PRETENDING TO CARE: WHY “NET ZERO” IS DELUSIONAL NONSENSE

Written by Sean Munger. Forward by Marilyn Armstrong

Personally, I think it is hopeless. I don’t see any signs of progress in this country or in any major polluting nation. In the few small countries where they are making an effort, it barely makes a dent. 

I’m afraid to read the news lest I read another appalling, sickening piece of information. The last thing I read was that the manatees are dying of starvation in Florida from polluted waters and red tides. I then deleted ALL the news to avoid reading any more lies from bought and paid-for pols — or any more reminders about about birds dying by the billions (yes, billions) and all the other vanishing species.

I read comments from people objecting to animals eating their flowers or moles and woodchucks making holes in their lawns.

I point out that animals are not the intruders. WE ARE THE INTRUDERS. Meanwhile, the important thing apparently — despite a crisis likely to remove humans and possibly all mammals from earth — is to have a perfect LAWN.

A perfect lawn as a goal? Really? Lawns are the biggest, most total waste of perfectly good land I can imagine.

I’m glad I won’t live to see how bad it will get. It already makes me sick, sad, and depressed. Given what isn’t happening, it can only get worse.


The latest fad in climate change self-delusion is going to look dreadful in historical hindsight (assuming there are people around to look back).

It’s been at once amazing and depressing in the weeks since the disastrous COP26 climate change talks concluded in Glasgow, to see how completely the climate change community has bought into the world’s latest excuse for doing nothing about the climate crisis. If you swim around in the pond of people who are concerned about global warming, you’ve no doubt heard and read the words “net zero” quite a lot during 2021, and company after company, including big oil polluters like Shell, have loudly trumpeted the release of their “net zero 2030” or (worse) “net zero 2050” pledges. “Look! There! See? We’re doing something about climate change!” Governments have also embraced “net zero.” The worthless scrap of paper that emerged from Glasgow is entirely based on this concept. To hear the spin doctors of death tell it, the world has turned the corner on carbon emissions and, after decades of denial, delay, obfuscation and wishful thinking, we’ve finally started—started!—to do something serious about climate change.

It’s a delusion, though. Over the past few months, as my historical training has finally come to overshadow my emotional desire to see in parlor games “real progress” (I hate those words) on global warming, it’s become increasingly clear to me that all we’re doing is shifting the conversation to a new form of self-delusion, and a new excuse to do nothing and ease our consciences by pretending to do something. It’s the latest flavor of pretending to care. The 2021 focus on “net zero,” which I think will look pretty quaint in even 12 months’ time, does absolutely nothing to slow down the juggernaut of historical upheaval (basically, violent revolution and global war) that’s hurtling toward us as a result of governmental and economic inaction on anthropogenic global warming, which I outlined in what has become my touchstone article on this blog. “Net zero” is not just corporate or government greenwashing. It is that, but it’s worse than that. It’s a refusal to deal with reality.

There’s been a lot written, even before Glasgow, about how “net zero” is greenwashing. Should you need to bone up on that subject, this (Climate Change News on “net zero” myths) and this (Grain.org on how corporations use “net zero” to cloak their inaction), both pre-Glasgow, are good primers. As applied to the COP26 Glasgow agreement itself, I highly recommend this article from Carbon Tracker which shows countries’ 2030 pledges up as woefully inadequate to meet any real climate action, a baby-baby-baby step taken with great laborious slowness that totally ignores the urgency of the crisis. If you look at that article you’ll notice it includes the same graphic, describing how Glasgow puts us on track for 2.4° or even 2.7° C of warming by 2100, that I included in my “spin doctors of death” article, and which is extraordinarily unwelcome to anyone who still believes in “net zero.” Here is the graphic.

I’m going to make a prediction here, which is always dangerous for a historian to do, but I think is pretty obvious in these circumstances. I think that not one “net zero” pledge, made by any company or any government, whether the target date is 2030 or 2050, will actually be kept. Not a single one. In fact, I think it will be so obvious that every promulgator of a “net zero” pledge will utterly fail to meet these goals, that everyone will stop talking about “net zero” long before 2030, in the hopes that everyone will forget that “net zero” was a thing way back in 2021. The entire concept will go down the memory hole, just as did the ambitious goals or “targets” of the ill-fated 1997 Kyoto Accords or the now-defunct 2015 Paris Accords. Shell Oil, one of the most rapacious and evil carbon polluters on the planet, has already admitted that their grand strategy to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050 is a lie and that they have no intention to keep to this pledge. How long will it be before every other company, industry or government that has made such pledges similarly shrugs them off? “Well, we gave it a shot, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you know? Reducing carbon emissions is hard. Give us credit for trying!” This, a shrug and a casual brush-off, when the survival of human civilization is at stake.

