do this to ourselves while cheering on our “profits”.

    • David Johnson says:

      Well said – I often ask myself – how did we ever let this happen – OK OK I know how it happened(s) – I guess it’s hard for many to figure out we’d ALL be better off if we weren’t sooo greedy