The movie Idiocracy portrayed a benign future where the average IQ was very low. The sciences of climate change and human cognition suggest a more malign descent ahead.
Why am I discussing cognitive descent as if it's inevitable? It's not quite, but I subscribe to Nate Hagens take "that we are part of a biologically emergent Superorganism which is de-facto eating the planet."
The more people involved in a decision/process, the more our decisions resemble simple bacterial tropisms which unconsciously move towards energy acquisition.
In the year 2019 C.E. the emergent result of 7.7+ billion hominids living their daily lives is an energy seeking Superorganism, out of control, yet still hungry. This superorganism is not human. It's a thing-in-itself (Ding an sich) with its own survival instincts that override the individual humans that comprise it...
In an economic system dependent on energy to grow, motivating voters to choose to keep carbon in the ground is akin to arguing with a forest fire. Climate change and its mitigation are thus ‘downstream’ of the superorganism.5. [order changed]
When it comes to our global economy, he says, nobody is driving the bus. Our Earth-devouring Superorganism has no brain.
You probably already know that heat stress increases violence, reduces productivity, impairs our ability to think, and causes babies to be born prematurely. I assume you already know that 55% of people live in urban areas. That's projected to rise to 68% by 2050.
In 16 US cities, "They found that during heat waves people living in urban areas experienced temperatures an average of 1.9°C higher than what was forecast. The difference was highest in Salt Lake City, where urban temperatures were 3.8°C higher than predicted." And that's in the temperate zone, folks.
Add carbon dioxide to heat's cognition impairment!
Even at 410ppm CO2 outdoor air, today's indoor concentrations routinely can impair cognitive performance. Mike Wehner sums it up. (first of 3 links above)
For the study, researchers simulated two different future scenarios. In both, students would perform various tasks in rooms where the air has different concentrations of CO2. Based on established data regarding how CO2 impacts cognition, the researchers crunched the numbers and came up with some pretty scary results.
The researchers report that in the first scenario, students were still exposed to so much CO2 that their cognitive abilities were decreased by 25 percent by 2100. In the second, which was the business-as-usual scenario, the students were exposed to so much CO2 when the windows were opened that they experienced a 50 percent reduction in cognitive ability.
In 2019 about 40% of the US is already mentally captured by oligarch-funded alternate reality.
According to Climate Clock 1.5 degree rise will be here in 12 years and 11 months.
"Think of 1.5 degrees not as an absolute line in the sand, but as a general indicator of where many climate impacts – on balance – go from destructive to catastrophic." source
Do you forsee humanity wresting control of the economy and overpopulation from our Superorganism, under catastrophic conditions, with even less cognitive ability to organize and plan than we have now?
From my outsider perspective, our only hope is radical transformation to a civilization of universal transparency, where oligarchs can't hide money or secrets from us not so bright unwashed masses. And internet trolls and bots are exposed.
If you have a strategy, let's hear it.image source
Indeed. The out-of-control Australian wildfires bring up another mental stressor. Particulates, carbon monoxide, and trauma from wildfires compound cognitive impairments of heat, dehydration, and higher CO2. Nobody talks about a collective mental impairment tipping point, where social structures abruptly break down. Mass media and (here) government mis-information and unreason surely are additional stressors of collective mental competence. I'm thinking of the Salem Witch Trials as a case in point, where ergot was later identified as a cause. Is it so far fetched that dreams, hallucinations, and "divine revelations" would become evidence in trials, in our increasingly fact-free society?
And that reminds me of the mayor of Salem correcting tRump on his claim that the Salem witch trial defendants had more due process than he did, where in fact many innocent women were killed.
First, thanks for posting this remarkable article:
Economics for the future – Beyond the superorganism
Author links open overlay panelN.J.Hagens
Get rights and content
Under a Creative Commons license
Volume 169, March 2020, 106520
I have only had a chance to read through a portion of it, but it is in my view heads-and-tails above much of what is written, to try to take a step back and keep our wits about us in the climate change situation we are in. From the little I've read so far, I like several things, including that it quotes the Short History Of Progress, by Wright,... the only other thing that I have read that brings the sort of perspective they have brought here.
I liked this quote at the end:
"[“There is science now to construct the story of the journey we have made on this Earth, the story that connects us with all beings. Right now we need to remember that story — to harvest it and taste it. For we are in a hard time. And it is knowledge of the bigger story that is going to carry us through.” Joanna Macy]"
"A bunch of mildly clever, highly social apes broke into a cookie jar of fossil energy and have been throwing a party for the past 150 years. The conditions at the party are incompatible with the biophysical realities of the planet. The party is about over and when morning comes, radical changes to our way of living will be imposed. Some of the apes must sober up (before morning) and create a plan that the rest of the party-goers will agree to. But mildly clever, highly social apes neither easily nor voluntarily make radical changes to their ways of living. And so coffee and stimulants (credit, etc.) will be consumed during another lavish breakfast, but with the shades drawn. It’s morning already.
