The Philosophy of Global Warming


If you are interested in the relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth, individual and collective human purpose, evolution, cosmology, the nature of reality, astrology, spirituality, and how all of this relates to global warming & the environmental crisis of modernity, then I am sure that you will like my new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. In the post below I have provided the book description, the list of contents and the first two sections of the book. You can find out how to get hold of the book by clicking on this link:

The Philosophy of Global Warming





Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Philosophy of Global Warming




I am happy to let you know that my most comprehensive work 'The Philosophy of Global Warming' has now been published. In this post I have provided a lot of information about the book - the book outline, the list of contents, and the first two sections of the book.
When you read the 'Introduction' section you will see that I describe "the instinctive, almost childlike, response" that pervades contemporary thought concerning global warming (that 'Path 1' – emissions reduction – is the appropriate solution to the problem). This "instinctive, almost childlike, response" was in evidence again on the front page of The Observer two days ago:
 
  •  "top climate-change experts will warn that ONLY greater use of renewable energy - including windfarms - can prevent a global catastrophe."
 
  •  "Mitigation of Climate Change, by the UN's Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of 200 scientists, will make it clear that by far the most realistic option for the future is to triple or even quadruple the use of renewable power plants. ONLY through such decisive action will carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere be kept below the critical level of 480 parts per million (ppm), before the middle of the century. If levels go beyond this figure, the chances of curtailing global mayhem are poor, they will say."
 
('UN urges huge increase in green energy to avert climate disaster', Robin Mckie & Toby Helm, The Observer, 13 April 2014, p. 1)
 
I have capitalised the word 'only' in both of these quotes in order to highlight the widespread existence of "the instinctive, almost childlike, response". It is not a surprise that this report was written by 200 scientists. All of these people are, no doubt, science-obsessed, thinking within narrow conceptual parameters, and utterly unaware of, but badly in need of, the philosophy of global warming!
 
BOOK OUTLINE
 
This is my most comprehensive and definitive work. In it you will learn:
 
What the philosophy of global warming is and why it is of great importance.
Why the decision-making process concerning the appropriate human response to global warming requires a consideration of the evolutionary forces which propel the planet.
Why cutting fossil fuel emissions is a futile exercise.
What the human species is and how it relates to the non-human life-forms of the Earth.
Why the human species has a special place in the universe and how this is related to global warming.
What it means to say that your life has a purpose.
Why the evolution of technology and the evolution of spirituality are deeply interconnected.
Why there is an urgent need for the technological regulation of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.
 
The book has 3 parts. Part 1 contains 12 chapters each of which contains a particular theme which is of relevance to the philosophy of global warming. Taken as a whole this part of the book can be thought of as providing a detailed overview of my philosophical worldview. Part 2 is a lengthy dialogue in which I respond to an Objector who poses 86 questions, queries and objections relating to my philosophical worldview. Part 3 contains 37 articles which expand on particular topics relating to the philosophy of global warming. I hope that by the end of the book you will have a clear understanding concerning your, and our, place in the universe and how this relates to global warming.
 
 
CONTENTS

The Purpose of This Book

Introduction

 
PART 1:   PHILOSOPHY

1  What is the Philosophy of Global Warming?
2  The Two Paths Facing Humanity

Two Types of Global Warming
4  The History of Our Solar System

5  What is Life?
6  What is the Human Species?

7  Technology and the Environmental Crisis
8  Why Life Benefits From Technology

9  Is the Damage Already Done?

10  The Evolutionary Processes Which Propel the Planet
11  Humans in the Cosmos

12  The Interplay between Technology and Spirituality

 

PART 2:   DIALOGUE

A plethora of objections, questions and queries relating to my philosophical worldview are posed and answered
 


PART 3:   ARTICLES


Was the Cosmic Bringing Forth of Humans ‘Inevitable’?

Two Routes to the Need for Geoengineering


The Need for Geoengineering


The Nature of the Universe
 
Links between My Philosophy & the Buddhist Theory of Atoms

The GreenSpirit Journal Comments on ITHSS

The First Book Critiquing ITHSS

Ahead of the Curve

The Need for a New View of Humans in the Cosmos

Technology

Human Population & the Environmental Crisis

The Growing Realisation of the Need for Geoengineering the GMST

Humans and Other Animals

Animals Think like Humans

Earth ‘Four Years from Disaster’

The Futility of Emissions Cuts

Prepare for Extreme Global Warming

Emissions Cuts: The Gap between Ambition & Reality

Accelerating Polar Ice Melting & Geoengineering

Evolution versus Creationism

The Calm before the Carbon Storm

Perceptions of Global Warming

Global Warming: Perceptions, Responses & Energy Policy

Global Warming & the Anthropocentric and Ecocentric Attitudes

George Monbiot on Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Reaching 400ppm

The Three Questions & the Philosophical Worldview

The Environmental Crisis & the Colonization of Space

Technology and Stewardship

The Inevitability of Geoengineering

The Conceptual Framing of Geoengineering

The Technological Healers of the Earth

The Concept of ‘Future Generations’

Is Fracking Good or Bad?

