Friday 13 August 2021

The Coming War Against Climate Change.

Code Red: In its latest report, released on Monday, 9 August 2021, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change warns humanity that it has less than ten years to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels – or face catastrophe. Putting it even more bluntly: unless the governments of the world treat Climate Change as the moral equivalent of war, humanity will kill itself.

CODE RED. Red Alert. Or, as the robot in Space Family Robinson used to say: “Warning! Warning! Danger!” In its latest report, released on Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns humanity that it has less than ten years to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels – or face catastrophe. Putting it even more bluntly: unless the governments of the world treat Climate Change as the moral equivalent of war, humanity will kill itself.

War has many, many downsides, and very few upsides. One upside, however, is the way it dissolves ideological objections to the policies required to secure victory. To win World Wars I and II, governments repurposed their economies and mobilised their populations in ways which, under normal circumstances, would have been unthinkable.

So successful was the banker and businessman, Walter Rathenau, at marshalling the resources of the German nation for war, that the Russian revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin, transformed his methods into a template for the socialist economy he and his fellow Bolsheviks were determined to construct. Confronted with the existential threat of a Nazi invasion, Winston Churchill availed himself of the Defence of the Realm Act, which placed all the property of the United Kingdom – public and private – at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government for the duration.

The seriousness with which the world’s governments are taking this latest and most unequivocal warning of the IPCC may be judged by their willingness to place their nations on a war footing. The maturity of the world’s political parties may be similarly assessed by their readiness to shed their ideological skins to win the fight for humanity’s future.

In this regard, the New Zealand National Party (whose AGM concluded the day before the release of the IPCC’s report) has a great deal of work to do. If last weekend’s performance is any indication, National is still a very long way from “getting” Climate Change. Far from seizing the opportunity provided by its AGM to make the party’s stance on the issue clear and unequivocal, National’s leadership relegated Climate Change to the status of a second-order issue. Certainly, it was not among the seven key issues identified in the Leader’s, Judith Collins’, keynote address.

This is an extraordinary political failure on Ms Collins’ part. She does not appear to understand that a party which is seen to downplay the seriousness and urgency of the climate change threat, risks being dismissed by the electorate as an irrelevant throwback to a bygone era. Just imagine if, in September 1939, the National Party had dismissed the German invasion of Poland as a second-order issue, of little immediate interest to New Zealanders, about which they had yet to develop a clear policy position. They would have been laughed off the political stage!

New Zealand’s governing party, Labour, cannot avoid formulating and implementing a broad range of responses to the climate change threat. As Greta Thunberg has already made embarrassingly clear, we still have much to do, and the world expects us to do it. If the right of New Zealand politics declines to participate in the global “war” against climate change, then the future contours of New Zealand politics will end up being shaped by the differing strategies adopted by Labour and the Greens.

Over the next four or five decades, the key political dividing lines may run between parties convinced that some kind of “technological fix” will rescue humanity from the ravages of climate change; and those who argue that only a fundamental shift in the way human-beings interact with the natural environment will generate an effective response to the threat of anthropogenic global warming.

The 200 year stand-off between capitalists and socialists may, in the course of the long fight against climate change, evolve into a clash between those who continue to put their faith in the “solutions” developed by scientific and managerial elites; and those who look to the ecologically-sensitive and collectively-driven lifeways of indigenous peoples for inspiration.

It is easy to see how Labour versus Green political competition could, over time, morph into a contest between meritocratic scientism and collectivist ecologism. It is much more difficult, however, to see a future for National and Act. If capitalism, itself, falls victim to the Climate Change War, then what chance have the capitalist parties?

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 13 August 2021.


Nick J said...

I'm afraid that this requires a very measured response. These are the final paragraphs from Raoul Meijer, a wise observer.
I’m sorry, I know a lot of you have a lot of emotion invested in this, and it’s a good emotion, and you’re thinking this conference is really important and all, and our ‘last chance’ to save the planet. But you’ve been had, it’s as simple as that. And co-opted. And conned.

And it’s not the first time, either. All these conferences go the same way. To halt the demise of the planet, you can’t rely on the same people who cause it. Never works.

You can read the full article here where Meijer explains how this works in reality.

Apologies to Chris for posting a contrarian answer via url. Its a slack method but given the complexity I reckon its the clearest way to convey the message.

Odysseus said...

"Climate catastrophism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". The IPCC's latest Advice for Policymakers asserts there is an "unequivocal" causal link between human activities and climate change. This is achieved by suppressing two millennia of climate fluctuations before 1850, and recycling a tarted up version of Michael Mann's notorious and discredited "hockey stick" diagram. It is totally dishonest.

