Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Now We Are Bargaining With the Climate Gods

by Lyn Bender, Online Opinion: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=15241

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with IPCC colleagues and he got arrested at White Rock British Columbia, Canada, while blockading a coal train.

Professor Mark Jaccard is no vapid apologist when it comes to climate change. A veteran government energy policy advisor, his current advice regarding fossil fuels is: leave them in the ground!

He has recently been invited by the Parliament of European Union to Provide Expert Insights in European Fuel Quality Directive Policy Debate.

He contends that the Alberta Tar Sands are so CO2 intensive that to dig them up and burn them would be climate sabotage. As far as saving the planet , it would be game over.

Mark is a toweringly inspiring voice in the world of climate change action. He is however only human as they say.

So even Mark Jaccard, whose dedication knowledge and hard headedness is itself undeniable, holds out hope, albeit a small hope, for that oxymoron; clean coal. If we could burn coal yet capture the CO2, well then, we could burn coal. If only.

Many environmentalists such as Jessy Tolkan in the United States of Energy Action Coalition, consider that clean coal is pure fiction.

It would be nice but we don't have the time to waste wishing and hoping or to continue to build coal plants. It has been touted for years and its just not happening.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was a proud exponent of geo-sequestration as a climate solution, but like the emperors clothes, there was nothing there [yet] the Carbon catcher machine that took his fancy as 'the mobile carbon catcher' was largely discredited by scientists. It required too much energy to capture the CO2.

Al Gore considers clean coal to be 'like healthy cigarettes'. It may exist at a theoretical level but not at a real level. If sequestering CO2 is a possibility, it is far from reality. It falls into the "if only" category.

The working title of Mark Jaccard's latest book is 'Deluding ourselves to Disaster'. It is aptly named. That is what we are all doing in various ways, myself included as I continue to hope for world peace and zero emissions, while going on with life as though we were not in an emergency.

What explains this paradox? Psychiatrist, and thanatologist [one who studies the science of death], Elizabeth Kubler-Ross listened as most of her colleagues before her had failed to do, to the words of the dying.

She identified five stages in coping for individuals, confronting their own mammoth personal disaster of, terminal illness. These were: denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance.

These stages were not seen by Kubler-Ross as linear or universal. When denial becomes untenable, but facing the horror is unbearable, bargaining permits us to wrestle with the gods. Our fate is therefore not sealed. We could beat the odds. We may defy fate.

Bargaining may hold the dreaded monster of despair at bay. It works for us because daily we operate on a split screen concerning death and loss.

Any moment we could ourselves suffer death, or the deaths of loved ones. But we continue on, seemingly oblivious to this, as though time were never ending, and death can never find us.

Has there ever been anything so devastating in the history of mankind as the encroaching destruction of the habitability of our only home?

Past generations may have feared many possible apocalypses, but the destruction of our climate by the heating of the planet at our own hands is almost impossible to psychically encompass. So we avoid, we distract, and if we know the truth, we may bargain.

God will not let his creation die, if I put my faith in him. Technology will find an answer, so we must invest in geo-engineering. Science can be often be wrong, lets wait and see. Lots of science gets disproved every day.

If we all do our bit and act locally it will make a big difference. It's impossible that the earth will change so much. It won't happen in my lifetime, I hope. We need a strong economy to adapt to climate change so we need to keep burning coal.

Bargaining in this situation, is the act of trying to do a deal when the odds are stacked against you. But the climate is saying no deal, its coal or the planet. Your money [for coal] or your life.

James Baldwin, black activist and novelist who died in 1987, famously declared "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced".

Deep psychotherapy basically puts this to the client who comes for help when suffering. Even those who have come willingly and who are seemingly prepared to face their demons , frequently relent. They seek to go back to old destructive patterns, declaring things will be different this time.

The alcoholic argues that she can manage with just a drink or two now. The smoker says that a cigarette or two won't get him back to his previous two packets a day. The toxic relationship returns to its old form after a brief honeymoon reunion.

These bargains invariably fail to secure the changed outcome originally sought. Typically therapy for substance addiction involves relapse with its confirmation of the bad old results. This can stimulate the addict to start the process of withdrawal anew.

We are hooked on our old ways, even though they are visibly destroying the world around us. The scientists poets and writers and activists are needed to remind us that we have gone back to our forgetful default position of same old, same old, business as usual.

The six women from GreenPeace who recently scaled the UK's tallest building , in order to protest Shell drilling for oil in the Arctic, were reminding us. We need to recollect that the fossil fuel industry is vandalizing our planet and devouring our future.

Many busy and bustling commuters paused to gaze and gawk at the climbing figures. Having reached the 310 metre peak, two of the activists waved a 32-square-foot flag with the demand "Save the Arctic".

Some in our own coal and gas rich country argue, that we have so much coal and we must therefore use it, to foster jobs and prosperity. But this is very short sighted.

As with the promotion of all unhealthy industries such as tobacco, asbestos, gambling and massive alcohol consumption, there is short term economic gain for some, followed by massive health costs.

In the case of coal, the cost is to the entire planet. But there is now some reason to hope. It is late in the day but we are coming much closer to acceptance.

President Obama has said while delivering his climate change plan "all the hopes and dreams of posterity, that's what we are fighting for." Obama gave a shout out, nudge and wink to transitioning with cleaner gas.

This may represent the other sort of bargaining that is done with nervous vested interests. Unfortunately this is what has held us back and may hold us back from investing in truly clean energy.

However Obama has warned that the measure of allowing the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead was what is in the national interest. He defined this as including climate impact. Keystone that would bring oil from the tar sands, 'must pass the test determining the net impacts of the project on climate.'

In Australia we remain poised for another election where the stakes for climate are high. Will we join the increasing global awareness and action or lag behind in climate change denial land?

Obama has said that he doesn't have time for "a meeting of the flat-earthers". The ALP backed by the Greens has introduced a price on carbon .in Australia. The Rudd government is proposing to move more rapidly to an Emissions Trading Scheme.

Despite the bargaining that may still be occurring, at least it is a price on carbon! Australia cannot afford to linger in the morass of the old climate change science denial absurdities of the LCP.

It is not a contest between economy or environment. The planet is our economy. The price of denial and bargaining with a changing climate is impossibly high.

We must face the truth, grieve our losses, then move from denial anger bargaining and despair to acceptance of what we must do, to save what we can, of our beautiful world.

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