Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Friday, June 28, 2013

Signs of change: are you ready for the great transition?

Signs of change are accumulating, but most people still are not taking notice

By Alexander Ac

Is Homo sapiens a truly serious evolutionary project? And with that I mean sustainable, are we able to sustain  all what we have done and built; constructions, networks, and  knowledge into a (distant) future? Can we choose a dramatically different path that we are currently on?

There are many people thinking deeply and constantly about sustainability, global problems, overpopulation, deforestation, overfishing, soil erosion, air pollution... and on top of everything climate change; since it is a survival issue for our species. But the real question is not whether a certain number of people think about sustainability and try to live accordingly. The real question is whether we (will) do so collectively. In other words, it is not important what 50 000 people do for few hours per day (e.g. protesting Keystone pipeline), but important is what 7 billion people do for 365 days per year.

We can see that the great change from Hunters and gatherers to Agricultural societies was enabled by a stable local climate and predictable weather (and crop yields!) during the last 12 000 years. At the end of the last Ice Age, this planet was inhabited by not more than 20 000 people. We do not really want to leave the Holocene behind us.

Look carefully at the two following graphs:

Fig. 1.: The upper graph shows that we are rapidly leaving behind the Holocene temperatures. The lower graph shows that this Holocene period is exceptionally steady in the 100 000 years of temperature record from Central Greenland. Some people confuse it with global temperature record, which is not the case.

Now, the latest speech of president Obama might sound optimistic for some scientists, and even if the promises are fullfilled, which is highly questionable given the past, consider also the following graph:

Fig. 2. You do not need to be a mathematician, or to fit an exponential function to see that this rate of debt increase is not sustainable. Planet resources will not allow to repay all the debts we have created. Source: St Louis FED. Effect of planet Earth is added for illustrative purpose.

In the graph you can see the Total Credit Market Debt Owed in the USA. The same country in which Obama promised to (finally) solve climate crisis. This is not meant to criticise president Obama. This is to show what we are collectively doing. Everyone with a mortgage, or almost any other type debt is claiming exponentially growing demand on our finite planet resources. How is that compatible with declining carbon footprint?

Debt is basically a claim on the future (energy) resources. So if we are to repay ALL debts, we need to continue in the exponential growth. If we are not going to repay all debts, debt deflation is upon us. And hyperinflation later on. Well, its already happening, despite the ultra-loose monetary policy and "money-printing" (can-kicking experiments), which is in exact opposite to what needs to be done in order to solve climate change and other sustainability related problems. But you will not hear it from monetarists like Ben Bernanke or Paul Krugman.

Of course debt deflation means huge economic problems and social unrest. Again, this is already happening. But it is also a solution for the climate change problem. At least until it lasts. We need to get rid off bad debt, and use good debt to transition away from fossil fuels and climate chaos.

Are we ready for that?


  1. Thanks Alex, great post and I really liked the video. "Are we ready for that"? Unfortunately the answer is NO and we have very little time left to get ready and in particular if all 7 billions need to do so "collectively". Personally I would be happy enough if a critical mass of leaders (governmental and corporate) got the message and starting doing something other than the usual dissembling and delaying. (and deflecting and deceiving) (just to add a couple more d's) With time the remaining 7 billions might catch on and come on board. And in particular since future videos much like the great one above will be coming out frequently showing ever more dramatic events. Things are marginally easier (for climate change activists) recently since observable facts on the ground speak for themselves and are generally more convincing to most people than even the best scientific findings and analyses. But the graphs above are good too and the two approaches in combination are even better. Getting rid of the bad debt? Austerity will NOT work, growing the economy cannot work, so that basically leaves just default and hyperinflation. And only after that maybe good debt to finance the transition away from fossil fuels. A lot of things that need to happen and not much time.

  2. reminds me to Dept last 5000 years from graeber. it is essential to invent with a new economy model to fight climate change. maybe as guy mcpherson recommends, we have to bring down industrial civilication! so no other solution is possible now...