Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Climate Beyond Imagination

QUICK SUMMARY: Witnessing plot of climate denial in Bush Whitehouse; how the 1% control us; climate fiction "cli fi" new and old; why predictions of the cost of stopping climate change are ridiculous. Radio Ecoshock 140423

Welcome back. This week we're going to stretch our minds into a developing future beyond any human experience. We'll talk to authors in the new genre of climate fiction - cli fi - the classics and new writers.

Right off the bat, we run into climate denial and the way the 1 percent control the rest of us.

The show closes with a new study revealing estimates of the cost to fix climate change are misleading, wrong, and a waste of time. That's just as the IPCC reports on the cost of reducing climate damage or letting it run rampant over the planet. The value of a living planet: priceless.

I'm Alex, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


America has two political parties. Maybe it's really just one party by and for big corporations and big money. That's the experience of our next guest. I'll introduce him with a quote from his own blog:

"Twice a surrogate ‘stem cells’ spokesperson for the George W Bush White House, J. Perry Kelly ended his association with the political right over its distortion of global warming. Having witness[ed] the psychology of worldview exploitation firsthand, he spent four years crafting “The Sibyl Reborn,” a psychological thriller."

He wrote pieces for Conservative journals like "Human Events" and "The National Review".

Whatever listeners think about stem cell research, pro or con, you raise the critical point: our views, and that debate, just become part of a larger plan for corporate and political control. J Perry Kelly saw this machinery of divide and conquer on issues in the medical field, and then, to his horror, found his Conservative allies lining up to deny climate change.

James became disabled due to a spinal cord injury following a car accident. He looked good being wheeled into Conservative functions, questioning what was being promised by big-pharma for stem cell research. On the platform, he was sometimes accompanied by Tony Perkins, President Family Research Council - the same Tony Perkins listed in my blog last week as part of the "Green Dragon" anti-science group. Some of those people and groups received funding from fossil fuel companies, as they attacked environmentalism and the need for controls on carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Listen to/download this J. Perry Kelly interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

HOW THEY CONTROL US The Bush Whitehouse, and no doubt Obama too, were well aware of studies about a universal human weakness done by psychology expert Drew Westen of Emory University in Atlanta. His 2006 study used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to show human brains react to criticism of their deeply held world views by changing or denying their perception of reality to fit those views.

Here is a key quote from the Wikipedia entry on Drew Westen:

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged... Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want... Everyone... may reason to emotionally biased judgments when they have a vested interest in how to interpret 'the facts.'[5]

The study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 18:11, pp. 1947–58, a peer-reviewed scientific journal."

Doesn't this explain why Texans in one of the worst droughts in memory, sweating it out in unbelievable streaks of days over 100 degrees F, still deny climate change, and even elect representative sworn to fight any climate legislation? We humans spin obvious facts until we get the (foregone) conclusions we want.

Here is the full citation, for those of you who want to follow up on this key research.

Westen, Drew; Blagov, Pavel S.; Harenski, Keith; Kilts, Clint; Hamann, Stephan (2006), "Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election", Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 18 (11): 1947–1958, doi:10.1162/jocn.2006.18.11.1947, PMID 17069484

Westen then published the book "The Political Brain". Westen's lab is here.

Industry, politicians, and media spin-masters know this about us. They take full advantage of it. All humans have this weakness (it is "universal"). In his fiction cli fi novel, James Perry Kelly makes that a central feature of why humans are on this Earth. He calls it "the taint".

Essentially, all any of these actors need to do is tell us what we want to believe. It also turns out we are more than willing to believe the worst about any person or group we consider as adversaries, and so we believe that too, even when it is contradicted by easily available facts. Scary stuff. Kelly's book "The Sibyl Reborn" should be worth the read just to digest this key operation in the human brain, with it's widespread implications for social control on a number of levels. Practically every institution does it.

Find out more with J. Perry Kelly at his blog "Quantum Fires" the journal of unbiased thought. The book's web site is here. Buy if from Amazon here.


Both James Perry Kelly and Mary Woodbury were suggested to me by Dan Bloom. Dan coined the term "cli fi" to fit the genre of fiction which includes a theme of the new world under a changed climate.

Dan Boom is living in Taiwan. I first met him online several years ago, when he proposed "Polar Cities" - the new settlements near the Arctic Sea, as predicted by James Lovelock, as the rest of the world gets too hot for us. Find Dan Bloom's blog "Cli Fi Central" here.

In a strange twist even for futurist, Dan pre-published his own obituary, for the year 2032! Dan explains what Cli Fi is in this piece, "The Origins of Cli-Fi"


A future that is 3, 4, 8 degrees hotter is very hard to imagine. No human has ever lived in such a world. Scientists try to describe what may happen, but artists do better. Enter "climate fiction" now known as "cli fi". In British Columbia, Mary Woodbury is an author and organizer of the first recognized webzine about cli fi.