CXH said...

'those who look to the ecologically-sensitive and collectively-driven lifeways of indigenous peoples for inspiration.'

This is reminiscent of the noblesavage ideas. Look how many third world countries, run by their indigenous people are going. Over population, war, depletion of resources. The only reason these people lived such a life we look back on as in harmony with nature was they had no population pressure. As soon as this did occur, it was the same as the nasty, materialist white folk. Destruction of habitat in a desperate attempt at survival.

Brendan McNeill said...


It’s difficult to have a rational conversation regarding Climate Change. This has been the case now for decades, but recently the voices have become more strident. The problem is not one of science, we all agree the climate is changing, the issue is how much is the result of human activity, and how much is occurring naturally, just as the climate has always changed well before humans populated the planet.

Unfortunately the issue has been elevated into something of a cult status. This has come about through the politicisation of the science, and media generated mass hysteria of the kind you see expressed by the group calling itself “Extinction Rebellion”. You cannot engage in a rational conversation with these people, but there are plenty of others who, while not supergluing their hands to the pavement, are equally ideologically driven.

The issue that is not being publicly addressed, is how much are we prepared to deindustrialise in order to reduce our carbon footprint? How much are we willing to lower our standard of living to ‘save the planet’. This has not been tested in New Zealand, but when the French Government put a carbon tax on fuel, the response was rioting in the streets. It was quickly removed.

The idea that moving to electric vehicles is somehow going to be sufficient, or that renewable energy is going to shortly replace coal and nuclear is an absurdity. Anyone capable of basic maths and with five minutes to spend on google can work this out for themselves. Politicians are hoping against hope that some new technology will emerge and allow us to meet our emissions targets while continuing with the bread and circuses. It is highly unlikely to happen. Sooner or later, if governments keep up this charade we will all be paying the price.

Jan Finlayson said...

It's not looking good. It's perverse that public and political discourse has never been so anthropocentrically focussed.

The Greens are, it seems, little hope. Certain social policies stand in the way of their environment-first default policy.

And climate disruption is just one battlefront. Biodiversity loss and multi-dimensional contamination are equivalent and overlapping matters.

It's incorrect (and divisive) to assert that first peoples have answers to these issues. To give just one example, the 14 million hectares farmed in New Zealand today is approximately the total forested area burned by pre-European humans here. It needs to be clearly understood that the issues we face have been caused by homo sapiens.

The general policy position that is necessary, but no political party seems to have the spine to adopt, is that individually and collectively we must have more modest lives. We must have and do less. And we must be much more careful about the remaining things we 'have' and 'do'.

Jens Meder said...

Yes, was not a potentially successful "total war" against climate change actually waged by Pol Pot, by efficient population reduction (through massive killing) and relocation out of towns into the countryside to live off the land.
But even he could not reduce his people into capital-less hunters and gatherers because someone had not only to feed him and his henchmen, but also produce the capital still needed in buildings etc. if some formal statehood is to be retained.

I don't know if he allowed independent farming, or only working on the land like under slavery.

In other words - capitalism can be abused, but we cannot do without it unless our numbers are reduced to pre-stone-age levels, and I cannot imagine many people voting for that to be achieved the Capital Monopolist Pol Pot's way.

Barry said...

Wars are good for business – in fact they are very good for business.
Industrial organisations (companies, Corporates ,etc) get their R&D paid for by various Governments (ie: Taxpayers) and their production facilities are improved and expanded again by the ever reliable supplier of money – the taxpayer.
Whats more the very existence of a war calls for governments to extend liability protection to all corporates.
The war on Covid is the latest example of liability cover for the vaccine producers.
Traditionally wars have been best for industrial activity – manufacturing the tools of wars of conflict – weapons that kill people. Guns, tanks, aeroplanes, explosives and the like.

The US dreamed up the term War on drugs (I think Im right about that) and since then endless gazillions have been spent on this unwinable conflict. This has been an unusual war because the corporates haven’t made the usual income from a ‘war’. The stock exchanges all around the world have been booming for no apparent reason other than the availability of endless money from the printing presses, and the corporates know that they are going to need something new to boost their business and justify their share value.

A ‘War on Climate Change’ will be an unbelievable win for corprates in almost every sector of activity.

Another war would be just the thing, and they don’t care if it does - or doesn’t –kill millions as long as the ‘war’ needs products – the tools of war.
But the war on climate change will need a range of products right across the range. They cant wait for it to start.
And Governments will welcome such a war – it will keep the countries economies booming.
And because no one really knows whats needed there will be many dead ends and new starts. Competition between the ideologies of the likes of the Greens and Labour will be a bounteous source of dead ends – and the more the better for the suppliers of various ‘solutions’.

