"I’m in the process of divesting. I took the pledge," Ruffalo told me, "between 3-5 years, to completely divest in any fossil fuels or anything climate change related and put it into renewable or clean tech." Ruffalo had just been a guest on Al Gore’s fourth annual 24 Hours of Climate Reality program, and he was enthused.
I really enjoyed speaking to Motherboard about 24 Hours of Climate Reality, divesting from fossil fuels and why I’m so passionate about fighting climate change. If you’re interested, you can read the whole interview HERE.
Will the Climate Change March Make a Difference to the Elites Who Run the World?
On Sunday, more than 300,000 people came out for the People’s Climate March in Manhattan. Easily the largest environmental rally in history, the spectacle was a diverse and frenetic show of force, and in that sense was a spectacular success. The lingering question that was hanging over the proceedings still remains, however: Is all of that sound and fury going to make a difference to the global elites meeting across town at the United Nations for the latest Very Important Climate Change Summit on Tuesday?
Led by a procession of indigenous peoples, activists got things started just before 11:30 AM. In addition to your typical flower-adorned hippie types, there were black and Hispanic kids from around the country. The summer of police brutality punctuated by the death of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri was never far from the surface, their names intermittently chanted by the legions of protesters.
The event was essentially a giant party. Elaborate floats coasted slowly down the street surrounded by activists with signs demanding action and marching bands. Inside the crowd was a smattering of radicals convinced that the environmental movement’s leaders are kidding themselves if they think carbon emissions can be reduced—and global warming’s worst effects averted—without dramatically reshaping the global economy.
The world is being called to action on climate change, and Forbes is denying that it is even happening.
We’re All Going to Be Killed by Giant Hornets
I don’t want to scare you or anything, but I know how you’re going to die. You’re going to be stung to death by giant hornets. We all are, and it’s going to be excruciating. In a plot twist straight from a SyFy Channel mockbuster, we all laughed at Mother Nature for too long, and now she’s coming after us in the form of huge, horrifying, toxic insects. I know, because I read a lot of internet news.
A Chinese woman named Mu Conghui told Xinhua News Agency:
"The hornets were horrifying.They hit right at my head and covered my legs. All of a sudden I was stung and I couldn’t move. Even now, my legs are covered with sting holes."
Al Gore Explains Why Civilization Might Not Survive the Next 100 Years
Al Gore is worried about the future. We’ve reached a point, he says, where the very survival of our civilization is at risk. But he’s optimistic that we can turn things around, too. Motherboard sat down with the United States’ most famous—and surely busiest—former vice president at this year’s Social Good Summit, where we talked about two possible futures Gore sees confronting humanity.
I asked him to describe the best and worst case scenarios for what civilization might look like 100 years from now. In one, Americans undertake an “Occupy democracy movement” to restore our political system, which Gore says has been “hacked” by money and special interests, and come together to fight climate change. In the other, the whole of human civilization lies in ruin.
The First World Is Destroying the Third World Through Climate Change
About 500 years ago, capitalism started to displace feudalism as the dominant socioeconomic system on the planet. There were about half a billion humans wandering around then, and about 80 percent of them were living hand-to-mouth existences and relying on subsistence agriculture. It wasn’t until the replacement of animate energy (biomass) with inanimate energy (fossil fuels) in the West during the 19th century that the global population started to grow exponentially, ballooning to its current level of over 7 billion. (To understand what powered this increase, consider that a teaspoon of diesel fuel contains as much energy as a human can expend in a day.) This transition from diffuse/currently available solar energy to stored/concentrated solar energy transformed every aspect of society, from manufacturing to agriculture to transportation to life expectancy. Basically, the last 200 years of exponential industrial and population growth have been subsidized by ancient, compacted sunlight.
It took about 200,000 years for the human population to reach 1 billion (~1800 CE), 130 years to reach 2 billion, 30 years for 3 billion, 15 years for 4 billion, and around 13 years each for 5, 6, and 7 billion. The UN is predicting that reaching 8 and 9 billion will take 16 and 19 years respectively, meaning the rate of population growth might have peaked around the year 2000. It’s probably not a coincidence that this growth corresponds pretty closely with the easy availability of ancient stores of fossilized energy. It has been argued that without fossil fuels, the carrying capacity of Earth would be around 1 to 2 billion humans.
To put it bluntly, we’re reaching peak everything. We’ve blown through our one-time inheritance of natural capital (fossil fuels, topsoil, groundwater, biodiversity) like the crazy, hairless apes we are.
The Ocean Is Melting Antarctica
Some 60% of the planet’s fresh water stores are locked away in Antarctica’s barren tundra. That’s a lot of water. For the obvious reasons, we’d all rather keep that water frozen away in the icy interior of the world’s southernmost continent than loose it into our already fast-rising oceans.
Unfortunately, new research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows that we may be closer to unleashing an Antarctic flood than previously thought. The study shows that much more of Antarctica’s total mass loss is due to warm ocean water than to iceberg calving—which is what scientists previously thought drove shrinkage in the great white south.
So the question is, does that mean Antarctica’s ice stores are now more vulnerable to global warming than we thought?
Eric Rignot, a senior scientist at JPL, told me in an email that “the short answer is yes.” That’s because “existing ice sheet models do not include a warming ocean and realistic ice ocean interactions,” he says.