I think I get the main theme, but I don't think "climate cliff" is a useful analogy. It makes one picture a scene of relative calm until suddenly (and abruptly) the shit hits the fan, when the reality is going to be far more messy. (Just look at all those historians who could never agree on exactly what year the Roman Empire fell.)
If anything, it will make people argue "Well, we haven't hit the cliff yet, which means we still have time," or, worse, "They've preached that we will hit the cliff by 2020, a bunch of liars!"
I think the fictional "denialist" in the sentence is actually half right. Instead of a cliff, we will have a smooth ride... to hell. We will never have one glorious catastrophe where we get to say "I told you so" five seconds before dying. Instead, half of the passengers will still be arguing that we're fine while we're slowly dying.
The cliff is civilizational collapse, which will happen very fast once a threshold is crossed. Which threshold it will be is uncertain. Ocean ecosystem collapse and mass starvation? Refugees from uninhabitable places exceed 200M, bringing fascists to power, hence war?
Civilizational collapse has happened many, many times. Just not worldwide, before. We have seen how it goes: the rich try to cushion it for themselves, hastening the crash.
Oh, wait, no, it is literally that.
We have to wind the engine down while shifting the work over to a parallel electric motor that we’re in the process of building.
A radical program to move all power generation, transport, and home heating to renewables would result in radically cheaper energy and transport for all.
But the people enriched by scarce energy would not be anymore.
If Doctorow wanted a perfect analogy for our attitudes towards climate change, then he wouldn't use any analogy at all, he would talk directly about our attitudes to climate change.
The point of an analogy is to highlight a particular dynamic that both the analogy and the thing being analogised have in common.
The point isn't to find the most apt metaphore.
The point is that there's a looming crisis, humanity is hurtling toward it at breakneck speed, and there's little if any time left to act.
I've had discussions myself with friends and family over this. One response has been that "the people who need to know about this know what the problem is and how to respond". That particular response came before a novel coronavirus emerged in a land far away and spread across the globe in days and weeks.
Pandemics are an emergency we've seen before, that we have contingencies and plans for, whose dynamics we understand, etc., etc., etc. And yet the world, as a whole failed miserably, through the mechanism of individual countries, regions (state, provinces, counties, etc.) and cities failing to act effectively.
With a very few exceptions. Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and somewhat improbably the poorer south-east Asian countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, seem to have responded highly effectively, at least initially. As has mainland China, for the most part.
But as a dress-rehersal for a far more challenging crisis, I'm both underwhelmed and terrified of what else lies in store.
Contracting anyway. The collapse of industrial activity due to covid cooled things off. Enough humans die off, humanity could ultimately survive in a more bucolic but tech stabilized system to help manage logistics, intentionally leave out all the military industrial complex and disposable crap production.
Religion wanted cheap manual labor; breed, breed, breed! We still rely on memes like Protestant work ethic despite the awareness there’s probably no “higher power” in the traditional sense. Less militant political leadership not grown of WWs but of managing a global ecological problem would wisely find value in the idea “doing less is more”.
Carter told people to wear a sweater and the American people flipped out and elected a ghoulish union-busting zombie. Twice.
There will be no change until it is forced upon us when the treats stop flowing. And even then you just have to hope that the populace has an accurate story in their heads as to why.
I think you’re underestimating how much of Reagan’s appeal was _optimism_.
I agree much of Reagan’s popularity was due to his willingness to lie and flatter.
also, it's not a literal train, some people will be able to say there's no crash even as they fly out
> “As the lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus in India continues, pollution levels across much of the country have dropped sharply. Now some residents in northern India say they can see the snow-capped Himalayas 200 kilometres away for the first time in 30 years.” 
If we had a global deflationary economic system, the incentive to invest in capital and engage in consumerism would dissipate. People would work less, because there would be less reason to work. Without work, people would have less reason to travel. Pollution would drop accordingly.
Under a deflationary economic system, a touch over $480,000 in savings would yield an effective “UBI” of $1000/mo .
Once adopted by the entire world, a global currency of fixed supply controlled by computer algorithms could achieve this. Humans would voluntarily work less and pollute less.
Deflation, with its disincentives to investment or economic growth, would reduce employment and real wages. Most Americans would lose their jobs or see their wages cut as the economy ground to a halt. Anyone with debt would likely be trapped working for the rest of their life at subsistence wages, never making enough to pay their debts off.
At that point, you'd need an entire overhaul of the economy, not just an algorithmic monetary system
If the only way to cure the climate crisis is to prevent people from flying having tchotchkes, how naive is Corey to think that the rich will somehow stop those things before the middle class and poor do?
But it's dangerous and flawed to mix climate targets with social justice targets for this very reason. Hinging the swerve on a social/economic revolution means it will never happen.
Once in the deflationary environment, the cost of borrowing would be higher, and there would be less reason to work, consume and invest. Hence, there would be less incentive to take on debt.
Many things are preferable to having 0 savings and a planet on fire.
If you have a properly tuned money system you would expect it to stabilize at some level. Cycles should be the exception and full employment the rule as says law implies. If you want to discourage consumption you should introduce consumption taxes for natural resources, co2 and other forms of pollution.
Really, the answer is so obvious. You need to let the interest rate on cash be negative like -4% and then give the central bank the task to do price level targeting. The problem with deflation is that the optimal real interest rate is 0% but if the nominal interest rate is at 0% then the real interest becomes positive. A positive interest on money effectively acts as a competitor for labor. Anything that uses labor must earn at least this interest rate hence the economy must grow. If the economy stands still there isn't enough money to service existing debt. You will get an inevitable currency collapse because you didn't consider for the case where the economy stops growing even for just a few years.
If that doesn't convince you let me tell you that a negative interest rate makes deflation palatable to the public by maintaining full employment. High interest debt is prone to default which results in an increased risk of losing your investment which lowers the effective yield of the debt. A borrower that can only pay back $10000 will only pay back that amount regardless of the interest rate, so increasing the interest rate increases the risk of default without increasing the overall return on investment. If the interest rate is cut low enough that it asks for only $10000 then you will get the same $10000 back with almost no risk, but from the perspective of the borrower his life wasn't negatively disrupted by the process of defaulting. Hence once you adjust for risk, high interest and low interest debt can have the same yield. However, in the high interest case, the borrower may be fooled into believing that he can pay his debt back, so he is strongly encouraged to work more and convince others to consume more, in short he will advocate for higher economic growth.
