Sleepwalking to Extinction

| Resist!

Capitalism and the destruction of life and earth.

Super Typhoon Haiyan has sent a chill through the global nervous system. Thousands dead. Weather scientists in shock. Lives destroyed. The greatest typhoon to touch land in recorded history brings with it more than total destruction. It ups the level of urgency for a new economic paradigm … one that puts the planet first. Radical economist Richard Smith shows us a way out of the “climate madness” about to descend everywhere.

. . .
When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315 ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been rising ever since and have recently passed a dangerous tipping point: 400ppm.

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.

Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fuelled fears that we are fast approaching converging “tipping points” — melting of the subarctic tundra or the thawing and releasing of the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom — that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it.

“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling, son of Charles Keeling.

“At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, and that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.

Although we are fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening” — as the Brazilians call it — from Tahir Square to Zucotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen. To be sure, like Occupy Wall Street, these movements are still inchoate, are still mainly protesting what’s wrong rather than fighting for an alternative social order. Like Occupy, they have yet to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question: “Don’t like capitalism, what’s your alternative?” Yet they are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope.

Capitalism is, overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary ecological collapse
From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminum ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”

Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet in their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids.

This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become.

In Adam Smith’s day, when the first factories and mills produced hat pins and iron tools and rolls of cloth by the thousands, capitalist freedom to make whatever they wanted didn’t much matter because they didn’t have much impact on the global environment. But today, when everything is produced in the millions and billions, then trashed today and reproduced all over again tomorrow, when the planet is looted and polluted to support all this frantic and senseless growth, it matters — a lot.

The world’s climate scientists tell us we’re facing a planetary emergency. They’ve been telling us since the 1990s that if we don’t cut global fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% below 1990 levels by 2050 we will cross critical tipping points and global warming will accelerate beyond any human power to contain it. Yet despite all the ringing alarm bells, no corporation and no government can oppose growth and, instead, every capitalist government in the world is putting pedal to the metal to accelerate growth, to drive us full throttle off the cliff to collapse.

Marxists have never had a better argument against capitalism than this inescapable and apocalyptic “contradiction.” Solutions to the ecological crisis are blindingly obvious but we can’t take the necessary steps to prevent ecological collapse because, so long as we live under capitalism, economic growth has to take priority over ecological concerns.

We all know what we have to do: suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.

James Hansen, the world’s preeminent climate scientist, has argued that to save the humans:

“Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty … Yes, [coal, oil, gas] most of the fossil fuels must be left in the ground. That is the explicit message that the science provides. […] Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases in the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger — unaware of how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise.”

But how can we do this under capitalism? After his climate negotiators stonewalled calls for binding limits on CO2 emissions at Copenhagen, Cancun, Cape Town and Doha, President Obama is now trying to salvage his environmental “legacy” by ordering his EPA to impose “tough” new emissions limits on existing power plants, especially coal-fired plants. But this won’t salvage his legacy or, more importantly, his daughters’ futures because how much difference would it make, really, if every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. shut down tomorrow when U.S. coal producers are free to export their coal to China, which they are doing, and when China is building another coal-fired power plan every week? The atmosphere doesn’t care where the coal is burned. It only cares how much is burned.

Yet how could Obama tell American mining companies to stop mining coal? This would be tantamount to socialism. But if we do not stop mining and burning coal, capitalist freedom and private property is the least we’ll have to worry about. Same with Obama’s “tough” new fuel economy standards. In August 2012 Obama boasted that his new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would “double fuel efficiency” over the next 13 years to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 28.6 mpg at present — cutting vehicle CO2 emissions in half, so helping enormously to “save the planet.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity and other critics have noted, Obama was lying, as usual.

