A powerful, unaccountable network is shaping government and business decisions
Right on cue! A new paper on planetary boundaries. Not a single critical question in the Bloomberg article: https://substack.com/profile/42689243-tian-wen/note/c-16755422
When I see a very round number like 1.5 or especially 2.0, I treat it like a yellow flag. Not quite a red flag which ought to mean "stop there is something wrong here", but a yellow flag which means "caution, look carefully before accepting"
Round numbers are not automatically bad. If you didn't happen to know the speed of light and someone told you it was 300 million m/s, you ought to treat that is a yellow flag as it doesn't seem likely that it could be so round a number. If you look it up and find 299,792,458 meters per second, you can take comfort in knowing that it's not truly a round number, but three hundred million is a reasonable approximation for many calculations.
If someone were to tell you that 1.5° is not the exact limit, but a very careful calculation yields 1.52 or maybe 1.48, and it's convenient to round to 1.5, you could inspect the calculations and if satisfactory, accept the number. But that's not going to be the case. Try and track the number down and you'll find it's quite elusive.
The claim that:
> A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary.
is made because some people are asking the question, and this is a clumsy attempt to negate the suspicion that it is an arbitrary number, a political number. Stating that it's a planetary boundary leaves the impression that it's something very scientific. They are hoping that you will look at the term, assuming it is something that smart scientists know about, glance at the pretty graphics, and miss that all the words wrapped around the concept don't even hint at a calculation. Like faith, when you've deigned to express some question, the response is a word salad that sounds like a scientific statement, which you are not allowed to question.
Is there an amount of warming beyond which bad things will happen? I'm not suggesting that this is nonsense, but it's neither a soft limit like a sound barrier or hard barrier like the speed of light, it's a continuum. And not just a continuum of increasingly bad things, it's a continuum where modest amounts of warming are positive in some ways and negative in others, very plausibly with net positives for modest amounts of warming. There is some value at which the bad outcomes outweigh the good outcomes which isn't even the level at which one ought to take drastic action, it simply the level at which adaption becomes cost beneficial. There is a higher level which might require expensive mitigation efforts, and the hope is that you will assume this is 1.5 or maybe 2.0 but no one has demonstrated this in any rigorous way, they just assert it.
“Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a creator of the notion of “planetary boundaries” asserts:
A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary.”
A blatant lie, that number was simply pulled from the air as anyone who reads knows.
Endless fraud and corruption, climate science.
But I repeat myself.
I'm glad you’re digging in here. But I wonder whether it's worth worrying too much about the power of these foundations and other players to influence anything meaningful? Planetary boundaries, ESG, net zero - as well as contrasting visions of a high-energy, fossil-fueled future (Alex Epstein, e.g.) - are all playing in the gray space around long-term trajectories for human resource use that seem influenced mainly by technological innovations (from new battery tech to transparency-imposing satellite imagery). Just a quick thought.
As an example of how even our largest companies are being pushed by “non-state actors” into “climate justice” and abiding by the “1.5 degree limit” consider the following.
According to Barron’s story: "Environmental Activists Are Coming After Vanguard. Here’s Why." (search for the title on barrons.com)
Quoting from the article: “As part of Vanguard S.O.S.’s April 2022 launch, 107 environmental groups—including the Sierra Club in the U.S. and the Sunrise Project in Australia—representing some six million people sent an open letter to Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley, asking that the firm “tackle its climate problem comprehensively” by focusing on four goals: improving its proxy voting on environmental-related shareholder proposals, committing to the Paris climate agreement’s goal to reduce emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, shifting investment policy to manage climate risk, and integrating “climate justice” into business decisions.”
On the Vanguard S.O.S website (https://vanguard-sos.com/about/) it only identifies 12 “partners”, so I don’t know how Baron’s arrives at its 107 environmental groups number, but maybe they helped pay for the ad.
The transcript of a TV ad - “Reaping What They’ve Sown”, up on cable television (including CNBC) and streaming platforms in Chester County, Pennsylvania, starting April 3rd - is shown below:
All the work, the cut corners, it all felt worth it…
To be here with our grandchild.
Investing with Vanguard helped us seed our retirement dreams,
and now we’re reaping what they’ve sown.