Won't lowering interest rates lead to stimulating the economy and more debt? Actually, no. If you have negative interest rates you can abandon QE and raise the reserve ratio, in fact, you can do price level targeting (no inflation/deflation) to control the money supply according to monetarist theories which assume a constant velocity of money. Saved money is dead money, hence the need to force ever greater quantities of money into the economy to keep it alive, if you control the velocity directly, you don't need to keep adding new money. The miracle of Wörgl currency circulated 200 times faster than the national Austrian currency and therefore didn't need any deficit spending whatsoever, the money supply was somewhere around 10 per person, the local government ran all social spending programmes against unemployment on a balanced budget which is absurd considering that it was a poor indebted classic deficit spending town with 30% unemployment before Unterguggenberger became mayor.
> Once the marginal productivity of physical capital is below the real interest rate people will abandon production even if there is a shortage of products and people are starving on the street.
Given the profit margin on farming is something like 10%, and assuming the average annual purchasing power appreciation of our hypothetical global currency of fixed supply equals the Fed’s inflation target of 2% plus 0.25% GDP growth, how do we arrive at people “starving on the street”?
> If you want to discourage consumption you should introduce consumption taxes for natural resources, co2 and other forms of pollution
Surely the level of taxation necessary to curb industrial and retail usage of fossil fuels to the same extent of global deflationary economics would make the taxation measures politically infeasible. The tax policy would need to result in unthinkably high prices to create the drastic changes necessary. Deflation OTOH would lead to a decline in capital investment, employment, and spending without requiring any level of forcible compulsion.
A global currency of fixed supply would realistically deliver a sufficiently powerful financial incentive to galvanize widespread, voluntary adoption of ecologically sustainable consumer behaviour and business practices.
> by maintaining full employment
Particularly with the rise of automation and AI, is maintaining full employment really an achievable goal? We desperately need a way for the majority of humans to subsist without working bullshit jobs .
> hence the need to force ever greater quantities of money into the economy to keep it alive
We’re facing ecological collapse precisely because humanity has chased infinite growth.
You mean most of the work will be piled up on a handful of full time employees which leaves a huge percentage of the population unemployed and destitue and ready to rebel against the system.
>Under a deflationary economic system, a touch over $480,000 in savings would yield an effective “UBI” of $1000/mo .
What if people decide to have less children to protect them from the rent seeking conducted by the rich families that inherited wealth over centuries? What if the above unemployed people die from starvation and are no longer there to guarantee the value of your money?
>Once adopted by the entire world, a global currency of fixed supply controlled by computer algorithms could achieve this. Humans would voluntarily work less and pollute less.
Voluntarily? Are you sure about that? Aren't you just trying to make some transactions illegal by forcing a less effective medium of exchange? Also we already tried this and it failed not only with the gold standard but also with Bitcoin.
If it were that simple the Roman empire wouldn't have collapsed. No currency in history would have collapsed.
You are also discounting the fact that deflation encourages corruption as gaining money through war, crime, trafficking, environmental destruction, political bribes becomes highly profitable as once you are locked in and got a lucrative 10 million dollars you will earn more from those savings than you can earn from being an upstanding politician. Hence there is an intensive pressure to destroy physical and social capital for a share of the fixed supply currency.
I sometimes wonder if communism is just capitalism taken too far. E.g. capitalism devolved into monopolies and communism just skips straight to having the state be the ultimate monopoly.
20+ million people in 2020:
I don’t think he would disagree that many will see it that way.
For all I know it might not even be about communism in anything other than a metaphorical sense. I'd certainly assume that from the context.
Yet someone it feels like you're insinuating that he writes books advocating a communist revolution.
That feels dishonest. Maybe it's not but with throwaway comments like this, my hackles rise.
Would I be correct in assuming you've not read the book, either?
Are you familiar with the Marxist concept of "worker ownership of the means of production?" That is what they are alluding to both in the first chapter and in the rest of the book. The people in the first chapter regularly refer to themselves as communists. That is why they call their party a communist party. And they have taken over a factory to produce free goods for their friends. That is a very communist thing to do!
Perhaps you have confused anarchist communism, which is described in his books, with the authoritarian communism common in the 20th century, which is not described in his books.
But he writes extensively about worlds where the means of production are held in common ownership to produce enough for everyone, so no one has to work if they don't want to. These have always been the ideals of communism.
Here is Doctorow saying on his own website that the people in the book Walkaway are communists.
"Party Discipline is a story set in the world of Walkaway, about two high-school seniors who conspire to throw a “Communist Party” at a sheet metal factory whose owners are shutting down and stealing their workers’ final paychecks. These parties are both literally parties — music, dancing, intoxicants — and “Communist” in that the partygoers take over the means of production and start them up, giving away the products they create to the attendees. Walkaway opens with a Communist Party and I wanted to dig into what might go into pulling one of those off."
However we don’t need to buy everything. We can buy some of it, and build other parts from scratch for cheap, and skip some parts of it entirely because lots of manufacturing capacity goes towards making things which don’t really materially improve peoples lives.
Under this scenario, you still fight over control of land and intellectual property. Control of land is essentially political. I think we should find ways to distribute land to all people. And I think we should abolish or severely limit intellectual property restrictions.
I am not just getting this from that article. I am stating that he writes books about a post-scarcity society where everyone has their needs met without needing to work, and that this is intended to be a form of communism,
In his book Walkaway, the title of the first chapter is "Communist Party" and it is about a party (the festive kind of party) of self-professed communists who have taken over an abandoned furniture factory to make free furniture for their friends. This is a direct reference to common ownership of the means of production discussed in Marxism.
The party ends in chapter 1, but the themes of communism continue. The book's name "Walkaway" refers to people who walk away from normal capitalist society and enter a wild-west type of region where machines produce everything that people need for survival, and no one has to work.
This is not soviet-style communism, but the concept of communism has taken many forms in theoretical literature, and the general attitude of contemporary communists who aren't 14 years old is that authoritarian communism was and will always be a failure, and that we should look for anarchist forms of communism such as the kind discussed in the late 1800's by Marx's contemporaries like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin.
In Doctorow's book Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom, which is available for free under a creative commons license, again people live their lives without the need to work, because they have taken the means of production in to common ownership. Those that do work do so purely by choice. Everything is run by committees of people instead of being owned by a minority. (It has been a little while since I read that one but I believe that is correct)
Doctorow is an outspoken critic of capitalism and advocates for the kinds of community ownership of the means of production most commonly associated with anarchist communism and Marxist principles.