Extreme Weather Events & Global Warming

How Much of Man is Natural?

Friedrich Hölderlin and the Environmental Crisis

Friedrich Hölderlin: A Final Reflection

 
Further Reading

Keeping in Contact

 

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

The purpose of this book is to get you to think about the philosophy of global warming. I am very hopeful that the information that is presented will change how you perceive the human presence on the Earth. I am hoping that you will conclude that the human presence on the planet is a positive one, a sign that the Earth, life, and even the Solar System, is positively thriving. I have three main reasons for hoping to convince you of this.
Firstly, I sincerely believe it to be true, and as a deeply philosophical person I simply have the desire to express the truth and to help other people to see the truth. You might be curious as to the source of my beliefs. Furthermore, you might be thinking, are my beliefs just my beliefs or are they ‘the truth’? All I can really say on this is that the beliefs and views that I outline in this book seem to me to arise from an episode of direct personal insight which was backed up by subsequent knowledge acquired from the insight and work of others. I am not an expert on the phenomenon of direct personal insight, of personal revelation into the truths of the universe, but I believe that it is possible that the universe can directly endow individuals who are in a certain state (a state of ‘receptivity’) with certain truths about itself. Perhaps such an endowment was the catalyst for my move into academia in my mid-twenties. My childhood years were spent in the deepest depths of the Cornish countryside, surrounded by thousands of trees and very few people. In my mid-twenties I had been living on a very small island, which is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, for a number of years. Again, as with my childhood years, I was surrounded mainly by non-human nature, the powerful ocean waves, the sometimes fierce weather, the plentiful beaches and the wilderness. After several years of doing a menial, unfulfilling and soul-destroying job on this island something changed within me, some kind of awakening occurred. There arose within me a new sense of openness; I spent time just looking at my surroundings, really looking; things appeared slightly differently than they did before, more alive, more vibrant. Questions and insights bubbled up within me and I had little choice but to seek to follow their lead. These initial experiences and questions led to a journey of well over a decade; a journey that involved attaining a first class BSc in Environmental Studies, an MA in Philosophy, a PhD in Philosophy, an international writing prize, conference speeches in Venice and Marburg, and finally, this book.
Secondly, I am slightly concerned by the increasing dominance of the view that the human presence on the planet is a destructive one. This view increasingly pervades the media, the arts, culture, various academic disciplines, politics and even religion. I recently attended a conference where there were speakers from a variety of religions and I was surprised by what they said. Not a single speaker had anything positive to say about human existence; there was talk of environmental destruction, overpopulation, and it was even suggested that the theological talk of a special place for the human species on the planet (the view of human dominion) was a view that needed to be rejected. According to this increasingly dominant view humans are, at best, just one species among many, and at worst they are the despicable destroyers of life. This view concerns me because it has led to movements such as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) which was founded in 1991. If it is widely accepted that the human presence on the planet is a negative one, and that there are too many humans on the planet, then it seems increasingly likely that plans will be instigated to cull the human species; in other words, billions of people could ultimately be needlessly killed (I don’t know exactly how this might be done, or who might do it, but I know there are people who think this would be desirable and who think about how it could be done; there are even people who think that it is already being done). Needless mass murder based on a false philosophy is something that I would like to see averted.
Thirdly, if the place of the human species on the Earth that I outline in this book is widely accepted, then a range of positive outcomes can result. We can celebrate our uniqueness, celebrate the joy that we are bringing to the Earth, rather than wallowing in despair at the thought that we are seemingly destroying the planet without really wanting to. Because states such as joy and despair ripple out from all sources where they exist, a more joyous philosophy would result in a more peaceful and joyous planet. We can also increasingly appreciate the value and perspectives of all individuals, all cultures, all perspectives, all life-forms, all personalities, as each of these has a positive role to play in the glorious evolutionary unfolding of the Earth. Furthermore, the realisation of our place on the planet, our purpose as a species, can enable us to reallocate our limited resources so that this purpose is more speedily fulfilled. Currently an enormous amount of resources are wasted on global warming mitigation schemes; these resources could be more optimally allocated. The creative energies of individuals can simultaneously be optimised. The outcome of this optimisation, through speeding up the fulfilment of our purpose, would be to more speedily bring about a more sustainable and harmonious existence, an increasingly peaceful and spiritual human presence on the Earth.
I have used a variety of writing styles, perspectives and approaches to present the information in this book. There are three parts to the book. Part 1 contains twelve chapters each of which contains a particular theme which is of relevance to the philosophy of global warming. Taken as a whole this part of the book can be thought of as providing a detailed overview of my philosophical worldview. Part 2 is a dialogue in which an objector to my philosophy poses a multitude of questions/queries/concerns and I provide responses. Part 3 contains a plethora of articles each of which illuminates certain aspects of my philosophy. The reason for this three-pronged approach is that what I am trying to get you to see is complex and it involves interconnections between many different phenomena. You are also likely to come across things which violently clash with your existing beliefs. My hope is that the three-pronged approach will both help you to understand particular points, and also to comprehend the bigger picture. You might find a particular chapter irrelevant at the time of reading it, but if you are open to the possibility that every chapter, every paragraph, is but a small jigsaw piece, then by the end of Part 3 you should be able to see the complete interconnected cosmic puzzle. There might be a complete trans-formation in the way that you see the world around you. In order to get the most out of the book I would definitely recommend starting at the beginning and moving through page by page, rather than jumping ahead to various sections that seem particularly interesting. I have attempted to slowly build up an overall philosophical worldview as the book progresses; that which appears in the latter stages of the book assumes an understanding of that which comes before.

