Everybody talks about the climate

…(except the President) but nobody does anything about it, as Mark Twain almost said.
A lot more snow than we’ve seen for a while and a brief snap of the Arctic chilly-willies means you must have heard the new cliché in the media stream, if not in person: “So much for global warming.” Meanwhile, the know-nothings and their carbon industry paymasters smirk, sure that their regional weather anecdotes trump climate science (and physics, chemistry, etc.), which they see as part of a conspiracy so vast it boggles the mind with its insidiousness.

But the fact of Earth’s rising temperature doesn’t mean we won’t have winter, not for a long while. A warmer world is a wetter one, and that moisture can come as snow in season. Indeed, Europe, for one, now seems to be battered by both hotter summers and colder winters. Meanwhile, storms (hurricanes, monsoons), floods, and droughts, and the starvation, migration, violence, and political crises that follow these things, all of which we’re already familiar with, suggest that “global warming” may not be the best description for our reality. Better is radical climate change, climate instability, climate disruption, “climate destabilization,” the latter suggesting both the climatological and geopolitical effects.

Reading about the history of the Caribbean lately makes me think of this analogy: slavery was once at the heart of capitalism as hydrocarbons are now. Great fortunes were made, tens of thousands were employed, entire cities and nations depended on the Triangular Trade. This was globalism avant la lettre. The sugar, rum, cotton industries; boat builders, dock workers, and shipping companies; insurance companies, banks, and lawyers. Civilization, you’ll pardon the term, was predicated on slavery, as it is now on hydrocarbons. To be rid of it meant to destroy jobs and ruin economies, yadda-yadda, you know the script. And those depending on it struggled furiously to maintain it, regardless of its barbarism, or, if your prefer your political economy amoral, its gross inefficiency.

Transatlantic African slavery lasted for 350 years; the age of carbon is about 250 years old.
Pictures from last July. Top is the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón, Iceland, which means you just learned some Icelandic since that name means “glacial lagoon.” Next is Skaftafellsjökull, a retreating tongue of the great Vatnajökull, the world’s largest glacier outside of Greenland and Antarctica. Some of that dust is from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

On the way back, our plane passed over Greenland:

2 Responses to “Everybody talks about the climate”

  1. 1 Nate January 27, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I also drew the connection between slavery and environmental abuse, we’ll call it. In a hundred years or so, our descendants will scoff at our environmental abuses in the same way that we talk about slavery now, as if we’re elevated above the immorality and humans are no longer capable of such barbaric acts.

  2. 2 mthew January 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

    “In the recently published Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, John Bellamy Foster and his Marxist co-authors refer to the identification by a group of scientists, including the leading American climatologist James Hansen, of nine ‘planetary boundaries’ that civilisation transgresses at its peril. Already three – concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere, loss of nitrogen from the soil and the extinction of other species – have been exceeded. These are impediments to endless capital accumulation that future crisis theories will have to reckon with.”
    Benjamin Kunkel

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