So no, it was not a throwaway comment, but an honest attempt to answer your question. Yes I have read both books and have regularly read his blog. And yes, if you are familiar with contemporary communist thought there is no doubt about the nature of his work. I am myself a libertarian communist (aka an anarchist communist) and I appreciate his work.
You can read the first chapter of his book Walkaway, the chapter titled "Communist Party" for free here:
Here is Doctorow saying on his own website that the people in the book Walkaway are communists.
It's actually really simple: this level of comfort is not sustainable without a major re-tooling of the way we interact with the eco-system, and if we don't adapt we will be adapted, quite likely by 'downsizing'.
The other options are sucking oligarchs, amusing children, selling off your body parts, living in a cardboard box and the vast frontier of crime.
if we are doomed anyway I might as well have my time on a yacht too.
Only if you insist on legal means of doing so.
The alternative of not hurting and killing people is everyone suffers and dies, not a significant improvement.
What about strategies designed to set the stage for that, but do not define it as a direct goal?
We had decades to act decades ago.
The stage has been set. It's not set very advantageously.
We need to act. With significant effect. Now.
Perhaps. But what action(s) are optimal? Are the top 5 most optimal actions contained within Doctorow's essay?
Consider his ending:
> We’ll swerve. The bus will roll. It will hurt. It will be terrible.
> But we won’t be dead on canyon floor.
> We’ll fix the bus. We’ll make it better. We’ll get it back on its wheels. We’ll get a better driver, and a better destination.
> That’s our happy ending. That’s our hopeful future.
> We gotta get ahold of that wheel first. You ready?
> Let’s roll.
I wonder: what does "Let's roll" resolve to?
The plane's likely target, the US Capitol or the White House, were saved.
What "let's roll" resolves to is principled sacrifice for the greater goood.
There is no Pareto-optimal solution. That is, there is no action which causes no harm, or benefits all.
There are less pessimal solutions. There are courses of action which minimise net harm, or perhaps more significantly and apporpriately, maximise long-term survival, resilience, and net quality of life for many future generations.
We're having this discussion in the immediate context of a global pandemic whose reported deaths exceed six million souls with estimates of actual deaths from 15--26 million, in which both individuals and political leaders at city, state, and national levels refused to take or implement basic measures such as social distancing, masking mandates, and vaccine requirements, on the basis of claimed rights to attend spring break parties, "personal freedoms", pecuniary concerns (most of which appear to have been far more severely impacted by measures taken in their name), and similar short-sighted, selfish, and straight-up counterfactual bases.
Cory, I, and numerous others aren't saying there's a fairytale ending to this. There are simply less horrific variants of hell.
I've been reading Kim Staley Robinson's fiction book Ministry for the Future. Among the criticisms I've seen of it is Francis Fukuyama's, who finds the book unrealistic in that KSR seems to assume that everything goes right. Mind that "going right" includes mass terrorist response that destroys tens of thousands of commercial jetliners in flight and heatwaves killing tens of millions across South Asia.
Fukuyama is right in one regard, though. KSR is showing us what a best case (or close to it) scenario might look like. It is an optimistic book.
And it's still got some pretty awful parts.
The line we'll likely track will be far south of Robinson's plot. But the line we follow doing nothing is far further south still.
Or to quote another climate realist: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/coronavirus-excess-...
"What "let's roll" resolves to is principled sacrifice for the greater good" is all well and good, but what does it look like physically?
And, as you note: what if we do come up with a viable strategy, but substantial portions of the population are not interested in going along? It happened once, I'd feel extremely comfortable wagering top dollar that it will happen again - does anyone have a plan for this? "Sacrifice!" seems rather underpowered.
As the saying goes: "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride".
Sometimes success takes hard work and skillful thinking, this is well demonstrated by history. And time's a wasting.
For instance: a massive re-tooling towards solar and wind has its own climate impact as well as effects on available resources, pollution and lots of other side effects.
Globally, classism has become so pronounced that, to preserve the metaphor, if anyone tries to swerve the bus the first class passengers will just kill them and won't stop killing until the bus is light enough to jump the gorge. They don't see the need to now, because nobody is making any serious notions to grab the wheel. But the 1% can pay another 5% or so to leverage the asymmetric warfare tools available against the remaining 94%.
There are approximately 8 billion human beings on the planet right now. Cory is proposing a solution that saves 6 billion of them, maybe, if we play our cards right. But we already have weapons that can atomize cities. Removing a few key, highly populated cities from the planet would crater the number of people that our resources need to sustain, which is to say the number of people generating the sort of pollution that is threatening the biosphere, into the one to two billion range. And hey, bonus effect, overuse of those weapons results in a global cooling phenomenon. Win-win.
I wish those grabbing the wheel luck, because they're going to have to grab it faster than the first class passengers can reach for their knives.
The really, really big problem is that people seem to think that they personally are going to be exempt from this, that it will happen to others, but not to them. Waking up from that will be pretty harsh. But if COVID denialism is any indication of how well humanity deals with complex problems on a planetary scale I'm not too optimistic about climate change countermeasures, the problem is much more complex and would require cooperation on a far more massive scale than anything COVID related.
And now looking at outcomes across different states (e.g. Florida vs. California)--and considering ALL outcomes (public health, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, mental health, truancy, graduation rates, violent crime)--it's indeed unclear that draconian policies in the name of public health were a net positive.
I am extremely concerned about climate change. But there seems to be little introspection from those who propose sweeping policy change about the need to consider second-order effects on those whose lives and livelihoods will be upturned. The general disdain for people in places like West Virginia gives me little hope that will change.
All that whining is something that my grandmothers' generation would have scoffed at: you have it relatively easy, stop complaining. 5 years of war, occupation, hunger and brutal death is the kind of thing that generation lived through - or not, in many cases - and they came through to rebuild their world without bitching about it. COVID was - compared to that, sorry - a walk in the park and we should have shouldered it collectively and dealt with it. Instead we ended up with a large fraction simply denying objective reality in the hope that it would go away. That's not how you deal with problems as an adult. In toddlers I find that acceptable, but not in grown ups.
And the ease with which demagogues used it to bend people to their will shows clearly that we have not learned anything from the very recent past, which in a way is even more worrying: apparently we are structurally incapable of retaining very hard won knowledge over a stretch longer than a human life-span leading to endless repeats.
But this time, with climate change, the stakes are a lot higher than 'the usual' price of a few million people dead, we're talking about changes on a scale that humanity has never had to deal with before.