For me, it started in the 1970's, with the famous Charleton Heston movie Soylent Green. Remember it was all burned out and hot in the cities, with most of nature already dead. Then we discover the seas are dead as well. My first novel of this type was Bruce Sterling's 1994 novel "Heavy Weather".

Mary's website catalogs the best of Cli Fi fiction. Find it here.

Some of these authors might disagree they are writing "Cli fi" - Margaret Atwood comes to mind. Mary tells us it doesn't have to be "science fiction". Cli fi might include short stories, poems, or books like which is very much in the present.

Mary suggests books like "Odds Against Tomorrow" by Nathaniel Rich, or Barbara Kingsolver's book "Flight Behavior". We also discuss the 1960's English novelist J.G. Ballard. His books "The Drowned World" and "The Burning World" are pretty good for predicting some of the problems of climate disruption.

Among promising young new cli fi authors, Mary suggests "A Being Darkly Wise" by John Atcheson. Read Mary Woodbury's interview with author John Atcheson here.

For your young adults or teens, try Mary's recommendation of "Not A Drop to Drink" by Mindy McGinnis. There's lots more for people of all tastes in the more than 100 cli fi novels listed on Mary's site. Browse on!

Mary's own book is published under the pen-name Clara Hume. That's because there is already another Canadian author named Mary Woodbury. Our Mary's cli fi book is called "Back to the Garden".

Listen to/download my interview with cli-fi author Mary Woodbury in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Every half dozen years, official reports estimate the supposed costs and benefits of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, to preserve a livable climate. The most famous so far are the British Stern Report of 2006, and the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Now we have more fun facts and figures in the new Fifth Assessment of the IPCC just released in this spring of 2014.

Top politicians, business leaders and even environmentalists talk seriously about whether it will cost 2% or 10% of the world's economy to switch away from fossil fuels. A new paper says these emperors have no clothes: estimates of the costs and benefits of limiting climate change are impossible. That's according to a peer-reviewed study by Drs. Richard.A. Rosen, Edeltraud Guenther. Its pretty shocking stuff, when you hear what those official estimates leave out.

Dr. Richard Rosen is from the Tellus Institute in Boston. We are talking about his new paper "The economics of mitigating climate change: What can we know?"

I was stumped when I read the Rosen/Guenther study:

"However, surprisingly, most IAMs [Integrated Assessment Models ]discussed in Barker [8] and relied on by the 2007 IPCC report, do not include any estimates of the likely future damage due to climate change at all".

That mean things like the huge costs of Hurricane Katrina, or the $60 billion dollar cost of Hurricane Sandy, is just left out of these models. Isn't that one of the fundamental reasons to mitigate climate change in the first place? Things like droughts, rising seas, more violent storms could bankrupt our already overdrawn economies. How can economists leave that out?

Positive feedbacks, the interaction of things like melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost methane releases, are not included in any of these cost/benefit models.

The paper concludes the results of Barker, the Stern Report, and the IPCC 4th Assessment (2007) are invalid.

The cost benefits models seem to be built on a business view based on what happened in the past. What happens if there is a big economic breakdown, and the industrial system crashes? Can anyone model what happens then?

What if the peak oil people are right, and we start to run out of affordable fossil fuels by 2050. Do economists take that into account, or even believe it is possible?

The authors are aware of this problem, writing:

"For example, in a baseline scenario, the world may run short of fossil fuels so quickly that fuel prices could skyrocket, causing the global economy to crash. No existing climate-related IAM can capture such an effect, despite its very real possibility."

And then we have the Black Swan events. I'm talking about things like a solar storm knocking out electricity in developed countries for a few months or years. Or maybe Ebola or some other virus escapes causing a massive global pandemic. The future seems too unstable to make century-long estimates of costs.

Sure enough, the phony greens at the Breakthrough Institute told the press if it costs 6% of some imaginary future GDP to fix the planet, and just 2% to wreck it, we may as well wreck it. Really guys? So sad.

The conclusion of this Rosen/Guenther study is right in line with my own thinking, and that of our listeners. It doesn't matter what it costs to reduce climate change, if we end up with a planet where it's too difficult for humans and most life we know to survive. Give up the numbers game and lets' save ourselves and the rest of the species while we still can.

Listen to/download this interview with expert Richard Rosen in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Here are links to the paper we talked about: R.A. Rosen, E. Guenther, The economics of mitigating climate change: What can we know?, Technol.Forecast. Soc. Change (2014),

It's available free in full text here.


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Radio Ecoshock

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