First, his so-called “tough” new CAFE standards were so full of loopholes, negotiated with Detroit, that they actually encourage more gas-guzzling, not less. That’s because the standards are based on a sliding scale according to “vehicle footprints” — the bigger the car, the less mileage it has to get to meet its “standard.” So in fact Obama’s “tough” standards are (surprise) custom designed to promote what Detroit does best — produce giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis, Sierras, Yukons, Tundras and Ticonderogas, Ram Chargers and Ford F series luxury trucks, grossly obese Cadillac Escalades, soccer-kid Suburbans, even 8,000 (!) pound Ford Excursions — and let these gross gas hogs meet the “fleet standard.” These cars and “light” trucks are among the biggest selling vehicles in America today (GM’s Sierra is #1) and they get worse gas mileage than American cars and trucks half a century ago. Cadillac’s current Escalade gets worse mileage than its chrome bedecked tail fin-festooned land yachts of the mid-1950s! Little wonder Detroit applauded Obama’s new CAFE standards instead of damning them as usual. Secondly, what would it matter even if Obama’s new CAFE standards actually did double fleet mileage — when American and global vehicle fleets are growing exponentially?

In 1950 Americans had one car for every three people. Today we have 1.2 cars for every American. In 1950 when there were about 2.6 billion humans on the planet, there were 53 million cars on the world’s roads — about one for every 50 persons. Today, there are 7 billion people but more than 1 billion cars and industry forecasters expect there will be 2 to 2.5 billion cars on the world’s roads by mid-century. China alone is expected to have a billion. So, at the end of the day, incremental half measures like CAFE standards can’t stop rising GHG missions. Barring some technical miracle, the only way to cut vehicle emissions is to just stop making them — drastically suppress vehicle production, especially of the worst gas hogs.

In theory, Obama could simply order GM to stop building its humongous gas guzzlers and switch to producing small economy cars. After all, the federal government owns the company! But of course, how could he do any such thing? Detroit lives by the mantra “big car big profit, small car small profit.” Since Detroit has never been able to compete against the Japanese and Germans in the small car market, which is already glutted and nearly profitless everywhere, such an order would only doom GM to failure, if not bankruptcy (again) and throw masses of workers onto the unemployment lines. So given capitalism, Obama is, in fact, powerless. He’s locked in to promoting the endless growth of vehicle production, even of the worst polluters — and lying about it all to the public to try to patch up his pathetic “legacy.” And yet, if we don’t suppress vehicle production, how can we stop rising CO2 emissions?

In the wake of the failure of climate negotiators from Kyoto to Doha to agree on binding limits on GHG emissions, exasperated British climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows at the Tyndall Centre, Britain’s leading climate change research center, wrote in September 2012 that we need an entirely new paradigm:

Government policies must “radically change” if “dangerous” climate change is to be avoided “We urgently need to acknowledge that the development needs of many countries leave the rich western nations with little choice but to immediately and severely curb their greenhouse gas emissions… [The] misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2˚C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives. A carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure will not be sufficient … long-term end-point targets (for example, 80% by 2050) have no scientific basis. What governs future global temperatures and other adverse climate impacts are the emissions from yesterday, today and those released in the next few years.”

And not just scientists. In its latest world energy forecast released on November 12, 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that despite the bonanza of fossil fuels now made possible by fracking, horizontal and deepwater drilling, we can’t consume them if we want to save the humans: “The climate goal of limiting global warming to 2˚C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes… no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2˚C goal…” Of course the science could be wrong about this. But so far climate scientists have consistently underestimated the speed and ferocity of global warming, and even prominent climate change deniers have folded their cards.

Still, it’s one thing for James Hansen or Bill McKibben to say we need to “leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass,” to call for “severe curbs” in GHG emissions — in the abstract. But think about what this means in our capitalist economy. Most of us, even passionate environmental activists, don’t really want to face up to the economic implications of the science we defend.
That’s why, if you listen to environmentalists like Bill McKibben for example, you will get the impression that global warming is mainly driven by fossi- fuel-powered electric power plants, so if we just “switch to renewables” this will solve the main problem and we can carry on with life more or less as we do now. Indeed, “green capitalism” enthusiasts like Thomas Friedman and the union-backed “green jobs” lobby look to renewable energy, electric cars and such as “the next great engine of industrial growth” — the perfect win-win solution. This is a not a solution. This is a delusion: greenhouse gasses are produced across the economy not just by power plants. Globally, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation accounts for 17% of GHG emissions, heating accounts for 5%, miscellaneous “other” fuel combustion 8.6%, industry 14.7%, industrial processes another 4.3%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6%, land use changes (mainly deforestation) 12.2%. This means, for a start, that even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.