I’m so sorry, little one.
Climate change is crushing those dreams. I hope it’s not too late.
When you save with Vanguard, you’re an owner…of catastrophic climate change.
If it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for your retirement.
Perhaps we should just put Paul Ehrlich in charge of the planet. Anyone thinks this is a bunch of whooey needs to look at this video from the WEF 2023
https://www.weforum.org/videos/how-16-tipping-points-could-push-our-entire-planet-into-crisis These folks have an audience and speak with such confidence about something I venture they have rudimentary understanding of at best. This all reminds me of the Crighton paper "Aliens Cause Global Warming" and his discussion of the SEDI formula for extraterrestrial life. 10+ terms and none can be proven so what answer would you like.
Here's some standard Whataboutism... Sure, there are powerful, unaccountable NGO's and other entities pursuing policies which are not always in the best interests of humanity as a whole. Meanwhile, there is a network of corporations, foundations and other entities which pursue policies that are not always in the best interests of humanity as a whole. The common element among all of these actors is that they are controlled by powerful, unaccountable oligarchs, each of whom are pursuing their own interests. As to the interests of the other classes? Well, these people are basically a useful nuisance and their interests are of little import in matters such as these.
So, are there any planetary boundaries and if so, how we will find them before we reach a point of no return?
I assume that in order to answer this question we have to take a view on technological progress which is more of a prophecy than a forecast as we don't know a) what we have not discovered yet, b) whether we will discover it even if its discoverable and c) what is the timing of such discovery and how it interplays with any risks of irreversible change in climate which could be conducive to a large extinction event.
Pro-Malthusians argue that we cannot possibly know the answers to the questions above and as a result of that, its better to plan on the back of what we know today. An extreme version of that view is the doom & gloom Club of Rome prophecies. A very risk averse view promoting stasis.
Anti-Malthusians or techno-optimists (which I note dominate this forum) in essence assume that we will fix problems through technology faster than we create them as side effects of solving other problems. Again that's a prophecy. The argument used is of unbounded human creativity that helped us many times in the past and will save us in the future.
Broadly I agree with anti-Malthusian take as this is how we built our post-Enlightenment civilization. I do have one big caveat that I derive from a non-naïve application of precautionary principle - we must not destroy the means of error-correction in our attempt to correct errors / solve problems. This is particularly relevant in systemic issues like climate, contagions, AGI etc - we never really had this problem before. Perhaps nuclear in a MAD scenario is the exception.
I struggle however to answer how to translate this risk in practical decision-making both individually and at societal level. I asked Roger a question in AMA re how he thinks about this.
When will the eugenicists enter with their prescriptions?
The progressive notion that smart people can plan and decide everything has been debunked many times.
It would be interesting to circle back to the Club of Rome reports from 50 years ago. Same focus on limits, ("the limits of growth") and the impending disasters about to befall humanity. The green revolution the post-war period changed the equation completely. Without signing up to magical thinking about how technology will solve all problems, it is still important to keep an open mind about where innovation and adaptation can take us. I am constantly that commentators are not prepared to recognize the distance that we can travel technologically in 30 or 50 years. I say that as someone who was a participant in the pioneering years of the commercialization of information technology in the early 1970s and who marvels every day at the distance travelled in just 50 years.
Reading the headline & last sentence propelled my mind to a book I've just read - Naomi Wolf's 'The Bodies of Others'.
Also, to https://theconversation.com/saving-humanity-heres-a-radical-approach-to-building-a-sustainable-and-just-society-205566#comment_2913474
Here's a slab of text https://tgk1946.com/2023/05/18/a-state-within-a-state/ that details the political organisation of a highly successful movement that grew within a democratic framework.
German Green policy - "if you can't afford to burn coal you can help us out with climate change by freezing to death in the dark".
For a more or less complete rejection of such degrowth nonsense, former Vice Premier Liu He's address to the 2023 WEF crowd is worth a watch...
All nine planetary boundaries are rather arbitrary and seem to rely primarily on subjective expert assessments.
I’m guessing that “degrowth” does not mean that those who look to control us, will be trashing their jets, yachts, many mansions etc. Life for these folks will only get more luxurious because they will deserve it; a reward for saving humanity from its number one enemy, humanity.