The Dark Side of Climate Change: It's Already Too Late, Cap and Trade Is a Scam, and Only the Few Will Survive
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What this means for us will be familiar to anyone who has been paying attention: cities and farmland lost to rising seas, endless heatwaves, and a drastic reduction of Earth’s carrying capacity.
“There is no tipping point, just a slope that gets ever steeper,” writes Lovelock. “Because of the rapidity of the Earth’s change, we will need to respond more like the inhabitants of a city threatened by a flood. When they see the unstoppable rise of water, their only option is to escape to higher ground. We have to make our lifeboats seaworthy now [and] stop pretending there is any way back to that lush, comfortable, and beautiful Earth we left behind sometime in the 20th century.”
Needless to say, this is not a popular message. Lovelock remains a controversial figure, now more for his politics than his science. In recent years he has become the most prominent green critic of mainstream environmentalism, unleashing his heaviest fire on what he regards as the green movement's irrational fear of nuclear power. Before he lost all hope in an energy silver bullet, Lovelock argued that nuclear represented humanity's best chance of transitioning the current civilization onto another, more sustainable track. But it's not just knee-jerk opposition to nuclear energy that gets Lovelock fuming. He has been ruthless in his attacks on politicians and businessmen who peddle hope in the form of meaningless but potentially profitable gestures like cap-and-trade. This has deeply antagonized his fellow greens still scrambling to generate public support for bold solutions to the climate crisis.
Lovelock’s impatience with feel-good “Yes, we can” liberal environmentalism borders on contempt. There are passages in Vanishing that, were it not for their eloquence, could have been uttered by Glenn Beck. The delusional rhetoric about “sustainable development” peddled by green politicians and businessmen, writes Lovelock, just shows that we have “weaved the sound of the alarm clock into our dreams.” In one of the book’s many memorable passages on the green politics of hope, Lovelock compares sustainable development to deathbed snake oil peddled by an alt-medicine quack.
“Just as we as individuals try alternative medicine,” writes Lovelock, “our governments have many offers from alternative business and their lobbies of sustainable ways to ‘save the planet,’ and from some green hospice there may come the anodyne of hope.”
But this "final warning" is more than a long and hectoring doctor’s talk about an advanced and inoperable cancer. Lovelock brightens up considerably when looking beyond the looming die-off. And once we assume the author’s Darwinian and planetary long view, it’s easy to share his cosmic wonder and long-term optimism. Lovelock is cautiously hopeful that as many as several hundred million humans will survive the century and carve pockets of civilization into the coming hot state. Our current global civilization is about to end, but there is every reason to “take hope from the fact that our species is unusually tough and is unlikely to go extinct in the coming climate catastrophe.”
Here enters Lovelock the playful futurist. Those who survive will be responsible for maintaining a high-tech, low-impact, low-energy society advanced enough to keep the flame of progress alive but small and smart enough to carefully husband what arable land remains. Lovelock guesses the rump human race will cluster around a few temperate islands in the far northern hemisphere, including his native U.K. He believes that if emergency preparations are made in time—he compares the present moment to 1939—and if the worst-case scenarios of geopolitical conflict are avoided—namely resource scrambles leading to global thermonuclear war—then something resembling a modern and even urban lifestyle could await the survivors. There may even be food critics in this future, which need not resemble a Soylent Green scenario of cannibalism and state-rationed crackers. This future civilization will synthesize food from CO2, nitrogen, water, and a few minerals. Simple amino acids and sugars, Lovelock cheerfully explains, can be used as feedstock for bulk animal and vegetable tissue created in chemical vats from biopsies. Yum!