What this means is that, far from launching a new green-energy-powered “industrial growth” boom, barring some tech-fix miracle, the only way to impose “immediate and severe curbs” on fossil fuel production/consumption would be to impose an EMERGENCY CONTRACTION in the industrialized countries: drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet — not just fossil fuel producers but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions — autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness CAFO operations.

Of course, no one wants to hear this because, given capitalism, this would unavoidably mean mass bankruptcies, global economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment around the world. That’s why in April 2013, in laying the political groundwork for his approval of the XL pipeline in some form, President Obama said “the politics of this are tough.” The earth’s temperature probably isn’t the “number one concern” for workers who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; have an underwater mortgage; are spending $40 to fill their gas tank, can’t afford a hybrid car; and face other challenges.” Obama wants to save the planet but given capitalism his “number one concern” has to be growing the economy, growing jobs. Given capitalism — today, tomorrow, next year and every year — economic growth will always be the overriding priority … till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

The necessity of denial and delusion
There’s no technical solution to this problem and no market solution either. In a very few cases — electricity generation is the main one — a broad shift to renewables could indeed sharply reduce fossil fuel emissions in that sector. But if we just use “clean” “green” energy to power more growth, consume ever more natural resources, then we solve nothing and would still be headed to collapse. Producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline-powered cars, as I explained elsewhere, would be just as ecologically destructive and polluting, if in somewhat different ways, even if they were all run on solar power.

Substituting biofuels for fossil fuels in transportation just creates different but no less environmentally-destructive problems: converting farm land to raise biofuel feedstock pits food production against fuels. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands to produce biofuels releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than the fossil fuels they replace and accelerates species extinction. More industrial farming means more demand for water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And so on. Cap and trade schemes can’t cut fossil fuel emissions because business understands, even if some environmentalists do not, that “dematerialization” is a fantasy, that there’s no win-win tech solution, that capping emissions means cutting growth. Since cutting growth is unacceptable to business, labor and governments, cap and trade has been abandoned everywhere.

Carbon taxes can’t stop global warming either because they do not cap emissions. That’s why fossil fuel execs like Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil (the largest private oil company in the world) and Paul Anderson, CEO of Duke Energy (the largest electric utility in the U.S.) support carbon taxes. They understand that carbon taxes would add something to the cost of doing business, like other taxes, but they pose no limit, no “cap” on growth. ExxonMobil predicts that, carbon tax or no carbon tax, by 2040 global demand for energy is going to grow by 35%, 65% in the developing world and nearly all of this is going to be supplied by fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is not looking to “leave the oil in the soil” as a favor to Bill McKibben and the humans. ExxonMobil is looking to pump it and burn it all as fast as possible to enrich its shareholders.

Hansen, McKibben, Obama — and most of us really — don’t want to face up to the economic implications of the need to put the brakes on growth and fossil fuel-based overconsumption. We all “need” to live in denial, and believe in delusions that carbon taxes or some tech fix will save us because we all know that capitalism has to grow or we’ll all be out of work. And the thought of replacing capitalism seems so impossible, especially given the powers arrayed against change. But what’s the alternative? In the not-so-distant future, this is all going to come to a screeching halt one way or another — either we seize hold of this out-of-control locomotive, or we ride this train right off the cliff to collapse.

Emergency Contraction or Global Ecological Collapse?
If there’s no market mechanism to stop plundering the planet then, again, what alternative is there but to impose an emergency contraction on resource consumption?

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.

These are the sorts of things we would have to do if we really want to stop overconsumption and save the world. All these changes are simple, self-evident, no great technical challenge. They just require a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to producing what we need while conserving resources for future generations of humans and for other species with which we share this planet.