So if we aren't going to get our act together the next 100 years or so will not at all be pleasant, to put it very mildly, and going on the assumption that it isn't way too late already.
And those places did not emerge with a significantly better COVID outcome.
Without an answer for addressing the second-order effects of green policy, there will be no consensus.
With climate change, what exactly are we optimizing for? That's never been clear to me. We want to destroy the world's economy to keep the climate from changing? How long will the climate "not change"? In other words, the goals have never been clear to me, and the whole point of this line of comments is "are we sure the juice is worth the squeeze?"
We largely don't know what the second-order effects of tampering with the climate could be, because complex systems have very weird, very broad, interconnected relationships. There's genuinely no way of knowing whether we'll just make it worse, accelerate rapid cycling, or destabilize a system that is complex.
Seems like the opposite to me, unless your personal interests are tied up in legacy monopolistic businesses. It's like being opposed to Apple and Microsoft in the late 70s because you're worried about destroying IBM or mainframes.
Wind and solar power are both intermittent. That's fine if you live in a coastal city in a temperate zone, but most people in the world do not. So efficient energy storage becomes a huge problem. And we have two main timecycles for which we have to store energy: capturing it during the day and releasing it at night (to charge all those EVs) and also capturing it during the summer and releasing it over the winter. That would require longer-term storage AND while we can capture the most energy during the summer, that's also the highest period of use because the world is now also air-conditioned.
If you end petroleum production, that also ends all plastic production. So all the cheap gewgaws from China disappear.
Also, did you know that solar panels are made from firing coal and quartz together at high temperatures? Do you know why they're all made in China? Because of much less strict environmental regulations there. Did you also know that solar panels have a lifespan of only 15-20 years, and that they're not recyclable?
I could go on and on, but there's no magic "alternative energy source" that even comes close to being able to provide stable power at a cost that comes anywhere close to petroleum, not to mention how portable petroleum is as an energy source. Nuclear power is the only thing that even comes close, but it's fraught with trouble as well.
You think there will be solar-powered shipping vessels? Trains are electric, but you know what runs the electric motors on them? The on-board diesel generators!
The global economy is based on cheap energy sources. Increase the cost and reduce the availability of the energy sources and yeah, you'll destroy the economy.
The one that's called "technology development."
Invest in alternatives, capture solutions, etc so that they get better faster. It's the same thing we've done in wartime, or for a moon mission.
The global economy was based on other things than it is today 30, 70, 150, 200, etc years ago. Shit changes. Steer the change instead of sitting back and being defeatist about the side effects of the most recent ones.
Plenty of people don't want to destroy the world to save it. Do you think your "let's just do nothing because uncertainty exists, let's just let the world destroy itself without bothering to learn more or try new things" pseudo-concern is better?
"But I thought humans were not adaptable to climate change? Isn't that the panic?"
After all that hand-wringing about "destroying the world economy" you'd think that "adapting to climate change" would not be the bar for them. "Adapting without economic harm" would be. Even if you frame it purely economically and don't care about lives lost, the economic cost of things like rising temperatures and sea levels is easily calculable as being enormous. That precious petro-heavy global economy depends massively on infrastructure on today's coast, for starters.
This is just "I disagree with making any efforts entirely but I've given up on being able to convince people that the efforts aren't needed, so I'll just try to claim they're too expensive instead by arguing against a worst-faith interpretation of what we could possibly try to do."
Bioplastics exist. We need better ways to deal with them at end-of-life (industrial composting is not yet widespread) but they aren’t petroleum-based.
> Trains are electric, but you know what runs the electric motors on them? The on-board diesel generators!
Not if you electrify the network. And in fact, in the US we used to have over 5x as much electrified track in the 1930s as we do now.
more and more it seems like outright nihilism has led to many people being in the mindset of "And That's A Good Thing!"
these people not only think privately but announce publicly that they don't have any interest in having children specifically because they don't think it's Morally Right to produce and raise children in this Intractably Fallen World we live in today. after all, as everyone knows, western civilization is built upon colonial expansionism, slavery, white supremacy, bigotry, etc. etc., and even the good things it's produced like democracy are outweighed by the civilization-ending threat of climate catastrophe that it directly wrought! therefore, let us ignore the civilizational advances our forefathers fought and died for, because on the whole, our entire society is built upon foundations of moral abhorrence! let it all burn, and all of us with it—we deserve it.
and all of this nihilistic depression and anxiety about the entire global state of the world we live in all started relatively recently in human history, which makes one wonder what exactly caused it—was it completely organic or subversively intentional? because idk about you but if I was a competing world superpower and I wanted to set out to destroy my competition discretely, these last couple decades of getting the middle to lower rungs of society to turn on itself in every which way imaginable, all while discouraging optimism and exceptionalism in a downright institutional manner, would be exactly how I would go about it.
I used to be a fan of Doctorow when I was downloading his free ebooks & converting them to iPod notes format to read in class in high school. it's a bummer to see that he's lining up with the rest of the "we're all gonna die"-types, singing the song of the end of the world to the masses—it's pretty much impossible for me to respect anyone who takes that tack.
With climate change we are optimizing for survival of the species and some form of civilization as we know it. If that's all we manage to do then I would consider that a huge win.
And that's before getting into how hindsight is 20/20 (in addition to being rosy). the neo-Black Death will be really happy, if, a month into the next pandemic the going line is, "well, the last one probably wasn't as bad as the worst case scenario, so let's assume this one will be fine and do nothing."
I assume you mean the blue states? They did come out better, on average:
If we all did what, exactly?
I live in Canada. We shut down our economy, spent vast amounts of money on social supports, had wide vaccine and booster adoption...and had similar results to many countries that did far less than that.
Our smallest province had, literally, zero deaths and a handful of hospitalizations for over a year into the pandemic. It was an example to the world. Then Omicron hit and that province had one of the worst infection rates in the world. Almost like nothing they did mattered and it was just a matter of time...
>In this case the dissidents even use this argument to show that the better choices didn't work
And the conformists keep moving the goalposts, claiming we didn't do enough. You need to tell people what they need to do, and for how long, and then you're kinda hemmed in. We were told vaccines would get us "back to normal" (even that they prevented the spread). It turned out they were remotely as effective as claimed. How long can normal people be offered that carrot, then have to backtrack, before they revolt?
I agree that global coordination would be fantastic, but probably impossible.
