Chad wants to know what I think should be done about global warming. I sound fairly doom and gloom here I know and I think Chad may be thinking about a biblical type response. If we are already screwed like I seem to imply, isn't the best answer to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?
My personal opinion is that this is true for a lot of people. For people that live in some poorer countries, their fate is basically sealed. They are dead, and it will be a painful death. How many are we talking? Tough to say, but my guess is millions will die. This is not a prediction, just my own vague sense of what will happen. Obviously this could be wrong. But I think millions are already lost. If we collectively made the decision today to do everything we could to stop this, we would still lose something on the order of a few million. You can't just put the brakes on in an instant. We've developed some momentum and I think that momentum will kill a lot of people.
The question we are addressing now is how many do we want to see die? Tens of millions? Hundreds of millions? A billion? How many species should we drive to extinction, often not knowing what the consequences will be? This is the question we answer with our inaction. We could continue down this path long enough that a billion people would die. If we finally do decide to take action, what would our response look like?
In my opinion one form it could take is like what the US did in response to WWII. From the top down the entire population was mobilized striving to achieve the same goal. Victory in this war. This is like a war too. Environmental catastrophe that could kill us too, not just the poor, if it continues apace.
During WWII our government directed industry. They told them exactly what they would produce and what they would pay their workers. They told people exactly how much they could eat. They limited consumption so that the maximum amount of resources could be directed towards the war effort. For us to beat this back I can't think of any other way to do it.
The capitalists will of course flip out at this notion, tell you it's un American, tell us that it's a limit on freedom. It is a limit on freedom. Your freedom to ruin the environment is killing people today, so that freedom would have to be constrained. Republicans think that will be a miserable existence, but all the data show (and I know Republicans don't care for data or facts) that you really don't derive happiness by fulfilling these needs that capitalism creates for you. You're actually not happier in a larger house, with a bigger car, and with that boat. Generally speaking losing these things won't make you less happy, provided your basic needs are met.
Returning to a command economy is pretty radical of course, as was the war effort. But if there's another way to tackle this problem I'd love to hear it. We do have to cool this planet and it doesn't really seem like there is profit in that, so it won't be done following free market principles. We also do have to get people to consume less, because it is that consumption and the energy required to produce those goods that creates the gasses that are going to kill and have already killed so many. How can this be achieved without something like the WWII war effort? Profit seekers want that consumption to continue, and there's no other way I can see to compel them to back down except government.
Here's what I see happening. As in the war the government will have to direct a segment of our population to work on meeting basic needs. Food, health care, shelter, and clothing. To minimize the number of people required to do this we have to ask people to go shake hands with their neighbors and learn to share. Instead of everybody living in their home like it's an island, why not share our things? Instead of buying a new flat screen TV, why not figure out how to within your community share the many that already exist? Develop community gardens. Raise chickens in the community so as to lessen the burden on those working to provide the basic needs. This frees up others to work to cool this planet. We obviously need the climate scientists to continue to monitor the situation. We need people planting the kind of vegetation that will absorb the greenhouse gases. We need people working on renewable energy. Perhaps we should be spreading cotton sheets across vast swaths of land, particularly land near the equator, to counter act the loss in polar ice and repel solar radiation.
Unnecessary consumption that further contributes to the problem really needs to be halted. We of course have military equipment all over the world burning fossil fuel and an astonishing pace. We have speedboats, RV's, off road vehicles, etc. Leisure devices that contribute in a major way to the problem. Hey, I love 4 wheelers and motorcycles. I don't want to give this stuff up. But we must make choices for the sake of ourselves and our children. We are driving the planet to drought and extinction. Is the joy of your yacht really worth the future of your children? We have to get organized and we need to focus in this goal to achieve it.
One difference between this effort and the war effort is GDP would drop. On capitalist thinking that is of course bad. You need GDP to increase forever. But pursuing that goal is exactly what got us into this state of affairs. We have to think in terms of need. I know conservatives hate that, but that's the path to success. It's got to be about meeting needs, not accumulated the largest collection of wealth. That goal, inherent to capitalism, is in fact the poison that is killing us.