Twelve Steps For CO2 Addicts


“How can we ever agree, Like the rest of the world, We grow farther apart.
I swear you don’t listen to me, Holding my hand to my heart… Holding my fist to my racing heart…”
Hand Over Fist, Neil Peart, 1989

After dealing with a particularly intransigent commenter for the past week on my Facebook page, I began to think of our CO2 problem in psychological terms–as very similar to a severe substance addiction. I’ve known several people who struggled with their alcoholism and drug abuse for years before finally gaining the humility to get themselves into a recovery program. It’s a little like what the world is doing right now.

All the posturing in Copenhagen still represents the final stages of global denial. Watch them squirm.

Everyone knows we are going to have to make changes from top to bottom: From how we produce energy, to redesigning products, to the way we manage trade and international relations. Everything will have to shift toward being in harmony with–rather than in opposition to–nature.

Everyone–and I mean even the most strident obstructionist deniers–knows what’s going on. We’re on the cusp of a fundamental shift that will radically change everything about our lives, economies, and governments for the better. And it’s coming whether people want to face it or not. But some very wealthy interests will lose in the coming transition–and lose very big. There’s a couple of hundred trillion dollars to be made peddling the Earth’s remaining carbon. That’s a lot of money and power arrayed against our Bright Green future.

Still, the worst the deniers can do is to delay action–hopefully not long enough to pass the Earth’s point of no return. That’s the high stakes game of Russian Roulette they’re willing to play, to get their grubby hands on as much of that pile of filthy soot-covered money as they can.

Even so, I think it’s an exciting time to be alive. I know we will all have much better lives after the Energy Transition. If we get our act together, the Metricene period (H/T Lou Grinzo) is likely to be the most prosperous, peaceful and healthy time in human history. Or, if the deniers win, it could be an unmitigated disaster.

Honestly, though exchanges like the one I just had with my Facebook friend could easily bring me to the brink of misanthropy, I remain hopeful that our better natures will prevail.

So without further remarks, here’s my Twelve-step program to beat carbon addiction:

  1. Admit we are powerless over combustion and that it has made our world unmanageable.
  2. Come to believe that only harnessing a Power greater than fossil fuels can restore us to sanity and prosperity.
  3. Make a decision to turn our energy & economy over to the care of Nature as we gain a better understanding of its principles.
  4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of our civilization.
  5. Admit to Nature, to ourselves, and to our fellow human beings the exact nature of our excesses.
  6. Become entirely ready to accept natural limits & expunge the curses of short-term thinking & lack of global systemic management.
  7. Humbly engage in introspection to understand how we got so out of touch with the natural ethics of the world which spawned us.
  8. Make an inventory of all the ways in which C02 has harmed our fellow citizens, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Make direct financial amends to climate change victims wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continue to take annual carbon inventories and when we exceed scientific limits, promptly admit it and take corrective action.
  11. Seek through constant research to improve knowledge of natural systems, and to amply meet human needs while preserving them.
  12. Having had an economic and political awakening, we have gained the courage to practice these principles in global affairs.

Comments (5 comments)

HumanistDad / December 16th, 2009, 7:00 pm / #1

I am arguing with a blogger that ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in our last election and he is an AGW denier! He drives me nuts because he's also a retired Science Teacher! Yet, he doesn't see how his confirmation bias is determining where he gets his info from.

BlackSun / December 17th, 2009, 3:50 am / #2

It borders on a mental illness. AGW deniers are worse than the most strident miserable religious pricks I've ever dealt with.

Webley / December 18th, 2009, 7:46 pm / #3

Hello Sean:

Longtime lurker, I have been reading your articles for a couple of years now. On most topics I find myself in agreement with you. Like you I was born and raised in a strange religious cult, Herbert Armstrong's World Wide Church of God. Unlike you my parents were drones not leaders. It has been a long journey from superstition to rationalism for me anyway. Despite all the revelations of corrupt doctrine and misuse of church power/funds, my dad is still a believer, he just hangs his hat in a different steeple now. I have read your previous posts about empiricism being the way to understand the real universe around us. I completely agree. Then comes the entry you have written here which I am assuming is meant as some sort of parody. The resemblance to an AA style 12 step program is obviously intentional. The language veers uncomfortably towards the new age mysticism which you have criticized in the past. For example, "Admit to Nature, to ourselves, and to our fellow human beings…", what does "admit to nature" entail? Solemnly communing with a rock? Beaming mental apologies to a deer? A cosmic merging of souls between man and tree? We both know that man's problems on Earth will be solved by man or not at all.

