Be my guest: save the Planet!

Almost 13 years ago I published a post with the title Projects that will (perhaps) save the planet. This was a random collection of ideas1 that could contribute to countering climatic change. The post was then updated at irregular intervals with new planet-saving projects as I became aware of them.

Philippulus, the astronomer turned prophet. Source: Tintin, The shooting star.

The fact is we have not made any spectacular progress over the last 13 years. COPs, the big annual climate jamborees, come and go with ever increasing numbers of participants and arguably ever decreasing success in their attempts to “save the planet” 2.

Saving the Planet seems to have enormous difficulties to go mainstream, and we are essentially left with micro-measures.

This morning, I was surprised to find two articles on ScienceDaily with the following titles:

(1) Asteroid findings from specks of space dust could save the planet

(2) Can elephants save the planet?

and a quick search yielded a two years old post :

(3) Save the planet (and your health) by steering clear of sweets and pastries

All highly irrelevant, as you can see: they are not about tough and potentially unpopular energy policies and reducing our fossil carbon emissions. While people are dying of drought-related starvation, war and drowning in their flooded villages, all we manage to talk about is asteroids, elephants and sweets. Renewable energy, reforestation, eating less meat, sharing resources? Too painful, my dear, too bad for business and economic growth. It is clear that we are now well on the way of leaving physics for metaphysics: salvation will come from asteroids, elephants and eating less sweets. I predict more Brownian climate-change initiatives, preferably decentralised, and a huge come-back of religion and irrationality. And I am almost sure White supremacists and extreme right politicians will not contradict me3.

No-one seems to be even remotely ashamed of coming up with yet another save-the-planet fantasy. Save the planet has become just another catchphrase4. While this is all good food for memetics, it is also rather sickening to think that we, as a society of AI-aided intelligent bipeds prefer bickering over insignificant micro-issues (such as national pride, the bad Putin, the good Biden, the wily Xi and the sex of Angels) rather than tackling real issues. Interestingly, about two weeks after publishing this post, I was pleased to find the same word (“bickering”) in a Guardian article about cyclone Gabrielle and it’ s impact in New Zealand5.

Translated with DeepL and GoogleTranslate. Idea from a book by Paul Jorion.

It’ s pretty obvious that we’re not going to save the planet any time soon, because there will be no planet left by the time we’ ll need it6. Remember Drake’s equation? There is this L factor7 which does not take into account human short-sightedness and greed. And that is why we will no longer be there and capable of emitting detectable and intelligible signals when someone from “out-there” will eventually reach out to this remarkable species of ours.

  1. Remember: this is Wergosum’ s random blog![]
  2. The number of participants at COP 26 in Glasgow was about 38000. This is about 2700 tons of participant biomass, all ferried to the venue and back home burning fossil fuels. Details about participants can be found here. []
  3. Refer to the article by George Monbiot listed in my Curious scientists collection of papers, available from this link.[]
  4. like Driven into the mountains, which I wrote about in 2011.[]
  5. Here’ s the quote: New Zealand’s climate change minister has made a furious speech excoriating parliament for lost decades of “bickering” over the climate crisis, as Cyclone Gabrielle devastates the country. “As I stand here today, I struggle to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling about this particular crisis,” James Shaw told parliament on Tuesday. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt as sad or as angry about the lost decades that we spent bickering and arguing about whether climate change was real or not, whether it was caused by humans or not, whether it was bad or not, whether we should do something about it or not, because it is clearly here now, and if we do not act, it will get worse.[]
  6. Unless some self-organization miracle happens[]
  7. L = the length of time for which civilizations emit detectable signals. We can set this to approximately 250 years after Heinrich Hertz produced the first artificial radio signals in 1887. This is approx. 0.0000000178571 times the age of the universe[]
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1 year ago

Someone not so cynical as myself may find some interest in a couple of announcements and publications I became aware of today.

They include a Letter by Peter Newman, Curtin University, Sustainability Policy Institute, Perth, Australia, that will be in the 2 February issue of Nature. The letter references two documents:

1. The first is a document on the UN website with the title INTEGRITY MATTERS: NET ZERO COMMITMENTS BY BUSINESSES, FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS, CITIES AND REGIONS. The document was authored by the 16 members of the United Nations’ High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities. Illustrations include a picture a woman mounting a tyre on her bicycle and a roof-top garden in Singapore.

2. The other is by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) . Title: Net Zero Guidelines, Accelerating the transition to net zero. It is available in several languages including English. You will have to provide your personal data “for statistical purposes and to watermark [the] document”. No checks are done: fill in whatever you like. The document is the outcome of a workshop held in 2022 with hundreds of participants.

1 year ago
Reply to  wergosum

I just had a closer look at the list of participants at the ISO Workshop. What a mix! I hope the meeting took place in a city with nice restaurants.

1 year ago

Here’s another recent paper showing that only few “Annex 1” countries are taking their emission reductions seriously. Look up the ScienceDaily Post as well as the original paper in Nature (OpenAccess).

While you are at it, also read this Guardian article: the proof that one can be a German short-sighted idiot and run a media empire. Of course, we know that from elsewhere too!