By Frank Rotering | February 20, 2020
Young people, you have been brutally betrayed. Since the 1970s the international community has repeatedly vowed to keep GHG concentrations within safe limits and to protect the environment for future generations. But concentrations are now at catastrophic levels and the environment is rapidly collapsing. These solemn promises have therefore been blatantly violated. As a result you face immense suffering and premature death on a colossal scale: the genocide of the young.
If you are angry, become enraged.
If you are enraged, become defiant.
If you are defiant, militantly demand
the rational GHG strategy outlined below.
To begin, let me summarize the IPCC approach that currently dominates environmental thought and action. (For details, click on "IPCC Critique" here.) At the heart of this approach is the organization's consistent refusal to address safe GHG concentrations, despite the fact that these were central to the international commitments. The IPCC has instead embraced the emissions fallacy. This strongly emphasizes the emissions that increase concentrations while severely downplaying the GGR measures that decrease them. The inevitable result has been a catastrophic surge in GHG concentrations and the pervasive degradation of the global environment.
The IPCC's treatment of SRM is equally devastating. The organization refuses to acknowledge the extreme urgency of reducing solar radiation to prevent runaway global warming. It also highlights the risks of SRM to the Global South, but ignores the immense benefits of stabilizing the agriculture on which the poor depend. Based on such distortions, many among the concerned dismiss SRM as a crazy techno-fix, thereby spurning its potential as a stopgap measure to buy humankind the time it so desperately needs.
What should really boil your blood is that the truth about the GHG crisis and its solutions is easily determined, which means it is being intentionally evaded. Judge for yourself, but to me the following chain of reasoning is both straightforward and irrefutable.
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Current GHG concentrations are disastrously unsafe
Evidence: The widespread environmental destruction that now threatens human civilization, your future, and life on Earth.
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Emissions reductions can slow the rise in concentrations, but can't lower them
Reason: Emissions are additions. It is impossible to lower the water level in a tub by turning off the tap. Similarly, it is impossible to lower GHG concentrations even if emissions are reduced to zero.
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GGR is therefore necessary for your survival
Reason: Removing GHGs by natural and technical means is the only way to lower concentrations.
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However, this will be too slow to prevent runaway global warming
Reason: GGR remains scandalously underdeveloped, so it will take decades to develop effective methods and to remove and sequester the unsafe gases.
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SRM is therefore essential as a protective stopgap measure
Reason: Reflecting some of the Sun's radiation is the only means available for averting runaway global warming while unsafe GHGs are being removed. The nature of SRM's implementation is open to discussion; its existential necessity is not.
This logical sequence firmly establishes the rational GHG approach. We must first protect ourselves from explosive global warming through SRM. We must then aggressively reduce our emissions while massively ramping up GGR to extract the unsafe GHGs.
In brief, we must block the Sun, minimize our emissions, and remove the damaging gases.
As with the GHG crisis and its solutions, the reasons for the IPCC's deceitful approach are readily understood. If concentrations are too high, the world's carbon budget is negative rather than positive. If the carbon budget is negative, the global economy must contract rather than grow. But economic contraction means the end of growth-dependent capitalism and thus the revolutionary transformation of the prevailing social order. The IPCC, which was created by and for this order, serves it faithfully by refusing to go down this system-threatening path.
The difficult question for you, the young, is what this means for your future. That is, how should you respond to the deceitful GHG story so as to maximize your survival chances? I have four suggestions to help you decide.
First, heed the 1960s slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 30". This is not because the older are all unreliable, but because - given the realities of human nature - you and they have different motivations. You are historically unique because you will suffer the horrendous consequences of ecological collapse. They are historically unique because they have long enjoyed unprecedented consumption levels. They are therefore motivated to swallow the GHG fairy tales, but you are not. Always keep this distinction in mind as you read the Guardian, listen to Michael Mann and friends, or peruse the latest IPCC report.
Second, put intense pressure on climate scientists to tell the truth about the GHG crisis. This will be costly to their careers and personal lives, so expect only a heroic few to break ranks. You should nevertheless do your best to create a vocal splinter group. This would shatter today's ecocidal consensus and possibly persuade some fence-sitters to join the truth-tellers.
Third, shift the GHG conversation away from defeatism, collapse porn, and anti-denialism. All of these sow confusion and divert attention from the main issue: what solutions can help you survive on this planet? Defeatism is based largely on SRM rejection because, without this measure, collapse is in fact inevitable. If SRM is correctly perceived, defeatism will likely lose traction. Collapse porn is the unceasing dissemination of bad environmental news. This is pointless because all objective minds now understand that the biosphere is imperilled, so let's talk strategy instead. Anti-denialism demonizes those who dismiss the GHG problems, but at this stage the far more dangerous people are those who dismiss the rational solutions. Correctly identify your enemies!
Finally and perhaps most importantly, understand that the progressive movement, which underlies much of today's activism, cannot guide you to a sustainable future. Progressivism works within the current system to maximize social justice. This is a humane mission, but your survival depends on a radical shift beyond this system and an intense focus on sustainability. I therefore believe that a second, complementary movement is now required. Progressivism would continue to fight for an equitable world while the new movement would be fully dedicated to your ecological survival. I will propose its core principles in a future post.
To summarize: The IPCC-based GHG strategy, which now dominates activist thought and action, is based on the emissions fallacy and thus violates the commitments to maintain safe GHG concentrations. This strategy was concocted to protect the material interests of the global rich and older generations. To survive, you must fight tooth and nail for a strategy that aims for safe concentrations through aggressive emissions reductions and the judicious implementation of both GGR and SRM. A new social movement that focuses on sustainability will be needed to effectively coordinate this struggle.