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For Climate Hawks, The Five Stages Of Grief Are Reversed

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"For Climate Hawks, The Five Stages Of Grief Are Reversed"

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The five stages of grief describes “a process by which people allegedly deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss.” As Wikipedia puts it:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

A few years ago, I heard a very brilliant physicist, Saul Griffiths, use this piece of pop psychology to describe climate science activists (a.k.a. climate hawks), and I realized that he had it backwards. This is an updated post.

THE FIVE STAGES IN REVERSE

Climate hawks begin with accepting the science. What else can one do? Science is the reason so many of us survived childbirth and childhood, science has fed the world, science is the reason computers and the blogosphere exist at all. And yes, science gave us our fossil-fueled wealth. I’m a scientist by training, but I just don’t see how anyone can pick and choose what science you’re going to believe and what not. The scientific method may not be always be perfect in single studies — since it is used by imperfect humans — but it is the best thing we have for objectively determining what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. It is testable and self-correcting, unlike all other approaches.

Once climate hawks accept the science, many quite naturally get depressed. See “Dealing with climate trauma and global warming burnout.”  The situation is beyond dire, and we aren’t doing bloody much about it, in large part because of the successful efforts of the deniers and delayers. Climate science offers a very grim prognosis if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path.

After depression comes a serious effort at bargaining. Climate hawks try to figure out what they can do to stop the catastrophe. Taking actions and making bargains at a personal level and a political level — depending on their level of activism.

Then comes anger. Once you’ve been at this for a while, you get very very frustrated by how little is happening — by the status quo media, the many anti-science politicians, and especially the deniers, the professional disinformers.

Finally, you end up in a kind of denial. It just becomes impossible to believe that the human race is going to be so stupid. Indeed, my rational side finds it hard to believe that we’re going to avoid catastrophic global warming, as any regular CP reader knows. But my heart, in denial, is certain that we will — see “How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution (updated).”

The great New Yorker write Elizabeth Kolbert perhaps best summed up this form of denial. Her three-part series, “The Climate of Man,” which became the terrific book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, famously ends:

It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.

It is impossible to believe. I myself can’t believe it.

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163 Responses to For Climate Hawks, The Five Stages Of Grief Are Reversed

  1. spacermase says:

    My long-standing belief is that we will probably just *barely* scrape by, perhaps just by the skin of our teeth- but we will pull it off, even if it does end up being far more messier, expensive, and painful than it would have been had we actually started on it when we should have.

    There seems to be an assumption amongst many climate activists that there’s no way to ever convince people to make sacrifices, radical lifestyle changes, or give up conveniences, but I don’t think history bears that assumption out. People sacrificed great lengths on the homefront of WWII, and massive changes were wrought to the fabric of society in an extraordinarily short time. Our entire economy was overhauled in about 6 months. The trick of it is the fact that WWII offered an obvious and tangible existential risk.

    The real crux, then, isn’t getting people to make sacrifices or adjustments- they’ll do that on their own. It’s getting them to realize that climate change offers just as much of an existential risk, in fact moreso, as losing a world war.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      In the USA, during WW2, things might have turned out differently if the Right had denied that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, denied that Japan was an aggressive Imperial wannabe in league with a similar regime in Germany and totally denied any threat to the USA. After all, only six Americans were killed in the 48 states by hostile action in the entire war. If they further, had had the total control of the MSM that they enjoy now, they might have suppressed all the contrary news and opinions, and only run those of appeasers and isolationists and those who were profiting from their business interests in Germany, Japan and the low-wage paradises of Occupied Europe and Asia. They could have declared Roosevelt and his Administration ‘alarmists’ who were ‘hiding the decline’ in Japanese and German aggression and belligerence. With luck, their allies in Congress and the courts, urged on by their MSM, might have gotten Roosevelt impeached, and an alliance with Japan and Germany to carve up the planet might have emerged.

      • Nils Peterson says:

        I think it also matters for people to identify what they can do. I can turn dispair into action if I see a clear path. In that regard I’ve been looking Socolow’s idea of Carbon Stabilization Wedges and begun translating it to my own life. This is my analysis of removing my direct carbon use. I’m mulling over a companion on indirect carbon. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xPl-f1M352h2CcZR1QghimKHdPb5Gj-BRA_-BvH07GE/edit

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I’ve got rainwater tanks, solar hot water and power, a little stone house, therefore well insulated, burn wood for heat, have planted lots of trees (and seen half killed by twelve years of drought, on and off, and it looks pretty bad again at present). I go to work by buses, five most days, and would do more if I could afford it(a composting toilet is an ambition). I find it all rather easy, but grow steadily more enraged at the idiocy and ignorance of the dullard masses, and the perfidy of the Rightwing genocidists. Fortunately I have felt that way, over myriad other obscenities that derive from the global domination of the worst specimens of Homo destructans, since I was about ten, so the anger seems not to have poisoned my corporeal being, so far. I fear for my soul, sometimes, however.

    • Gingerbaker says:

      There seems to be an assumption amongst many climate activists that there’s no way to ever convince people to make sacrifices, radical lifestyle changes, or give up conveniences

      And what makes you think that there must be inconveniences, pain, or unpleasant radical changes if we move to non carbon-based energy?

      I envision a future with ridiculously copious amounts free renewable energy generated by efficient large-scale Federal utilities, distributed along a smart grid, used for all our transportation, heating, cooling, and manufacturing needs, and all delivered at no cost to the consumer.

      Where is the inconvenience, where is the sacrifice involved with that scenario?

      • Toby Thaler says:

        You clearly don’t know much about energy issues. Please explain where this “ridiculously copious amounts free renewable energy …used for all our transportation, heating, cooling, and manufacturing needs” is going to come from? Be specific about capacity and cost, including EROI. Remember when nuclear power was going to be “too cheap to meter”? Right.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          We need only capture a tiny fraction of the energy that the nuclear fusion reactor that is the Sun delivers to us, to fuel the energy needs of humanity, for five billion or so years, barring a cosmic unpleasantness. And the EROEI is constantly improving, as solar PV efficiencies inexorably improve.

        • Gary Klauminzer says:

          Very good question… One possible answer is nuclear power based on thorium. It overcomes most of the problems of uranium, and reactors could be manufactured in a factory and shipped to sites. Google “thorium energy” to learn about this plentiful source of energy.

    • J4zonian says:

      People sacrificed in very mild ways on the homefront in WWII, they just thought it was major. And it was a war, after all. As J. Ceasar said, It’s easier to get men to volunteer to die than to get them to suffer pain patiently. Or something like that.

      While I get your meaning about the economy being overhauled, it wasn’t. Minor changes were made about what the industrially-manufactured parts were for. Ford et al. did a somewhat comparable retooling every year or 3 for the new models. The same owners, many of the same workers (with some young, old and women added), the same system of pay, division of spoils, hierarchy, family, community, religion, political system, etc etc etc. all remained pretty much intact. Capitalism and semi-fake democracy provided pre-war “America” with goods, capitalism and semi-fake democracy provided goods for war. It’s likely that the biggest change of all was that women part, and that took another 40 years of hard work, protest and plotting to actually bear fruit. Oh, well, and the whole Nazification/militarization of the world part. That was big, too…

      Now stronger, more diabolically manipulative and more divided (by class) capitalism along with completely fake democracy utterly refuses (so far) to provide sufficient goods to “combat” climate cataclysm. And it’s hardly even allowed to be said that the real solution is mostly the exact opposite of providing more goods. This is a much much much much much much much much bigger fight than that. And without an enemy.