Already the idea of planting trees is showing signs of wear. The finding by Waikato University that many trees produce more CO2 than they absorb at temperatures above 18C is a bit of a dampener. Add to this the almost certainty that many of these forests will burn to ash as wild fires sweep the world as temperatures rise – but more importantly – as rainfall drops and drought becomes a normal state of affairs.

Just this last week the limits of renewable energy from solar and wind came vividly apparent. Just imagine what will happen when the country has the level of EV’s that some in government want – more coal from Indonesia maybe…..

And there will be the endless calls from such outfits as extinction rebellion for governments to “do something” – anything……
Any the industrial community will be knocking on governments door with their “Anything” solution.

All of this will have at least one upside – the world will have something serious to worry about. Those who worry about the racist rock at the University of Wisconsin maybe will turn their attention to something actually serious and something that really does matter. The gender benders might give up trying to impose their demands on the rest of society (who don’t care a toss about the genders benders gender uncertainty) and all the rest of the Professionally Insulted (mostly on twitter) will be able to contemplate their future with greater clarity.

Wars have historically had another benefit – they have ‘thinned’ the population. The current population could do with some thinning.

Chris Morris said...

There are many problems with the actions that is being demanded to address climate change. Where are the leaders living the lifestyle they want others to lead, not flying anywhere, eating only locally grown produce (no meat) and driving electric cars powered by just renewable energy. Or is that something they only want plebs to do? Then why should NZ do anything when China and India have no intentions? If we don't want fossil fuels used for electricity, where are the nukes to give us reliable power? Where have the costs of the recommended actions been spelt out? Put real numbers up and see how many people are prepared for the drop in living standards.
There have been so many dire last chance to act warnings over last 40 years, none of which came true so a 100% strike rate) that they are disregarded. This is just the latest political advocacy.
The effects of climate change on NZ will easily be manageable and the money better spent making the country more resiliant to earthquakes or flooding, and preparing managed retreat.

Ricardo said...

Just one minor change please Chris.

In 1939 Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany from the West and Soviet Russia from the East. German and Russian officers later toasted each other with schnapps and vodka as the Poles were ground into submission.

The Russians also invaded Finland for good measure in November 1939 and were expelled from the League of Nations.

oneblokesview said...

It seems to me that the majority have blinkered vision when it comes to addressing climate change. ie reduce carbon emissions to reduce global warming.
Preparing for and fighting a war(your posit) is easy when presented with a clear and present threat.
Climate change does not meet that criteria, hence humans will not accept a reduction in lifestyle on a ""maybe"".

Surely someone should look at mitigating the effects of climate change.
If sea levels rise 10 cm 20cm etc.
The dutch have been great at this over the years.

Let me make the following prediction.
Global warming/emissions will continue at either current levels or a slight increase for the foreseeable future. At least until China moves to its reduction target some decades in to the future.

No matter what NZ wastes its money on with restrictions. It wont make a hill of beans difference to the global scene. It will be seen for what it is "Righteousness Posturing".
Especially under the current government which puts ideology above pragmatic action.
Kiwbuild anyone?

PS. I dont hold out any hope if National becomes the government, they will follow the stupidity of posturing.

thesorrow&thepity said...

Are any of the political parties recruiting scientists & engineers into their ranks, so that we can have better informed politicians?.... NOPE!!!
Has there been any meaningful reform of the outdated deadwood of civil servants who are a hinderance to progress?.... also very much a NOPE!!!

Global warming doesn't require war powers to fight, it requires the right people in the right place, & a greater deal of humility on the part of those supposedly 'in power' to admit their lack of knowledge, & to step aside, along with the Boomer generation.

Doug Longmire said...

The track record of the climate-fear merchants in predicting climate change catastrophes is not good,
Most of the "disaster" scenarios over the have actually not occurred at all. The sea is NOT rising any faster: the Artic Ice is still there: there has be no increase in extreme weather events. Do not believe me:- go onto NASA and authoritive sites and check for yourself.

Looking at the present scene:-


Using figures from the United Nation’s IPCC:-

• Global CO2 levels in the atmosphere are 400 ppm (parts per million)
• Each year, an extra 2 ppm is generated by human activity.
• NZ contributes 0.17% of that 2 ppm each year.

Okay – let’s illustrate just how much this is:

Picture a domestic backyard swimming pool, 6 meters by 4 meters, and 1.25 meters deep.
The pool contains 30,000 liters of water. That is 30,000,000,000 mils. (30 billion)
This represents the total global atmosphere.

