Rolling Stone runs scariest global warming article ever

Make no mistake: they’d drive Denalis and eat your family if they could. Because your family is so fat.

I talked to a lot of farmers this week, and they disagreed about whether there would be no corn crop in Iowa this year or if there would simply be a catastrophically small one. The Midwest is wheezing through the worst drought in 50 years. Everybody’s lawn is dead. May was the 327th consecutive month in which the global temperature exceeded the 20th-century average; the odds of that happening by chance are 3.7 x 10^-99, which exceeds the number of stars in the known universe. That last number comes from Bill McKibben’s terrifying article on global warming in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. If McKibben is to be believed, climate change is not a scientific controversy or even a problem that threatens to make life unrecognizable in 100 years. It is a thing that could put Africa underwater in 20 years, and nobody is doing dick about it.

First of all, don’t read the comments section whatever you do. The general agreement there seems to be that we can’t know anything about climate change, with various people citing—and by “citing” I mean “mentioning with no attribution whatsoever”—a study about tree rings and the claim that the sun is getting hotter. Internet commenters are stupid, and they’re the people who have managed to raise themselves to such a position in society that they have the internet. Millions upon millions of people are dumber than that, and many of them have cars. Almost all of them burn coal-fired electricity. On the other side, we have this.

Assuming the petition asking the president to “seize carbon assets and place them in a public trust” does not get the 10,000 signatures necessary to become law, we will need to find some other means of reducing greenhouse emissions. What separates McKibben’s article from less alarming alarmism is his quantitative demonstration of how difficult that will be. International consensus holds that the most we can raise the Earth’s temperature without utterly foxing ourselves is 2 degrees Celsius.* That amortizes out to 565 gigatons of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The CO2 that would be produced by burning the proven reserves of coal, oil and gas owned by the world’s largest energy companies (and petro-states) comes to 2,795 gigatons. In other words, if we stopped looking for oil right now and only burned what we had left, we would put enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to ruin the planet five times over.

That’s a problem, because Exxon and Gazprom and Venezuela have borrowed against those reserves. Their stock prices—in the case of Venezuela, their absence of an armed uprising—depend on them. To not put those carbon fuels on the market would be corporate suicide, so it therefore seems unwise to bet on anything short of full resistance from those multinationals. That, too, is daunting, since the last thing multinational petrochemical corporations proved themselves capable of influencing the government to do was a trillion-dollar war in Iraq. Stopping cap-and-trade ought to be—and has been—a cake walk.

So not to be a negative Nancy, but neither the private sector nor the American public is likely to stop any of this stuff. Meanwhile, all manner of insane phenomena may or may not result from our inaction. Here lies the most frustrating aspect of man-made climate change: no matter how daunting and immediate the problem of doing something about it seems, the problem of convincing people that it’s happening—that scientists know what they’re talking about, that reports of their reports are true, that the president is not conspiring with Greenpeace to outlaw church—stands in our way. If the American people were united in opposition to one more ounce of carbon entering the atmosphere, we would face a historically unprecedented challenge. As it is, we are trying to win the Indy 500 while three other people in our car try to grab the wheel.

So yeah: the lives of your children depend on a vote at the local bar on whether everyone gest a new pickup truck or a free science class. I was trying to end today’s post on some sort of high note, but the best I can think of is to hope that Bill McKibben is wrong. That is the only solution to climate change that we have embraced so far. It is the easiest one, even if it is the least likely to work. If we all close our eyes and tell ourselves nothing is wrong, maybe we will turn out to be right. Or maybe the vast majority of our descendants will be killed, and those who live will envy the dead. But hey, we all get Hummers, right?

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  1. If only the spine-chills you induced with those last two sentences could combat global warming.

  2. “Or maybe the vast majority of our descendants will be killed, and those who live will envy the dead. .”

    This is just wishful thinking from the chronically depressed global warming doomsday herd. How do people like you get along each day? You truly are chronically depressed, when you look into the future all you see is death and misery, you actually expect your children will live in poverty and darkness. It’s hilarious.

    Look, just become a climate denier, life is so much nicer as a denier. When I look into the future, I see the future as bright, my children will be happy and prosperous. Yours on the other hand, not so much.

    Save your childeren, be a climate denier.

    Just helping you out.


  3. I assume that you’re at least partly joking, but which do you think is more likely?

    1) A conspiracy of scientists and environmental activists made up global warming to damage the economy even though it makes them feel sad. This conspiracy happens to coincide with some of the warmest years on record.

    2) Believing in global warming makes people sad, and doing something about it costs money and effort, so people tell themselves it isn’t real.

    Again, probably you’re joking. But if you aren’t, I think it is immoral to try to convince people to ignore the problem. Like maybe-cause-natural-disasters-and-death immoral.

  4. That global warming is a really excellent politcal idea and tool should be mentioned, as should the fact that there is no funding or esteem for any scientist who says the trend is more like 1/10 of 1 degree farenheit lift over 30 years.

    Also you should admit the message is confusing. Climate isn’t weather! They shout at us unlettered dummies, but then when there’s extreme weather they proudly point to their thesis.

    The earth will chew us up and spit us out someday, but I don’t think it’ll be because we drove automobiles.

  5. Fuck you combatblog, stop eating my posts. That last one was like 4 paragraphs and I even proofread it before submitting.

  6. It was 107 in Des Moines today. We’ve had about 3 inches of rain in the past two months. I hope McKibben is wrong, because we’re in a lot of trouble if things don’t get cooler or at least wetter.

  7. Eh. Iowa will be a desert in 100 years. Famine and mass extinctions etc. I’ve become cynical and resigned to it. We just do not possess the political capital, as people, to oppose the people who have the two thousand whatever gigatons of carbon in reserve, and all the money they make selling those carbon-based fuels.

    We’ll learn our lesson the hard way. Like the giant hole in the ozone layer that appeared above Antarctica, nobody will change a goddamn thing until the damage is undeniable and possibly irreversible.

    Like George Carlin said, though, Earth will keep on spinning with or without us. “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.”

  8. But the hole in the ozone layer actually had some successful legislation that cut down on CFC emissions from the Montreal Protocol, which shows that getting international agreement on cutting carbon emissions ought to be possible. We have resigned too soon.

  9. One thing we can count on: people who ignored the warnings will eventually be quoted as saying, “No one could have predicted…….”

  10. “No one could have predicted…….”

    Are you kidding? Everything has been predicted and every prediction has come true. They predict warm weather, it gets warmer, they predict cool weather and somewhere on earth it comes true, they predict wetter and dryer weather and they come true, they predict windier and calmer weather and they all come true. Every prediction has been made, all predictions have been correct. Of course they will all be correct, if you bet on every horse in the race, you’ll win every time.

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