      From War Profiteers to Disaster Capitalists to……. Sacrifice? Huh? WTF??!!

      Getting the people who usually make the sacrifices–the poor–to do so here will accomplish nearly nothing. The people who have to make sacrifices now are those for whom that is contrary to all character inclination, social structure, and political momentum… They’ve never had to do anything like this. We have no tested peaceful means to compel them to do so–only torches and guillotines have successfully talked them into helping-through-sacrifice before. We are, as in so much in this realm of climate change, forging ahead into unmapped territory.

      I’m not saying we can’t do it, in fact I think we can. I’m just saying all the comfortable metaphors of the past, all the hope and confidence and wishing and experience and beliefs…. are worse than useless here, and now. We have to rely on a Buddhist-like determination to act with everything we are, without any attachment whatever to outcome or results or hope or easy despair.

      Yes, we are so far into the darkness now that despair is easy. (as Rebeccah Solnit says, despair is easy for the privileged; they can give up and go back to their–for now–comfortable lives and feel good about trying, damn it, weren’t those the days?)We have to ask so much more of them–and us, now.

      • Superman1 says:

        Excellent observations and analysis. What you describe for WWII was essentially what happened in sending a man to the moon. Focus the substantial resources we had on a mission, and get it done. Oh, and with copious profiteers in both cases. Now, global cooperation and sacrifice is required. How specifically do we achieve that?

      • Toby Thaler says:

        Good analysis. Revolutions may be necessary but they are ugly. The alternative appears to be a collapse. Which is uglier, collapse or revolution? Almost as stupid an experiment as AGW itself, but we appear to be on the path toward both.

    • Lisa Boucher says:

      This blog post now has a shortcut URL for those who want to share it with friends:

      tinyurl.com/ross-kubler

  2. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    To be honest I think it is already too late. It is past time to be moving to a safer haven.

    But I would be going alone and I can do nothing to help my family from another location.

    I must still do what I can, not much, but what I can. You will be able to tell your children with pride what you did.

    And just maybe it is not too late.

    • Too late for what? It’s certainly too late to stop some serious consequences of global warming. But it is probably not too late to prevent then from getting worse and worse, until they are totally out of control.

      Keep fighting down to the last breath.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 1 OF 3
      Some of the climate change amelioration proposals reflect a new Stage 6: Exploitation. We are seeing the final bubble. In the early 90s, we had the hype, buildup, and rampant consumerism that led to the stock bubble. In the early 00s, we had the hype, buildup, and rampant consumerism that led to the housing bubble. Now, in some of the proposals on these pages, we are seeing the hype that will lead to the climate bubble.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 2 OF 3
      Kevin Anderson and Guy McPherson are both telling us the same thing: it’s almost impossible to get there (avoiding major catastrophe) from here, the numbers won’t allow it. Anderson focuses on the emissions trajectory; McPherson on the positive feedback mechanisms. Anderson tells us that, with substantial belt-tightening, we have an outside chance of achieving 2 C. He also tells us that’s a meaningless number, and far too dangerous. The 1 C he states as a more meaningful target, or thereabout, would only be achieved by eliminating all fossil fuel use today, and instituting fast carbon recovery and low-risk geo-engineering to quench the positive feedback mechanisms. In effect, we would need a Gerson Therapy (the Calvinist cancer cleansing therapy) for the climate! Given what is required and what the electorate is willing to do, there is no realistic way of achieving 2 C.

      • “Low-risk geoengineering?” I’d like to see a proposal for that.

        • Superman1 says:

          Everything is relative! Geo-engineering has its RELATIVELY low risk variants and its high risk variants. I agree; I’m not thrilled with any large-scale modifications; they are all radical chemotherapy applied to the climate. But, we need some way to halt/quench the self-sustaining mechanisms before they go out of control.

        • Superman1 says:

          For example, Lewis Cleverdon suggests marine cloud-brightening as an option. Ships could spray e.g. salt water to increase the Albedo as fossil sulphate aerosols are reduced with reduced fossil fuel consumption. It’s not perfect, and the ships that are doing the spraying are using fossil fuels in the process, and there may be better options, but it could be stopped if adverse effects became apparent. Unlike the solar shield placed in orbit at Lagrangian point 1.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 3 OF 3
      I have repeatedly asked the proposers to demonstrate quantitatively that their solutions will not take us over the climate cliff on the road to Nirvana, especially for the proposals that allow business as usual in energy usage. They never present the emissions trajectory numbers as Anderson does. I can understand why; they wouldn’t even come close! The proposers understand where we’re headed, and want one final chance to raid the pantry on the Titanic as she’s going down.

      • Dennis Tomlinson says:

        Here’s a thought: Most of the fossil fuels we have been and are burning have there beginnings as living organisms in the Permian and Carboniferous periods. Those who study such things tell us that most of the land (Pangea at that time) was covered with thick dense forests, bogs, and swamps. And that the oceans were thick with phytoplankton. Given that we are at or slightly past “Peak Oil”, and that we are within a decade or two of “Peak Coal”, and further assuming (probably incorrectly) that the usage curves are more or less Gaussian (ergo, we have now burned about half the carbon that was sequestered all those millions of years ago) Does this mean we have to return about half of the world’s land mass and oceans to a Carboniferous state in order to sequester enough carbon to return to a normal climate?

        • Superman1 says:

          Dennis, That’s an interesting thought, and is part of the larger issue of what are the quantitative targets for which we should be aiming in order to save our climate and our civilization. Right now, we see targets like 2 C that form the basis of international agreements, 1 C that people like Anderson propose as borderline safe, the pre-ice decline of 0.5 C that I have proposed as borderline safe, and some far lower numbers that a couple of people who do independent research have sent me recently. We really have no idea how any of these targets would play out in the long-term, including the 0.8 C that is displaying increasing devastation. How do we define a rational policy in light of such ill-defined targets?

        • Superman1 says:

          Have responded to your excellent question; should be up shortly.

        • J4zonian says:

          Dennis Tomlinson,

          Sorry but the answer is: Yes and no. We can’t rebury it as coal and oil 100s of feet down, so we’ll have to grow out as much as we can as trees and bury the rest shallowly as organic matter in soil. Any other solution (biochar, etc. etc.) is speculative at best, and absolutely will have more costs and thus lower net gain. Since forests are largely self-replicating once established (and rain is re-established with it) and we need to stop industrial ag anyway so organic food/fiber/materials/medicines production is a twofer at least, the costs and net yield are immensely better.

          • Biochar isn’t as “speculative” as you think. Check out the International Biochar Initiative’s website which has links to hundreds of scientific articles on the subject; read the books by Albert Bates and Paul Taylor.

            I know two people who make biochar — one on a light-industrial scale, one in his back yard. The process is straight forward and carbon negative. Biochar can be made using a variety of low and high-techniques which can be scaled according to the circumstances of the user. Once in the ground, it stays there for hundreds of years, enhancing the soil.

