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Rippounet

What should be done... about climate change

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1 hour ago, Mentat said:

As the climate emergency gets worse and is felt more, people are bound to be open to progressively radical solution to address it, but whether they will be radical enough or timely enough is anyone's guess. Political viability will always be a consideration.

Sure, political viability will always be a consideration, but political viability isn't set in stone. Surely our starting point should be a discussion of what policies will actually be effective in mitigating climate change damage. And if those policies are technically viable, but aren't politically viable, then the job of advocates and politicians is to make them viable. The right-wing in the west has been extraordinarily effective at having its unsupported assumptions turned into accepted public wisdom, and part of that has been by having a consistent ideological message and hammering its talking points over and over again. We need to adopt a similar message discipline in support of climate-change mitigation policies, and every left-leaning party needs to get on board. If we start from the point of what's currently politically viable, we're already conceding the fight.

 

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52 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

Sure, political viability will always be a consideration, but political viability isn't set in stone. Surely our starting point should be a discussion of what policies will actually be effective in mitigating climate change damage. And if those policies are technically viable, but aren't politically viable, then the job of advocates and politicians is to make them viable. The right-wing in the west has been extraordinarily effective at having its unsupported assumptions turned into accepted public wisdom, and part of that has been by having a consistent ideological message and hammering its talking points over and over again. We need to adopt a similar message discipline in support of climate-change mitigation policies, and every left-leaning party needs to get on board. If we start from the point of what's currently politically viable, we're already conceding the fight.

I agree with everything you've said. Political viability is a hurdle that must be overcome, but it's not impossible to do so. Educating people in the reality of the climate emergency and the necessity of adopting environmental policies is the best way to do it.

A canny politician will take into account what is currently politically viable as a starting point, though, and then plan from there how to better win over hearts and minds so that the policy has the best possible chance when it hits the floor. A very radical proposition will be a tougher sell, so it might require a more intensive propaganda campaign, gradual or progressive implementation or some other way to sugar-coat it.

As I think I said in a previous post, how to better raise awareness of the issue so that the inevitably harsh measures that will be needed to address the climate emergency are more politically palatable is one of the most interesting aspects of the "how to deal with climate change" challenge.

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36 minutes ago, Mentat said:

A very radical proposition will be a tougher sell, so it might require a more intensive propaganda campaign, gradual or progressive implementation or some other way to sugar-coat it.

 

I definitely advocate more for the former than the latter. IMO, trying to start small or gradual is implicitly accepting the framing of the opposition. The message needs to be clear and consistent; “The time for small-scale gradual policies has passed, anything other than radical action is itself unrealistic, because the situation demands radicalism. We can’t prevent climate change, but we can mitigate it, and if we don’t then millions of people will die, millions more will suffer, and our civilization will change irrevocably, almost certainly for the worse.” People will balk, but instead of cringing back and compromising, we need to just keep hammering the message. The longer a message stays in the mainstream discourse, the more thoroughly it starts to penetrate into popular thought patterns. Even if the message is being constantly attacked by cultural and media gatekeepers, the message must still be present.

Like I said above, western right-wing parties have understood this and used it to their advantage. Just keep flooding the airwaves with your message, don’t be ashamed of it, don’t cringe, no matter if it gets attacked or criticized or laughed at. Keep it up and it becomes part of the discourse, and what once seemed bizarre and radical can start to seem inevitable.

So that would be my first step. Every left-leaning party in every democracy in the world needs to start coordinating on consistent climate message discipline.

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7 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

I definitely advocate more for the former than the latter. IMO, trying to start small or gradual is implicitly accepting the framing of the opposition. The message needs to be clear and consistent; “The time for small-scale gradual policies has passed, anything other than radical action is itself unrealistic, because the situation demands radicalism. We can’t prevent climate change, but we can mitigate it, and if we don’t then millions of people will die, millions more will suffer, and our civilization will change irrevocably, almost certainly for the worse.” People will balk, but instead of cringing back and compromising, we need to just keep hammering the message. The longer a message stays in the mainstream discourse, the more thoroughly it starts to penetrate into popular thought patterns. Even if the message is being constantly attacked by cultural and media gatekeepers, the message must still be present.

