The report by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the World Bank said that business as usual will lead to a 6°C global warming over preindustrial levels in about 87 years and 4°C warming by about 2060. Two degrees is the threshold between a dangerous and an extremely dangerous climate. Four degrees will be "Hell on Earth." Six degrees is the temperature of the Permian Extinction, during which 95% of species went extinct. Such speed of change is incomprehensible.

Numbers are saying we stand at a choice point for two likely futures, switch now from fossil fuels to green energy, which is politically impossible, or be engulfed by destruction within 88 years.

Most of history presupposed a stable planet. Destruction limited to infrequent storms, earthquakes, floods or droughts was common sense, and questioning that things would return to normal soon after this temporary drama was literal insanity.

Only a few specialists today, familiar with complex systems, have a gut feeling for the physics of systems with extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. Everyone else thinks of things moving around like a pendulum.

But the real world includes bizarre movement, where things are unstable and can change quickly, like the chaos pendulum.

Because it has built in positive feedbacks, climate seems able to shift like a chaos pendulum when some conditions pass tipping points.

We have very little experience with this type of unpredictable change. Butterfly effect change of THIS magnitude is unknown territory. We've never before destabilized planetary chemistry.

As Bill Hay, University of Colorado geologist puts it,

You would expect negative feedbacks to creep in at some point. But in climate change, every feedback seems to go positive.

He said the reason may be that Earth’s climate seems to have certain stable states. Between those states, things are unstable and can change quickly. We appear to be in a less stable state now. [emphasis mine]

Why sea level is rising faster than predicted

"We appear to be in a less stable state now" is scientist speak for

Who among us can extrapolate from how a little ball bounces around between three magnets on a lab table to an intuition of interacting climate systems?

Even worse, physical changes to Earth also trigger social feedback.

We know how the stock market responds quickly to public perception of an anticipated loss. Yet we fail to anticipate market responses and broader more drastic responses to the ultimate anticipated loss.


Robert Stolorow describes extreme form of existential anxiety -- the anxiety that accompanies our recognition that, as finite human beings, we are constantly threatened by impending possibilities of harm, disease, death and loss, which can occur at any time.

... not just the destruction of individual human beings but of human civilization itself,...

The destruction of human civilization would also terminate the historical process -- the sense of human history stretching along from the distant past to an open future -- through which we make sense out of our individual existences. I want to call the horror that announces such a possibility apocalyptic anxiety. Apocalyptic anxiety anticipates the collapse of all meaningfulness. And it is from apocalyptic anxiety that we turn away when we deny the extreme perils of climate change. [emphasis mine]

I suggest that apocalyptic anxiety might not only affect individuals but also rear its head as collective pathology. Kari Marie Norgaard shows that climate change denial takes many cultural forms. I think that if we take the easy path of self destruction, present climate change denial will be seen as the first stage of a collective pathology, our final madness.

Taking the difficult path to a sustainable future will require unprecedented mental and emotional flexibility. We only comprehend the scope of our danger through science, an exercise of the intellect. We have to translate that abstract knowledge into primitive brain comprehension to anticipate the emotional experience lurking in those numbers and to grasp their moral implications.

Facing climate change, knowing what we know now, isn't just being realistic and adult. It's a heroic task.

Climate Heroism is a new level of heroism, a new kind of heroism. It demands  inner transformation simultaneous with confrontation of physical and financial threat.

Earlier heroes faced a narrow threat, held up by support systems of nation, religion, family, social and cultural affiliations. Now many or all of these social systems will resist rather than support the drastic transformations required at all levels to achieve sustainability.

We need new stories, songs, and social structures honoring Climate Heroism.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hello Ruth!

Sorry I have been studying for the test, so I got behind some here.

I will go to watch your video.

Then Retweet it for you.

I want to be a climate hero!!

Have you seen this website?

They're surely Climate Heroes!

Oops! I had no idea "Climate Heroes" was copyrighted. I sent Maxime Riche an email.

I didn't know that myself. I thought you were referring to the group. I am sure you are fine on using the term.

Your last sentence succinctly sets out some things we need to enable and support this exceptional adaptation:

We need new stories, songs, and social structures honoring Climate Heroism.

(Sorry, no suitable graphics, though that statement deserves some!)

National anthems will be useless if we don't survive.

'I'd Rather Fight Like Hell': Naomi Klein's Fierce New Resolve to F...

"Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" — revealing that the fossil-fuel industry has five times more carbon in its proven reserves, which it intends to extract, than the science says can be burned if we want to avoid climate catastrophe — had received no industry pushback."

by Wen Stephenson

"The climate crisis is the ultimate indictment of capitalism, certainly the model of capitalism that we have, and the solutions to the climate crisis are the same as the solutions to the economic crisis."

~ Naomi Klein, Author and activist

(Photo: Ed Kashi/The Phoenix)

Thank you Joan - good resources there.

Aitan Grossman - ADVOCATE

A 12 year old boy, Aitan Grossman, found ways to write about nature and create music, incorporate his friends to makes tapes, and then brought in other children from around the world. His goal is to awaken awareness of wildlife conservation. He includes children and frustrated people who want to take a problem and do what they can to make things better. He makes a difference. 


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