Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

In search of the Lucky Country

with 4 comments

What and where is the Lucky Country?

What and where is the Lucky Country?


Australia likes to call itself “The Lucky Country” but, today, in the fight to see which so-called Developed Country can turn itself into a Third World Nation the fastest, Australia is facing some stiff competition from Canada.

Whilst the rest of the developed world may be tempted to shake their heads and say, “you short-sighted fools”, can anyone actually point to a country on the planet that is not treating the Earth like a business in liquidation?

I think the luckiest countries in the world are probably Iceland and New Zealand; although people affected by the financial meltdown in Reykjavik or the earthquake in Christchurch may wish to disagree with me. Seriously though, it is countries like these, with a wealth of geothermal energy, that may well stand the best chance of achieving carbon-free energy generation in the near to medium term. However, the rest of us will have to find a way to achieve this goal within the next 20 years, or the Earth may end up losing its Goldilocks Planet status. Sadly this will not just be unlucky. In fact luck will not be part of it at all because it will be a travesty; a lasting testament to human folly. A bit embarrassing really; except there will probably not be anybody here to laugh at (or cry about) our crass stupidity, arrogance, and stubbornness (in the face of numerous warnings).

The truth of the matter is this: We live on a finite planet with finite resources but, despite this fact, every country on Earth is fully committed to Growthmania. No-one is willing or able to conceive of an alternative paradigm. Meanwhile, however, reality continues to make its presence felt – Things that were once not a problem (like disposing of waste into rivers, taking fish from the sea, and polluting the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels) are becoming ever more pressing problems solely as a consequence of the scale at which they are being done.

Continual growth in the GDP of the global economy is not sustainable in perpetuity. Growth cannot be the answer to our global debt crisis; and austerity does not seem to be working either. Why is it that economists are so willing to deny the reality of The Second Law of Thermodynamics and/or the concept of Entropy?

Is it really that surprising that the most intractable arguments put forward by climate change deniers are economic ones? Apart from those that want to dispute the reality of ongoing anthropogenic climate disruption, it is economists that are most clearly habituated to denying reality. However, as climate scientists have been saying since at least the late 1950s, we are conducting an enormous geophysical experiment on the Earth’s atmosphere (despite the fact that we have known for over 150 years what the result would be) and, every time we have checked our maths, the predicted result has not changed that much: Ignoring all the positive feedback mechanisms that could trigger a runaway greenhouse effect, the best estimate for equilibrium temperature rise for a doubling of CO2 from pre-Industrial levels (i.e. up to 560ppm) is still somewhere in excess of 2 Celsius.

However, all the evidence suggest that, given that they are already becoming self-evident, positive feedback mechanisms cannot be ignored; making a rise in global average temperature of between 4 and 6 Celsius much more likely. And, as if to add insult to injury, the greater the rise in temperature caused, the more likely that the runaway greenhouse effect that has crippled Venus will be triggered here too.

Clever answers on a postcard please to James Hansen, University of Columbia, New York, NY.

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4 Responses

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  1. How about Norway as a lucky country? Massive hydroelectric power resources, lots of oil (which will make it even richer as oil prices rise), lots of water, highest standard of living in the world, cleanest country in the world and even predicted to become highly conducive for agriculture as temperatures rise. It’s a fun place to live :-)

    But seriously now; the fact is that our democratic systems will not produce a carbon free future before the majority of people are educated about these issues. Sustainable living is much like vegetarianism – you think it is pure self-deprivating madness until you actually do the research. Once the research is done, any sane person would make a total u-turn and see what we are doing now as total madness.

    Unfortunately the general public are not exactly renown for being keen part-time researchers, so I cannot really see us rising in unison to demand a sustainable future. Personally, my hope is on a collapse of our fiat currency system to cure us of growthmania. Just hope the collapse is not too messy.

    Schalk

    7 June 2012 at 14:35

    • Thanks for that. Norway may well be in a good position to embrace a sustainable future but, clearly, it cannot do so unless or until it repudiates its own oil reserves. But let’s be honest, that is never going to happen. It is not just growthmania that is the problem it is unshakable belief that we must burn fossil fuels because they are there – that is the problem.

      Martin Lack

      7 June 2012 at 15:28

    • You can add to your list of reason why Norway is a luck country that they actually have a national goal of producing all their energy from renewable resources by 2050.

      And Martin, if any country can some day repudiate its own oil reserves, it is Norway. I say this because the income from their oil industry does not go into it regular budget. It is set aside – kindof a generational savings account.

      jpgreenword

      10 June 2012 at 00:52


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