Hamilton launches new climate book

March 19, 2010 at 6:42 am 1 comment

Author and climate commentator Clive Hamilton spoke at the Sydney launch of his new book, Requiem for a Species, at Gleebooks on March 16. He discussed the troubling gap between the scientific certainty that dangerous climate change is already underway and the strong resistance of government’s to respond to the emergency.

In the past 12 months, climate denial has made something of a comeback. In the United States, attacks on science are reaching a fever-pitch. But Hamilton explained this is far from accidental. Climate denier institutes and think tank receive huge funding from fossil fuel corporations and other vested interests.

“The attack on climate science has been orchestrated, relentless and effective”, he told the meeting.

He spoke of how the prominent US climate denier and Republican congressperson, James Inhofe, has even released a report calling for a criminal investigation into climate scientists. “This conjures up images of McCarthyism”, Hamilton said.

He argued the theoretical leadership of the climate denier movement had a broader political agenda. They are trying to consolidate a conservative social base around “a hatred of environmentalism” and “a backlash against the [progressive] social movements of the 1960s”.

Meanwhile, the scientific evidence about global warming is becoming more frightening than ever. Hamilton referred a recent report released by climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research.

He said the Anderson and Bows study estimated that even were global emissions to peak by 2020 and decline by 3.5% a year (emissions cuts for big polluters like Australia would need to be about 6% to 7% a year in this scenario), atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases could still reach 550-650 parts per million (ppm) — a 4°C average temperature rise.

This is far above the recognised safe-climate level of less than 350ppm. It underscores that very radical changes are needed to decarbonise our economies. It also shows that we are desperately short of time.

Hamilton ended his talk with a discussion of how people might respond psychologically to the knowledge that human civilization is in deep trouble.

He drew on the French philosopher and writer Albert Camus’s concept of “active fatalism” as an example of a psychologically healthy response to the climate crisis. “In facing the facts we must not submit to apathy”, he said.

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Entry filed under: climate denial, climate science, Clive Hamilton.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. kim Peart  |  April 3, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Review of Clive Hamilton’s ‘Requiem for a Species’

    In my long search for answers to the sustainability question, I read an earlier work by Clive Hamilton, ‘The Mystic Economist’, in 1994, where he explored the need for spiritual views toward Nature to help us solve the problems that we create.

    This theme recurs in his latest book, ‘Requiem for a Species’, in which he has entered the realm of climate change and returned like a prophet of old with a sobering tome of warning, that we are unlikely to prevent dangerous climate change that will cause the Earth to get hotter, the ice to melt, the sea level to rise and the oceans to become more acidic from an over-dose of carbon dioxide.

    This book makes me very angry, as it tells the brutal truth about climate change from the science, but he does not offer a window of hope for humanity to work with, short of a revolution by the people to take control of politics, withdraw from progress, see the human population shrink in a holocaust-type reduction and shift to a simpler life in areas of the planet where humans can still survive.

    Hamilton wonders if our survival options would be better off under a benevolent dictator, with democracy suspended, but also admits that benevolent dictators can become tyrants.

    In seeking out a solution to the greatest challenge of our age and avoiding dangerous climate change that could topple human civilization, no stone should be left unturned in the search for answers, but unfortunately, the professor has not delved into how the great river of human progress could offer the essential key to dealing with the cllimate change challenge.

    Instead he explores the conflict between capitalism and environmentalism and fails to see how these opposing fields need to work together to secure a climate change solution.

    Like Jonah, spat out of the whale and preaching to the people of Nineveh to repent and change their ways, Professor Clive Hamilton is now travelling the world with a series of lectures to warn the people of Earth about dangerous climate change.

    In my journey through the problem of environmental sustainability, I came to see that there was a solution, but because of the evolutionary force of life for expansion, we needed to pursue space development to ensure our survival and be able to heal the Earth.

    Either I am very wrong in what I have come to realise, or the good professor is yet to awaken to humanity’s role in Nature and the cosmos.

    Hamilton warns that we have 5 years to act to avoid dangerous climate change, with 10 years to start getting results, but policy-makers are not listening, which came home to roost with the failure of the Copenhagen debacle last December where talk failed to translate into action.

    For anyone who has become concerned, or even alarmed about climate change and delved into the books and articles to get abreast of this complex topic, you may have noticed that there has been no serious examination of climate change denial.

    Professor Hamilton steps into this breach to explain what is driving the climate change contrarians and why people generally may wish to look away from this looming nightmare and pray it is not real.

    He suggests attitudes could swiftly change with the first big climate change disaster, such as a sudden rise in sea level, but by then it may be too late to take effective action, because global warming will be out of our control.

    The professor rightfully demonstrates that a future climate change catastrophe is built into past and present greenhouse gas emissions and as the North Pole warms up, we run the risk of a giant methane and carbon dioxide release from the Arctic permafrost on land and under the sea, which could prove to be the tipping point to disaster and a runaway greenhouse effect.

