A Late Night Climate Ramble

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Allen Thompson’s texts are the first in this course curriculum to ask the question: Now that we’ve reached the tipping point of climate cataclysm, what should we do? In his paper,  “A World They Don’t Deserve: Moral Failure and Deep Adaptation,” Thompson asks this question through the lens of a moral imperative, and attributes much of the current state of our climate to a moral failure on the part of present and somewhat earlier generations of humans, who have wronged future generations of humans. 

Thompson gives two major assumptions regarding the state of the climate as we know it: 1.) The distant future of mankind is “deeply uncertain” and 2.) People alive today are morally obligated to do something to prevent climate disaster, or else we have morally failed (Thompson 2). I agree with both of these propositions, though I agree with the second one more than the first. Thompson says that future generations will live in a world which humans today are not able to comprehend nor empathize with. I agree with this too, but there seems to be an implication here which cannot be ignored, which is that the effects of climate change have not truly taken place yet, and that present day humans will not live to see its major effects. Though climate scientists have roughly come to a consensus that we have 12 years to act or else damage is irreversible (or even 18 months, depending on who you ask. Either way, there’s very little time) (source [1]). Climate change is directly and presently affecting people of color through environmental racism, where people are dislocated from their communities or they are the target of industrial companies who have relocated specifically to their towns. 

Thompson brings up three common proposals of climate change solutions which he says are “Normatively Weak.” They are doing nothing, survivalism, and geoengineering (Thompson 7). I agree that these three solutions are not something to pay much attention to, especially at this point. Geoengineering in particular is a solution which I find pretty atrocious, given that it does nothing whatsoever to solve the problems that created climate change in the first place (not to mention that it is potentially very dangerous). I’m also glad that Thompson brought up the realities of survivalism, and how the common perceptions of it (the stereotype of stockpiling soup and an arsenal) can only get people so far, and how the only way to really make sure the species survives is if humans learn sustainability in a community (Thompson 8).

But we have not reached this point yet; I believe we still have time—albeit a sliver of time—to effectively redirect climate change before worldwide catastrophe ensues. Researchers at Stanford led by Mark Z. Jacobson, environmental engineering professor, conducted a study and found that it is very possible to realistically convert 100% of the world’s energy to renewable and zero-emission technology by the year 2030 (source below [2]). Then again, despite this being possible, it is still crucial to ask whether or not we should do this, since the manufacturing of renewable energy technology doesn’t change what caused the problem in the first place: extraction. So this must also be kept in mind. I’m really not sure how to answer a question like this, because all in all, extraction is inherently harmful and should be stopped somehow, but we’ve been presented with a feasible way to quickly move to complete renewable energy. But then in Thompson argues that the way our neo-liberal system is set up, people aren’t going to want to make this change in enough time, and thus we’ll have to figure out how to cope otherwise. So it looks like I’ve come full circle, and I simultaneously agree and disagree with Thompson’s point, and I don’t have a clue what the answer is, once again. There’s a lot more that I could write about but I think I’m going to stop now.

Sources:

[1]https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48964736

[2]https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CountriesWWS.pdf

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