Alternative claim: "Those places would have come out worse if we all did this" - neither of which can be proved.
So you can reason it out, the fact that we can't re-run the experiment is a pity.
You are piling up suppositions upon suppositions to come up with a wild claim. It doesn't work that way.
In case you doubt it, here's my equally plausible counter claim: if all the countries had simultaneously shut down, vaccine research would have taken the back burner, wouldn't have had sufficient funding, and mRNA vaccines would have never become mainstream. With the fake reassurance that it was a dud crisis, opening up to travel again would have caused a much worse human toll.
It's equally impossible to prove, but it's just as plausible, as it's extremely close to what happened in Australia - a country that was heralded as an example to follow!
> So you can reason it out, the fact that we can't re-run the experiment is a pity.
Indeed, but it's not a reason to throw logic out of the window. We just can't say what would have happened if everything had been wildly different.
We can just try to learn and improve for the next time on small details: most of the big countries managed to get a vaccine with their local industry, but some didn't. In some countries, the existing regulations initially prevented the rapid diffusion of tests, etc.
It's less ambitious, but more workable.
Not in actual reality, but it works just fine in virtual reality, which is what people are actually observing when they contemplate reality.
I continue to worry that improving on our (be it mainly Western people or all people, I don't know) inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality at least to some degree may be a pre-requisite to adequately solving climate change. I simply can't see how it isn't an extremely important variable.
If intelligent people can't be bothered to wonder what is true, how do we expect climate "denialists" to manage it?
I wonder if we'll someday look back on some of the things we do to prevent climate change and view it through a similar lens.
I remember some earlier ranges that said it could be as high as 3-5%, but mostly it has stayed around 1% and that fell significantly after the vaccine.
I mean, if we assume that every single person in the US has been infected already with COVID, that puts the death rate at 0.2% and without a vaccine, it would have been a lot higher.
COVID statistics are hard to interpret clearly. But, looking at the list of deaths/100K, it is clear that states that did take COVID seriously mostly had fewer deaths. Depending on how you slice the numbers I'd call 30% fewer deaths a significantly better outcome.
New York: 355
My guess is that mass unemployment, homelessness, and increasing substance abuse were not higher where COVID was taken seriously, but proving that would take too much of my time.
Everything after was basically differences in how quickly things opened back up (and what things, in what order, with what restrictions).
And mass support for reopening rapidly with no restrictions wasn't there even in Florida or Texas early on - consider the sub-$60M box office that Tenet brought in. Theaters were open where allowed (hell, they were even open in Orange County in SoCal, not just in Florida), but nobody wanted to go because they were looking at the transmission and hospitalization data themselves and waiting for things to settle down and for vaccines to come out. Same with how conferences and events were being canceled before official government action in March 2020.
Economic damage was done at least as much, if not more, by individual behaviors as official policy. And can you blame people for that? Almost as many people died of Covid in the US before the vaccines as after the vaccines in 2021, despite there being way less of a return to normalcy by that point - imagine the number of deaths (and knock-on deaths from the overwhelmed health system) that would've happened if nobody had changed their behavior.
Claiming something like that you could've fixed homelessness in California - which was a rapidly growing problem pre-Covid - by never "officially" shutting down in March 2020 is ludicrous.
The "none of this was necessary" position is just ultra-revisionist and often makes arguments as if today's variant and transmission environment is the environment that was in place in March 2020. It also ignores that individuals will make their own choices to change their behavior in the face of a new threat. "Not massively damaging some sectors of the economy" was never an option.
If “being an island nation” was all it took to eradicate Covid, why was Hawaii unable to do so?
It’s clear border security was a rather important factor. And can you think of a more essential responsibility of government than securing the borders?
Gentle reminder that Australia is an “island country” the size of the continental US with several densely-populated major cities.
Japan, South Korea and New Zealand all have less than 500 cumulative deaths per 100K, while the USA is north of 3,000.
And they've demonstrated that it's possible to achieve good results without "mass unemployment, homelessness and growing tent cities".
But instead of learning what works and adopting those methods, apparently we're going to continue propagating disinfo that there's nothing that can be done, and any attempt to do something is doomed to second order maladies.
If you want to fight against demagogues, you should engage with people, recognize that issues are nuanced and that most people are not the caricatures that you'd paint them as.
Finally, telling people they're being whiny after a 2 year long pandemic that saw many people lose their loved ones, be unable to even see their bodies, the near collapse of our national health systems (that was not caused solely by the strain of Covid but specifically by the preventative measures put into place) and the great suffering that resulted from it is very insensitive and uncaring. I doubt my great-grandmother would have said anything of the sort were she still alive, and I know for a fact if you asked many elderly people how they've lived these past few years (those who survived) they would not be so dismissive of the complaints of others.
If you had fallen victim to this phenomenon yourself, would you necessarily know? Might there be some materially important imperfections in your model of reality that you're describing here?
For instance, anyone who claims that the economic impact was solely the result of government action, and that no private individuals or organizations changed their behavior independently, is ignoring the timeline of events.
Anyone who claims that the vaccines didn't change things so that post-vaccine policies could have been equally successful pre-vaccines, is ignoring the stats.
All this stuff is pretty easily googleable in the current and past-two-years news records, and yet you still get lots of people here making arguments based on completely different claimed facts.
Ah yes, of course. Like everyone in this thread, and every other culture war based thread on HN eh? Everyone is super seriously making sure that their statements are free of error, and signs of uncertainty are far more plentiful than high confidence.
> For instance, anyone who claims that the economic impact was solely the result of government action, and that no private individuals or organizations changed their behavior independently, is ignoring the timeline of events.
> Anyone who claims that the vaccines didn't change things so that post-vaccine policies could have been equally successful pre-vaccines, is ignoring the stats.
The mind tends to be drawn to easy, clear cut scenarios, but tends to be highly averse to wading into scenarios where certainty is not so obvious.
> All this stuff is pretty easily googleable in the current and past-two-years news records, and yet you still get lots of people here making arguments based on completely different claimed facts.
Agreed....and this is an intelligent forum, on a relative basis anyways - which is another thing one can notice: people have a tendency to think only in relative terms. "I am clearly much more intelligent than those Trump supporters, therefore I must be intelligent [on an absolute scale]". How many flaws like this are hardwired into human consciousness, running completely sub-perceptually, turning our perception of what is all around us into a gross misrepresentation completely without our knowledge?
What if this actually is a big deal, but we can't be bothered to even consider the possibility?