“Net zero” is so insidious because it works a neat and almost irresistible bit of obfuscation in the head of anyone thinking about it, especially anyone genuinely concerned about the climate crisis. First of all, it sounds great. Zero emissions is where we want to be, right? Well, actually, no. Ceasing to emit CO2 into the atmosphere does nothing about the decades’ worth of CO2 that’s already there, which is causing incalculable damage and death all over the planet—right now, not in 2030 or 2050. And speaking of that, most “net zero” strategies involve, whether explicitly stated or implicit and carefully not shown to the public, assumptions that technology will eventually be developed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere at scale—carbon capture technology. This wishful thinking is hinted at with the little word “net” in front of “zero.” It means, we can keep pumping harmful CO2 into the atmosphere and the oceans by burning fossil fuels, but something will eventually be invented, someday, that will balance those emissions on the other side of the ledger. That something does not exist yet, at least not at the scale needed, but we’re sure hopeful that it will be!

Please read the rest of the post at: Pretending to care: Why “net zero” is delusional nonsense.



Categories: Anecdote, climate, climate change, Guest Blogger, News, Politics, pollution, propaganda, reblog, Science

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12 replies

  1. It feels rather as if we are trapped in that black rocket ship headed for the sun with no Marvin to save us.

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    • I’m glad I’m not young anymore. Without Maurice Chevalier’s great French accent, being young now would be kind of awful. Being old ain’t so great either! The trouble we have made for ourselves will spill over and take out so many other species. It’s really demoralizing and people don’t seem to GET it. They figure, ‘Oh, those animals can go elsewhere.’ But how far do you figure a woodchuck or a mole can actually go? When you make his home non-habitable, he’s not going to take to the road in the hopes of finding a new place to live. He’ll just DIE.

      We keep killing things and thinking they don’t really matter because they’re small and common — but they aren’t so common anymore and getting less common every day. I find it too depressing to think about. Yet I keep trying to do something positive while wondering if I’m accomplishing anything. I want to wrap all these creatures in my arms and tell them it’s going to be okay — except that it won’t be okay and I can’t make it better. Maybe I can delay the inevitable for a brief period.

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      • I think that’s all we can do. So many species being lost every year. I don’t really mind the Wallabies and potoroos in the garden. Naturally we’d prefer that they don’t eat things we were growing to eat ourselves so we’ll fence that bit or put the pots out of reach. It’s a big garden, there is room for them too.

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        • At least you care enough to let them live. A lot of people can’t even find it in their hearts to just leave them alone. And yet if you ask them, they will tell you how much in favor they are of saving the planet. Just as long as it doesn’t mess up their lawn or garden.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nimby’s (Not In My Back Yard) They are in favour of many things as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them.

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            • It bothers me because it is surprisingly hypocritical for people who claim to want to fix things, but NIMBY is the big winner. I find that hard to understand. For some things, that kind of waffling means that nothing good will happen — and probably that’s why we are looking at tragedy while for most suburban Americans, a good lawn is more important than a future. I don’t get it and I probably never will.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. “I read comments from people objecting to animals eating their flowers or moles and woodchucks making holes in their lawns.” Guilty. That said, there are plenty of natural grasslands and forests where the gophers, moles, and deer can forage besides in my front and backyards.

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    • I wish that were true, but it isn’t. Even though this area is full of woods, most of the country is NOT. The animals that used to have half a continent are now confined to very small areas which (1) may or may not have the food they need, or (2) may or may not have enough space for nesting or hibernating. That’s why bears are being pushed ever southward because the places they lived have been cut or plowed to emptiness.

      “Replanting” a forest with 6 inch twigs is just like “net zero” is to fixing the earth. It will be 50 years before the area is usable by the animals that were pushed out and they will be dead long before that region is habitable. And all of those fires? They destroy human homes, but they also decimate the remaining places where birds and animals lived. Where the deer and antelope roamed, it’s a charred mess that sustains nothing.

      Why do you think we’ve lost 50-billion birds? If they had somewhere else to live, they wouldn’t be dead. They aren’t being stubborn and difficult. They can only eat what they are meant to eat and live as they were intended. They don’t have a choice. Just because there are trees somewhere doesn’t mean that anything can live there or that ALL the animals that used to live in places that are now manicured suburbs can fit into those small spaces. The ONLY PLACE in the U.S. that has more trees than asphalt is New England. That is NOT plenty of space.

      We are losing tens of millions of birds yearly. That’s just birds. We’re also losing the wolves, bear, deer, antelope, and moose. The prairies are GONE. Good thing Disney made movies, because that’s all you’ll ever see of the great American prairies. There are more plastic Flamingos than live Flamingos. The manatees are dying of starvation. The Red Wolf is down to 20 animals — and people STILL shoot them on sight because despite no human having been hurt or killed by a wolf in memory, we are still convinced we should kill them.

      The antelope are vanishing. The deer are overbreeding because the space they occupy now is a tiny fraction of the space they used to have.

