The Obamanation that causes desolation

As readers will have surmised from yesterday’s post, I am not a fan of the anti-intellectual and ideologically-driven irrationality of the Tea Party movement that has currently hijacked the Republican Party in the USA. Hopefully, soon someone will pay the required ransom and release compassionate conservatism from wherever she is currently being held hostage. In the meantime, the USA looks likely to re-elect the deeply-compromised idealist that is Barrack Obama. With my thanks to Patrice Ayme for the inspiration, this is my take on this very disappointing icon of out times: Was there much joy in heaven when the US Senate rejected the Keystone XL pipeline recently? There may have been much joy expressed by environmental realists; but even this would appear to have been misplaced. This is because, it would appear that James Hansen is right, our leaders are lying to themselves not just to us: They appear to be in denial of the reality of an approaching energy crisis or, at very least, in denial of the fact that we simply cannot carry on burning fossil fuels with impunity: The central problem is that they have uncritically accepted the fossil fuel lobby’s propaganda that we can have it both ways – we can burn all the Earth’s fossil fuels without having any significant adverse environmental consequences – by pursuing the mythological and inherently dangerous solution to all our problems known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). If this were not the case, they could not have approved the Oklahoma to Texas part of the pipeline with a clear conscience (or so it would seem): It is therefore business as usual for the business as usual paradigm. Unfortunately, CCS will treat the symptoms rather than deal with the cause of the problem; it is, in effect, a business-led abdication of our moral responsibility to leave this planet as we found it. The BBC recently broadcast a TV programme, in their sciencey Horizon series, on the subject of the workings of our unconscious minds. In the context of climate change denial, the work of Dr Tali Sharot (University College London) is highly illuminating: She has found that, whilst humans will modify their beliefs if they appear unduly pessimistic, they will not do so when confronted with evidence that they are being unduly optimistic. The official abstract of ‘The optimism bias’ research paper on which Sharot’s article in TIME magazine was based reads as follows: “The ability to anticipate is a hallmark of cognition. Inferences about what will occur in the future are critical to decision making, enabling us to prepare our actions so as to avoid harm and gain reward. Given the importance of these future projections, one might expect the brain to possess accurate, unbiased foresight. Humans, however, exhibit a pervasive and surprising bias: when it comes to predicting what will happen to us tomorrow, next week, or fifty years from now, we overestimate the likelihood of positive events, and underestimate the likelihood of negative events. For example, we underrate our chances of getting divorced, being in a car accident, or suffering from cancer. We also expect to live longer than objective measures would warrant, overestimate our success in the job market, and believe that our children will be especially talented. This phenomenon is known as the optimism bias, and it is one of the most consistent, prevalent, and robust biases documented in psychology and behavioral economics.” This appears to be another way of explaining what Leon Festinger called cognitive dissonance – the way in which we avoid exposure to and/or discount – information that contradicts our already-established (and/or preferred) understanding of reality. Optimism bias and/or cognitive dissonance may be a evolutionary survival mechanism (such as the fight or flight instinct) but we cannot evolve our way out of anthropogenic climate disruption, trees cannot migrate, and we cannot rebuild NYC every 10 years because the sea level won’t stop rising… To all those who think we can, I have to say your reality batteries need replacing. ———————- In Iceland, they are very lucky that they will be able to run hydrogen-powered cars using fuel derived from water using geothermal energy. This will therefore be an entirely carbon-free form of propulsion. In the rest of the World, we are going to have to be a bit more clever to cut the Gordian Knot. However, since belief in the Laws of Physics is not optional, we must find a way to generate electricity for anything up to 10 billion people that does not put fossilised carbon into the atmosphere. We must therefore make our politicians wake-up to the fact that CCS – the fossil fuel lobby’s preferred program to allow humanity to abdicate its moral responsibility to leave the planet as it found it – is like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound: We are going to have to go ‘cold turkey’; treating the symptoms of our addiction is simply not going to work.


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Carbon Capture and Storage, Climate Science, Cognitive Dissonance, Economics, Energy Crisis, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Obamanation that causes desolation

  1. Rick’s reference to that BBC Horizon programme is highly relevant, in my inexpert opinion. Because if we can’t explain the apparent madness of denying the overwhelming evidence staring us in the face in some rational manner then there is truly no way forward. I wrote about this on Learning from Dogs back on the 19th March, the link is


  2. T. Caine says:

    Great post. I think that our country has been proven to have a disposition to try and address problems rather than plan for contingencies.


    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks for this comment. Given the nature of your own blog (which looks to be superb!), would you care to elaborate? I say this because, like all other countries, the USA appears to be failing to plan (and therefore planning to fail)…


  3. I think the biggest problem with US environmental solutions is that the right-wing think tanks continue to apply too much pressure on the political landscape while hiding behind the banner of “non-profit” organisation, if we could remove them then things might become a lot easier.


    • Rick Altman says:

      Well said. What did happen about the Heartland Institute abusing its non-profit tax status? Oh yeah, nothing. No change there then! It is about as likely to be prosecuted for such crimes as is Alan Greenspan for causing the financial meltdown of 2008… Yet more evidence of Obama’s impotence in the face of the money that has corrupted US politics.


  4. Pingback: Global Weirding and Optimism Bias « Anthropocene Reality

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