I'm saying that if you want to make sure you're not running yourself in circles and letting your own previous assumptions dominate your ongoing judgment, you should be doing your homework.
If you don't keep doing your homework you will almost certainly fall into that trap.
It wouldn't surprise me if the level of correlation between intelligence and "doing your homework" was near-0, to be honest, but that's just a guess in part based on people's behaviors on HN. ;)
This seems a bit like "just" focus on your breath in meditation.
As Doctorow writes, the policy changes didn’t have to be sweeping if we’d started in 1977. But we didn’t. Now all the remaining options will upturn someone’s lives. It’s just a question of balancing the effects to achieve something better than the current path which means sweeping catastrophe for our children.
The disdain is for ignoring the science, the health of other people, and negative externalities… it is not likely to change, nor are the minds of those who are dug in and feel as though their entitlement to the status quo will outdo entropy.
The anchor is sad about being dragged?
This, to me, summarizes the problem. Comparing an entire group of people to a heavy metal object at the bottom of the sea. It’s a tempting dismissal, sure, but will never help someone stuck in their ideology see beyond it.
> nor are the minds of those who are dug in
And is it any wonder that those minds will not change when we hold nothing but disdain and shout at each other?
I am convinced that we will not solve these issues without focusing on the tribalism and identity politics that sit at the core of it all.
I don’t see an anchor being dragged. I see people who see their way of life threatened, and are willing to fight against that.
This doesn’t excuse the behavior, or make it valid. But it’s also not terribly surprising when you look at how conversations about this across ideologies usually go.
Fighting against what? Change? The science that says its not sustainable? Young people who want a future?
Way of life? As the anchor analogy was a joke, arresting progress and getting dragged, (made fun of)… this feels like a joke, but anything can be your way of life if you are stubborn enough and willing to make it your identity I guess?
“Yeah you’ve got ghosts in your blood, better do cocaine about it!” - Old timey doctor whose way of life is threatened
Yes, exactly. It's no more complicated than that. Change is hard, and we need to acknowledge that. When its change you deeply believe in, it's not so hard. But when that change is framed as a set of "for" and "against" political ideologies, with little interest from either side in having an honest conversation, now that change looks like one political party imposing their will on the other. People are hardwired to be loyal to their tribe, and when these issues manifest as Tribe A vs. Tribe B, it's little wonder that they fight against it at what seems to be an almost unconscious level.
I don't think this can change until we start having different kinds of conversations with each other. The current shouting, name calling, derision, etc. only deepen that divide, and ultimately it doesn't matter if the subject is climate change or inequality or abortion rights, we're in an era where almost no one is willing to have an open conversation, with genuine interest in hearing the other side. Because of this, all each side sees is a caricature of the other, unable to see what's really there.
I'm about as liberal as one can be, and I find myself incredibly frustrated at how "my party" engages.
> anything can be your way of life if you are stubborn enough and willing to make it your identity I guess?
Look at the state of modern discourse. Almost everyone is tying their identity to a myriad of things. This is relatively new. Political party is just one. By definition, political changes that impact attributes of one's identity are now perceived as existential threats, because identity is about as existential as it gets.
> “Yeah you’ve got ghosts in your blood, better do cocaine about it!” - Old timey doctor whose way of life is threatened
This is a pretty disingenuous example when there are real/current issues that we could examine instead. I think one need only look at the pandemic and how it unfolded. Was I incredibly frustrated at conservatives for their selfish behavior and denialism? 100 times yes. But it seems clear to me that much of that behavior was precipitated/exacerbated by the attitudes of liberals, who shamed, shunned, yelled and screamed at those who disagree (behaviors which seem antithetical to liberalism...).
And what was everyone screaming/yelling about? Telling people that they could no longer live their lives. No longer see their friend groups, etc. You can argue that this isn't what it was about, but if you come from a position that suspects the premise of the argument is incorrect, the only thing you can look at is the outcome of the argument, which in this case directly impacted everyone's ability to live their lives freely.
"But it was for the greater good and they're just selfish and don't give a shit about other people" is what many of my liberal friends would counter with. And I agree it was for the greater good (which is why I was extremely conscientious about my own behaviors throughout that time), but the trouble is that the dialog got stuck at the screaming/shouting phase.
That this resulted in a similar response and backlash hardly seems surprising.
If the pandemic was a dress rehearsal for how we tackle world-wide existential problems, we need to be going back to the drawing board, and fast.
My experience is that the most vocal proponents of proper strategies to address climate change are also the most vocal supporters of social justice.
I don’t actually owe giving up my agency to do so in deference to people thousands of miles away, whose lack of movement away from toxic industry is instigating the agency I have to take in the first place.
Stow your bucolic imagery of simple WVians. Those simpletons are having a dramatic impact on my life. Yet it’s unconscionable if I push back?
That’s a lopsided, abusive scenario. The people of WV do not rule the world.
The proud people of WV need to take their advice and pull themselves up by their boot straps; looks like they benefit from big government communism, to me: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the...
Sorry, but that's historical revisionism, and I'm not going to let you get away with it.
"Covid is a liberal hoax" was the starting point in the US. That was neither nuanced nor deep. That was pure denialism.
> it's indeed unclear that draconian policies in the name of public health were a net positive.
I believe that the data we have from Sweden vs other Nordic countries (which did real lockdowns) contradicts that narrative. Both Norway and Denmark have around half the deaths normalized per capita of Sweden (Denmark a little above--Norway a little below half).
That seems like basic conservatism, which has been systematically forced to the sidelines over the past 50 years.
I love the people of West Virginia, but it keeps getting harder and harder to pretend that they don't vote their beliefs.
That is a possible approach, but once you start on that path there is no more negotiation. Only the force, us vs them. Then most folks on the sidelines who are somewhat supportive but not thrilled about swerving of the bus they ride in become active adversaries. I would not underestimate that factor. My 2c.
> And now looking at outcomes across different states (e.g. Florida vs. California)--and considering ALL outcomes (public health, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, mental health, truancy, graduation rates, violent crime)--it's indeed unclear that draconian policies in the name of public health were a net positive.
Why are we drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of Covid safety protocols based on the failed half-measures taken by America? We have a plethora of working examples to study from the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and China all eradicated Covid pre-Omicron.
> But there seems to be little introspection from those who propose sweeping policy change about the need to consider second-order effects on those whose lives and livelihoods will be upturned.