"It is likely that, in the not-too-distant future, the size, complexity, and (literal) `burn rate' of our civilization will be much reduced by forces other than human volition. This paper suggests that we will not plan for this outcome – but we could react to it with airbags, social cohesion, an ethos and prepared blueprints based on intelligent (and wise) foresight."
"What aspects of our current world can and should be preserved? What can we do to make the path ahead less painful? How can we nurture ecosystems and species, as well as the great body of human culture and knowledge, so that they can, as far as possible, survive the bottlenecks of the 21 st century? What really, could we aspire to become as a species? Can we use science to guide us from mildly clever to moderately wise? Can we tap into our wiring for group cooperation to align ourselves with a purpose beyond turning trillions of barrels of fossils into microliters of dopamine? What sort of economics will help us ask, research and inform these questions?
Thirty years ago, ecological economics pioneered a systems approach to economics, but unfortunately became dominated by a narrow, micro-focus on ecosystem services, monetary valuation and conventional economics (Plumecocq, 2014). Whatever we’ll call it, we are desperately in need of a set of guideposts and principles that include not only ecology but also biology, psychology, physics and emergent behaviors. This discipline will focus at least as much on 'what we’ll have to do' as on 'what we should do'. And it will apply the evolving knowledge of experts with a view to the maps and charts made by generalists. Ecological economics was shaped as a next step from earlier classical ideologies so as to consider the inclusion of sources and sinks. Over the next 30 years, ecological economics must be both torchbearer for a systems economics and midwife to a smaller flame."
I won't try to criticize or agree in a detailed way on the fly, and I have simply but I will say that at first look I suspect there's much I can agree with in their approach.
- I live in a house that in some ways tries to follow more enlightened sustainable ideas, of this type:
The house was designed with adequate ventilation, but over the years I had run into maintenance issues and the net impact is I have some appreciation for the CO2 indoor air pollution and personal impact referenced in some of your links. I also have a couple of CO2 monitors and even with "fresh air" throughout the house, they serve as a little confirmation of what we read, by not going below 400 or even (if I recall) much below 420, generally.
Ad hoc I'll say, as far as networking and sharing ideas, I've been participating on yahoo groups in a small group there for some years, but yahoo groups has recently either folded up shop or gone so far away from the web that many of us have lost the signal, so the forum leader has set up a new place for discussion here:
I won't try to claim it's all that (there were only a small number of active members in the old group) but maybe it will grow, as it is on new footing.
I do some work relating to clean energy economics, (though I wouldn't claim to be strongly knowledgeable in portions of it). In any event, I have long thought that a way to look at part of the socio-political-economic bottleneck in the US is that we should revisit and radically revise our understanding of whether it is a good useful tool to tax carbon, and whether this is inconsistent with free market economics. Many right-of-center citizen-advocates think that the only appropriate correct approach to the climate change emergency is to advocate for leave-it-to-the-free-market, and that's that. They oppose seeing CO2 as a pollutant, and they oppose taxes, even as a way to restore property rights. That is: they oppose recognizing that massive amounts of damage are being done to property and to lives, and that an appropriate way to address this is to curb, penalize, tax and ultimately eliminate (make illegal) the damaging of property, which means to tax carbon dioxide emissions, and even ultimately to engage in large-scale very expensive global planetary cleanup of the whole matter. Instead, particularly in the US, much of the problem is stopped cold from even being discussed by right-of-center intellectuals mis-characterizing climate change as something that is appropriate as a matter of personal individual virtue, but not something that is appropriate for government intervention. This is, and always has been, and always will be, 100% wrong. If anything was ever appropriate for government intervention, in a well-curated freedom- and individual-liberty and free-markets-oriented system, it is the Carbon pollution problem.
So, the anti-action-on-climate-change usually-right-of-center intellectuals have patronizingly succeeded I think in getting many of the advocates of addressing climate change to be cordoned off in their own little corner of supposed virtue whilest forbidding the one thing that would have helped more than any other, which is recognizing the global pollution problem and having coordinated fully-agreed intervention with all global human behavior to address the problem.
I think this goes beyond the climate change issue - any environmental problem is often, to this day, met by a challenge from mostly-right-wing intellectuals who ignore the real threat to private and public property and health and claim, ***QUITE FALSELY***, that in opposing action on enviornmental matters, they are protecting freedom/capitalism/free-markets/individual-liberty/etc.