Like I said above, western right-wing parties have understood this and used it to their advantage. Just keep flooding the airwaves with your message, don’t be ashamed of it, don’t cringe, no matter if it gets attacked or criticized or laughed at. Keep it up and it becomes part of the discourse, and what once seemed bizarre and radical can start to seem inevitable.

So that would be my first step. Every left-leaning party in every democracy in the world needs to start coordinating on consistent climate message discipline.

I was going to say you might want to give yourself a bit of wiggle room for compromise in case your campaign doesn't work as well as you want it to... but no, you're right. Diluting the message would be a mistake. Accommodate political reality as far into the process as you can afford to.

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2 hours ago, Mentat said:

[...] many solutions will be proposed from many different viewpoints, and that anyone who thinks that the climate emergency will grant them a mandate for any specific policy, socio-economic structure or world-view is very deluded. [...]
Political viability will always be a consideration. There will always be politicians who are irrationally optimistic, willing to sell snake-oil solutions based on unreasonable estimates or simply willing to bury their head in the sand, and there will be people who will follow these politicians because all these things are very human.

People have written that the problem with this crisis is that it's incremental which prevents people from doing anything about it, because the human brain is built to react to emergencies (as in, visible, immediate dangers). I'd say this is more or less the position you're taking on some level. So yes, people are likely to seek reassurance and be susceptible to "irrational optimism" as you put it.
However I also believe that this very same fact also means that people have a kind of "threshold" after which they react very strongly in the face of danger. By that I mean they can react with radical ideas or violence, or a bit of both. In other words, I think what you say will be true until our brains start viewing global warming as a visible, immediate danger. At that point I think anything will be possible, including nuclear war between nations.

Therefore I'd rather operate from the assumption that all options are already on the table, even if they are not as of right now. Because I also believe that if we look at this rationally, there is indeed a very specific socio-economic structure that emerges and that it will eventually be implemented anyway. What is not certain in my eyes is what the political framework surrounding it will be: a given socio-economic structure can be more or less fair on the individual level and more or less democratic generally speaking.

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A very radical proposition will be a tougher sell, so it might require a more intensive propaganda campaign, gradual or progressive implementation or some other way to sugar-coat it.

Yes. Part of that propaganda will be explaining to people that there is no alternative to the disappearance of global free trade and mass long-distance transportation, among other things. Consequently the consumer society and tourism will almost disappear ... etc.

The faster these unconvenient truths are part of the discussion and the easier it will be for the people to choose themselves what they may keep. For instance it's possible to start from a quota of CO2 emission per capita or per square km as was evoked earlier... Each individual or community would then be able to regulate itself.
The alternative (dangerous in my eyes) is that said regulation is controled by a central authority deriving its legitimacy from the crisis.

2 hours ago, Mentat said:

"The current global economic system has nothing to do with the climate emergency. The climate emergency has two obvious causes: industrialization and over-population.

You make a decent case here. The question then becomes not whether the current socio-economic system is the cause for the environmental problem but whether it prevents its resolution.

One caveat though: I'm not that hard to convince on this specific point because I benefit from the current system and feel guilty about it. The poorer one is and the less receptive they'll be to your arguments.

2 hours ago, Mentat said:

From globalism to isolationism in the blink of an eye ;)

There is a big difference between globalism (which can be synanymous with universalism in some contexts) and globalization. I hope I didn't erroneously use one term instead of the other at some point in the conversation. Globalism and global ideals are both desirable and necessary. Globalization, as in a global economic structure based on the market economy, is what we must endeavor to deconstruct.

And yes, I'm aware this is something I have not bothered demonstrating, and probably something you actually take issue with. Quite honestly I need to do a bit of research there, but it's a rather uncontroversial point for people on the far-left.

 

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5 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

However I also believe that this very same fact also means that people have a kind of "threshold" after which they react very strongly in the face of danger. By that I mean they can react with radical ideas or violence, or a bit of both. In other words, I think what you say will be true until our brains start viewing global warming as a visible, immediate danger. At that point I think anything will be possible, including nuclear war between nations.

