Back Off, Man

wrt that mike davis piece i&i linkthink’d yesterday, my fren ben, who knows a thing or two about climate science, offers a (slightly) more upbeat, measured take —

interesting. i admit that i’m surprised to hear that the London
Society is ready to put the golden spike on the anthropocene. seems
to me that geological ages are defined by prevailing conditions, not
oncoming trends, and the present-day impacts of climate change don’t
seem big enough to merit the distinction . . . it’ll take a century or
more of steadily worsening conditions to get a definitive signal in
the global stratigraphic record. that’s not to say that the
anthropocene isn’t a useful concept; it’s just odd that the London
Society wants to tie it to the geological record.

i mean, how do you drive a golden spike into unconsolidated sediment, anyway?

engaging article, tho. it’s important to hear the criticism that the
IPCC is too conservative in its estimates. a handful of scientists
have started arguing the same point, but only a handful — most of us
waste our time responding to skeptics of the IPCC rather than pointing
out how badly the consensus report understates the potential for
extreme change.

that being said, i think we need to be a little more optimistic than
the article allows. sure, there are problems with all of the current
efforts to mitigate climate change, but we haven’t been working on
this for very long. you can’t dismiss all biofuels just because of
the recent rise in food prices (which has little to do with biofuels,
anyway), you can’t give up on carbon capture because the first pilot
plant failed, and you can’t use the present-day costs of (boutique)
green construction to estimate the expense of future (mass market)
green construction.

so i guess that the article is useful as a wake-up call, but i’d
rather use the wake-up as a motivation to pursue all avenues of
mitigation, including the diplomatic and market-based efforts that the
author prefers to mock. it seems that he’s more interested in seeing
humanity get the ass-kicking that it deserves than in trying to
minimize suffering . . . his prediction might be right, but i’d like
to think that we can do better.

especially if the engineers can bail us out again.