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The atmosphere of hope

Tim Flannery, the chief commissioner on the Australian Climate Change Commission, has just written a book misleadingly called The Atmosphere Of Hope.

Despite its title, it offers a bleak view of future life on this planet. I quote from his Guardian article: Seaweed, coffee and cement could save the planet (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/20/climate-crisis-future-brighter-tim-flannery):

Enough atmospheric greenhouse gas now exists to push global average temperatures to 1.5C (2.7F) above the preindustrial average, even if all emissions stopped today. At 1.5C of warming, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be dead, many coastal areas will be covered by the rising sea, and the impacts on extreme weather will go from serious to devastating.

He goes on to say that whatever is agreed in the forthcoming climate change conference in Paris, it is all but impossible for humanity to avoid breaching the 2 oC barrier, which is the level which threatens ‘global civilisation’. His hope seems to be limited to keeping the rise in global temperatures to 3 oC by 2100.

His optimism is based on developing natural carbon capture technologies in the period after 2050. He mentions seaweed cultivation and using coffee grounds or cement to absorb CO2 amongst many other technologies. None of the technologies has yet proven  practical.

Scientists have done all they can to warn us of the effects of climate change. Tim Flannery is muddying the picture by using the word hope in this context. The technologies to avoid climate change are practical but expensive and often have environmental downsides. Hard choices have to be made which will affect living standards. People have to be enthused to act in an ecological way that may be against their immediate interests, but, will eventually save the planet for their children. Evolutionary competition is the force that is preventing people and states from cooperating to save the planet. We need to frustrate the natural forces of evolution. The only way of halting climate change is if people in general commit to a green philosophy of life and implement it with a religious fervour.

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