The spectre of eco-democratic revolution
Economic systems come and go. Capitalism has had a 300 year run. The question is: will humanity stand by and let the world be destroyed to save the profit system?

That outcome depends to a great extent on whether we on the left can answer that question “what’s your alternative?” with a compelling and plausible vision of an eco-socialist civilization. We have our work cut out for us. But what gives the growing global eco-socialist movement an edge in this ideological struggle is that capitalism has no solution to the ecological crisis, no way to put the brakes on collapse, because its only answer to every problem is more of the same growth that’s killing us.

“History” was supposed to have “ended” with the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism two decades ago. Yet today, history is very much alive and it is, ironically, capitalism itself which is being challenged more broadly than ever and found wanting for solutions.

Today, we are very much living in one of those pivotal world-changing moments in history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that this is the most critical moment in human history.

We may be fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, but the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world, struggles against the destruction of nature, against dams, against pollution, against overdevelopment, against the siting of chemical plants and power plants, against predatory resource extraction, against the imposition of GMOs, against privatization of remaining common lands, water and public services, against capitalist unemployment and precarité are growing and building momentum.

Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening,” an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity’s last best hope.

Let’s make history!

Richard Smith is an economic historian. He has written extensively for the New Left Review, Monthly Review and The Ecologist. This is an excerpt from his essay, “Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth,” published in the Real-World Economics Review. His new book To Save the Planet, Turn the World Upside Down will be published in 2014.

How many wake up calls does the world need? One hundred? Two hundred. One thousand? A million? If we miss the mark, the next great global movement will be the funeral pier of our collective demise. Join ourGlobal Warning campaign, and let’s rewire the doomsday machine.

  • NOTgaltHouse

    Here’s something that everyone can do today to reduce their use of gas. Drive 55 MPH instead of 70. Gosh it will take you five extra minutes to get to work. What is your hurry anyway?
    I’m leaving in a week to drive to Florida for the winter, and I’ll be driving at 55. It will take me an extra 6 or 7 hours, but I’ll save around $50 in gas. Try it, it’s not that hard.

  • windy2

    Socialism has been a far greater disaster than corporatism. Look at socialist countries like Greece Spain Italy, etc. They have been decimated by socialists. Who wants to go back to the economic dark ages. There is growing tide to push back against socialists in Europe. You had your time you failed. The only danger to the world is Malthusian cargo cultists who embrace a perverse fear fantasy that the world is headed for doom.

  • kevinzeese

    You should read America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz it outlines an alternative to finance capitalism and state-based socialism — economic democracy. It is a mix of both and more. For some issues like healthcare the empirical evidence and US experience shows a national single payer is best. For others it gets down to local control, not even necessarily government, e.g. worker owned cooperatives or community land trusts (to control housing prices). For others city or state public banks used to augment community banks. These are just a few examples of many. There is much more variety in choices that a simplistic comment like socialism is worse than capitalism. Check out http://www.ItsOurEconomy.US for more.

  • kevinzeese

    By the way, the countries you describe as destroyed by socialism, actually were destroyed by big capitalist banks. You should look at the details of what has caused their problems.

  • Randall Semrau

    What a hoot! So multigeneration overspending wasn’t the cause of the financial crisis in Greece – it was the fault of the capitalist banks for not opening up their pockets for infinite Greek borrowing!

  • anitahandle

    I’d hate to be a passenger in your car on that trip.

  • Randall Semrau

    Checked out your link. Just another dressed up form of failed Socialism .
    You’re obviously so deeply indoctrinated, you’re unable to see the difference.

  • kevinzeese

    Sadly, not a hoot. Greece definitely deserves some blame, but so does Goldman . . .

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  • John Smith

    Dear Mr. Smith: Thank you so much for gathering so many fallacious arguments in one place. It normally takes ten or fifteen minutes on Google (with a high speed connection – dial-up adds to the time requirement) to be able to knock down ideas as moronic as yours, and I appreciate the time you have saved me. It is indeed possible that humanity will kill itself – we’re certainly fully-equipped for such folly – but my hunch it will have nothing to do with the fact that we didn’t listen to you. Again, thank you for your humorous work.

