On October 24th, this year, many thousands of people across the globe performed an action or campaign to publicize the number 350 and to put pressure on their governments to come up with a binding climate treaty in Copenhagen in December. The number 350 ppm is the highest amount of carbon dioxide that scientists think the Earth’s climate can tolerate, above which we are looking at catastrophic warming scenarios reminiscent of apocalyptic science fiction. There were over 5000 events in a coordinated global movement spearheaded by 350.org.
The response of world leaders? They agreed not to come up with a binding treaty in Copenhagen.
In other words they are going to go there, talk, probably play golf, and go home. In the meantime the world is warming faster than our science can explain and the window of time before irreversible feedback loops begin (some have already started) is getting narrower and narrower, from 4 years (estimated by an IPCC report in 2007) to two years and shrinking. And the carbon dioxide continues to go up — currently we are close to 390 ppm and rising.
There is a very interesting interview with Kim Stanley Robinson in which he makes it quite clear that what we are up against is capitalism itself — he pits science versus capitalism (which is likely an oversimplification given what capitalists do with science) in the context of global warming.
Given all this, and assuming that the destruction of the biosphere is not an option, and recognizing that there will be ecological deterioration for decades or centuries even if we do what needs to be done — in other words the choice is between reversible hell and irreversible worse-than-hell — given all this, what is to be done?
Let me repeat that: if we assume that destruction of the biosphere is not an option, what would it take to slow and ultimately stop global warming?
What would we have to do if we cannot depend on governments?
What would we have to do despite the campaigns of corporations and climate change deniers?
Currently sites like 350.org and organizations like Greenpeace have been directing their action toward putting pressure on government leaders. This is fine and necessary, but is it enough? Should these groups focus their attention on different strategies? If so, what would these strategies be?
And lastly, where is the science fiction that deals with the current crisis? In other words, who are the writers, after Robinson and his Science in the Capitol series, who are taking this up?