        • Dennis Tomlinson says:

          “Sorry but the answer is: Yes and no.” Well, I can live with that… or not.
          Actually, I’ve had some further thoughts – hopefully refinements, but no guarantees.
          I’ve read that it requires a near miraculous set of conditions in order for recoverable oil deposits to have formed. I suspect much of the carbon sequestered in ancient Carboniferous times is not recoverable as a fossil fuel. I further suspect that getting the last grains of coal or the last drops of oil are just not possible. That throws a “recoverable” variable into the mix which I havde no clue how to estimate. If I were to SWAG 50% recoverable, then we’d need the equivalent of 25% of ocean and land mass resources converted to the Carboniferous state, or whatever the equivalent in other means would be.

        • Superman1 says:

          PART 1 OF 3
          Dennis, I’m reposting in three parts. That’s an interesting thought, and is part of the larger issue of what are the quantitative targets for which we should be aiming in order to save our climate and our civilization.

        • Superman1 says:

          PART 2 OF 3
          Right now, we see targets like 2 C that form the basis of international agreements, 1 C that people like Anderson propose as borderline safe, the pre-ice decline of 0.5 C that I have proposed as borderline safe, and some far lower numbers that a couple of people who do independent research have sent me recently.

        • Superman1 says:

          PART 3 OF 3
          We really have no idea how any of these targets would play out in the long-term, including the 0.8 C that is problematic now. How do we define a rational policy in light of such ill-defined targets?

          • Dennis Tomlinson says:

            I’m entirely convinced that the main reason Americans hate Socialism is because it was one of the Soviet Unions’ middle names. And when it comes to climate science, I’m as clueless as a Republican pretending to understand Keynesian Economics (or anything else useful or practical, for that matter). In any such forum as this, there always seems to be at least one self-appointed commenter whose recurring task is to ask dumb questions. I suspect the current question is my latest in that cause. I’m simply doing the best I can. That said, I’ll take Hansen’s 350ppm and the +1C (or thereabouts)that it entails, because I think he’s the leading expert in this field. Any level above that and life would be (borrowing from Hobbs), “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Someone please convince me that this is not the world my grandkids are going to inherit.

          • Dennis Tomlinson says:

            I’ll surrender my “Get Out of Jail Free” card if only it would buy freedom for my most recent comment.

          • Dennis Tomlinson says:

            PArt 1: I’m entirely convinced that the main reason Americans hate Socialism is because it was one of the Soviet Unions’ middle names. And when it comes to climate science, I’m as clueless as a Republican pretending to understand Keynesian Economics (or anything else useful or practical, for that matter). In any such forum as this, there always seems to be at least one self-appointed commenter whose recurring task is to ask dumb questions. I suspect the current question is my latest in that cause. I’m simply doing the best I can..

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            Dennis, let’s hope Joe is enjoying his morphia experience and it’s going well for him, ME

          • Dennis Tomlinson says:

            Indeed.

      • J4zonian says:

        Superman,

        Anytime you reference “political possibility” you open your argument to negation. Anything is possible politically, belief in any system can collapse in days. (Archetypes and other psychological patterns split when unhealthy, becoming for example, instead of the King archetype, symbol of order, executive function and harmonious operation of society, personality or action, we get some manifestation of the tyrant and some manifestation of the weakling. Always. Neither of the 2 ever disappears; both are still operating in some way. If one is dominant, the other is shadow—unconscious. Nitpicking, sabotaging, opposing, in the same person in different ways, in different people, whatever. Always there. If belief in the dominant half of this shadow system collapses, the other can take over and drive things in the opposite direction almost instantly. Of course, this isn’t much better, as then the former dominant is sabotaging unconsciously, etc. Healthy is much better, but in present circumstances, not likely.

        Geoengineering For Salvation is the shadow counterpart to Burning Everything on Earth, our current mode. Even if we embrace it it’s still shadow and will lead to ruin. Just a different kind of ruin. Instead, we follow nature, who has no shadow. Reforest the world to recall carbon. Low-meat local organic permaculture (a design system using constructed collaborative ecosystems to produce food, for example, such as food forests) to build up organic matter in soils, sequestering carbon the way we know it can work without harmful “side” effects. Since that’s the way Earth has been doing it for several billion years, it seems like it’s adequately tested, unlike giant space mirrors and floating fake ice.

  3. Eduardo Vargas says:

    Great post Joe. The important thing is to focus on the moment and to keep our concentration, here and now where it belongs and not center on our anxieties. To keep motivating everyday for this movement to grow, for more protests on the streets, for more people out their. To keep believing that we can steer the wheels of this ship in a few years. Keep believing in God, in the goodness of humanity, and to keep believing that we can be a force of good not evil.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Well said, Eduardo, but what do we do with the very real Evil Ones who have landed us in this predicament, and who are fighting tooth and nail to obstruct the rescue of humanity? ‘Turning the other cheek’ will not work.

  4. Fact is most people want action on climate – who wants their kid to live in a +4C world? (or worse). The real question here is how can a few people in a technologically advanced society push the rest of us and future gens off the climate cliff?

    • Solar Jim says:

      Many thoughts on this, here’s one: because the investor class has usurped the political power of finance. The financial elite, who direct much of the public sphere of economics, have captured major world governments via government-for-hire influence. This is essentially globalized corporate fascism. As Justice Scalia said, the US Constitution is “dead, dead, dead.” The people have apparently, so far, surrendered to pathological liars, psychopaths, worship of shallow celebrity and to the tremendous power of fraudulent propaganda (such as “petroleum is a form of energy”).

    • Mike Roddy says:

      The people with really big money are afraid of losing it, and want to keep the income from oil etc. rolling in. Many of them are aware of the coming catastrophe, but they believe that their money will protect them, and that the world’s population needs a serious cull anyway.

      Just because someone is at the top of the pyramid doesn’t make them either thoughtful or caring. Look at the Bourbons, the Dowager Princess, and the Medicis.

    • Dick Smith says:

      No one will live in 4C world–for very long. 4C is an unstable number. It’s a speed bump on the way to a much higher number. (Of course, a scarier thought is that 2C may not be a stable number.)

      If we pass 4C on our current timetable, we should arrive at 12C by roughly 2300. Fasten your seatbelts.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        ‘We’ won’t arrive anywhere in 2300, or even 2100, at the current rate. The planet will be in the throes of a mass extinction event, and will take millions of years to recover, but ‘we’ won’t be there.

      • Superman1 says:

        “Of course, a scarier thought is that 2C may not be a stable number.”

        What makes you believe 1 C is stable, or even 0.8 C? We haven’t played out 0.8 C yet, and events in the Arctic are not re-assuring about stability.

  5. ltr says:

    I know that President Obama can never be trusted, the words are just a veneer, and I am not surprised but I am angry and will be staying angry at Democrats who are really conservative Republicans but only pretend otherwise.

    • J4zonian says:

      Are they conservatives or are they corporatists, captured by the fish traps where money collects because of the rules we’ve set up to contain the psychopathic impulses in all of us?

