Earlier this month George Monbiot wrote an article reflecting on the fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have reached 400 parts per million for the first time since records began 800,000 years ago:
"Via Dolorosa" 10 May 2013
Monbiot claims that:
"The only way forward now is back: to retrace our steps along this road and to seek to return atmospheric concentrations to around 350 parts per million, as the 350.org campaign demands. That requires, above all, that we leave the majority of the fossil fuels which have already been identified in the ground. There is not a government or an energy company which has yet agreed to do so."
In effect, Monbiot is claiming that the only way forward is X, and then in his article he presents a good case that X is never going to happen; the conclusion is that climate breakdown (and the following extinction of the human species) is almost inevitable. So, Monbiot concludes:
"Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.
So here we stand at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete our journey."
What is the cause of this tragic situation? Who is to blame? According to Monbiot the dire situation we face is due to the power of the fossil fuel companies, and the unsavoury character of those who run them:
"The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity."
It is hard to take Monbiot's assessment of the situation very seriously. I mean, let us start with the fact:
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the Earth have reached 400ppm due to the combined effect of human actions over a prolonged period.
There are obviously reasons why this state of affairs has come about; factors which have caused this situation to pertain. What are these factors? According to Monbiot, the causal factors are:
* The people in high office are characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples.
I presume that you can easily see how unsatisfactory such an answer is. What are the actual causal factors which have caused the state of affairs to come about?
* Since the first humans came into existence humans have been acting in accordance with the inner drives and feelings which are endowed to them by the universe. Because humans act in accordance with these drives/feelings human culture has evolved from hunter-gatherer to globalised technological society. When a planet becomes technological a side-effect of this is that the planet goes through a transitory stage of environmental disruption; this is because becoming technological requires the appropriation and transformation of planetary resources. One of these transitory disruptions is a short-term increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Furthermore, when a planet becomes technological this is a sign of a healthy planet. In other words, if we were to detect a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration on a distant planet, similar to that which is currently occurring on the Earth, then we could safely conclude that this is a life-bearing planet where life is thriving; this is because it means that not only has life colonised the entire planet but it has also reached the stage of the birthing of technology. What a cause of joyous celebration!
Monbiot is completely missing the bigger picture. He claims that we are determined to complete a journey along a "road of idiocy" because of a few individuals who are "characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples". The reality is that the planet is currently, thanks to the human presence, positively thriving. And the situation we are in cannot even remotely plausibly be blamed on a few people who have an absence of empathy or scruples; the situation we face is due to the drives/feelings of billions of past and present humans.
The future is not a gloomy one, it is simply one in which the human species actively technologically regulates the temperature of the atmosphere for the benefit of life on Earth. There are a range of other benefits for life on Earth which also arise from the human-initiated technological birthing process; I outline these in: Saviours or Destroyers: The relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth .
I describe the important place that the human species has on the planet, and expand on much of the above, in my first book: