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Climate Doomerism as a Viable Form of Activism

Li-An Lim Unsplash

Recently, I was asked by a reporter, why I started The Doomer's Cafe? My training and experience is in education. I’m not a climate scientist or even a climate science journalist. I’m just an ordinary guy that has stumbled upon some stark truths. These ideas need to be told. The question I’ve asked myself many times is: “If not me, who?” If not now, when? Somebody needs to voice these unpleasant truths into the realm of public discourse. Not too many people are doing it. So, at some personal risk I’ve decided to speak out into the void and see what answers are returned back.

What exactly are these truths? As recently spoken in his address at Cop 27 by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres:

“The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives. And, we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Temperatures keep rising. And, our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

Explicitly, there are three main truths. The first that is slowly being acknowledged on the political left by notables such as Noam Chomsky is that modern industrial civilization is in danger of collapse. The second, which is still viewed as too extreme to discuss, is the real possibility that the human race itself is in danger of extinction. Generally, people are so turned off by hearing this that they will tune you out immediately. In my view, this is a dangerous mistake. Finally, the third main truth is the world’s current plan of a slow and steady renewables transition to ‘solve’ the climate crisis is extremely inadequate. We are on the path to disaster.

Here is a summary of the state of public discourse on the climate crisis. The political right have recently generally acknowledged human-caused climate change, but don’t see a climate emergency. They view the left as exaggerating it for personal and political gain. The left believes there is a human caused climate emergency. But, they believe it can be solved by a quick transition away from fossil fuels to renewables such as solar and wind.

Then, there is a very small but growing community that realizes that policy emerging from either mainstream view will invariably lead to societal collapse and/ or extinction of the human race. These are the climate alarmists or pejoratively referred to as doomists or doomers. That is why I titled my website The Doomer’s Cafe. I admit it’s a little tongue and cheek. Who says you shoudn't joke about the apocalyse? It is important to say that UN Secretary Antonio Guterres is a strong advocate for a renewables transition. I agree with him that “the clock is ticking” and that “we are on a highway climate to hell.” However, I completely disagree with his solutions.

As the biosphere continues to break down, right before our eyes, I'm frustrated by the response of some of the most prominent climate activists. 2022 might go down as the year the climate 'flipped' from the Holocene epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age to the Anthropocene epoch, the year when climate hell started to break loose. It's Nov 14th, 2022 at the time of this writing and we've had record-breaking heat waves cook the UK, China, India and Pakistan, with a monsoon flooding about a third of Pakistan under water, affecting over 33 million people. Temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) for prolonged periods in several areas, and even broke 122 F (50 C) in Jacobabad, Pakistan, in May. Deadly storms such as Typhoon Merbok that slammed Alaska, Hurricane Fiona, which devastated Atlantic Canada, and Hurricane Ian, which demolished Florida were all record setting, exeedingly rare, once in a generation storms. We have also seen, summer temperatures in Novemeber in China and Europe. Record temperatures are being set continuously and plants are confused. They are budding signalling the beginning of spring. Except, we are just about to start winter!

These are just the highlights, there has been far more record setting droughts, floods, wildfires, and heatwaves in this triple dip La Lina year where temperatures are supposed to be cool. NOAA data indicate this summer tied for the fifth warmest worldwide in 143 years of records, and the Northern Hemisphere experienced its second-warmest summer on record. It seems that we have once in a century or once in a millenia weather events every other week. It's unreal, and we still have a few months to go.

The clock on a habitable climate is ticking and the response of the mainstreams climate scientists, NGOs and communicators is the same old tired drum beat 'fossil fuels must go' as they are killing the planet. We need to replace oil, gas and coal with 'clean, renewable energy.' Fossil fuel companies are 'evil', governments that subsidize them are evil, the reason we haven't switched to renewables such as solar and wind is all politics and greed. If it were only that simple! It's not, it's much worse than that. We need to speak the truth. The truth is scary enough. The truth is doom. It is my contention that we need climate doomerism as part of the spectrum of climate activism to hasten change.