      Yeah, there are leaps there, assuming of knowledge…

      See the Canadian documentary The Corporation for more on corps. as psychopaths. But they are that way because we make them and we make them that way because we have those impulses and are unwilling to either face them or own them ourselves. Thus the corporation. And thus the weirs. And thus the concentration of power and the sycophants who hang around in the alley waiting for buckets of waste water to be dumped on them in the form of campaign contributions. And thus our inability to see the obvious about the natural world.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, it’s pop pyschology but if it helps anybody, I’ll go with it. Perhaps the reason we can’t believe we’ll commit collective suicide is because it won’t happen? There may be some genuine megalomaniacs amongst the elites but when the likes of Christine Lagarde lets the cat out of the bag, you know there is something going on behind the scenes. My name is not Cassandra but my readings of the international entrails tell me this year could see some dramatic developments, ME

  7. Will Fox says:

    Latest video from CarbonTracker -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA7tfz3k_9A

    Atmospheric CO2… 800,000 BC to the present.

    Joe – please, please, PLEASE try to feature this video somewhere on your blog. It really puts things into perspective.

    • question says:

      Very nicely done visualization. Answers quite a number of typical questions at once. Thanks!

    • Joan Savage says:

      Will,
      It is a great graphic and it’s surely convenient to see it posted on youtube.

      Joe featured the video when it was freshly published by NOAA. Sorry I don’t recollect which blog piece it was in.

      I agree it would be great to have a way to quickly retrieve it.
      An earlier vintage Climate Progress had an archive of key posts but that was several iterations past.

  8. Jeff Poole says:

    I’ve come up with a new term for ‘Climate Hawks’ who are, as you so beautifully put it, in denial about human stupidity.

    Linear Optimists.

    These are the intelligent, well-read folk who quite understandably cannot face the reality that we are witnessing abrupt, irreversible change to formerly permanent features of our planet.

    I have spent more than a decade working to try to prevent catastrophic global warming here in the capital of the largest coal exporting state on the planet, Queensland Australia.

    As the northern Ice Cap moves into the final stages of collapse, I have decided to accept the horror and stop banging my head against concrete.

    Australia will export 80% more coal, we are about to frack the life out of our food bowls and export Coal Seam Gas, we have restarted shale oil production alongside the Great Barrier Reef. We will probably see the surviving half of the Reef die within the next decade or two as a result of warming and misuse.

    The immense changes to the weather that the loss of arctic ice will bring are likely to galvanise public opinion and make governments across the globe work hard to avoid extinction. But that’s the problem with passing a tipping point – there’s no going back.

    One commenter above mentions not wishing to see their child grow up in a +4 degree world. Well, that’s ok because they won’t. The disruption of that other formerly solid northern hemisphere feature, the four seasons, as a result of the ice loss will see to that.

    It is utter denial to believe we can engineer novel food crops that will feed an exponentially growing population without destroying our most productive soils (yours in the US) whilst dealing with unprecedented climate disruption and artificially refreezing the arctic. All the while dealing with the collapse of phytoplankton and krill – the base of the ocean food web – due to acidification.

    I’m off to support a colleague who’s speaking at a permaculture meeting today. He’ll be telling them that all they can do now is try to make the last years of this civilisation more comfortable before all our ecosystems are swept away in this latest Great Extinction event. The one we made happen.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Please do not stop banging just yet Jeff. Where would the people of Eastern Europe and East Germany be now if they had given up? Their walls came down and I know it seems unlikely at times, but ours can as well, ME

      • Jeff Poole says:

        Thanks for the attempt at cheering me up Merrelyn. It’s very much appreciated!

        The big differences between the hopeless situation democrats in Eastern Europe faced and the one we face are simple. They were only dealing with single party politics and vested interests, and rather naive ones at that. We are dealing with multi-party politics, extremely sophisticated vested interests with far greater experience of selling lies to an uninterested populace and – the killer – the implacable laws of physics.

        It was the reality of the way impossible things can happen when people move as one – the Wall coming down – and of the rescue of doomed species like the Kakapo, the black robin and Queensland’s Hairy Nosed Wombat that kept me hard at it through and after the first big melt in 2007.

        It was the sudden acceptance of climate change by mainstream society, also in 2007, that made me think we’d reached a human tipping point. That we could do what needed to be done right at the eleventh hour…

        Read Alan AtKisson’s essay ‘After the Climate Breakthrough: What Do We Do Now’ from that year if you’ve forgotten how hopeful we all were back then!

        But now, all that might as well never have happened. The economic cretins are back in charge after they nearly destroyed the world economy a year later. Go figure…

        But now, after the Second Great Melt, we know that the arctic ice is not going to recover and the tipping point is upon us. The methane pulse is starting, human emissions are still on the exponential upswing and governments around the world are winding back the feeble efforts they’ve already made…

        My old pastor used to describe ‘the wrath of god’ as a stone wall. God, he said, never actively harmed people but respected their decisions to destroy themselves. Replace ‘god’ with ‘nature’ and that’s where we are now – heading straight to that wall with our feet jammed on the accelerator and throwing out the airbags, safety belts and crumple zones.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I prefer ‘lobotomised toads’ sitting in boiling water, for ‘linear optimists’. The toads around Gympie and other locales, once hotspots for every Rightwing, hill-billy, lunacy, including climate destabilisation denial, are beginning to wake up, too late. I wish them luck, with their floods, and living with their regrets.

  9. catman306 says:

    Some blogger somewhere pointed out that civilization doesn’t collapse, it crumbles piece by piece.

    Excellent posting, Joe!

    • Paul Magnus says:

      It might this time though.
      Many things are unprecedented.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Rome crumbled, but others collapsed and the people returned to living in the jungle, those that survived. Ours will definitely go out with a bang, not a whimper.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        No doubt about the bang as we have allowed ourselves to become so dependent, on electricity, the skills of others, and on our ‘leaders’ to make decisions for us. We have reared generations of pretty useless people, or so it seems. But it also seems that we still have our spirit, our deepest ideals that only surface now when disaster strikes and we know that we are all in it together. I know we can’t avoid terrible losses but I am sure that the survivors will huddle together and collectively make the most desirable future out of the ruins, as long as some smart alec doesn’t come along and organize them into a top down hierarchy which created the problem in the first place, ME

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    I think we have bitten off more than we can chew in terms of our technological enlightenment!

  11. fj says:

    Yes, the human race has been that stupid and we will be subjected to some really bad stuff no matter what we do now.

    My idea is that we will smarten up real fast as the crisis begins to become full blown and ultimately we will prevail.

    I also know the limits of optimism yet feel terribly fortunate that it governs the way I think about things.

  12. Great post. Succinct. Spot on.

    • Lisa Boucher says:

      I think this is one of Mr. Romm’s best blog posts ever — succinct and also profound.

  13. Alex says:

    I’m the same as Joe Romm. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. I look at the punks — and that’s what they are, — the lawyers, the media idiots, the non-climate scientists, etc. that have buffaloed the Idiocracy and just can’t believe humanity is this stupid. But it is. It really, really is this stupid.

  14. Paul Klinkman says:

    People talk, and they seem to be saying exactly the right thing. Then they twiddle their thumbs. Then they go home. That’s denial.

    Unfortunately, climate people do this with climate technology. They talk about deploying and they talk about improving the technology rapidly. They say the right thing. Then …

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      That’s not denial, that’s impotence. Try to do something concrete and you end in gaol, or some Rightwing thug hits you with a SLAPP in order to destroy you and your family’s lives. In much of the poor world, they simply murder you if you get in the way of profit.

      • Chris Winter says:

        Yes — like Chico Mendes.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          There have been thousands like Chico Mendes.