In my work I often see countries and intellectuals outside the US who are not as constrained in their policies, business, activities or thinking, and I take some heart in this. The US, taken as a whole, in my view, has for a few decades been going out of its way to cede much of its global leadership
- not only in economics (GDP),
- some ways becoming more "the bad guy" than it used to be (such as finding semi-disingenuous pretexts for military intervention in the affairs of other countries, more than it used to) while losing track of what made it "the good guy" in some ways (such as being a haven for freedom-seeking refugees and making good calls when attacks on human beings around the world did, sometimes, warrant intervention)
- aligning itself with some of the worst groups and causes outside the US, often just simply for short-sighted financial goals, and often failing to prioritize human rights, and even ignoring them).
Anyway, In Environmental Action, the US is in some ways still a leader, and in many ways, not. Examples of the former would be that it has what is arguably the world's leading battery electric vehicle and clean energy manufacturing company. Another is that some US Cities do seem to be trying hard to join with others around the world to take action (though AFAIK they are not doing enough). On the other hand, the effort from within the US to engage in short-term short-sighted seeking of capital preservation at the expense of massive carbon pollution damage responsibilities is something that doesn't need that much explanation. I suppose the effort to walk away from Paris is one example.
So, I've written these things out in order to say that I take heart in the fact that other indivdiuals, companies and countries outside the US are stepping up. It makes sense to me that heroic Greta is from another country. It makes sense to me that the Chinese (for all their own faults) are in some ways leading the electric car revolution. It makes sense to me when I see inumerable efforts (large and small) outside the US to address climate change with the priority it demands (as a life-and-death matter for all people on Earth). I think a smart way for the rest of the world to deal with the hideous and unethical anti-action posture of the US on climate change is to go about their business in all respects, reduce and eliminate and eventually clean up the carbon problem and, arguably, start to present a really big bill to US citizens. They will balk and they will fight it for years or decades, but when a situation is threatened by one or a few massive bully-bad-actors, then, depending on context, maybe sometimes the right approach for others is to keep their wits about them, go about their business, and eventually collectively address the bad actor(s) and make it clear to them what the bad actors will finally have to discover, which is that they're going to have to change their ways. [This way of looking at it might violate some direction of the original article you posted above.... I'm not denying this, but I'm just trying to get at basically I like it when the rest of the world on balance does a better job than the US, and then I hope they come back to this and let the US address things.]
I want to point up something I haven't heard anyone else say: to the extent that the climate change issue can be addressed (people are already dead and property already destroyed, and biodiversity already lost, and so it can never be fully fixed), .... to the extent it can be addressed, it may turn out to be easier than we realize. The fact that some of the worst of climate change is happening more quickly than many scientists had feared (such as the rate of loss of mass of land-ice in Greenland) to me also signals that, if and when we ever do turn our attention to trying to clean things up, perhaps earth balance can be restored. The "ecological elasticity"? Although much has been written about whether it is technology, human practices (including population control, energy use, wars, etc.), both, or neither, that need to change to address climate change, it's only recently that I'm starting to see slightly improved discussion of what I think has long been a key technology gap, which is simply to invent a way to remove CO2 from the ecosystem and find a way to separate the carbon from the O2, probably release the O2 back into the ecosystem, and put the carbon somewhere less damaging, such as in stable combinations with hydrogen or other molecules. Ultimately, if the product is stable (such as a liquid or a solid) much of the product can be pumped back into and stored in holes in the earth from whence it came or used as construction building blocks (such as to shore up coastal cities?), or I'm not sure what. In a sense - I am not sure that putting the genie back in the bottle is going to be the hardest thing here. I think it will be something deeper and more difficult within human socities and individual human beings, as to revising how we think for ourselves, and how we relate to each other. I think the article more gets at the societal revision aspect, but perhaps it also has to do with the individual aspect.
Two other science data comments:
1. It is amazing that this key science data point, for which US taxpayers are paying, has not been updated for non-scientists to read in more than two years:
However, the new satellite data started coming in a awhile ago and while personnel cuts have played a role in the failure to post yet, I'm told that the new data may soon be posted. In the meantime, the partners on the project, in Germany, somehow have found a way to keep us more up to date:
2. Speaking of splitting CO2, a scientific side-note, .... probably not adequately relevant for putting here, but I don't care: I also have not seen an examination of the amount of H2O created in burning fossil fuel hydrocarbons over the last few centuries, and the question of whether this H2O also contributes to sea level rise. I'm wondering if anyone has seen something on that.