Monday, December 14, 2009

climate nihilism

Over at Breakthrough, Shellenberger and Nordhaus have posted a provocative commentary on the Contrivance in Copenhagen.  Their preface:
  • From the opening ceremony's video of a little girl running from an earthquake to the promises of emissions reductions, everything taking place in Copenhagen is contrived. The outcome of climate talks -- no treaty, no emissions reductions -- was known in advance. And yet participants pretend there is an unfolding drama. As such, Copenhagen is history's first completely postmodern global event. It's a festival of phoniness. With the ambitions of Versailles but the power of Davos, Copenhagen creates a cognitive dissonance for its creators, which results in ever-more manic displays of apocalypse anxiety and false hope. In the end, Copenhagen tells us more about ourselves -- our post-American world, our fragmented media environment, and our hyper-partisanship -- than about any attempt to slow global warming.
After setting the stage by delineating the post-modern realities and politics of the global  political climate, they suggest that:
  •  Lacking any power to effect reality, Copenhagen has thus become a kind of spiritual pilgrimage. But the pilgrimage is postmodern and the faith is bad.
  • Nihilism is the phenomenon of going to church, saying confession, and sometimes even praying to God, even though you no longer believe that God will do anything for you.
  • Climate nihilism is the phenomenon of going to Copenhagen, promising to reduce emissions and pretending to believe the promises, even neither though you nor anybody around you has any intention, plan or funding to do so.
  • Copenhagen is what you get when science lacks the power to re-shape economies, rich nations cannot tell poor ones what to do, and a supposedly common global threat divides rather than unites the world. Copenhagen represents the twilight of modernist idols.
It is a brilliant and incisive piece.  It reveals the realpolitik challenges of post-modernism and the failings of post-modernity to create positive, viable narratives for sustainability and future prosperity.

The present generation of youth have never not known environmental awareness.  They are immune to protests, posters and placards, the staples of an environmental ideology external to the locus of power. If nothing else, Copenhagen establishes the very political correctness of contemporary environmentalism.  It is no longer radical, chic and daring.  It is the bureaucratic mainstream of inactivity and broken promises. Its zenith is climate nihilism.

It is in response to this reality that the present generation seeks leadership and empowerment.  The Copenhagen conference offers symbolism, not integrity.

Nothing fuels a revolution quite like the discovery that the information you have been fed is dogma, not the truth.