  • John Smith

    knock yourself out. You are correct that individual efforts will help our resource consumption levels, but “time” is also a resource and for some it’s worth more than fuel. For others – retired folks, for instance – not so much. Congratulations on what you’re doing.

  • BlueScreenOfDeath

    Extinction due to extreme weather events, Richard?

    Hmmm, peer reviewed paper here asserts that weather event related deaths have DROPPED 95% since the 1920s.

    www dot csccc dot info/reports/report_23 dot pdf

    Meanwhile, much to the horror of the climate McScientists such as Hokey Schtick Mann and his bunch, the Earth appeared to stop warming around 17 years ago, and there is increasing evidence that it is now cooling.

    But hey, just you keep right on sleeping on your waterproof sheet if that’s what turns you on!

  • kevinzeese

    The group you cite defines itself as responding to ‘alaramist’ reports on climate. They hardly seem like an unbiased source. Meanwhile there actually are reports of deaths increasing due to climate change. This is not surprising since we are seeing unusual weather -like droughts and storms that do result in death. A quick search found these: (a peer-reviewed study) claims 400,000 excess deaths a year, here’s a news report

    Disquis says you are a pretty aggressive poster, so I don’t want to get into a long back and forth. You seem like a pretty strong climate denier. So, I’m more responding so other people reading your comments realize where you are coming from and that there is a lot of research showing we are already seeing thousands of deaths due to climate change.

  • kevinzeese

    By the way the group you are citing is not unbiased. Here’s its wikipedia page. It is funded by big business interests whose pollution causes climate change and right wing big donors. This is one of those front groups set up to mislead people. Is that your ‘job’ to mislead people and respond to climate change reports on the Internet? Business interests do pay people to do that kind of thing.

  • J S

    ‘Radical economist’ presumably, and here demonstrably, means ‘deranged fantasist’. The climate reality is that it seems quite convincing that the recent rises in CO2 have had a negligible impact as a driver of the climate system, much as seems to have been the case in the distant past with that particular molecule. Nevertheless, it has been used as a fuel to rekindle the fires of the left, reduced to barely glowing embers after the downfall of the national socialists (e.g. Germany),and the international socialists (e.g. the USSR), and the increasingly widespread recognition that the nominal pursuit of socialism has led to hideous and unprecedented levels of avoidable suffering and deliberate sadism for the past 100 years or so.

  • NOTgaltHouse

    And so we’ll go rushing to our demise at 75 MPH. To busy to save ourselves.

  • kevinzeese

    I find your Disquis history very suspicious. Under this name you have only posted about climate, always on the denial side. Unusual for someone only to post on one issue. Your posts are all fanatical on the denial side — denying the science that is so strongly against you.

  • Southernfink

    What part of climate change do you not understand ?

  • oligarchynot

    People confuse capitalism with democracy all the time, but they are 2 different things. Capitalism actually works quite well in communist systems. And democracy can and has worked just fine without capitalism. Capitalism must continually expand production as if natural resources were infinite, which they are not. When unfettered capitalism is allowed, it throws off the balance of wealth and power and what society ends up with is not what I would call a democracy since only those with large sums of money get to participate in politics, then they change the rules of the game to ensure that they keep all the wealth and only their voice counts. All of which is bad for the common good. Even without climate change included in the equation, unfettered capitalism/consumerism will lead us to our doom because of its very nature.

  • Southernfink

    Excellent idea, and yes indeed what’s the hurry anyway ? Driving slower is much safer, more economical and produces less wear and tear not to mention it’s stress free driving.

  • Southernfink

    Nothing worse than a backseat driver unable to relax….

  • Southernfink

    Why drive at the maximum permitted speed when a reduction of 25% gives 50% better economy (^^,)

  • Southernfink

    Just being ”wealthy” and short of time is no excuse, instead you should be able to purchase more energy efficient transport.

  • J S

    Not so strange really. I have taken an interest in climate for decades and I am sufficiently appalled by what is being done under the bizarre banner of ‘stop climate change’ to be willing to post comments in exotic locations such as this one.

