Will there be a long loud legal global (LLLG) signal coming out of Paris? No (two words – “US Senate“).
Two linked questions;
a) In the absence of a LLLG signal/deal, will there be the enormous investment in renewables, energy efficiency and ‘leap frog’ technology transfers that would be necessary to change humanity’s energy systems?
b) In the absence of that investment in energy system replacement/revolution/creative destruction/destabilisation of incumbency (you picks your labels and you pays your money), is there any hope for, or meaning to, rhetoric of ‘fundamental values and relationships-with-nature shifts’? (Material and ideo-cultural changes imbricate, imprecate and ‘co-create’ each other, after all. Or they don’t.)
No and no.
At which point people say “Well, we have to start somewhere.”
And I say “Yes, we do. I vote for 1988, at the absolute latest.”
And they say something about whizz-bang shiny technology and/or previous rapid social transformations and I say “Srsly? Can you read a Keeling Curve? Have you clocked the emissions trajectories lately? Look, pick a number for climate sensitivity, I don’t mind. 2.2, 3.1, whatevs. Plug it all in, push the calculate button, bish bosh. You know what is coming. The specific year is something you can get hooked up on if you need to avoid the Big Picture. And all of us do, most of the time, and some of us do all the time.”
And they say “well, what do you expect is going to happen (if everyone thinks/advocates like you).”
And I say “Ah, I kant believe you’re using the categorical imperative. Btw, do you have kids? Because I’m cool with changing the subject if you want/need?”
And they say ‘”go ahead” and I say “It’s kinda outa our hands now, regardless of what you/I/the Pope/Dalai Lama/mysterious deus ex machina social movements or geo-engineers think or do. #bruisedegos.”
And they say “oh, you’re one of these ‘end of nigh’ placard wavers, hooked on apocalypse for psychological/toilet-training reasons. So when does your particular apocalypse start?”
And I sigh and perhaps roll my eyes if I am particularly tired and ill-mannered. And I say “Now you’re straw-manning.” And I mumble something about “Cassandra and all that. And the boy who cried wolf – it didn’t then mean there wasn’t actually a hungry wolf.”
And they say. “Dates please.”
And I say. “The science doesn’t work like that. You know that, but choose to set unrealistic expectations, rather like our denialist chums. But this; when the lead authors of Working Group 1 of the 4th Assessment Report kept getting pressed on this in 2007 at the Royal Society gig, one of them – Professor Susan Solomon, since you ask– kept saying words to the effect of ‘science doesn’t work like that, you know’. And she followed it up with ‘it’s later than you think.‘
And then we all smile awkwardly and talk about articles we read, the weather, lolcats or something….
So my strategy is to look in the mirror every day before Paris (and after) and say “enjoy yourself. And carpe every single one of the diems.”
I am not gonna let it take up any more bandwidth than it absolutely has to.
I can and will choose where to direct my attention and energy –
- towards local issues where I have at least a theoretical chance of having an impact.
- on becoming a ‘better’ academic (which may or may not overlap significantly with ‘successful’ academic. The devil is in the definitions.)
- towards those who support and inspire me, and who occasionally look to me for support and inspiration.
Is this me simply flying the white flag? Perhaps. I am disvisioned, fo’sure. . Or perhaps letting go of the delusions and illusions of potential impact that any of us have over Giddens’ juggernaut…
The people who wrote this may disagree. They can buy me pints and tell me I’m wrong, or immoral.