Equally, there seems to be little introspection amongst American libertarians about the role their own society’s dysfunction might be playing in shaping their personal beliefs.
I really encourage you to read more deeply on this, as I think you're painting climate advocates with the same broad brush you decry others for using. It is extremely common for climate people to insist that a just transition is the only transition worth making - which includes both gigantic structural changes around how we interact with the climate & also structural changes to society to change the material conditions of marginalized & adversely impacted groups. These recommendations are included in basically every climate change document produced by international efforts.
The inclusion of these considerations is also routinely mocked by US conservatives. Lots of people think that "climate is about climate" and the inclusion of social safety net reforms or serious retraining is a bad-faith inclusion from the left who are just using climate change as a cudgel.
If you're interested in a pretty up to date holistic (though to the left of many of the IPCC recs) take on climate recommendations, I would point you at the latest season of scene on radio. It links together the chain of reasoning about why it is essential to address climate with other sources of marginalization and victimization.
The understanding of "what climate change activists want" that you're taking about in your post is frequently brought up by people who would like to obstruct action.
Take a look at the stringency index in this article.
Florida locked down just as fast and just as hard as California for the first 6 months of the pandemic. After that stringency measures diverged, but Florida still maintained a range of significant pandemic control measures. Their measures in early 2021 were about as strict as California's in late 2021. Overall they were more similar than different.
It also seems that the high number of elderly people in Florida, as a group, took the pandemic very seriously. They were in fact more likely to get themselves vaccinated than elderly people in California, despite the lack of mandates.
In the end it's actual behaviour of the population that makes the difference, whether that behaviour was mandated or not. One interesting stat is that in the most pro-Trump counties (60%+ support) death rates were 2.7x higher than in the most Pro-Biden counties. In the top 10% of counties for each camp the death rate differential was 6x. At the peak of the wave in 2021 about a thousand more Republicans were dying per day than Democrats.
In Australia, police would patrol the streets to ensure people were staying within a 5 km radius of their residence, and to ensure they were only out for a reason deemed essential by the government.
This was accompanied by international, interstate and intrastate border closures, i.e. you couldn’t enter Australia, and couldn’t enter another state within Australia if already in Australia, nor could you in some cases even drive from one part of the state to another, without a special exemption.
I hesitate to ask what Florida did to enforce the lockdowns, because I’m fairly certain what passed for a “lockdown” outside of Asia-Pacific was a joke by comparison. I strongly doubt any of the above measures were done by any state in the US at any point in the pandemic.
1: The numbers coming out of NYC are grossly exaggerated; probably only about 1/10th of those reported as "dying of COVID" actually died of COVID. Other people died from different causes but just happened to test positive for COVID.
2: A dialog between person A and person B:
A: If only 1% of people who get COVID die from it why are we still worried?
B: At a 1% fatality rate if half the population of the US gets COVID, that's over a million dead
A: Unlike you I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid
But fortunately with climate change it is that easy: you or your descendants will either die or you won't, and hopefully there will be a recognizable society left for the survivors. Enjoy the ride and make sure to snap pictures.
These are both denialism, even with the common ground that 1M dead Americans is a bad outcome.
>Bernard: What if the Prime Minister insists we help them?
>Humphrey: Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
>Bernard: What's that?
>Richard: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis. In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
>Humphrey: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
>Richard: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we can do.
>Humphrey: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it's too late now.
Sure, there are going to be hotter hot spells, and more extreme cold spells, but that's not seriously something that a New Yorker can't deal with.
What is going to happen is poor people, foreign people, are going to starve to death and drown trying to get to safety, and the problem won't be climate challenge, it'll be illegal immigrants.
It's not going to happen first to middle-america. It's going to happen to Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East. And we're not going to say "hey, this is a universal issue created by emissions that our countries benefitted from". It's going to be talk about economic migrants, or how we can't afford to help them because we have problems at home. Bold prediction: Shipping them to Rwanda isn't going to be sustainable.
The climate is a complex system into which more and more energy is being input. That's more likely to produce sudden, drastic and unpredictable changes. It's not just simply going to get hotter.
So it's entirely possible that huge swathes of the US become largely uninhabitable, due to, say, drastic increases in rain or violent weather. It's entirely possible that most current agriculture could become impractical in the US.
The politics of climate change has very likely made scientists too conservative in their predictions as to not seem hysterical, but looking at how quickly the climate is changing right now, extreme outcomes seem very likely.
It's going to get to the point where a poor person can't live in Mumbai - literally, you can't survive exposure to the temperatures that are going to happen. But when those people move north to escape the heat, their migration is going to be blamed on all the things we blame current migration on, rather than the reality that they'd likely die if they stayed where they were. Oh and guess how many poor people there are in Mumbai.
This very issue has been raised by the US military as a security threat going forward.
Telling them that they cannot get this (energy to bring water to the fields instead of hand-carrying it, tractors to work the fields) and, by the way, it is for their own benefit may not be very convincing. I think those poor people just got on the bus and think they are OK with where this bus is heading. And would club someone who tries to grab the wheel and put the bus in a ditch. My 2c.
Is that a bigger problem than people who seem to think that they personally are saving the planet by their own actions?
I honestly can't tell the difference between treating gun crimes with thoughts and prayers and stopping global warming by taking personal responsibility. Nether is effective. Both seem delusional. Oh, and those two activities belong to different parts of the political divide. The problem is not "those people" so much as it's humanity, all of us.
I'd say that it's more akin to trying to solve gun crime by refusing to own a gun: the only reason it won't work is that it needs everyone to do that, and if merely 0.1% of the population defect (in the game theory sense), that leads to the bad outcome.
What people fail to grasp is that costs can be absolutely enormous but look like a blip compared to the effect of GDP growth in the long run. World War II is an example. The millions of deaths barely show up on a graph of world population. The huge losses barely interrupt the smooth rise of GDP. Similarly, climate change could knock 5% off GDP permanently, this would be "the world's biggest collective action problem" as I think Nick Stern put it, but it wouldn't stop human society getting much richer.
Edit: a bit of backup: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/11/25...
The very idea that human leadership has things under control overlooks multiple events in history - e.g. the Bronze Age Collapse we're still trying to explain - and suggests both amnesia and completely undue hubris. The idea also overlooks the potential for other kinds of simultaneous disaster being heaped on. (CME's for one.) We can anticipate them, but they are beyond our control - and may disable further options.
There was a mass extinction of hundreds of species of megafauna just before our known history begins. Can't agree on the cause - but nonetheless the Moving Hand moved on.