• 400ppm is 12 liters (= Global CO2)
• 2 ppm (human per year) is 60 mil
• 0.17% New Zealand is 0.102 mils per year, this is 2 drops in 30,000 liters per year.
This is ONE drop every 6 months in a swimming pool !
ONE drop every six months in a pool of 30 BILLION mils., ( = 600 billion drops, 600,000,000,000 drops ). This represents how much global CO2 New Zealand is emitting. I repeat – ONE drop in 600,000,000,000 drops every six months.
ONE drop in 600 billion is about as close to zero as you can get.
Remember – these are FACTS. Official figures from the IPCC. This is not an “opinion”
(at this rate , it would take 600,000 years for NZ to raise the global CO2 levels from 400 ppm to 401ppm !!
NOT a “climate Emergency”
Not a “matter of Life and Death”

New Zealand’s CO2 emissions are infinitesimal compared to America, India, China etc.
Nothing NZ can do will have any effect on global CO2 levels.
It is a lie to claim otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Chris, our political views on life don’t (for the most part) align. But your essays are brilliantly written and deserve much credit.

sumsuch said...

Trez amusing, all the anti-climate change comments. Like the drowning Titanic passengers discussing whether they're drowning or not. Expansion of communication much.

In about 1980 the Anglosphere handed over the running of their worlds to the rich. So we get to die early, talking about it as we do.

We've devolved into letter sections.

The truth of democracy and reason remains, indeed, is the last bulwark.

Philip said...

I must say I really don't understand why a change in climate is said to be a "catastrophe" and an "extinction event for humans". How exactly is a few degrees of warming going to kill all humans on Earth? Of course it won't. We live in climates that already cover all the extremes from Antarctica to the Sahara Desert. Stop making up such ridiculous claims and instead state what the real impacts are likely to be, then we could possibly take it seriously.

Technology and humans will not stand still while things change - we adapt, we invent, we cope. Simply wasting resources trying to prevent the climate from changing is a pointless and harmful exercise. Invest instead in coping mechanisms, in new technology, ways to do things that are more efficient, and utilize the advantages of a more CO2 rich and warmer world to produce more food.

Tom Hunter said...

Oh dear. I missed this but perhaps not quite too late.

First of all, let's take a look at the following Moral Equivalent of War's are going in the USA:
The War on Poverty: no sign that poverty has been stamped out since LBJ's Great Society programs. In fact, after declining throughout the 20th century the US poverty rate seems to have stalled.

The War on Drugs: Nixon launched this one. Ye Olde nemesis of 60's US "Liberals" should not be too harsh on him. He had wage and price freeze applauded by Democrats (they accused him of stealing their polocies), the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of government regulation. But yeah, on this front things are worse than they were at the start.

The War on Terror: As recent events have shown, this one is the biggest bust of all. Deservedly so for such a stupid and cowardly named effort.

And perhaps of more relevance was Jimmy Carter's hopeless Moral Equivalent of War speech in 1979 which was all about launching a gigantic effort against the energy crisis of the time by pushing for all sorts of alternative energy.

That's not looking too flash either despite forty years and hundreds of billions of dollars, even if it was all about the oil crisis of the time rather than AGW.

The trouble actually goes all the way back to the original phrase of early Yank philosopher and "progressive" William James, who pondered how to .... sustain political unity and civic virtue in the absence of war or a credible threat" and "sounds a rallying cry for service in the interests of the individual and the nation."

Looks like it's a crap idea, but the Old Left just can't let go of it, for the obvious reason that all other means of persuasion have failed.

Tom Hunter said...

Oh, and I probably should have included this comment from Jonah Goldberg several years ago:
What appealed to the Progressives about militarism was what William James calls this moral equivalent of war. It was that war brought out the best in society, as James put it, that it was the best tool then known for mobilization … That is what is fascistic about militarism, its utility as a mechanism for galvanizing society to join together, to drop their partisan differences, to move beyond ideology and get with the program.

Science, science, science, you damned deniers you.

And liberalism today is, strictly speaking, pretty pacifistic. They’re not the ones who want to go to war all that much. But they’re still deeply enamored with this concept of the moral equivalent of war, that we should unite around common purposes.

Listen to the rhetoric of Barack Obama, it’s all about unity, unity, unity, that we have to move beyond our particular differences and unite around common things, all of that kind of stuff. That remains at the heart of American liberalism, and that’s what I’m getting at.

Not just American "liberalism" obviously.