Monday, April 29, 2019

Review of 'The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future' by David Wallace-Wells

Great if bleak survey of current thinking and perspectives on climate change, this works well as a gateway to the literature. It's well-written and readable, even if - I understand - some critics think it's too gloomy and takes worse-case scenarios as central ones. Lots of links to other material, and to literature about others' reflections on the implications of climate change for politics, ethics and human history.

A great, awful, has left me rather despondent. Most of the fixes proposed for climate change are much too little, too late - and most seem socially implausible even if they are technically possible. Were we to go for carbon capture and storage, for example, then building the machines to do it at the levels required for the Earth would seem to occupy most of the economic resources of civilisation. Sort of do-able in principle, but probably not in practice.

He doesn't make the link, but it rather reminded me of the Wittfogel stuff about 'hydraulic societies'...only a kind of bureaucratic despotism will be capable of re-organising society and the economy towards the permanent management of the atmosphere that we will be needed to ensure our survival as a civilisation. So whichever way you look at it the party - including not just consumerism but also a market economy and liberal democracy - is over.

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