          • Belgrave says:

            See this recent article in the Guardian about recent sharp rise in murders of environmental activists. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/21/activism?INTCMP=SRCH .

            With many in power in Canada, US, Britain considering environmantal activists “terrorists” the response of the powerful to the environmental crisis is becoming clear.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            Belgrave, it’s the only way that they know. Intimidation, bullying, subversion, setting people onto each other and violence have served the Evil Ones well, throughout human history, and they will not abjure their favourite tools now.

      • Paul Klinkman says:

        The last inventors probably killed for their inventions were Rudolf Diesel and John Bull. The world often enough kills union organizers, politicians and reporters, but the idea of killing an inventor is far less common. Inventors are generally perceived by one and all to be nonthreatening humanitarian types until proven otherwise. I don’t worry abut reprisals for having ideas. It’s the neglect that’s the real problem.

        • Merrelyn Emery says:

          Commiserations comrade but don’t underestimate what will be dealt out to you if you come up with an idea that penetrates public consciousness and offends the orthodoxy of the academic elite, ME

        • Superman1 says:

          Researchers who challenge the industrial/ political status quo experience tremendous abuse. Read about George Carlo, Henry Lai, Lennart Hardell et al, who dared to reveal the truth about the pathogenicity of cell phones in particular and wireless communications in general. To this day, they are being hounded for their honesty and courage, while biological havoc is being wreaked especially on the youngest users of cell phones et al.

  15. rollin says:

    Joe, you got the steps correctly except there needs to be one more added, acceptance that mankind will not change before catastrophe. The final step involves courage to continue trying to help yourself, your family and the world despite the overwhelming knowledge that the war may not be won. Faced with overwhelming odds, one still keeps fighting or stays in the previous stage of denial, which causes cognitive dissonace since the knowledge that things are otherwise is present.

    • kermit says:

      Zen was the religion of choice for samurai. Using its focus and honesty, the samurai learned to accept their death, then went into battle “already dead”. With focus, but without fear, they were actually in the best state psychologically to survive. Fear for others came when the reality of battle confronted their denial of their own mortality.

      We must be like the samurai, and fight until the end, because it is the right thing to do. Accept that it probably will not be enough, but pay attention, stay focused, and if we see an opening, strike true. We will at least be able to face our own end, from old age or otherwise, with a clear conscience, and perhaps in time we will find that despite the carnage we have won our battle, allowing the ones after us to continue recovery.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I think we need to find a place for transcendence, because it might be the best that we can hope for.

    • perceptiventity says:

      ” I no longer see any point in singling out individual aspects of the human experience for special attention or criticism. Population growth, climate change, global corporatism, chemical pollution, resource depletion, species extinctions, ocean overfishing and acidification, global financial instability, mounting social disparities and injustices are all merely symptoms of a system that has been out of control for centuries (despite our earnest attempts to convince ourselves otherwise.) We have no choice left – or perhaps we never really had any other choice – but to ride the dragon until the human overshoot corrects itself, as overshoots always do.”

      Very informative articles after years of digging on the issue.

  17. Mark E says:

    A daily CP reader, I hardly ever say “Thanks” for particular articles.

    Wow, this was insightful. Thanks.

  18. Kathy C says:

    Once the positive feedbacks are fully engaged it is out of our control – it won’t matter what anyone does. So the Keystone Pipeline only matters if the feedbacks are not yet self perpetuating. Given this summers Arctic ice melt and increasing size of methane plumes I would say the feedbacks have become self sustaining and it is game over.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 2 OF 3
      The real unknown is the methane clathrates. When the ice goes in the near future, there will be 24/7 solar insolation for some days in the Summer coupled with warm Atlantic water rushing into the Arctic. The combination will heat up the Arctic Ocean. It is believed that most of the clathrates are buried sufficiently deep to be thermally insulated from the effects of the water for centuries. However, clathrates were reported at 290 meters in December. If shallow clathrates are present in sufficient amount, they could ‘set off’ the other positive feedback mechanisms, because they are coupled and synergistic. I could easily see the system escalating out of control.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 3 OF 3
      But, these possibilities are all fantasy. We are essentially doing nothing relative to what needs to be done. Keystone is irrelevant to this process; it is a rallying point, nothing more. We have enough known fossil fuel reserves to destroy the climate many times over, with or without Keystone. Even if the clathrates are not sufficient to accelerate the feedbacks out of control, our projected use of fossil fuels (by IEA, EIA, BP Energy Outlook and others) insures we will do so in another decade or two.

    • Superman1 says:

      ONE LAST TRY. PART 1 OF 3
      Yes and no. It is, in theory, possible to still ‘quench’ some/most of the positive feedback mechanisms. We would probably have to ‘overdamp’ the temperature increases with some strong blocking of solar insolation (probably with aerosols, although other options are possible), in parallel with strong reduction of fossil fuel use and strong carbon recovery. These are harsh measures, and who knows what overcooling would do, but I see no realistic alternatives.

  19. fj says:

    Yes, the human race has been on the far side of rational and we will be subjected to some really bad environmental stuff because of this no matter what we do now.

    My idea is that we will smarten up real fast as the crisis begins to become full blown which seems highly likely in the next couple of years; and ultimately we will prevail.

    Can we hope that the social change stuff of the great transition will offset pending daunting difficulties and be truly amazing?

    And, the major concern must be that the most vulnerable populations — the extreme poor — will not experience tragedy of horrific proportions.

    I also know the limits of optimism yet feel terribly fortunate that it governs the way I think about things.

    . . . As is the case for a large percentage of the population reassuringly indicated in cognitive scientist Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature”.

  20. Mike Roddy says:

    I agree about the first four steps, Joe, but the final one- denial- is not common among my activist friends. We may be frustrated and sad at times, but a journey this long and overwhelming is not going to be sabotaged by a return to magical thinking.

    As for whether we think that there is no hope- well, the possibilities are still so broad that there is definitely hope to avoid catastrophic outcomes, and at least save many of us. Whether this actually happens is going to be up us, right here, right now. That’s why we have to keep fighting.

    • I’m resisting denial, but it’s very difficult sometimes.

      Maybe others experience this: people don’t want to talk about what to do. I explain about the ice cap, and they glaze over. Then they turn the conversation to vacation plans to exotic, far-away locations.

      We on this site are an enclave, as far as I can tell. There are a few others. Even the climate rally on the 17th was the usual small gathering of cats and dogs with their menagerie of pet issues. And I live in a very progressive area.

      People just shut down. Talking about this frustrates and annoys them. They think it’s useless handwringing at best, more likely obsessive, and paranoid at worst.

      The subtext is: If you can’t do anything about it, please don’t burden us with your anxieties.

      Sound familiar to anyone?

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Perhaps we don’t believe we are going to commit suicide because we won’t. 2013 could be a big year for international developments, ME

  21. Raul M. says:

    Do we really need to turn up the heat on ourselves? Maybe.
    But to go with the program of learning to
    improve the nature that we find outside our constructions we…
    1) admit that to gardan with just sustainable equipment the carbon footprint of the equipment would need to be taken into account to be able to determine if the gardening would improve the situation which nature depends to make the flora and fauna that we like.
    2) While working to improve things think about your steps toward progress in your learning and your actions. It might cut down on the amount of time you have to look and see others mistakes. Find a step three.
    Better your step one. Work on what should step two become.

