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Dahr Jamail: "We Can't Undo This"
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Dahr Jamail, a TomDispatch regular, reported strikingly from Iraq in the years after the 2003 American invasion of that country. Since then, he’s refocused the skills he learned as a war reporter on covering a fossil-fuelized war against the planet (and humanity itself). It goes by the mild name of climate change or global warming and, while a Trump tirade about the border or just about anything else gets staggering attention, the true crisis this planet faces, the one that our children and grandchildren will have to grimly deal with, remains distinctly a secondary matter not just in the news but in American consciousness. Yes, opinions are slowly changing on the subject, but not nearly fast enough. Something about the time scale of this developing crisis — no less that it could, in the end, take out human civilization and so much else — makes it hard to absorb. It’s increasingly evident that we are already living on a climate-changed planet whose weather is grimly intensifying. If you doubt this, just ask the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, Houston, or Paradise (California, that is). Its most devastating consequences will, however, be left to a future that still seems remarkably hard to absorb in an era of the endless Trump Twitch and in a time when we’re becoming ever more oriented to the social media moment.

In 2013, as Dahr Jamail mentions in his piece today, he penned a dispatch for this website on climate change. In my introduction to it, I wrote, “Still, despite ever more powerful weather disruptions — what the news now likes to call ‘extreme weather’ events, including monster typhoons, hurricanes, and winter storms, wildfires, heat waves, drought, and global temperature records — disaster has still seemed far enough off. Despite a drumbeat of news about startling environmental changes — massive ice melts in Arctic waters, glaciers shrinking worldwide, the Greenland ice shield beginning to melt, as well as the growing acidification of ocean waters — none of this, not even Superstorm Sandy smashing into that iconic global capital, New York, and drowning part of its subway system, has broken through as a climate change 9/11. Not in the United States anyway. We’ve gone, that is, from no motion to slow motion to a kind of denial of motion.”


Sadly, with different and more severe examples of every one of the phenomena mentioned above — four of the years since have, for instance, set new heat highs — that paragraph could stand essentially unchanged. In those same years, however, Jamail did anything but stand still. He traveled the planet, producing a remarkable new book, The End of Ice, which is being published today. It holds within its pages the most dramatic (and well-reported) of stories about what both the present and future will mean for us in climate-change terms. If it were up to him, we would all feel the desperate immediacy of our situation as we face the single greatest crisis since that ancestor of ours, Lucy, walked the edge of a lake in Ethiopia so many millions of years ago. I only hope that the passion in his piece today (and in the book it describes) carries a few of us into the new world we now inhabit, whether we care to know about it or not.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Global Warming 
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  1. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    I guess Climate Change has become so important to Mr. Engelhardt that it trumps his principled antiwar dissidence. He’s barely had time to mention in recent weeks the announcement of Uncle Sam leaving Syria, much less back the President.

    And once again: why does Mr. Engelhardt enjoy the privilege of having these introductions published separately from the article of the, as he vainly reminds us, “TomDispatch regular”?

    Mr. Jamail’s article is here separately, where it can receive comments; so we’ll have commenters literally talking past each other, diminishing one of the best aspects of TUR.

    Assuming (very) hypothetically that TomDispatch or its parent The Nation wanted to amplify a TUR article written by, say, Linh Dinh or C. J. Hopkins, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Unz requesting, much less receiving, such an annoying little soapbox.

  2. Sparkon says:

    I tried to leave a comment under Mr. Jamail’s article, but it has disappeared.

    Therefore, I will leave it again here:

    “We’re not going to stop this train wreck,” he assures me grimly. “We are not even trying to slow down the production of CO2 [carbon dioxide], and there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere.”

    I wonder if Bruce Wright, Dahr Jamail, or Tom Engelhardt would point to that block of stone where Earth’s correct level of CO₂ is etched?

  3. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    It’s there now. For some reason, the first comment under an article is not picked up by the review/moderation features.

    And thank you for helping to illustrate my point, above. Are all those who wish to reply to your comment likely to copy/paste into the other thread? Even if they do, why should this be?

    Mr. Engelhardt (and Mr. Unz) should realize that his teasers divert and detract from the work of the “TomDispatch regulars” deemed worthy of publication. If nothing else, the teaser and article should be together.