 
INTRODUCTION

Do you believe in global warming? Do you believe that humans are the cause of this phenomenon? Do you believe that global warming poses a real threat to both humanity and to non-human life on the planet? I think it is safe to say that the majority of people would answer these questions as follows:
 
Do you believe in global warming?
Yes. Global warming is occurring because carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing in the atmosphere; this exacerbates the ‘greenhouse effect’ and causes global warming.
 
Do you believe that humans are the cause of this phenomenon?
Yes. Humans are the cause of global warming because atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have shot upwards since the start of the Industrial Revolution, as revealed by the ‘hockey stick’ graph. This has occurred because of the human use of enormous amounts of fossil fuels and also because of the human destruction of rainforests and other carbon sinks.
 
Do you believe that global warming poses a real threat to both humanity and to non-human life on the planet?
Yes. The polar ice will melt, sea levels will rise, the climate will significantly change, extreme weather events will become more pervasive, the food supply will be badly affected, temperature increases will make large parts of the planet (or even the entire planet) inhospitable; in short, the conditions which currently enable humans and non-human life-forms to flourish might disappear.

The reason that I think it is safe to say that the majority of people would answer these questions in such a manner is that these views are so pervasive in mainstream media, politics, culture and academia. These views, in turn, arise from the science of global warming. The scientific under-standing of global warming centres on the ‘greenhouse effect’. The ‘greenhouse effect’ is a natural phenomenon the existence of which is necessary for human existence; without it the atmosphere would be far too cold for humans to exist. The ‘greenhouse effect’ exists because green-house gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap the incoming infrared radiation from the Sun after it has bounced off the surface of the Earth; this trapping warms up the Earth’s atmosphere. The term the ‘greenhouse effect’ is often used to refer simply to the fact that by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere humans have exacerbated this natural pre-existing effect, thereby causing a higher atmospheric temperature than would otherwise have been the case. It is useful to keep in mind that the ‘greenhouse effect’ is a non-human effect which has been affected by humans.
 
The science of global warming has numerous dimensions. Scientific measurements have revealed the levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the distant past through ice cores and tree rings, and they have revealed recent and current concentrations through direct measurement. Such measurements have produced the ‘hockey stick’ graph which shows escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in very recent post-industrialisation times. In this period humans have removed ‘carbon sinks’ by engaging in mass deforestation, whilst simultaneously releasing enormous amounts of fossil fuels from their under-ground storage areas. Given these activities one should not be surprised that the measurements made by scientists have produced the ‘hockey stick’ graph. Scientists are also measuring the polar ice, measuring sea levels, and producing a plethora of computer models which attempt to predict how a warmer atmosphere will change the climate in various regions of the Earth.
 
The science of global warming is well established. I do not doubt the science of global warming. There are those who do doubt the science of global warming. Some people claim that the ‘hockey stick’ effect of recent escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is caused by ‘natural variation’ rather than by human activities. There are others who accept that humans have caused the ‘hockey stick’ effect, but deny that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to global warming. There are even a few people who deny that the ‘hockey stick’ effect reflects reality, believing that it has been created by the manipulation of data by scientists. There are almost always people with minority views. I myself am convinced by the science of global warming and thus believe that human activity has resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and that such an increase leads to a warmer atmosphere through exacerbating the ‘greenhouse effect’.
 
This book is not about the science of global warming; it is about the bigger picture, the wider situation within which the science of global warming is situated. This wider approach is needed because science has come to dominate the debate concerning global warming, and there are other non-scientific factors which need to be considered, factors which are of crucial significance. The initial domination by science of the global warming debate was inevitable; after all, we only know about the phenomenon because of scientific enquiry. However, the time has come to widen the debate, to widen our understanding of the factors relating to the phenomenon of global warming. The time has come to fully engage with the philosophy of global warming.
 