In the past two years, the fear and death created by one little invisible bug, which we declined to prepare for, has badly damaged economic stability. If we continue to overplay our weak hand, who will pay for the damage - and with what?
Actual proof that each extinction was actually directly caused will be harder to come by. E.g. maybe dire wolves died because their prey went extinct. And, we still don't know why bison survived.
I've read more than a couple of articles, linked to here on HN, of climate scientists claiming that this is indeed a civilization-ending cliff.
It's been mentioned like this in other media, for example in Cosmos 2. Yes, that's divulgation, but nonetheless, it means the scientists consulted for Cosmos 2 believe this.
edit: just googled Michael Shellenberger. He is not a subject matter expert on climate change, and Wikipedia describes him as "a controversial figure" among environmentalists, which means his position is not mainstream and probably shouldn't be used to state "no serious scientist believes...". Note: I'm not saying he is wrong, he could be right; it's just that his view is not mainstream for now.
But the analogy, which is that we are headed for a disaster and at this point we must take rapid drastic action to avoid it, I think is correct. Rapid action means making decisions now to commit to decades of repair work. It means immediately stopping new climate bomb projects. On the scale of a society, change that takes decades is akin to swerving a bus. And if we take no action, I think the analogy of crashing in to a canyon is appropriately bad. The only difference is that falling off a cliff happens in an instant, and no harm is done if you stop at the last minute, whereas with climate change the problem is slowly getting worse day by day. So yeah, it is not a perfect analogy, but I don't think we are meant to take the cliff as a direct analogy to climate change occurring all at once or not at all. Doctorow certainly knows that is not physically correct.
Now if you look at human activity on long timescales, the decisions we make this century can drop us off a cliff in to disaster, or change our trajectory to just some bumps and bruises. And I think on this time scale the cliff analogy is more literal. You just can't think on the year by year timescales we normally think.
It's not a literal cliff. Doctorow was using a metaphor. And they're never exact fits, they are loosely analogous.
He probably chose a bus in an attempt to make the trolley problem more current and approachable.
That means: deploying existing solutions to reduce carbon emissions at scale, and commercializing new methods of doing so in order to deploy them.
There are a lot of jobs in the field, and doing the work beats metaphors and speculation.
Check climatebase.org for climate jobs and get to work.
Seriously, I agree that this is the only choice, but what is the actual plan?
There’s going to be an S curve where a large portion of fossil fuel energy is replaced with solar and a large portion of internal combustion motors are going electric. Both of those because they are cheaper more than any other reason.
The climate is going to warm, the habitable zones of earth are going to move north, some equatorial regions are going to be uninhabitable, lots of people are going to have to move, lots of agriculture is going to have to move.
How bad it is just depends on how well we prepare for and adapt to change.
The people who just predict doom over and over and try to use that to promote some impossible change to “stop” climate change aren’t helpful.
Climate change may show up and get us is a few years, or it may take longer. Running out of oil is starting now, we're already in the middle of it.
What's the deal with nobody talking about running out of oil and instead the focus on climate change? With the climate change narrative we get to the same place as the running out of oil narrative, but the only solution is to work together on alternatives. With the running out of oil narrative, the focus is on solutions, but it also becomes a war between nations for the remaining resources. We're seeing Germany revert back to coal now, for which there is more spare supply than oil.
I don't really have a solution here. Maybe we would have better ones if there were more clarity around what the actual situation is.
Travel is the most inefficient, wasteful, and anti-climate activity I can think of because for many cases it is simply unnecessary or discretionary. Beyond having some 100,000 flights per day pumping greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere think of the infrastructure and workforce involved in running airports, hotels, car rentals, shuttles, parking lots, restaurants, uber/taxis, etc.
I think air travel should be rare and expensive especially for business and vacations. Perhaps a heavy tax on business and pleasure travel would be good place to start.
While we are at it work should be done remotely whenever possible and empty office buildings should be renovated into affordable housing.
Until your green is everyone’s green, the planet is not getting saved. Safe nuclear and other helpful tech is where surplus money should be going.
Which makes sense. Because if you let up for a moment, your competition surely won't.
So to tell the princes, "hey, put that furious game aside for a sec. We have something more important to attend to" isn't gonna do it.
I think that the princes, these people who control the world, are psychologically incapable of quitting the prince-game.
In other words, the only hope I have left is that somebody invents a climate-fixing machine. Or a bunch of different climate-fixing machines, I don't care. But, I don't see a lot of other appropriately-scaled options at this point.
EVs and wind/solar energies are examples of technologies which are so much better than the alternatives that they're succeeding at reducing emissions faster than consumption can grow to catch up. We don't have the time to get enough people together to mandate that the front row drives a Tesla instead of a Ford, nor to mandate that they produce wind farms instead of coal plants, but they're doing so of their own accord - and demand for them exceeds production capacity by a large margin - because the electric car is better and the wind energy is cheaper. As you say, we now need parachute tech.
Funny thing: the only system that I'm aware of that could do this on this scale and cheap enough is called biology, and it operates on a timescale that is too slow to make it work in time.
Still these technologies are succeeding in the marketplace and if they can continue to improve we may solve many of those problems as we go.
Regardless, people aren't buying small cars with efficient gas engines. They're buying trucks and SUVs they don't need. Which will likely continue until it's clear gasoline isn't going to get financially cheaper.
"Let's carry on as-is until fusion works" is "don't worry, we'll put wings on the bus" in Doctorow's terms. By all means, let's continue fusion research. But we should also urgently work on some other angles just in case.
Sounds like something a PM would say in a roundabout fashion
He was amongst the first to write of the political dimension of addressing global catastrophic risks. Initially, that was largely focused on the concept of resource limits. Global warming isn't unrelated, though it's a sink limit: boundaries on the ability of the environment to absorb the consequences of human activity without making that human activity itself untenable.
What Ophuls realised, and what I'm increasingly convinced of, is that it's not the technical element, but rather the political, social, cultural, and economic (commerce, finance, trade, power) aspects which will prove the most challenging. And he seems to have been correct.
I strongly recommend all his work, though Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity (first published in 1977, revised ~1994) and Plato's Revenge (2011) are probably the best starting points.
Also available via Archive Org:
Ophuls has a website with more recent writings:
As he's on in years, I've looked for others who are carrying on his tradition. Canadian political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon is referenced by Ophuls several times and seems closest:
And by "society at large" I mean everyone.
Game theorist should study this