The current problem de jour of course being AGW. Your analysis above is, in my opinion, entirely too rosy. To the best of my knowledge no one hangs around burning coal seams for amusement. Fossil fuel is not an end in itself, the energy released on usage is the fossil prize, and there's the rub, the world needs energy. Energy is absolutely the starting point for literally everything. Without energy nothing moves, nothing is produced and nobody eats. Removing fossil energy from the world's energy balance equation leaves a vast shortfall that cannot be filled. Translation, a whole lot less stuff is going to happen. For example to cut world CO2 emissions in half we could cut in half everything currently going on, Ie jet travel (rich snots, who cares about em anyway), driving (too damn many cars on the road anyway), heating homes (err it's cold in Canada in the winter), eating (wait..what?), etc etc. When it is calmly explained to the proletariat that simply changing to fluorescent tube light bulbs ain't gonna cut it, and what REALLY needs to happen is a MASSIVE decrease in standard of living I predict a huge push back from the average citizen. Johnny Lunchbox knows perfectly well that his political betters are certainly not going to do without. I reference the recent trip by the Prince of Wales to Canada where he spoke of the need to learn to live with less, before boarding his private jet back to 'ol Blighty. David Suzuki owns three homes. Al Gore is a carbon scare billionaire. Indeed. Does anyone really think these elites are going to be in the same boat as us when the lights go out? Energy use devolved to the commoner has been the greatest liberation in human history. Electricity provides each of us with the rough equivalent of a dozen or so human slaves. Are we going to advocate the return to slavery to make up the deficit? Where are these slaves going to come from?

Of courses we could simply reduce the world's population to 1-2 billion and we could all live nice energy rich lives AND ease the burden on the Earth. This requires no hardship at all, simply the removal of a few penises from some vagina's. But that's an argument for another time.


BlackSun / December 19th, 2009, 10:25 pm / #4


Thanks for commenting. I have a few brief points. First, I was a bit tongue in cheek about the 12-step program, but also a bit serious. The part about Nature has to be taken with a grain of salt, of course. We are really accountable only to ourselves, nature will do quite well without us. But to me "nature" is a metaphor for the full understanding of earth's life-support systems. It is those to which we are doing violence.

There is something I would compare to religious brainwashing that runs so deep in the population it defies understanding. That is the idea that there is a trade off between prosperity (abundant energy) and the environment. Nothing could be more wrong. It is seen that way because no one alive today has lived in a world which got its energy from renewable sources.

All our lives, all our travel and all our fun has been powered by hundred million year old fossil energy. Energy we're burning through at the rate of 1 million years of stored energy for every year of modern civilization.

There is no need to reduce the population. There is no need to destroy anyone's standard of living.

Earth is literally teeming with abundant renewable energy. It's all around us every day. The sun, the wind, the tides and earth's molten core provide hundreds of thousands of times more energy than all the fossil fuels and uranium on earth put together.

No lesser person than Thomas Edison said the following:

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
– Thomas Edison

And he didn't even know about the effects of CO2 on the climate.

Arguments about elites hold no water. There have always been elites, and there always will be. Does anyone fault Bill Gates for his billions? No, because he changed our lives for the better. Even if you're a Machead (I'm typing on a Mac keyboard right now), you've got to be grateful to how Bill Gates changed the world and brought graphical computing to the masses.

The "carbon billionaires" of the future will do the same thing, but with even greater positive results.

We should curb population growth by making the world wealthy and smart. The sad truth is most of the breeding is done by the poor and uneducated. That's at least as big a threat to the world as climate change. Pollution + ignorance = overpopulation, squalor, and human misery.

David Vaughn / December 28th, 2009, 1:19 am / #5

Someone very close to me is in AA and it has done him a world of good. The sad thing is that one needs to become an alcohol, drug, or sex addict to find a group of people who will help you work through your personal addictions. We all need some form of group asistance and group lovng acceptance. The deniers of AGW know they didn't create the system that perpetuates it- they just don't want to take the trouble to deal with creating the solution. No problem unless they create policy. The problem with democracy is that it empowers ignoramuses equally with the intelligent self-informed. Is it possible we are mistaken? Yes, remotely. But we are informed and you just want to be free to drive your Hummer down Main Street so you idiot neighbors can feel jealous. There is no human being alive who is not addicted to pleasure. It's hardwired into us. Some of us love intellectual clarity more than the others.

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