  4. I think the title sums it up perfectly. We can’t undo the meltdown because we can’t change the stupidity of human behavior fast enough. Collectively, the dysfunctional madness of our energy and growth addictions appear to be a terminal disease. Throw in the primitive tribal politics already on full display, and our goose is cooked. Just look at the current reactions to forced human migration and imagine it getting a thousand times worse over the next few decades. Every habitable sweet spot left on the planet is going to get a bit crowded unless famine and disease thins out the herd.

  5. @Sparkon

    There is no correct level of CO2 just like there is no correct level of sea. It’s just convenient where it is right now for about 2 billion coastal inhabitants. It’s going to be very inconvenient to say the least as both rocket upwards.

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  6. Sparkon says:
    @Sceptic Reader

    Indeed, there is always some danger of a flood in low-lying areas around any large body of water. It comes with the territory. Ask the Dutch. Fully 1/3 of Holland (the Netherlands) is below sea level. Many American coastal cities have very poor storm surge protection, as we saw with “super storm” Sandy, only a modestly strong tropical depression (80 mph winds at NYC) that nevertheless flooded parts of NYC, and caused $65 billion in damages along the East Coast.

    Also big flood and storm surge damage in recent years in “N’arlins,” and Houston…

    Psst. But bombs man, we got us some bombs, and don’t worry too much ’bout no stinking infrastructure.

    I’ve been visiting some areas of California’s Central Coast for over 40 years, and I see no sign of any noticeable difference in the tides. Nothing along the coast is rocketing upwards other than, well…real rockets actually launched (usually) upwards from nearby VAFB, still keeping its head above water.

    It’s going to be very inconvenient to say the least as both rocket upwards.

    rocket verb
    rocketed; rocketing; rockets
    transitive verb
    : to convey or propel by means of or as if by a rocket

    intransitive verb
    1 : to rise up swiftly, spectacularly, and with force
    rocketed to the top of the list
    2 : to travel rapidly in or as if in a rocket

    Well, sensational, florid, overcharged, turgid, and/or downright inaccurate language may play well to the emotions of ignoramuses, well-meaning do-gooders trying to save the world, various slop surfers feeding at the subsidy troughs, or the green blob’s own mobs, cliques, and coteries of climate alarmist babblers and scribblers looking to flesh out their own patois of hyperbole, but just for purposes of calibration with, you know, reality, could you please provide an example or two where either CO₂ or sea level is rising “swiftly, spectacularly, and with force”?

  7. For all of those who are buying this nonsense about a climate catastrophe (somewhere) in the world’s future – would you be kind enough to provide some real evidence? and I don’t mean some BS from Dana Nucitelli, John Cook or And especially not from a certain professor at Penn State whose seminal work was completely discredited years ago.

  8. Whatever it is, or turns out to be, betcha bottom dollar it isn’t like they say it is, and it won’t be the way they say it’s going to turn out. It never is. Wrongness is their job. And I mean pro and anti, left and right.

  9. I’m still waiting for the mile-thick glaciers and death by Kelvination that were the “settled science” of the mid 1970s. I mean, 45 years is only a tiny fraction of a tic in geologic time. Also, something must be done to quench the molten metal roiling about in the earth’s core. Down with magma (and volcanic activity), I say! Perhaps the cult of Climate Scientology can arrange a meeting with God and convince him to turn down the heat a bit.

  10. Meanwhile, for those of us who live in the real world, here’s what the global warming scam is all about:…

    “At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

    “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

    Referring to a new international treaty environmentalists hope will be adopted at the Paris climate change conference later this year, she added: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”


    “Ottmar Edenhofer, lead author of the IPCC’s fourth summary report released in 2007 candidly expressed the priority. Speaking in 2010, he advised, “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth.””

  11. @Sparkon

    The correct level of CO2 was that of the Carrbonifer0us era. Just ask the dragonflies.

    Or maybe it’s today, if you ask the humans.

    Where is the support for orbital solar power stations, thorium reactors, even the SAINT configuration nuclear reactors, figuring out what drives fission product production on cold fusion experiments, and so on?
    Or maybe the whole thing is intended to answer the question: “Who will save us from Western Civilization”, or maybe “Who will save us from Civilization?”.

    Note that lower Mesopotamia is now almost uninhabitable thanks to Mesopotamian civilization. Obviously we have to end civilization.

    Or something. The entire debate makes no sense except as a power grab.


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