      Have you noticed the lack of butterflies? That’s because we’ve plowed down every place the weeds containing the specific seeds they need to eat are gone. Those huge flocks of Monarchs are gone forever as are most of the other butterflies. Gone. Never coming back.

      NEVER coming back. Our grandchildren will never see butterflies on the flowers. Just nice, green lawns, carefully poisoned to prevent weeds (which used to FEED the birds, woodchucks, and other small woodland creatures). And those poisons kill every living creature in the area.

      Bears are starving. Polar bears are starving. The other day, on CBS News they were casually reporting that down in Louisiana alone, there were MULTI MILLIONS of dead songbirds. We will make the planet unlivable for us — AND we will take our displaced, starving furry and feathered friends with us. That we are killing ourselves is awful, but that we are killing EVERYTHING is beyond disgraceful. And still we march forward, cutting down acres of trees to make way for a stupid little mall that will be abandoned in less than a decade. It is sickening and shameful. Also, hopeless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Where I live, in the foothills of Mt. Diablo, there are acres and acres of uncultivated land, including numerous state parks, forests, and protected wildlife preserves. Deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, beavers, gophers, moles, and even a few mountain lions inhabit those lands. The only significant threat to the trees, grasses, shrubs, and wildlife in those areas is wildfires.

        When I bought my home two years ago, the backyard was essentially a large, black tarp covering a field of dry clay. We removed the tarp, tilled the clay, added top soil and nutrients, planted ground cover, grasses, plants, shrubbery, and around a dozen decent-sized trees where there was nothing but clay before. I even constructed a waterfall and pond that attract birds who drink from and bathe there.

        I don’t want deer, gophers, and moles destroying the trees, the plants, the shrubs, and the grasses I have planted on my property when there is truly an abundance of terrain in the hills and valleys surrounding my property where they can live, breed, and feed. And I don’t believe that makes me a bad guy and I don’t feel guilty about either complaining about their destroying my yard and I don’t feel one bit guilty about taking steps to repel them.

        I did not pave paradise and put up a parking lot (or a housing development). The neighborhood I live in was built in 1954, when I was eight years old. I’ve made an effort and invested money to take a tarp-covered clay field into a natural paradise.

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        • I get it. We invest in our homes and they aren’t NEW homes. They are the biggest single investment we make and they matter to us. Our house was built in the early 1970s. The builder was a moron in so many ways, but he did ONE thing right (probably by accident). This was to cut down as few trees as possible and put his half dozen houses in a small setting in the woods. We have moles, gophers, woodchucks, skunk, deer, coyotes, fishers (weasels), raccoons, three kinds of squirrels (one of which flies), bobcats, foxes and deer. This is NOT counting rodents and who knows how many of them we have?

          When we plant, we do our best to plant what the grazers don’t like, but if they eat stuff, we shrug and move on. You never really know what ate what. You think you know, but who knew squirrels ate chrysanthemums?

          We leave our creatures in peace. Where else could they go? Those small animals are not going on long treks. They are little, short legged, and this is home. Unlike in books, they have no concept of “living somewhere else.” This is the only place they know. If we get rid of them, they are gone, probably dead. There used to be many of them — but not so many now.

          Even birds like our pesky Grackles which numbered in the MILLIONS a decade ago are down to thousands and fast disappearing. It’s why my attempts to shoo them away are a bit half-hearted. Why are they disappearing? They eat corn. We don’t have any we can spare?

          I know none of us is personally going to fix the world, but maybe if we ALL do our best, we might fix SOMETHING, even if it’s small thing. Right now, I’d be glad if we manage to not kill off the remaining wild things. They are vanishing at a stunning rate.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Also — how far do you think a gopher or a mole can travel? If you get rid of them, they die. I guess I figure they have a right to live as much as I do. And a lot less reason to feel guilty.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As I try to fend off the hundreds of Grackles that have decided this is their best shot at getting fed, I realize that there aren’t many places left for them to go. I wish I could afford to feed everything because the fields where they used to eat are mostly gone, turned to farms and pastures. How DO big flocks of birds find food? Where? And this — as regions go — is friendly with a lot of woods and wild berries and acorns. What about the rest of their territory? They are rapidly decreasing — and who knows where else they can go. Nonetheless, our own economics decree we can’t afford to feed a few hundred big, hungry birds. I would if I could. I’m beginning to think I should try to solicit donations — like big bags of dried corn to feed the crows and Grackles and squirrels, leaving the smaller birds to eat the seeds and suet. Meanwhile, we’re off to the hospital today for Garry’s hearing exams and some much needed repairs, so the Grackles will have the deck to themselves. I expect everything to be cleaned out by the time we get back. Since tomorrow is supposed to be warm and the rest of the week not bitter, best to let things go empty before we get deeper into winter.

    And the beat goes on. More birds die from cold, hunger, and lack of places to nest.

    Like

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Tish Farrell

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