“The idea that we’re going to … solve global warming has always been a fantasy.”

23 Mar 2010

“File this under self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Joseph Romm, over at Climate Progress.

I see what he means. When someone influential like Andrew Revkin’s says something like he did, in a recent speech, then it could affect what actually happens. So what did Revkin say?

Excerpting from another news story, Climate Progress says:

Revkin also urged policymakers to eliminate the term “adaptation” because it implies there’s something definite that humans can adjust to. “Resilience,” he said, better captures scientists’ uncertainty about the severity of climate change’s impacts.

“‘Adaptation’ implies a faux sense of concreteness and that we know the change that’s coming,” he said. “We need changes in values, not changes in laws or regulations.”

Among those changes, he said, could mean embracing genetically modified crops that can be tailored to changing conditions.

“The idea that we’re going to fix the climate change problem or solve global warming has always been a fantasy, totally wishful, from my standpoint,” he said.

I really admire people like Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, who is trying to not only stop the increase of CO2 in the air, but to roll things back to where they were a few decades ago, keeping the levels at no higher than 350 parts per million. Joseph Romm has argued that the world not only can, but will keep CO2 levels below 450 ppm. This is despite most politicians and many experts saying the best they could do is to aim for something like 550 ppm.

So I definitely don’t want people preaching self-fulfilling prophecies that doom the planet. But I think that a growing number of people are acknowledging that we’re going to have to find a way to live with substantial global warming. An atmospheric chemist Ines Fung at the University of California, Berkeley, said something remarkably similar to Revkin: “There is no solving the problem. There is no solving the problem. All it is, is slowing the symptoms.”

In any case, I definitely agree with Revkin about resilience. A book I read (reviewed here) argued this same point. There’s so much uncertainty, we have to aim for a more general resilience, rather than changing our ways with a certain set future in mind.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »