VIOLENCE AND ENERGY GENERATION

Bob Gerecke

Will global warming produce a Hobbesian war of all against all?

The energy industry is not investing significantly in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic high profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves, including carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations in Canada, Venezuela and elsewhere.  If the huge sums which will be spent worldwide to produce more dirty fuel were instead spent on renewables, we could transition more quickly.  Disallowing tax deductions for dirty fuel development costs, and ending depreciation allowances for oil and gas deposits, would change energy companies' priorities in a hurry.  Unfortunately, the fossil-fuel companies want to keep us using the fuels which they control, and they have many politicians in their pockets.  We're toast.  Bad pun, but probably true, literally.
Several research studies have documented that inter-personal and inter-group violence is greater when climate conditions are difficult and uncomfortable.  These studies have been conducted in many countries using a variety of methods; some of them reach back into ancient times by comparing human and natural records of climate history  

with wars and unrest.  The implications for human society -- as millions of people are forced to migrate, as food and drinkable water become scarce, and as tropical diseases spread to formerly temperate climes -- are not good.

Just when we will need most to cooperate for the survival of our civilization and perhaps our species, we will be fighting among ourselves.
In a recent interview, Al Gore expressed optimism because the tone of the conversation about climate change is itself changing.  He apparently believes that a cultural shift is occurring in which most people are accepting the reality of climate change and are becoming ready to act against it.  He's probably right on that point, but the size of the problem, industrial and personal inertia, and corporate and ideological opposition will probably slow the reform of our energy generation and consumption practices until it's too late to avoid severe consequences.

It's probably already too late.