A message written in debris from Hurricane Sandy reads 'Global Warming is Here' on the beach in a devastated area of New York
The understanding of [human] warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the Third Assessment report, leading to very high confidence that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming."- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The "net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming". That is the center of the question, "since 1750". That means the Industrial Revolution, which in turn means everything we mean by the word, "modern" and especially the word "progress".
To give an example of how far reaching this is, consider that the two most confronted "modern" ideologies, Capitalism and Communism are only two sides of the same coin. They are in fact just an argument about how to industrialize and who was to get the benefit; neither of them questioning for a moment either industrialization nor "progress" themselves.
Someone wrote into the BBC, "Who is going to tell a billion people that they can't have air-conditioning or an automobile?". That is certainly the immediate political question. Telling the whole world that everything we dream of is killing us. Someone is going to have to bell that cat and at the same time offer an equitable vision of this post-post-post world.
If the idea is that a few people are going to continue to live with "all mod cons" while the majority are dying of thirst or inundated by the rising seas, than we are going to see universal chaos. We might use the simile of shipwrecked sailors sharing out their provisions in a lifeboat. Rioting, death, destruction and certain distortions of the business cycle. Dare I say "from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs"? The alternative could be no other than universal homo homini lupus.
There is something about global warming that reminds me of that moment when Reagan told Gorbachev that the cold war would be forgotten in an instant if the earth were invaded by creatures from outer space. It sounded like the onset of Alzheimer's at the time, but at this moment of raised climate consciousness and of Reagan-revisionism it could easily be seen in another, more benevolent light.
With global warming it seems we have actually invaded ourselves from outer space. So, in fact, we are moving into Reagan's dream scenario, with its opportunity for humanity to put aside its quarrels and work together to save our common space.
Seen from that point of view, instead of being at the gates of hell, we might be on the threshold of a golden age... A very hot, very dry, very flooded, very austere, but very golden age of brotherhood, solidarity and cooperation. Hot and dry it’s going to be anyway... so we might as well make the best of it.
So all you disillusioned Utopians, dust off your adolescent dreams of universal brotherhood and justice. It is either your dreams or the hecatomb.
David Seaton is a journalist.
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