  • Jacques Lemiere

    let s open the eyes..and go to extinction…
    slower or faster? that ‘s the first question
    the second is : according to the fist point, whose extinction ?

    some will say : the earth can only sustain 2 billion people….and then…there will a problem. to save “us” from extinction “some” must and will be “extincted”..

    the world runs not perfectly but it runs, what you say is we must change everything and quickly and it will run is so incredibility arrogant!!!

    hell is paved of good wills.

    let s be practical…

    how many people can earth sustain?
    with what life standard?
    what diet?
    what individual consumption?
    do we need pesticide or not?
    do we need need fertilizer?
    do we need chemical medicine?
    ho many people must work on farm?
    how many in cities?

    in one question what does a human being need or want ? and how come can you know that?

    If you don’t that how come you can plan or calculate anything for the whole population?

    Collectivization works naturally from time to time when a resource is limited. But most of the time resources are not militated at all cause of technology and imagination and work.
    so you want to “create” limitations…artificially …

    finally you will have no right to change anything in your life without authorization of the collective.including kids you want to have…

    and every thing can carry on the same..except…if earth carry on the same…

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  • Drive to Florida for the winter? Warmer is better?

  • kevinzeese

    Appalled at clean, sustainable energy. Interesting thing to be appalled at.

  • John Smith

    I have trouble with the fiction parts SouthernFink – the assertions that models are science, that the science is settled, and that we need to hand over our future to a gang of no-growth Fascists. That’s for openers – need anything else?

  • John Smith

    SouthernFink – I appreciate all your good ideas about how other people should live, but perhaps you ought to focus on your life and leave the adults to worry about theirs. The market – I know you hate to hear this – will determine how we react. Will it be a smart, focused reaction? Probably not – humans don’t specialize in such things. But until you reach a situation where your time is worth something, please don’t presume to understand the tradeoffs between time and gasoline. Your friend, John

  • John Smith

    It’s “too busy” – and the idea we’d be “saving ourselves” is breathtakingly ill-informed. I know what you’ve taught, and you appear to have absorbed all the alarmist reasons to hand over your free will to your instructors. They are proud of you. You have permission to go back to sleep.

  • Southernfink

    WHAT COMPLETE RUBBISH !You’re simply being facetious.

  • Southernfink

    It takes logic to understand climate change, the only logic right winged people understand is directly related to the wishes of their corporate masters.

    “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his his not understanding it” ~Upton Sinclair

  • CookieThumper

    So yea,, who pays you to post here?

  • CookieThumper

    Suggestion.. learn the difference between ism’s. Socialism, National Socialism and communist are not a portmanteau word. Nor is global warming undeniable. Should we now discuss whom is the deranged fantasist?

  • J S

    I see no conflict between your middle two sentences and anything in the comment by me which has so exercised you..

  • J S


  • J S

    Are you playing your trump card? It is not a very strong one given the various harms due to biofuels, solar PV, wind farms and suchlike. Starvation, fuel poverty, despoilation of landscapes, chemical pollution at the manufacturing stage, and the general reduction in the prospects of many to enjoy the benefits of faster industrial development.

  • kevinzeese

    Your list of negatives will only be the result of the transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy if we do not make the transition now. In other words, if climate climate change is ignored until we have no choice to act it will be much more disastrous and expensive than if we make the change now, not in a panic.

  • CookieThumper

    Exactly what I did before I wrote thus. Was it that discernible?

  • John Smith

    driving slowly also will give you more time to ponder your magnificence and to have more of your insightful “deep thoughts.” Again, thank you so much for understanding how I should live my life. Never has the face of Fascism had a more intense spokesmoron.

  • John Smith

    Kevin – you may wish to study what happened in the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) before blaming the ever-so-handy banks. The silly banks did expect that someone would pay back the borrowed money – Greedy Bastards! – and I am not defending the altruism of bankers, but it was borrowers, not lenders, who decided to spend lots and lots of money that they didn’t have.

  • Southernfink

    The use of ad hominem proves that you’re argument’s are devoid of any logic.