    • Raul M. says:

      Still leaves me to do my best to sing the praises for those who abide and relish the natural laws of God. Rumor has it that 144 thousand will know of and live by the laws.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        And you think that you are one of that ‘elect’. Sorry, Raul, but I was just talking to His Omnipotence and…well…you know…space at a premium…all those other Rapturtrons…ahem. Better luck next incarnation!

        • Raul M. says:

          Hi Mulga,
          Gee I thought I was only being delusional that the Earth Systems would improve with our geo-eengeering.

  22. fj says:

    Climate change is a work in progress with large scale catastrophes inevitable in a future increasingly chaotic lacking much time for grief.

  23. Adam Sacks says:

    A couple of comments:

    1. The five stages of grief aren’t “pop psychology,” they are hard won insights by the late psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who pioneered discussion of death and dying in medical circles. She suffered years of derision from colleagues on the way to acceptance of her observations and positive interventions on behalf of dying patients and their families – that is, all of us.

    2. We are not collectively stupid about our response to global warming, we are simply collectively human. We don’t have the evolutionary equipment to deal with civilization-ending problems, which is why civilizations always collapse eventually – they are all energetically unsustainable. I highly recommend Joseph Tainter’s scholarly but readable work, The Collapse of Complex Societies, for a lucid explanation thereof.

    3. It is readily apparent that emissions reduction strategies have failed to affect the course of climate change in any significant way (I suppose it’s possible to argue that without emissions reduction efforts it all would be happening even faster, but so what). The only other feasible strategy is to put all the excess carbon back into the ground, where we got it from in the first place (not only from fossil fuels, but from 10,000 years of agriculture, which has emitted as much or more carbon through soil loss as all of our fossil fuels to date). The only feasible approach to soil carbon capture and storage is primarily restoration of grasslands, as well as reforestation and to a lesser extent biochar and other low-tech endeavors. But grassland soils are the largest terrestrial sinks and should be the focus of eco-restoration. There are also myriad other benefits. More information here. Isn’t it really high time that we have this discussion on CP?

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      With respect Adam, much empirical evidence has shown that most people do not experience grief or loss in fixed stages, or stages at all, and the experience is heavily influenced by culture and context, ME

  24. Margaret Diehl says:

    I fight the denial all the time. The world hums around me, all the pieces in place, and it’s hard–not to imagine but to keep imagining–that all of this will fall apart if only a few of the pieces go missing. I don’t know how vulnerable we are to anything beyond nuclear war (which is one result of food and water scarcity). Extreme weather disasters will slowly bankrupt us and cause people to keep their efforts local; food scarcity will cause poverty and unrest;economic disruption will feed on itself–but what is the bang? It seems like a crumble to me, however long it takes.

    • Dennis Tomlinson says:

      In Czarist Russia all it took was a bad war less than a decade after the previous bad war, coinciding with a shortage of wheat, to turn the starving peasants into a raging proletariat. That’s about 12 years, with most of the transformation taking place in the last 3.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        I’m afraid that if the Tsar had controlled the means of surveillance, intimidation and repression of today’s global pathocracy, if he had been supported by an omnipresent brainwashing system as pitilessly malignant as the contemporary Rightwing MSM, and if vast swathes of the populace had been as imbecilic, ignorant and vicious as are the denialist rabble today, then, not only would the Revolution have failed but the Tsarist regime would have descended into the sort of sub-fascist mire we see in the world today, dominated, as it is, by the genocidal Right.

        • J4zonian says:

          Absolutely, yes,….
          except the part about 19th/20th century cusp Russians being smarter, better educated, less superstitious, psychologically more resilient and discriminating… whatever you want to call it. Hmmmmmm. Don’t see it, Mulga. Can’t think of anytime in history outside of the European Dark Ages that I know of more examples of just exactly those kinds of things in the general poopulace. (left the Freudian typo).

          Certainly we are exceeding stupid. Just not quiiiiiite as stupid as people in the past. And with more educated intelligent people to skew the average just slightly than any other time or place in history. Now prehistory and the wisdom of matriarchal uncivilized people, that’s another issue entirely…

        • Dennis Tomlinson says:

          Mulga, no doubt, a half-way competent leader given the “advantages” you cite would have survived, even thrived. But Czar Nicholas was, after 300 years of Romanovs, so inbred and so incompetent that surely he would have fallen due to the wars alone, or due to the wheat shortage alone, or both – with or without near-omniscient advantages. I suspect even an imbecile can be motivated to action by hunger and/or despair.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            They shouldn’t have topped Rasputin. That boy had charisma, the key to political success. I know-I saw ‘Hellboy’.

        • Mulga,

          Don’t overestimate the competence of today’s plutocracy. Like any elite, they are only as safe as their last dog and pony show — bread and circuses. As backward as the U.S. population is, compared to what it should be, it is far better educated than the peasantry of Czarist Russia. And, E.U. populations are far hipper than ours.

          Also, as a mechanism of propaganda and repression, the Russian Orthodox Church was at least the equal of today’s MSM and CIA/FBI combined. Marx didn’t call the religion the opiate of the people for nuttin’. (By the way, the Russian Church is at it again, now that Vladimir “Little Joe”* Putin is in the Kremlin. Witness what happened to Pussy Riot.)

          A little more climate change and things will come apart in a hurry. The elite will have no answers, and…it’s hard to say what will happen next, but George Bush senior’s “New World Order,” is certainly in the process of coming apart.

          *”Little Joe” as in Little Joseph Stalin.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      People think the French Revolution was caused by a wish for freedom, or hatred of the Bourbons. Actually, it was caused by starvation, which led to the first wave of victims finding their heads on pikes.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        Life, death, politics and religion are all fair game but avoid cake jokes like the plague, ME

      • Belgrave says:

        Remember that the 2 revolutions mentioned rapidly descended into repression at least as bad as what went before (and more efficiently carried out).

        I have no illusions about what would follow the overthrow of the plutocracy.

        • Merrelyn Emery says:

          They only changed the bosses, not the system. We need to change the top down, competitive system to that of cooperation between equals, ME

          • Mark E says:

            Not an uncommon theme.

            Back when “India” included Pakistan, Bangladesh, and modern India, Gandhi led the nation in nonviolent resistance to win independence. He said he did not want the British to leave India, only their system of rule. Looking back from today, it appears they too changed bosses.

  25. Chris says:

    But after denial does it curl back to acceptance? Yes I accept the fact we’re screwed.

  26. Brian R Smith says:

    Inversion of the Kübler-Ross model to illustrate climate hawk psychology doesn’t lead anywhere helpful for me personally, at least not as you’ve laid it out. The K-R progression has no loopholes for the dying; it merely describes how we deal with the inevitable. It’s a zero-sum exercise that from springs from an initial acceptance of death; shuffle the deck all you want, deal it out any way you like, the outcome is death with nowhere to go but acceptance. Like the scene in Saving Private Ryan: The American soldier’s arms can only hold out so long resisting the stronger German soldier who quietly reassures his victim (successfully) that giving up is best, as he slowly pushes the knife into his heart.

    It seems you make the same assumption about our climate outcome, with your rational side edging out your heart’s denial. Maybe I read you wrong, but I have the same problem. Fate seems to have taken the high ground. Only in our case the knife will not go into our own hearts but our children’s.