I think you might be right, but it seems extremely risky. Frightened people are not good decision makers, and counter-productive decisions seem just as likely as productive ones, if not even more so.

9 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Therefore I'd rather operate from the assumption that all options are already on the table, even if they are not as of right now.

While that's fair enough, I think since we mostly agree on what is needed (massively reducing carbon emissions) questions of implementation (how exactly should we go about it) and political viability (how to push the needed reforms through the current political system) are the more productive and interesting discussion. I understand you advocate that part of pushing the needed reforms through the current political system is introducing changes in the system itself, and I don't really disagree with you, even though I might disagree with some of your specific proposals.

24 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Yes. Part of that propaganda will be explaining to people that there is no alternative to the disappearance of global free trade and mass long-distance transportation, among other things. Consequently the consumer society and tourism will almost disappear ... etc. 

The faster these unconvenient truths are part of the discussion and the easier it will be for the people to choose themselves what they may keep. For instance it's possible to start from a quota of CO2 emission per capita or per square km as was evoked earlier... Each individual or community would then be able to regulate itself.

It's not without it's problems (said quota could easily become a commodity, and it would encourage a black market), but it's an interesting proposal. Choice is definitely a good sell. Maybe if I install solar panels on my roof I can take two flight a year instead of just the one or if I change my SUV for a Prius I can have a steak once a week.

26 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

The question then becomes not whether the current socio-economic system is the cause for the environmental problem but whether it prevents its resolution.

I think your argument would benefit from some concreteness. How does the current socio-economic system prevent the resolution of the climate emergency and what can be done about it?

29 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

There is a big difference between globalism (which can be synanymous with universalism in some contexts) and globalization. I hope I didn't erroneously use one term instead of the other at some point in the conversation. Globalism and global ideals are both desirable and necessary. Globalization, as in a global economic structure based on the market economy, is what we must endeavor to deconstruct.

See, intuitively I'd say it's very hard to have one without the other. Start sharing ideas and the rest will follow naturally. I could be wrong, though, as this isn't something I know much about or have given much thought to.

37 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

One caveat though: I'm not that hard to convince on this specific point because I benefit from the current system and feel guilty about it. The poorer one is and the less receptive they'll be to your arguments.

I'm really not interested in convincing anyone else of anything, or "winning" an argument... well, okay, I guess I enjoy a rhetorical scuffle as much as the next guy... but I enjoy it just as much when I myself I'm convinced of things I previously ignored or misunderstood. I'm not always easy to convince, though. I can be biased and stubborn just like anyone else.

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1 hour ago, Mentat said:

I think you might be right, but it seems extremely risky. Frightened people are not good decision makers, and counter-productive decisions seem just as likely as productive ones, if not even more so.

That's what I've been trying to say: best to have the discussion before everyone is in panic mode.

Ideally politicians should each be running on a different plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and those without a plan have no chance of being elected at all. We're not there yet but it's still the time to draft these plans nonetheless. That's why I asked in the OP whether there was a "guide" to the transition, i.e. at least one detailed plan to implement it.

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

It's not without it's problems (said quota could easily become a commodity, and it would encourage a black market), but it's an interesting proposal. Choice is definitely a good sell. Maybe if I install solar panels on my roof I can take two flight a year instead of just the one or if I change my SUV for a Prius I can have a steak once a week.

Something like that.

Thanks to the IPCC (GIEC is the French acronym, sorry about that) we know how much CO2 is emitted anually and we can determine some objectives. If I get this right, page 108 of the 2018 report tells us that we can only emit 420 billion tons of CO2 before +1,5°C becomes 67% certain...
Since we cannot bring emissions to 0 we need to remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as we emit to at least have a neutral impact. Planting trees works, but carbon capture technology needs to be developed on a massive scale.
And this is something my naive self cannot begin to understand. If we can dedicate billions to cutting taxes for the rich... Why not pour that money into carbon capture instead? France alone would have thrown more than 3 billion euros to make the nation carbon-neutral, the US 1,5 trillion dollars... I undersand that the technology exists but that it isn't profitable. This is insane. Profit doesn't matter here, each country should be dedicating a percentage of its GDP to building whatever is necessary to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

Once we have the means to reduce our carbon footprint... There are many carbon footprint calculators online, so basically each individual can know how much they may emit and decide by themselves how they want to use that "budget."

