The Long Emergency, part two.

The concluding extract from James Kunstler’s powerful book.

Last Friday, I published the first part of the extract that so powerfully articulated the madness of present global policies (especially US policies) with regard to oil.  Let me continue.

The first part finished thus, “Yet, I was not soothed by these thoughts, nor by the free eats, and even the liquor failed to lift me up because I couldn’t shake the recognition that in the short term we are in pretty serious trouble, too.”

There is near unanimity among the scientific community that global warming is happening.  There is also a definite consensus emerging that the term “climate change” may be more accurate than “global warming” to describe what we are in for.  The mean temperature of the planet is going up.  The trend is unmistakable.  Average global land temperature was 46.90 degrees Fahrenheit [Ed. 8.278 °C.] when modern measurements began and had reached 49.20 degrees F [Ed. 9.556 °C.] in 2003.  The rate of change has also increased steadily.  The total increase of 2.30 degrees might seem trivial, but has tremendous implications.  And the rise in temperature happens to correlate exactly with the upward scale of fossil fuel use since the mid-nineteenth century.

It may not matter anymore whether global warming is or is not a by-product of human activity, or if it just represents the dynamic disequilibrium of what we call “nature.”  But it happens to coincide with our imminent descent down the slippery slope of oil and gas depletion, so that all the potential discontinuities of that epochal circumstance will be amplified, ramified, reinforced, and torqued by climate change.  If global warming is a result of human activity, fossil fuel-based industrialism in particular, then it seems to me the prospects are poor that the human race will be able to do anything about it, because the journey down the oil depletion arc will be much more disorderly than the journey up was.  The disruptions and hardships of decelerating industrialism will destabilize governments and societies to the degree that concerted international action – such as the Kyoto protocols or anything like it – will never be carried out.  In the chaotic world of diminishing and contested energy resources, there will simply be a mad scramble to use up whatever fossil fuels people can manage to lay their hands on.  The very idea idea that we possess any control over the process seems to me further evidence of the delusion gripping our late-industrial culture – the fatuous certainty that technology will save us from the diminishing returns of technology.

So for the purposes of this book, the relevant question concerning global warming and climate change is not whether human beings caused  it or whether we will come up with some snazzy means to arrest it, but simply what the effects are likely to be and what they signify about the way we will live later on this century.

This extract from the book was published in 2005, although there is an Afterword included that was published in 2009.  So to bring things more up to date, here’s a video of James Kunstler speaking about peak oil just about a year ago.

In this fourth video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation magazine and On The Earth Productions, James Howard Kunstler discusses how finance and energy are running neck and neck to fuel the end of advanced industrial civilization.

For more videos in the series, visit The Nation.

Plus for those that are interested in the data of global land-surface temperatures, here’s a two-minute video showing the temperature change over the last 200 years.

For more information about this study visit Berkeley Earth video representation of the land surface temperature anomaly, 1800 to the present. The map of the world shows the temperature anomaly by location over time. The chart at the bottom, shows the global land-surface temperature anomaly. The Berkeley Earth analysis shows 0.911 degrees Centigrade of land warming (+/- 0.042 C) since the 1950s.

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