What is climate doomerism? Climate doomerism is clear-eyed realism in regards to the overall state of the biosphere. It’s what happens when one spends some time connecting the dots. Many climate scientists are siloed in their various areas of expertise. They are also confined to thinking and speaking in very precise, rigorous and accurate ways as is demanded by their profession. For example, climate change is a term defined as long term changes in weather and temperature patterns. Thus, since C02 is the primary greenhouse gas that drives climate change the answer is to stop emitting C02.

Most mainstream climate scientists advocate for a renewable transition as it seems to ‘solve’ climate change. However, if we fly up high enough we realize that the breakdown of the environment goes far beyond C02 emission from the ostensibly evil fossil fuel companies and the politicians in their pockets. The Living Planet Report 2022 published biannually by the WWF reveals that global wildlife populations have declined 69% on average since 1970. We are currently in the 6th mass extinction. Believe it or not, humans are animals too. Like any animal, we can go extinct.

The current level of C02 at the time of this writing is about 420 ppm. The last time the earth experienced this level of C02 was the Mid Pliocene. Global temperature averages were between 2C and 3C higher than today. It is my belief that this is where we are headed. The oceans have absorbed around 90% of the excess solar energy trapped by the greenhouse gasses we have emitted into the atmosphere. There is a lot of solar energy moving through the pipeline so to speak. Climate doomerism is about connecting the dots. We are losing our biodiversity. The climate is heating up. The oceans are acidifying. We are losing our natural carbon sinks. We are losing the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. We are losing the glaciers and the Arctic Sea Ice. It’s all happening at once. What are we doing about it? Not a whole lot. Thus, I believe it is time for the honesty of climate doomerism to be voiced in the public square. My hope is that it will lead to thinking beyond the current mainstream solutions of more solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear power plants.

We have to know better to do better. It’s important that our experts and leaders level with us on the problems we are facing. In order to solve the problem, the problem needs to be clearly defined. If climate change is defined as too much C02, then the solution is obviously to reduce C02, thus a renewables transition makes sense. If climate change is defined as a symptom of ecological overshoot, when human demand exceeds the regenerative capacity of the natural ecosystem. Then, we are going to have to think about solutions beyond reducing C02. In my view, this is a better, more holistic approach.

On the other hand, we don’t want to encourage learned helplessness either. Baby elephants are tied to posts when they are young. They try and try to escape but to no avail. When the elephant is an adult they now have the strength to pull the post from the ground. They don’t even try because experience has taught them that there is no point in even trying. This is something we need to avoid. We need open and frank communication without getting into the realm of nihilism. There are many things we can do to lessen the effects of the breakdown of the environment. However, the things we can do might be radically different than the current thinking of plastering solar panels and wind turbines absolutely everywhere. I'll leave it at that for now.

There are some prominent people in the climate movement who believe that there is no place for climate doomerism as it is seen as pandering to fossil fuel interests and to apathy. In fact, I've heard these criticisms personally. Einstein has a famous quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Take a look at the chart above from the Scripps Institution of Oceonagraphy Mauna Loa Observatory. This is what the status quo of climate advocacy has produced. It's nothing to be proud about. Note, that doomism has only been around for only a few years. If you look at the policies of governments around the world who are issuing fossil fuel drilling licenses like candy it is clear that a new approach is badly needed. Oil and gas companies are planning frightening fossil fuels growth. Moroever, Cop 27 being sponsored by the world’s worst plastic polluter Coca Cola is all you need to know. It is clear that the current modes of activism are failing. We need to change that,

Here is a little piece of evidence to support the climate doomism view:

The White House is embarking on a 5 year study of ways to “modify the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth in order to temporarily temper the effects of global warming.” This was once thought as pure science fiction. This as an 'experiment gone wrong’ is the backdrop of the TV series Snowpiercer. I believe that this type of climate mitigation is only a few years to decades away from being deployed at scale. The US government has connected the dots. So, have climate doomists. It's time to talk about it.

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