Hypocrisy and Climate

The current Conservative government is now considering plans that are even more extensive: reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.

It’s cute but utterly irrelevant. Who cares what tiny little UK does when China is industrializing and India and Africa are preparing to industrialize. The main challenge for environmentally concerned is how to convince the Chinese, the Indians and the Africans not to want the same standard of living and the same level of consumption as the West.

You can’t solve a problem that you don’t name. And the issue surrounded by the greatest amount of hypocrisy is climate change. I don’t like what anybody has to say on climate because it’s all dishonest and skirting around the issue. The real problem is that the planet can’t afford to let everybody living on it to industrialize like the West did and reach the same levels of consumption. It doesn’t sound cute, so nobody wants to say it but that’s precisely what it is.

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14 thoughts on “Hypocrisy and Climate”

  1. ” Who cares what tiny little UK does ”

    I think the idea is something like ‘noblesse oblige’ where prosperous industrial countries are supposed to set a good example…. but I think it just reinforces the idea that industrialization has to be achieved before any thought can be given to the environment.
    Meanwhile, the UK (and the rest of the west) is caught in the same old economic paradigm which requires any industrial downsizing has to be offset by ‘growth’ in other sectors… which brings it right back to zero and does nothing about the giant third world elephant in the room…

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  2. Who cares what tiny little UK does when China is industrializing and India and Africa are preparing to industrialize. The main challenge for environmentally concerned is how to convince the Chinese, the Indians and the Africans not to want the same standard of living and the same level of consumption as the West.

    I’d have to look up the stats but Westernized countries consume more in proportion to their size than the countries and continent you mention. I remember seeing that Americans represent 5% of the world’s population but 20% of its fossil fuel consumption. Complicating this is the fact that a lot of the recyclables and trash get shipped to the developing world.

    The UK definitely is important, if only symbolically, because the UK built their industrial revolution on the backs and raw materials of their former colonies.

    The real environmental challenge is to convince developed nations to reduce their standard of living and level of consumption. Yes, I can hear the screaming about how this is even more of a non-starter. SUVs are still super popular. On the beaches here there’s no recycling pickup in condos. Trump acts like he’s going to revive the coal industry and fracking is responsible for the North Dakota boom. Imagine the shrieking if you had to wait 20 minutes for your water to heat up for you take a shower… or a bucket bath. Imagine being hot and sweaty because well you’re not air conditioning Florida and the Southwest to Anarctic levels. Ever been in a car with an air conditioner that conks out before your face? Or that doesn’t have one at all? Most buildings aren’t designed for cross ventilation or to conserve heat.

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    1. That’s exactly what I’m saying, though. Only a small percentage of people on the planet have the post-industrial standard of living, and even that’s unsustainable. What if everybody else wants to have it, too? Then what?

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      1. And yeah, I’ve been in cars with no conditioning and no heating. I’ve lived in a big city with no running water for three months. I’ve lived through several Ukrainian winters (the climate is like in Montreal) with no heating or electricity for days at a time. And no hot water in summer at all. I had no idea what air conditioning was before I moved to Canada. This is why Ukrainians respond with rage when the environment is mentioned. Nobody wants to live this way. Everybody wants the Western standard of living.

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  3. The earth is itself is (somewhat of) a living soul in its own right, and will respond accordingly if/when overwhelmed and pushed to its limits (wildfires and turbulent weather patterns anyone?).
    It’ll balance itself out any way it has to, even at the expense of reducing populations of species and humans if and whn necessary.

    As for the lifestyle of the west—it’s pretty much a general consensus it’s artificial and stoic anyway, kind of fraudulent to begin with.

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  4. Unfortunately, I think you are right. The fundamental issue is too many humans and not enough planet. Overpopulation is not something we are allowed to discuss, just as anything less than open borders makes you a default racist these days.

    There will not be a way to halt the industrialization of China, India, and Africa and without this, the fight against climate change is probably futile. Asking Westerners to reduce their standard of living is a political non-starter as well and unworkable for other sociocultural reasons. There’s no going back, and forward is a likely slow-motion cataclysm.

    Well, the future should be interesting.

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    1. I also think it’s very unfortunate but what’s the point of lying to ourselves? This is the most serious issue of our times and it makes no sense to get all prissy about it.

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    2. I selfishly hope these countries would do something about their air quality because I would like to breathe freely when I visit.

      But whoops, that involves getting on a plane. More air pollution!

      If my hometown had the same air quality during my childhood as it did during its industrial heyday, I’m certain I’d have asthma, at the very least.

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  5. I don’t believe the meme that says that our standard of living is unsustainable. There is plenty of wind power, not to mention solar power, available on the planet to eliminate fossil fuel use completely and still bring everyone to the European and American standard of living. This is true even without any improvements in energy efficiency; energy efficiency improvements will help even more. It only takes the will to bring about a massive shift in how things are done.

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    1. Great point. One thing that could help is if highly industrialized countries invest more in renewable energy and then transfer that technology to less industrialized countries at subsidized cost. This would be a good solution not only for climate change but also issues of global disparity. (Countries like India are always complaining about colonial and neo-liberal drain of wealth.)

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      1. Of course there is this ongoing notion of using waste and garbage from landfills as energy sources a la their decomposing elements emitting gasses which can potentially be transformed into various forms of energy.
        Panaceas are plentiful in the wondrous world of idealism.

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      2. Make your packaging out of recycleable materials. Something like 90% of an old car can be recycled, why can’t that be done for packaging?

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