Thursday, August 18, 2016

Climate change defies all metaphors

David Roberts had an excellent article recently, responding to Bill McKibben's call for climate change action to mirror 20th century wartime mobilization:
In the end, though, I think climate change is too big and unwieldy to be captured by any single metaphor or narrative. It’s wicked like that. 
It’s an environmental problem, an energy transition, a national security threat, a market failure, an economic opportunity, an obligation to our children, a political dispute, a question of justice. Everyone has their climate thing, their way of approaching it, like the proverbial blind men around the elephant. But no metaphor really captures it all. 
More importantly, there’s no way to short-circuit politics. Actual wars don’t even short-circuit partisan politics anymore. There’s no skeleton key, no framing so dire that it will part the political waters. The hard boards must be bored. 
I love the idea of mobilization behind a common national purpose. But if it’s a war, surely, while we wait for the cavalry to arrive, we should take every little inch of ground we can.
Roberts continues to be the single best writer on climate change and energy issues, relentlessly pushing a characteristic blend of market environmentalism, social science and systems thinking. If I were to identify his "Climate Thing", it would be 'Moloch': the way of understanding social phenomena in terms of complex, emergent, game-theoretic systems.

His corpus is vast but easily-accessible via the rabbit hole of self-referencing hyperlinks contained within most of his articles. Here is another good one about incrementalism in international climate negotiations.

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