  • Tha_Gu_Dona_Tapadh_Lait

    A rather parallel situation occurs when someone is driving drunk. The victim lies dying, and the lookers-on berate the driver. The driver says the victim shouldn’t have entered the lane into which the driver was driving. Presumably—by your standard—it is fascism to demand that people not drive into oncoming traffic.

    In the same fashion, the rest of the world suffers the consequences of your intentional as well as criminally negligent actions (GHG emissions, undermining efforts of curbing GHGs, driving for the heck of it), but it is fascism, not even to demand that you be held accountable, but merely that you restrain yourself.


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  • John Smith

    I’m getting you a grammar book for Christmas

  • Tha_Gu_Dona_Tapadh_Lait

    I no longer see your comments in DISQUS.

  • Southernfink

    My bad, I set the profile to private for a moment.

  • anitahandle

    A lot of us retired folks know that driving to slow is dangerous. Personally, I like to be the 2nd fastest car on the road (I let my pace car get the speeding ticket). My time on Earth is too valuable to die of boredom riding in NOTgaltHouse’s or Southernfink’s car driving 55!

  • John Smith

    I am also a follower of the pace car – keeping my eye on (a) the road and (b) their brake lights. Here in Colorado the pace car is less valuable in finding police cars than in identifying the large mammals (deer, elk, bears) who so often share our roads.

  • TechinBris

    So you are saying “Be a good child and follow the Adults”? Oh what a condescending statement you push.
    The entire Human Civilisation is still a child and hasn’t yet grown up, not learned to deal with the Technology we have constructed, that is racing ahead of our social structures and ethics, not to mention emotions, to the level we can learn to deal with controlling and understanding the ramifications of it all.
    But here you are proselytizing that we should follow those who say they are “Adults”, but in reality are Children that are insane on delusions of grandeur. Oh save me from the blind, who see not what they are walking into! Sheeesh! Get a grip on reality please John!

  • John Smith

    You are so very willing to surrender your free will to what others define as “good.” You assertion that civilization hasn’t grown up is the sort of crap kids learn in liberal colleges and – mostly grow out of in their mid-thirties. Bye now

  • TechinBris

    Nice bit of Right Wing Projection there mate! Sorry to say it, but I didn’t expect much more than what I just got from you. Bye and good riddance.

  • ecosocialist

    Given the current size of the human population, and the commitments, and enmities of current nation states, is it possible for the kind of bottoms-up democratic eco-socialism which Richard Smith envisions to emerge?

  • ecosocialist

    Have Greece, Spain, Italy, or any human society actually had the kind of bottoms-up democratic eco-socialism which Richard Smith envisions?

  • Jim Young

    What about failed Capitalism? Herbert Hoover didn’t suspect the damage that could be caused by what he came to call “anarchical capitalists.” I do believe effectively regulated capitalism, with a touch of socialism as far as universal health care, education, meritocracy, and care for the aged and disabled is the best system (useful, safe and resilient infrastructure).

    We do need to improve our ranking from the tie for 19th place in perceived corruption, no matter how absurdly capitalist/non-socialist our country is compared to the rest of the developed world.

  • Helen Paton

    Yes, it’s the borrowers. You, me and everyone else who wants and buys too much stuff. That desire may or may not be innate in human beings but there’s no denying that it has been strongly encouraged by the culture of consumerism, advertising and manipulative marketing promoted by the greed and unfettered desire for increasing profit at all costs by big business and predatory capitalism.

  • Helen Paton

    Suffering and sadism has been a huge part of the human story since human life commenced. (Before that, there was suffering but not sadism.)
    European exploitation of the Americas, Australia, the East and the Pacific nations, and the extermination of many indigenous peoples from those areas as well as the rabid excesses of the British Empire were not done in the name of ‘socialism’. Religion may have been one reason, but the main motive was a desire for wealth and power at any cost i.e. unfettered greed, which is the hallmark of unrestrained capitalism. Post WW2, the desire for world economic and political hegemony at any cost, by the USA, became the bottom line of US foreign policy – as outlined in the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”.