    Hamilton believes that it is already too late to act, that the political wheels will turn too slowly, too late and we are gazing at the perfect storm that could overwhelm our civilization, leaving a billion, or a few million survivors struggling to survive in a much hotter world with a most unpleasant climate.

    I cannot, however, agree with the professor’s bleak prognosis, because if he had been prepared to delve far enough along the trail of questions, he may have come to see that there is a message of hope that can be told, one that could inspire the level of mobilisation that is needed to win the climate change war.

    Where he calls for a radical transformation in our democracy, he is right; we need to awaken individuals around the world to act, but not just on Earth alone.

    Where Hamilton suggests that we must reverse progress to save ourselves, I have become convinced that the opposite view holds the key, that we need to secure a sustainable presence in the Solar System and from a confident position beyond the Earthly nest, be in an assured position to fight for a healthier Earth and deliver a healthy life for all Earth’s children.

    Once humanity has secured a sustainable presence in space, we will have free access to the wealth of the Solar System to open an entirely new future for humanity among the stars.

    We would not need to achieve the whole space vision to start realising the benefits on Earth, as having made the commitment to building a Solar civilization, we would start to build toward that future now.

    Unfortunately, the professor treats any space option as a humorous aside and though he is concerned about the danger of geoengineering, as with pumping sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere to cool the Earth, he cannot see how an adjustable sunshade in space could be built as a spin-off of space development.

    As with many writers inclined toward environmentalism, Hamilton has focused on working out the climate change problem on Earth alone and as a consequence has fallen into the trap of offering no hope in a message that becomes quite confused, where we are called on to fight for a future that we cannot enter and even talks of “the celestial god, the creator god who alone has the power to save us.” (page 221)

    If we now risk, as he suggests, losing all that many generations have worked so hard to achieve, why not make the giant leap to a future with certainty among the stars, which would be a better punt than gambling on some kind of survival for a few on Earth alone with the loss of our civilization, our family and our future.

    Hamilton suggests that we have not been mature enough to care for the Earth, a sentiment that I agree with, but turning our back on the future is the way to hell on Earth with climate change and is a position of pure gambling with the survival of our species.

    It is quite obvious to any observer that humanity is now in an immature, juvenile phase of development, but we should wonder, will the process of making a giant leap into space, while we still can, become the catalyst of our maturity, to save ourselves and save the Earth?

    Having examined the matter, I came to see how this transition to becoming a mature and cultured civilization would happen through expansion into space and how a more peaceful world could also be realised.

    Better we turn on our youth and the whole World with a vision for survival in the Solar System, than stand at the gate to the celestial realm like the angel with a flaming sword, driving back any who would go that way because we cannot imagine it.

    If a vision for a future in space is able to inspire humanity to fight for a healthy Earth, then the numbers will be mobilised to win the climate change war as we build a future for the whole Human family on Earth and among the stars.

    In a space context, it will always be easier to build a space-type settlement on Earth, no matter how hot the planet gets and if the whole of humanity is mobilised to fight for our survival, then everyone will participate in the solution and its benefits.

    It is criminal to take away such hope, as the professor does in this book that will be read by so many, because he has failed to work out the solution to the problem and can offer no hope as a consequence.

    Better that we survive and enjoy an amazing future in the cosmos, than commit mass-suicide on Earth through giving up on the climate change battle, where any survivors trapped on this hot desert planet may kick the dust that we were made of for not acting on the space option when we had the chance.

    Perhaps Professor Hamilton may take this critique to heart, should he read it and follow the trail of questions through evolution to human consciousness, that has now delivered us to the edge of stepping into space and at the very moment in time when the whole house of cards could collapse.

    The professor is absolutely right, that we have very little time to act, within the next 5 years, with results to begin being realised within 10 years.

    We can choose life and survive, as the people of Nineveh did, even while Jonah sat outside the city waiting for its destruction.

    Rather than the “requiem for a species”, should we be looking to the birth of humanity beyond Earth and into the much vaster celestial realm?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I have explored how a future in space would be critical for human survival on Earth in my 2006 article, ‘Creating a Solar Civilization’, which I am currently revising and improving in the light of the climate change challenge:

    http://www.tdf.it/2006/2/peart_eng.htm

    While I was focused on the Earth alone in attempting to solve the sustainability problem, there was no clear solution, only confusion, but when I expanded my view to the Solar System as a whole, all the pieces fell into place like a giant jigsaw puzzle and answers to all our problems could be quickly seen. This is even more the case now as the climate change fat is starting to hit the fan, as with the most southerly coral reef at Lord Howe Island bleaching recently from warmer water flowing south:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/24/2854437.htm

    Kim Peart
    PO Box 930 Morayfield 4506 Queensland
    kimpeart@iinet.net.au
    0400 856 523

    Reply

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