    We can’t have it both ways can we? We either accept the worst prognosis and prepare our children for the knife accordingly, or we must find the loophole in Superman1′s immutably fact-based, but essentially fruitless, submissive conclusion.

    I’m down to one possible loophole: the STILL untapped potential for massive (and yes centrally organized) coordination of the climate movement to educate the public and attempt every method available to force state & federal legislators to accept the reality of the crisis and FORCE them to action. This is a discussion that hasn’t even gotten on the board here, let alone a fair hearing.

    I can understand why you, John Podesta, and most others inside the beltway, would remain attached to the idea that inside-Washington, elite player, top-down politics is the only real game there is, and that the rest of us are on our own if we can manage to butt in and make a difference now & then. Do I have this right? If so, I would argue that game has led nowhere conclusive and that it will not.

    All indications now are that Keystone is prepped to be approved. No price on carbon will be on the table. Obama’s environmental gains in the 1st term indicate nothing about stronger 2nd term policy. Independent groups from LCV to @350 to Citizens Climate Lobby to you name it are struggling against big energy money to affect the political process with little success. The public doesn’t understand the science. The congress rejects it. The President is not facing it. Climate scientists have no standing. There is general acceptance that nothing will come out of Washington and that’s our lot.

    At the same time, you cannot show me a peer-reviewed climate scientist who has not concluded that massive public engagement is key. It was Stephen Schneider’s great personal contributions in this direction that inspired so many others to speak out. To connect the dots between public engagement and public policy.

    So I am wondering if you think the point is valid, and if so, if there is a role in this for CAP & CP to play in support.

    • Brian R Smith says:

      Joe. I get the message. Actually I don’t, but never mind.

      • Brian R Smith says:

        ..no personal insult was intended. I guess I am just getting too frustrated with the way things are, and are not, developing. Perhaps I’ve lost a reasonable attitude & voice and need to work that out. I remain a great admirer. My apologies if it seems otherwise. Best of luck with everything.

    • Superman1 says:

      My detailed response to your comment will hopefully be up shortly.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 1 OF 2
      After eight hours, my message is still not up. Will try in two parts. “we must find the loophole in Superman1′s immutably fact-based, but essentially fruitless, submissive conclusion.” That’s a misinterpretation of my conclusions. I am not saying with certainty the situation is hopeless; I am saying that the proposals I have seen on these pages offer little, if any, hope of saving our civilization.

    • Superman1 says:

      PART 2 OF 2
      I’ve tried to lay out the requirements for saving the climate as best I can, relying on the latest studies. My conclusions are that it might yet be possible to save the climate (no absolute certainties here), but extremely difficult measures will be required. That’s not my choice; that’s my interpretation of Mother Nature’s choice. We need to stop smoking now if we want to survive the climate equivalent of Stage 4 lung cancer. We also need to institute various harsh carbon recovery and possibly geo-engineering measures in parallel.

  27. Anne says:

    This epiphany of yours — that Climate Hawks experience the 5 stages in reverse order — is right on, bullseye. I would, however, maintain that Climate Hawks often wander about the five stages all the time, going from one to another and back again, and can sometimes be experiencing all five reactions at the same time. This amounts to a head explosion and, candidly, is how I walk around just about every day, with an exploding head (and heart).

    • Yes, Anne, exactly. This reverse Kubler-Ross progression is a brilliant insight, and captures exactly how I feel. I’m glad we have this community to share these thoughts.

      At some point every day, I look over the bay, the hills, the clouds, and the people walking among them and reflexively think: are we really going to f*ck this up? And the reflexive answer is: I guess we really are.

      Then I go on with my day as if I had not thought that. But its psychic residue clings like a film of rank tar.

  28. Daniel Coffey says:

    Excellent piece, Joe. Excellent!

  29. Paul Magnus says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/john-boehner-obama_n_2790558.html

    The GOP are imposing a necessary austerity which is reducing emissions in the US and around the world….

    wow.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      They know not what they do? ME

    • Superman1 says:

      Kevin Anderson states our only hope is through ‘planned austerity’. The GOP cuts will insure that. Ergo, the GOP inadvertantly have become the real climate hawks. Tim Garrett states that global economic collapse is required. A few more GOP budget cuts, and we’ll be on our way. I guess that’s the free-market approach to solving the over-population problem.

      • Joe Romm says:

        Not my view at all. Anderson is simply wrong. Garrett too.

        • Superman1 says:

          Anderson is wrong in that he under-estimates the depths of the recession/depression required. It’s too late for a soft landing on this one; hard bumps are required to keep from going off the runway!

      • prokaryotes says:

        “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

        But if we look into history, civilization collapse is a very common. Though today we think of our self more advanced, yet if you attribute the Fermi Paradox you can fully map it to climate change. The world we designed is based on technology which destroys us.

        If you got a scale and you put 100% is advanced then i rate the human species in the 10th.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        It will be unfair and unjust ‘austerity’ hitting the poorest and weakest hardest, while the parasites party on. As the Greenspan free money bubble inflated during the noughties, more than a few non-moronic economic observers saw the crash coming. That part was easy as financial speculative bubbles always end in tears, and this was the biggest in history, put into hyper-drive by derivatives and computerisation. The really clued-in types, in addition, saw the looming depression as just that pre-planned serendipitous opportunity the Right had been waiting decades for to destroy every single public and ‘collectivist’ institution, and return society to the feudal ideal that they have always preferred, and which had to be put into abeyance for over 100 years out of fear of socialism. Now, with nothing to stop them, they are having the time of their lives, as decades and generations of frustrated class hatred have their day of vengeance and retribution. People habitually, I have found, tragically underestimate just how deeply the Right despise others, not comprehending the power of radical hatred as an existential fuel.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      The Green blog was popular, too, but the oil companies and auto advertisers didn’t like it.
      The Times is now a worthless rag, along with the rest of our newspapers and network TV.

  30. J4zonian says:

    In fact the “5 stages as sequential necesaries” thing was given up decades ago by psychologists. It’s generally recognized that not only Climate Hawks but everyone grieving anything goes through a mixed process of these and other tasks (not stages): in order; out of order; back and forth and around in spirals as they peel back the onion layers of deeper and deeper emotional levels.

    Great to begin the discussion by talking about this this way. Thanks, Joe. One little quibble; I’m not sure I’d talk about acceptance of data as the start. That’s intellectual acceptance; this is about emotional tasks. Hard to differentiate or separate so I don’t want to start a fight about it, but it seems to me….

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Quite correct about the stages, ME

    • Carol says:

      J4—thank you for your contribution to this blog.
      You have brilliantly honed in on the root of the dysfunction (courtesy human beings) that is destroying life on earth.
      Are you a psychologist?

  31. Merrelyn Emery says:

    My original comment appears to have died in moderation utero (no worries Joe) so briefly: perhaps we can’t believe we will commit collective suicide because we won’t. Not all countries are ruled by corrupt or magical-thinking megalomaniacs and not all populations are persuaded by deniers. Read the international entrails carefully in 2013, ME

  32. Merrelyn Emery says:

    We don’t believe we are suicidal because most aren’t and neither is every member of the elites, ME

  33. Lore says:

    It’s just that Climate Hawks are beginning to realize, that along with them, the rest of the human race is going the way of the Climate Passenger Pigeon. Actually the fate of these birds is rather similar to ours.

