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Things fall apart as we slouch toward Copenhagen

December 7th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Over recent months, R L Miller has increasingly impressed me with thoughtful, informed, insightful, and passionate writing. This guest post, on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit, is visually and intellectually a piece of beauty and pain.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

the spin machine twirls and curls:
E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science

Yeats predicts:

“The end of an age, which always receives the revelation of the character of the next age, is represented by the coming of one gyre to its place of greatest expansion and of the other to its place of greatest contraction… The revelation [that] approaches will… take its character from the contrary movement of the interior gyre….”

Meanwhile, the spinners succeeds and the mainstream media are misdirected in stolen email story.


The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

and people cease listening to inconvenient truths of science and reason as fewer Americans continue to believe in global warming; the Australian opposition party dumps its leader over climate legislation; and a new survey shows that world concerns about global warming have dwindled.


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Senate chairs split over climate bill; “Hanging in the balance is one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities, as well as the president’s credibility among potential signatories to an international climate pact.”  Meanwhile, UN environmental chief calls upon United States and China to raise their offers.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

The United States Senate puts off climate bill until spring because, according to Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the climate bill is “really big, really, really hard, and is going to make a lot of people mad.”  In India, climate loan sharks flourish as droughts and failed crops worsen the cycle of poverty.  The country of Tuvalu is drowning and its people migrating to New Zealand.


The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

A survey delving into the past 30 years in sub-Saharan Africa reveals that temperature changes match up with a significant increase in the likelihood of civil war.  Both the 1994 Rwandan civil war and the 2000s Darfur conflict are generally seen to be wars for scarce resources.  The Pentagon begins to war game the implications of climate change including famine, rising sea levels, and natural resource competition.

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

When it comes to the stability of one of the world’s most volatile regions, it’s the fate of the Himalayan glaciers that should be keeping us awake at night. Although India and Pakistan have entered into a treaty regarding use of waters flowing from Himalayan glaciers, the treaty’s success depends on the maintenance of a status quo that will be disrupted as the world warms.  The Himalayan glaciers supply water to a billion people in India, Pakistan, and western China; a billion people with nuclear weapons; a billion people with nuclear weapons who do not have a history of getting along.  Scientists originally predicted that they would largely melt by 2035, but their melt has accelerated.   title=Meanwhile, California’s water woes are just the beginning for the United States as water becomes the new oil.

The best lack all conviction,

Climate science is not and never will be settled, the RealClimate editors say, while acknowledging that naysayers such as Wall Street Journal editors will seize upon smidgens of uncertainty.  Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) wants to consider other options besides the cap and trade bill approved by the House, and leftists attempt to resurrect the idea of a carbon tax.

while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Hacked Emails give Inhofe fuel for climate change debate.  Four Republicans (Representatives Sensenbrenner and Issa and Senators Barasso and Vitter) have demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency cease all work on greenhouse gases.  Sarah Palin uses Facebook to demand that President Obama investigate the “snake oil science” of climate instead of going to Copenhagen.  Representatives Joe Barton and Greg Walden call for hearings on NASA scientists.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand

The Pope tells Copenhagen participants to respect God’s creation and promote development while respecting human dignity and the common good.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

Copenhagen’s green credentials obscure unpleasant facts, such as Denmark’s continued reliance on coal-fired plants, Danish society’s highly consumerist society, and its beef habit (in 2002, the average Dane consumed a whopping 321 pounds of meat — nearly a pound a day. For Americans, the figure was 275 pounds).

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

 title= Australia faces collapse caused by desertification.  Wildfires in February 2009 (late summer) killed hundreds, and November 2009 (spring) broke so many records “that for a lot of places, even average conditions for the rest of the month will be easily enough to break existing records,” says a climatologist.  A new dust bowl has emerged in California’s Fresno County.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

 title=Climate drama climax looks elusive: “Too little time and too little agreement, however, especially between rich and poor countries, mean the 192-nation Copenhagen conference is likely to produce, at best, a framework — a basis for continuing talks and signing internationally binding final agreements next year.”  Carbon pledges made to date  will stoke potentially catastrophic 3.5 degrees Celsius warming by century’s end, warns the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and energy specialists Ecofys.  The pledges on the table will not halt emissions growth before 2040, let alone by 2015 as indicated by the IPCC.  Negotiators at Copenhagen face deep sets of fault lines, including rich vs poor nations, developed vs developing countries, Poland and Estonia vs the rest of the EU, island nations vs time, OPEC vs clean technology, and urgency vs inertia.

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds


The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle

The earth is the hottest it’s been in 2,000 years, the National Academy of Sciences reported in 2006.  More recently, a paper authored by Northern Arizona University professors found the warmest temperatures in 2,000 years at a time when the Arctic would be cooling if not for greenhouse gas emissions overpowering natural climate patterns.


And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born

Is a revelation at hand for an inherently cautious group?  Will bickering nations unite against a common enemy?  Or will things fall apart as the Earth cannot hold its people?

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · Global Warming · global warming deniers

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Lou Grinzo // Dec 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

    We are living through one of those nexus points in history, a time that historians and writers of counterfactual history stories will look back on decades from now and say, “If X had happened instead of Y, it would have changed everything.”

    Whether they’ll be telling stories about how we could have saved ourselves (and didn’t), or how we could have stuck to business as usual instead of rising to the occasion (as we did), is yet to be seen.

    Talk about living in interesting times…