But unless we find a way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere our starting point is an individual budget of... 0.

And if the budget is 0 well, human activity should be limited to providing the most essential needs: food and water, housing, and some energy (but very little).

Or am I missing something?

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

I think your argument would benefit from some concreteness. How does the current socio-economic system prevent the resolution of the climate emergency and what can be done about it?

You mean, apart from the fact that international trade is a major contributor of greenhouse emissions and yet keeps being encouraged by the governments of the most developed nations?

I'm honestly not sure I understand your question. What could be done... Repeal free trade agreements, subsidize national industries to develop local production and short distribution circuits before slapping massive tariffs on foreign goods, shut down factories and power plants burning fossil fuels, kill petroleum industries, regulate agriculture (less fertilizers based on nitrous oxyde) and limit meat production, massively subsidize production based on recycling waste and progressively get rid of landfills, keep improving refrigeration technology (by financing research)... etc.

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

See, intuitively I'd say it's very hard to have one without the other.

Well yes, it's what I called earlier the "conundrum" of nationalism I believe. You want economies to revert to a national scale but you don't want the world to revert back to nationalistic ideologies...

 

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Oh hey look the IPCC just called for changing the way people eat

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More than 100 scientists looked at 7,000 studies to understand how human impacts on land are causing greenhouse gas emissions, how climate change is affecting our ability to produce food, and how changing what we do on farms and in forests can help fight climate change. They found that farming, forestry, and other human land use is responsible for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions and that keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius will only happen if we reduce those emissions.

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Up to a quarter of food is wasted, and cutting food waste will cut emissions. Eating more plants and less red meat will help. Changing soil management, so crops are grown in a way that allows the soil to help absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, will also help. Finding ways to grow more food without cutting down forests is another key—the food sector is responsible for 75% of global deforestation.

But sure, Musk's stoner ass will save us all

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23 hours ago, ThinkerX said:

The political end almost doesn't matter at this point.  Greatly constricted supplies of fossil fuels will force conversions to other energy sources over the next few decades regardless of political decrees.   Or much of civilization collapses.

That won't help prevent things like the destruction of the Amazon, and if we keep burning fossil fuels till they run out, that's obviously going to be a worst case scenario for warming. Yes, supply & demand will shift us away from fossil fuels eventually, but we need to move faster than that!

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On 8/7/2019 at 11:40 AM, Rippounet said:

Yes. But ironically the less we talk about it and the greater the chances that the reconfiguration, when it happens (because it'd be surprising if it didn't happen at this point), will indeed be un-democratic and devolve into some kind of fascism/totalitarianism.

Again, the idea here is that having the discussion now will prevent the power-hungry from using the environmental crisis as an opportunity.

Sort of. It's worth talking about it if one has something to say that has not already been said before, but nobody has come up with anything all that helpful. For example, this:

10 hours ago, Rippounet said:

And if the budget is 0 well, human activity should be limited to providing the most essential needs: food and water, housing, and some energy (but very little).

is a valid conclusion from the point of reducing the impact of greenhouse gases, but nobody knows how to make a society that works this way. In fact, we can't even convince the majority to eat less meat or convince rich people to stop using their private jets and luxury yachts. At this point, joke proposals of involuntary population reduction (along the lines of this one) or darkening the sky (a-la The Matrix, but not to that extent) are about as plausible as most of the supposedly serious ones.

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logical next step for those denying (human caused) climate change:

 

'evil libtard scientists are deliberately causing climate change to impose global socialism, tax our money and take away our guns.'

 

after all, most of these sorts already believe climate change is a hoax, a pretext for a one world government.  Forced to acknowledge that climate change is real, paranoid conspiracy theories will lead them in this direction. 

 

Problem, of course, is what do those on the left, including 'evil libtard scientists,' say when conservatives order them to 'turn off' climate change?  Any explanation involving carbon capture, reforesting, green energy, and the like gets denounced as part of the 'plot'

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Touching again on the topic of political feasibility, I found this article helped clarify my own thinking around the matter.