Of course, non-scientific factors have already been widely discussed concerning the phenomenon of global warming. The science of global warming has established that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Since this scientific realisation occurred the phenomenon has inevitably encroached into the domains of politics, ethics, economics, psychology, business and engineering.
 
At the international level political leaders frequently meet to draw up protocols and to discuss how to respond to the problem. At the domestic level politicians seek favour with sections of the electorate by saying that they will respond to the problem. Environmental charities have taken up the cause and have sought their own solutions to the problem.
 
In the realm of ethics, discussions take place concerning who is to blame for the problem and who should bear the consequences and financial cost of dealing with the problem; the rich countries might be the historical cause of the problem, but should poorer countries be prohibited from industrialising in the same fossil-fuel intensive way? Should rich countries provide less fossil-fuel intensive technologies to the poorer industrialising countries for the sake of everyone across the planet? What is the fair thing to do?
 
In the realm of economics there are discussions concerning how to get countries and individuals to have lower carbon footprints; we are here in the realm of taxes, subsidies, incentives and tradable permits. Psychologists hone in on the individuals and seek to understand how they can be made to use less resources, how they can change their lifestyles, how they can come to see the connections between their individual actions and the larger planetary problem of global warming. Businesses respond to the problem through presenting an ‘environmentally friendly’ carbon-neutral face in order to attract more custom; they also seek to come up with genuine solutions to the problem such as technologies to help humans cope with a changing and more hostile climate. And engineers are working on a plethora of solutions to deal with the problem; these range from enhanced sea wall defences to technologies to pull carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere so that it can be placed (back) in underground storage.
 
The science of global warming has clearly encroached into a wide range of disciplines. What has yet to occur is for the nature of the ‘problem’ itself to be seriously enquired into. The ‘problem’ itself is simply a scientific fact. It is a scientific fact that the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere is regulated by the ‘greenhouse effect’ and that human activity has resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (as I have already stated, I am convinced that this is a fact). However, a scientific fact such as this, a fact which presents a problem, doesn’t automatically simultaneously present its own solution.
 
A simple way of looking at the situation would be as follows:
 
Scientific Fact = Human activities have increased the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

Problem = If the increase is of a sufficient magnitude global warming will occur to the detriment of both human and non-human life-forms.
 
Solution = Humans need to stop carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere from rising too much.
 
This is not only a simple way of looking at things, it is also surely true. However, the important point is that what exactly the solution to the problem entails is not clear. In other words, there are two ways in which humans might be able to stop carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere from rising too much:

Path 1:   Humans stop emitting, or radically reduce emissions of, carbon into the atmosphere.

Path 2:   Humans use technology to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
 
I used the phrase ‘might be able to stop’ because according to one line of thought, a line of thought which is barely mentioned in the media, Path 1 is not even a possible solution. There are two different reasons why this might be so. Firstly, the damage has already been done, simply stopping now will have no effect; the action-consequence time-lags mean that carbon dioxide concentrations are set to keep on rising for the foreseeable future whatever we do now. Secondly, we simply cannot stop emitting now; the state of the world (population size and growth, economic trajectories, developing countries industrialising, state of technology) and the human dependency on cheap fossil fuel energy supplies means that Path 1 is nothing more than a pipedream, mere fanciful wishful thinking.
 
Despite this line of thought there is currently a widespread view which pervades the minds of most people – the politicians, the media, the activists, and the general public – that Path 1 is the solution to the problem. Despite the reality of the situation, which is carbon emissions continually rising across the world, and immense future changes already ‘locked in’ through action-consequence time-lags – Path 1 utterly dominates debates concerning the phenomenon. This seems to be the instinctive, almost childlike, response: if the problem is releasing carbon into the atmosphere, the solution has to be to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere (Path 1).
 
The situation that we face is actually much more complex than is belied by this simple instinctive response. In other words, the question of which path humanity needs to adopt is a very complex question. The appropriate answer to the question requires a consideration of a wide range of both scientific and non-scientific factors. So, there is a scientifically-revealed problem which presents two possible solutions (Path 1 and Path 2). The discovery of the appropriate solution to this problem requires a careful consideration of a number of diverse factors, factors which have not yet been widely considered in relation to the problem. To find the appropriate solution we need to shift our focus from the science and delve deeply into the philosophy of global warming.



Get the whole book here: 

The Philosophy of Global Warming




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2 comments:

  1. Very strange writing that seems not really up to date on the state of climate policy research.

    Does your tag 'anthropocentricism' mean that you subscribe to this view?

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  2. Hi Jojo

    You are going to have to expand on what you mean by "climate policy research" and what you take up-to-date research in this domain to entail, if I am to properly reply to your post.

    I try and avoid as much jargon and terminology as possible when I write; however, I do explore the various things that other people seem to mean when they invent terms such as 'anthropocentricism'.

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