    Martha, thought to be the world’s last Passenger Pigeon, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo. I wonder if the last person will know they are the end of the line before they lay their body down?

  34. Kelli says:

    The article actually fails to mention that the very science thats improved our lives has also ruined them. Afterall, its the advance technology of the automobile that has caused global warming on a scale never seen before. Perhaps you put too much trust in science without looking at the major downsides.

    But yes I agree that its time to get out of denial and do something.

    • Superman1 says:

      “Perhaps you put too much trust in science without looking at the major downsides.” But, that’s exactly what you’re seeing from the Carnival Barkers on this site, who push advanced technology as a solution rather than the lower-tech reduction in demand. ‘Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen, and buy my bottle of solar conversion oil, and you can drink and eat all you want, and have Eternal Health.’

  35. Ernest says:

    Or one of the stages in grieving is questioning our assumptions. One assumption is that humanity is rational and can act rationally on its long term behalf. But in reality, local short term forces may be more powerful, such as short term survivalism and economic interest.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      It is only those economists who cleverly manage to avert their eyes from the behaviour of real people who make such silly assumptions and look where their dominance over policy choices has gotten us, ME

  36. Joan Savage says:

    Kubler-Ross wrote about the emotional acceptance (nod to J4zonian) of one’s personal future.

    Regarding climate change, the challenge for me has been to emotionally accept a higher degree of personal uncertainty about my own future or my children’s.

    It’s less like the closing of options by death, and more like a proliferation of a nauseating complexity of choices that refuse to die!

    If we can get an emotional grip on living with personal uncertainty (and there are ways…) it would be a great gift.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Very interesting Joan, a benefit of a multicultural blog. It has never occurred to me that there was any certainty about my future in terms of life expectancy or that of my children, ME

  37. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    Good luck with your health. The world needs you. Thanks for all you do.

  38. Greatgrandma Kat says:

    Some days it is so hard to believe that we could let this happen, that the human race will allow the destuction of our lovely livable climate and with it the future of our spieces. Other days I know in my gut that we will, that all the wonderful things I have experianced in my long life will not be here for future generations. Than I go back to teaching our young ones how to live a sustainable life with hope and love, it’s how I fight through the pain and anger.

  39. David Goldstein says:

    Hey all: frequent and devoted CP commenter here. I just now got a climate change article published over at Huffington Post. It somehow relates to this article. Of course, I would be thrilled if CP wanted to feature it. Here is the url for the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidgoldstein/our-challenge-point_b_2798788.html?utm_hp_ref=climate-change

    • Superman1 says:

      Two approaches to addressing the ‘fever’. Use a ‘treatment’ to attenuate the symptom, or remove the cause (if you know it) and eliminate the symptom. The Carnival Barkers on this site focus on the first approach; to save civilization, we need the second.

      • fj says:

        Yep, net zero, carbon free and restore critical natural systems immediately at wartime speed.

  40. BillD says:

    It has a lot to how we view relationships with future humans. I know that climate change is an immediate crisis, but most people don’t seem to know that what we are setting in motion will continue to get worse for over 10,000 years. Eventually, much of the most valuable land will be under the sea, but it will take a long time to play out. The cost for our generation to greatly improve the future is miniscule compared to the costs that future generations will incur just to survive.

    • Dennis Tomlinson says:

      And that is the great intergenerational moral crisis that we face, and have thus far failed to address. I feel we no longer have a choice between a good future and a bad one, but we most certainly have cards to play influencing degrees of badness. JMHO, as always…

    • Superman1 says:

      “future generations”. What ‘future generations’? If we reach the 5-6 C temperatures predicted before century’s end, maybe much before, there aren’t going to be any future generations. Lynas and many others have addressed this point in detail.

  41. prokaryotes says:

    Though i think i had it all but adjusted to some sort of pragmatism and hang on to some illusion of hope.

    It’s probably a civilization ending event we approaching. Though i progress with my every day life as always. If i have time and in the mood i update my blog climateforce.net and website climateststate.com or contribute to some discussions.

    That is all i can do, probably won’t save us, lol.

  42. prokaryotes says:

    My recipe for people who worry to much, go and dance on some party and enjoy your life while we still can.

  43. J.C. says:

    Empirical evidence could be argued to have had its day in the sun. There seems to be little in our evolutionary development to prepare our psyche to contemplate a fate of not being, let alone a history of holding ourselves responsible timely enough to make a difference. Whatever action one engages in, supplementing oneself with a Plan B may be worth considering as well. The upcoming drought of 2013 may be useful in ushering more folks to the table of rational thought, or it may only point folks towards more environmentally benign disconnects. I would defer to Nature to do the heavy lifting when it comes to preparing the “listener” for what its worth.
    p.s. 350.org. removed this post from their site, I’m guessing it was because I used the term plan B. Inherent in the argument that we still have time to make a difference is the opposite conclusion. If anyone can look at Jennifer Francis recent talk on climate change and pause 13:30 or so into it, and soak in the story about to be told, and you will understand why I’m found of saying I like to be wrong. So, for your psyche sake allow the stardust under your management time to stare back at the sun and feel connected, but don’t call it plan B. Not around 350.org anyway. ( and I will be planting trees and spreading home made Terra Preta on them till my last breath) for what its worth…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xugAC7XGosM

  44. SecularAnimist says:

    With all the tremendous respect that’s due to Joe, and moreover with deep sympathy for the impact of the medical crisis that he’s going through, I have to say that I don’t find this bit of “pop psychology” — trying to map the “five stages of grief” to attitudes towards global warming — to be particularly valid, enlightening, or helpful.

    Whatever emotions any of us may experience don’t matter. They are irrelevant. What DOES matter, and what IS relevant, is WHAT WE DO EACH DAY AND EVERY DAY.

    So what exactly are we all doing on this comment thread? Whining?

    And the “pop psychology” of this article has given a handful of regular commenters another opportunity to trot out their boilerplate slogans of despair, futility and hopelessness, which have effect (and probably no purpose) but to demoralize people.

    In particular, the repeated suggestion that nothing is worth doing, that no plan is worth implementing, unless it can be “proved” that it will reduce emissions in time to prevent some unspecified disastrous outcome, is nonsense. It’s a recipe for doing NOTHING, and as with the rhetoric of despair that’s probably the point.

    The plain fact is that there are too many unknowns to be able to prove that ANY course of action will have any particular outcome. And that is exactly ZERO reason for failing to implement all of the numerous solutions that we already have in hand, as aggressively and rapidly as possible.

    To take the analogy with disease that’s the premise of this article, it’s as though a cancer patient demands “proof” that a course of treatment will result in a total cure, and when told that it is impossible to “prove” to a mathematical certainty what the outcome of any treatment will be, he refuses all treatment.

    • Superman1 says:

      As usual, a potpourri of false analogies, flawed logic, and invective. Your last paragraph should be about a lung cancer patient who is examining treatment options with his Doctor. The Doctor tells him he can’t guarantee any treatment will save him, but the first step is to give up the three-pack-a-day habit. Then, we can discuss treatments.

  45. Sasparilla says:

    Great post Joe, I share these stages (as others have noted bouncing back and forth amongst them)….

    Great post just for the community driven comments its generating as well.