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When Dianne Feinstein lectured a group of children begging her to save their future, she said: “I’ve been in the Senate for over a quarter of a century… and I know what can pass and I know what can’t pass.” If you think you know that, then you don’t know anything. Things pass because people pass them. In fact, if there’s a reason why a Green New Deal couldn’t get through the Senate, it’s precisely because senators like Feinstein give up before the fight has even begun. “It can’t happen” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reason it can’t happen is partly that there are so many people who arrogantly presume that they are able to know the sum total of all things that can and can’t happen. This is bad politics. If you’re good at politics, you set your goals as high as you like and then go about trying to achieve them.

 

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You still have to be practical. Let me distinguish between different types of feasibility. It’s important to look at whether a policy is economically, logistically, or technically feasible. You don’t want to pass a law that will have catastrophically bad effects. Your goals need to be sensible ones that would actually change the world. It’s “political” feasibility that I find borderline worthless to consider.

 

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But I don’t think we should even have questions like “what we’ll settle for” on our minds. The question is “What does justice require and how are we going to get it?” If something is politically impossible now, then the job is to change that.

 

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20 hours ago, Altherion said:

Sort of. It's worth talking about it if one has something to say that has not already been said before,

I beg to differ. To be completely honest, until recently I only had vague notions about just how bad things were. I thought of myself as well-informed... but something just hadn't clicked. I think that's why talking about it -even on an internet forum- does matter: it makes everyone feel directly concerned. Sharing information and concerns helps, if only a little ; if everyone does that on a regular basis it all becomes far less abstract.
I believe in time this will lead to a form of peer pressure. I'm not talking about sanctimonious lectures... Just being aware that people around you are also concerned can lead to changes in behavior. In the long-run, I think Kalbear is right and that this will become a sort of religion.

BTW I watched an expert today explain that as things stand we are heading for +5°C at least, which means vast areas of the planet will become uninhabitable in the next decades. This is something that most of us will probably see in our lifetimes and the geopolitical consequences are truly terrifying to consider. TBH on some level it's remarkable that we can carry on as if all this was not going to happen. We treat environmentalism as one issue among many, even though it is obviously the number one issue of our time. I dunno, it's weird and I feel dumb for taking so long to realize all that.

20 hours ago, Altherion said:

 nobody knows how to make a society that works this way.

I'd slightly rephrase that. I think we know what kind of society needs to be built, we're just not sure how to get there. Also, we tend to be overly focused on the obstacles and kinda forget that this is an obstacle in itself. Again, that's why discussions do matter. Instead of waiting for a top-to-bottom approach to be implemented (which, quite frankly, I don't really believe in at this point) one can find out about what's done on the grassroots level. It's small things today... But it's also a good idea to be aware that this is just a beginning.

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When we are already posting a bit optimism, how about this project:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desertec

Several years ago I've wondered about the possibility of just completely plastering the Sahara desert with solar power plants to tackle the energy needs of both Europe and North Africa and idiot that I was I wasn't aware that such a project was already deemed very feasible and has already started in Morocco: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouarzazate_Solar_Power_Station

Interestingly, the project can fix the political tensions between Morocco and Algeria and if we seriously want to go about it, we will get a vested interest in stabilizing North African countries since we are making ourselves very dependent on buying their clean power. If you want to regard it most optimistically, I think it is very possible to drastically cut down the refugee problems there as a side effect. Like with many environmental solutions, it's a win-win situation for everyone if we just pull our weight into it.

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The most frustrating thing (and the reason why I have a hard time believing in the newest wave of lipservice sunday sermons) is that "we" basically knew about a lot of this more than 40 years ago (first Club of Rome paper), then we got acid rain and Chernobyl more than 30 years ago, the dwindling ozone layer a little later and so on. We banned the spray cans and cooling fluids destroying the ozone layer (in hindsight I am surprised that this really was done). Than we started big conferences (thousands of people flying around half the world) like Rio, Kyoto etc. 25 or more years ago.

And now consider this: Tons of problematic stuff didn't even exist in 1986 (Chernobyl) and was only slowly starting in mid 1990s (Kyoto conference).

