Climate Nihilism

This post was prompted by the release of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report put out by the UN recently.

It does not matter one whit what we do individually, we are fucked. Collectively there is a slim chance that we could save ourselves, but we are nowhere near meaningful collective action. And we are fast running out of time.

It has been common knowledge all of my adult life that climate change is real, and that if we want to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius that we must drastically cut emissions. Regardless of who has been in office, we have not made meaningful cuts. We are already half way to that 2 degree threshold.

According to the recently released UN report, we must achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to stay within the 2 degree temperature rise. To achieve this we would need to cut global emissions by 7.6% per year starting in 2020. No one believes this is going to happen. Sure it is doable, but it will not happen.

80% of all releases globally are by the 20 most industrialized countries (G20). The remaining 175 countries release only 20% of emissions. This is a first world problem, we created it, we perpetuate it.

Here in the US, energy related releases have been in decline. But this decline is now being offset by increases in transportation related releases. Between 2000 and 2017 we made incremental improvements, but that has now stopped. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to remain constant through 2050.

I don’t know if any of the climate deniers actually disbelieve the science or if they just say they don’t to pay homage to the ever expanding market. What I do know is that many who profess belief in global climate change are either lying or are outright evil. If those with power believed in catastrophic climate change would they be continuing to promote consumption and growth at any cost? Would they be building even more roads and airports? Or would they be pushing for a vast increase in mass transportation?

80% of emissions come from electric power, transportation and industry. While the remaining 20% are from agriculture, residential, and commercial. So even if we all made drastic personal lifestyle changes and reduced our personal impact by as much as half, it would not be close to being enough. Our elected officials fiddle while the planet burns, and no amount of personal responsibility will make a difference.

The only rational response at this point is nihilism, our personal choices are meaningless. I find this sad and troubling. But just because it is sad and troubling does not negate the fact that it is indubitably true.

2 thoughts on “Climate Nihilism

  1. I think you are right on target, so thanks for this piece, but it is a fiction that “in the US energy related releases have been on decline.” Manufacturing got outsourced to third world countries, just as Lawrence Summers called for, so that others could suffer and die so that our Happy Meal toys could arrive across the plasticized oceans.
    There is no political mechanism available anywhere to stop the growing use of fossil fuels that is now humanity’s blood. Why pretend that anything but nihilism is the correct understanding?

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