From the “this time for sure” department 11,000 scientists just signed a petition saying we must act now or we’re all doomed. Awkwardly, the signatories included what organizers dismiss as “a small number of invalid names”. Well, who could be expected to detect a cunning fake like “Mouse, Micky”, Professor at Namibia’s “Micky Mouse Institute for the Blind” (yes, too blind to spot the missing “e” in Mickey)? And anyone can be fooled by the wizarding prowess of Albus Dumbledore, even if he wrongly placed Hogwarts in the United States. The real problem is all the invalid statements the real signatories just yelled at us.
Leaving aside the fake names, we have 11,000 scientists going “Aaaaaaaaah!” in unison because something terrible has happened, or is about to happen. And that something is…economic growth and prosperity. They decry, in particular, “sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product”, airline travel (yours, not theirs) and the expansion of population. All of which they count as worse than nothing because alongside these indicators of progress, global carbon dioxide levels went up.
The signatories are at least happy that we’ve also seen “decreases in global fertility” and significant “institutional fossil fuel divestment” so the hideous spectacle of more people living better can still be stopped. The sooner the better, they say, since with increases in “CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide” we’ve also seen increases in “global surface temperature” while “ice has been rapidly disappearing, evidenced by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness worldwide” while “Ocean heat content, ocean acidity, sea level, area burned in the United States, and extreme weather and associated damage costs have all been trending upward”.
These statements, alas, belong in the Mickey Mouse school of climate panic. As we’ve observed previously, sea level has been rising since 12,000 BC, and at a pretty steady pace since before writing was invented. Also forest fires are not trending upward in North America, the world as a whole or indeed the Amazon in particular, except in places where poor forest management has piled up tinder. As for extreme weather, like the IPCC we detect no increase, while “associated damage costs” from storms have been trending upward because in a richer society with bigger cities, those hurricanes or floods that do occur damage more and more expensive buildings.
If the worst you’ve got is that there might be a bit less ice on our planet, in exchange for a century and a half of spectacular prosperity, that’s a price we don’t mind paying. Though the jury’s still out on how much ice the Arctic and Greenland are actually losing.
As you might expect, the signatories say “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected”. Which is apparently meant to mean we should listen to scientists instead of thinking their predictions are unreliable.
They went on to say “These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.” Which sounds anything but definitive, with the magic words “could” and “potentially” giving the scientists an escape hatch when Armageddon fails to arrive on time yet again. Which is a pretty safe bet since the last time the planet was hotter and had more CO2 in the Mesozoic or Eocene, dinosaurs and large mammals flourished as did plants.
The signatories then let the cat out of the bag by saying “Economic and population growth are among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion” and “therefore, we need bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies.” So don’t listen to people like Justin Trudeau who tell you the economy and the environment can prosper together so we never have to make choices. You can save the planet or have an economy, one or the other. (So toss aside the New York Times with its fiddly suggestions like buying local organic because it’s “probably better for the planet, even if the emissions picture is complex”.)
In case you’re not sure where the scientists come down, they spell out six key recommendations at which a hardened Bolshevik would blanch: get rid of fossil fuels (including not subsidizing them, one point on which CDN is in agreement); get rid of methane and soot; stop eating meat; stop growing the economy and instead prioritize “basic needs and reducing inequality” (which are so much easier when there’s not enough to go around, or perhaps the idea is that these policies will just naturally stop growth); and stop having all those wretched babies: “the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced” through “proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss. (These prescriptions met with the enthusiastic approval of Green New Deal sponsors Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey and, indeed, of NBC.)
Funny how the idea of population control and making people give up stuff they like has been front and centre among environmental radicals since before global cooling was the big threat. It’s like a pitcher with six windups and only one pitch. A beanball.