- fast fashion

- frequent flying, including comparably short distances but also a huge increase in transcontinental travel

- mailordering everything, leading to an explosion of traffic and packaging waste

- take away coffee etc. leading to billions of paper/styrofoam cups

- SUVs (more than ever in Germany, the segment is growing much faster than the rest of the automotive industry)

- all kinds of electronic gadgets (smartphones, tablets etc.) with a commercial (if not actual) half-life of two years at most.

Interestingly, meat consumption peaked in Germany in the mid-80s or so and has been decreasing (very slowly) since then. Overall, agriculture has been much more industrialized (viz. also insects and birds vanishing) even in these last 35 years.

So our general lifestyles where most of the above is considered perfectly normal have become less sustainable despite 25-45 years of lip service and environmental awareness. That's why I simply cannot believe that this will change in the next 10 years in a way that matters. Even what may be technically feasible, overall it is socially and politically impossible.

And this list above concerns only "the West". The more important development is that while in 1990 the West did matter most wrt climate change and a changing of our ways would have had an impact, this is not longer true.

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17 hours ago, Rippounet said:

I beg to differ. To be completely honest, until recently I only had vague notions about just how bad things were. I thought of myself as well-informed... but something just hadn't clicked. I think that's why talking about it -even on an internet forum- does matter: it makes everyone feel directly concerned. Sharing information and concerns helps, if only a little ; if everyone does that on a regular basis it all becomes far less abstract.
I believe in time this will lead to a form of peer pressure. I'm not talking about sanctimonious lectures... Just being aware that people around you are also concerned can lead to changes in behavior. In the long-run, I think Kalbear is right and that this will become a sort of religion.

I agree with you, but I don't see this as a good thing. The history of religion is mostly one of violent conflict between people who believe (usually only slightly) different things. And worse, if climate change is a sort of religion, it is the modern equivalent of a medieval one where the supposedly celibate High Priest actually has a bunch of mistresses and is succeeded by one of his illegitimate sons. That is, despite a few exceptions such as Greta Thunberg, the overwhelming majority of the most visible advocates of climate change mitigation actually produce vastly more greenhouse gases than their fellow citizens.

The most promising potential solution out there today is technological change (i.e. the advent of wind and solar, the corresponding storage and the electrification of transportation). Its impact thus far is barely noticeable, but if it continues growing at the current pace, it'll go a long way towards limiting the temperature increase. Unfortunately, it's not likely to continue if we have a religious war between people who demand sacrifice in the name of climate change and those whose way of life would be sacrificed.

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4 hours ago, Jo498 said:

...we got acid rain and Chernobyl more than 30 years ago

Added to Chernobyl is The Three Mile nuclear disaster where there was a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) and a subsequent radiation leak that occurred on March 28, 1979.  This was rated a five as an "accident with wider consequences", on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.  Level 4 is an incident with local consequences.

But a US government report concluded that the accident caused no increase in cancer rates for local residents. A level 5 is defined as severe damage to reactor core and a release of large quantities of radioactive material within an installation with a high probability of significant public exposure.

Now they either got very lucky and did contain most of the radioactive material or as Levin, R. J. (2008) study showed doi:10.1097/MLG.0b013e3181613ad2. PMID 18300710. York County demonstrated a trend toward increasing cancer incidence beginning in 1995, approximately 15 years after the Three Mile Disaster. Lancaster County showed a significant increase in cancer incidence beginning in 1990. But a causal link to Three Mile disaster apparently could not be proven which is what the government report played on.

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2 hours ago, Altherion said:

I agree with you, but I don't see this as a good thing. The history of religion is mostly one of violent conflict between people who believe (usually only slightly) different things.

No, the history of humanity is mostly one of violent conflict. For some reason intellectually lazy people blame religion (or the nation state or what have you) for this and kid themselves into the illusion that it would end violent conflict if one were to abolish religion or the nation state or whatever. But there is no reason to assume that these institutions are particularly prone to violence whereas there are many reasons to assume that culture and civilization are impossible without at least one of them or a close substitution like empire, federation, ideology... that will have similar faults and similar benefits.

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