My uncle sent me this New Yorker piece about how we should all just give up on fixing climate change. I saw that the author was Jonathon Franzen, and while I couldn't quite put my finger on anything he'd written the name rung a bell and this recognition gave me the initial impression that he must be a smart guy. After reading the article I'm convinced he's an idiot and just the sort of science skimming pessimist that I can live without. He starts out by saying that “we’ve made essentially no progress” on climate when a more accurate statement would be that we have made a ton of progress, but have not yet substantially reduced our total emissions.
Incredibly janky port of comments from my old WordPress site:
2019-09-09 at 10:57 am
And now a word from The Uncle.
In 1976, I supported and campaigned for Mo Udall in the D primaries – for whom this was his number one issue. (Carter won the nom, because who wanted to think about the environment?) Udall’s private position was that a market-based capitalist democracy would be incapable of dealing with sufficient intent to confront and ‘deal with’ this situation. In the years since, I’ve seen exactly what he means.
The reason is that the problem is not one of technology, but of political effectiveness. And if you wonder why the Russians hacked our elections, consider that it’s a collapsing political enterprise based on an extraction economy – they are (barely) propped up by oil prices. But I digress.
As our technology improves – and as the author above correctly points out – the technology has massively improved. Have you noticed that as energy efficiency improves, that our houses are bigger (and air conditioned), our cars are bigger, our refrigerators are bigger, our stoves now have two ovens and six burners? The rise of Uber and apps has put 10% more cars on the road in major cities (at the expense of mass transit).
I could go on, but it’s at this point I recommend you Google “Jevons Paradox.”
As to our improving tech, there is a huge carbon down payment in all of it, so far. Elon Musk won’t and can’t save us. What will, short of a network of worldwide autocracies, is when climate change starts costing the capitalists money. Now this could be done with taxes, but as Brown University professor Mark Blyth observes, it won’t happen until Naples FL is under water and half of Miami Beach is washed away (along with all the money invested there).
ProfitGreenly, keep up the drumbeat. We desperately need better tech (especially to wring the embedded carbon out of it). I have no doubt visionaries like yourself can and will get that done.
But the problem is not technology – it’s the vice grip of human nature and governance that is squeezing us all.
2019-09-09 at 1:23 pm
Even though it is easy to be pessimistic about anything connected to a healthy environment under the callous tRump administration, we should not need to endure this for much longer. Sane people in our Congress and a responsible administration will reverse the onerous dictates and get us and the rest of the world back on a healthy course. Reversing climate change is a difficult task, but we can do it.