More on Ecomodernist Snakeoil

The Ecomodernist Manifesto is, in my opinion, a cleverly designed marketing tool to allow continued exploitation of extractive energy and mineral resources while encouraging damaging intensive agricultural practices that ignore the limits of soil recovery. There are many messages about how technology will save us all, but on climate change and global ecological challenges, they espouse the following: “Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives

At least some of the authors of the manifesto have serious doubts that the current scientific conclusions from climate studies are accurate enough to warrant spending money on mitigation. They base this uncertainty on a variety of ideas, but primarily that the variability of observations combined with the probability predictions in climate models suggest the sensitivity of the planet is much lower than most climate scientists claim. In addition, they argue that the various scenarios of catastrophic melting or increased temperatures are either unlikely or in the distant future when new innovative technology will come to the rescue – just as it always has in the past.

To emphasize this point, they go on to say that: “Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge. By this we mean that even dramatic limits to per capita global consumption would be insufficient to achieve significant climate mitigation. Absent profound technological change there is no credible path to meaningful climate mitigation. While advocates differ in the particular mix of technologies they favor, we are aware of no quantified climate mitigation scenario in which technological change is not responsible for the vast majority of emissions cuts.

Well, of course! If the main source of the carbon on the atmosphere that is causing the problem comes from the use of fossil fuels then the obvious solution is to change the energy source that contains the carbon, or extract the carbon before it gets into the atmosphere. And yes those are technological changes. Illogically, they eschew the sensible notion of using as many non-carbon sources as possible to tackle the problem now, and instead say we should wait for nuclear power (fission or fusion) and we should wait for carbon capture techniques which have yet to be developed. Their rationale? Green energy sources such as wind, geothermal, wave and tidal, or solar energy sources, they claim are a waste of money and won’t scale up to meet the energy demands of the world. To quote them: “The scale of land use and other environmental impacts necessary to power the world on biofuels or many other renewables are such that we doubt they provide a sound pathway to a zero-carbon low-footprint future.

Well, so what? There is almost never a single solution to a complex problem. At least if we use what technology we currently have they will make a dent if we start now. But no … they argue we should drive forward with coal, oil, and gas continuing to add carbon to the atmosphere without hesitation. They glibly announce that: “Transitioning to a world powered by zero-carbon energy sources will require energy technologies that are power dense and capable of scaling to many tens of terawatts to power a growing human economy. Most forms of renewable energy are, unfortunately, incapable of doing so.” Many scientists and technologist disagree. In fact in the ecomodernist’s own opening remarks, they note that the sun’s energy is for many centuries more than adequate to power our collective needs. Is that a paradox? Or is there something slightly dishonest in the presentation?

Then with an almost audible sniff of hubris, they imbue our collective society with what I presume is their own selfish and short term ideals. Although they claim our climate and ecological problems are technological (I disagree), they instead frame their (and predict our) collective responses will be similarly short-sighted and selfishly political and economic: “…any conflict between climate mitigation and the continuing development process through which billions of people around the world are achieving modern living standards will continue to be resolved resoundingly in favor of the latter.

Nonsense! Ridiculously simple binary logic in this situation is totally meaningless. Returning to a cave man existence is not the only alternative to solving the global warming problem. There is nothing inconsistent with modern living standards and achieving climate mitigation.

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