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40,000 years of progress overnight

02 Dec 2020 | OP ED Watch

The day of the U.S. election, warming guru Bill McKibben wrote that while most American elections are about the next four years “this election may determine the flavor of the next four millennia – maybe the next 40.” Which is rather a long time. The last time anyone did anything that determined the next 40,000 years of history it was… the guy who invented fire, unleashing carbon pollution on a hitherto unknown scale. And the last time anybody predicted 40 years of history with any accuracy, let alone 4,000 (roughly the time since the Great Pyramid of Giza was built), must have been before the invention of writing as we now have no record of it. So why and how are we saved for ten times that long according to this icon of global warming? Or is just more hyperbole?

Yup. It’s hyperbole. McKibben is of course in the “now or never” crowd and has been for years. And he now wants Biden to strike hard and fast because “time is the one thing we can’t recover, and time is the one thing we’ve just about run out of in the climate fight.” Specifically “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2018 report made it clear that we had until 2030 to make fundamental transformations in our energy system – which they defined as cutting by half the amount of carbon that we pour into the atmosphere.” And “If we don’t solve it soon, we will not solve it because we will move past tipping points from which we have no retreat.”

This sort of prose tends to melt when examined closely. One does not move past a tipping point, one hits it, tips and falls. And when falling one cannot retreat. But why quibble about a metaphorical dumpster fire when the sky is blazing? Or rather “Greenland is now in an irreversible process of melt” which “should remind us that the biggest things on our planet can shift in the course of a very few human years.” Not, perhaps, dog years. But as we already asked, if Greenland can tip into the frying pan in a very few human years, why didn’t it during the warmer Climate Holocene Optimum? And if we tipped, aren’t we falling?

Well yes but slowly. According to McKibben, “The one degree celsius that we’ve already increased the planet’s temperature has taken us into what is effectively a new geological era, one markedly less hospitable to human beings. But it still bears some resemblance to the world that our civilizations emerged from.” So we need to hover in mid-air or something.

It doesn’t sound that great even to McKibben. His piece ends “If we value those civilizations then a vote for Joe Biden isn’t really about the next four years. It’s about the long march of time that stretches out ahead of us. And about every creature and human being that will live in those misbegotten years.” Why are they misbegotten with Joe Biden at the helm?

Or are you just babbling?

2 comments on “40,000 years of progress overnight”

  1. The Global Carbon Project has announced that carbon emissions dropped by 2.4 billion tonnes during the pandemic, but have not announced that the official NOAA CO2 measurement from the Mauna Kea observatory has continued to rise at the same rate as it has for the last few decades, disproving the assertion that human-caused emissions have a significant effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels...

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