Wolfgang Knorr – Bye Bye Planet A

How can governments save a world that they have lost all contact to. For them it is all about profits and greed.

Wolfgang Knorr is a climate scientist, consultant for the European Space Agency and guest researcher at the Department of Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University

COP26 on Twitter: "Mark Carney, the PM's Finance Advisor for #COP26, is  speaking at the @MMMoneyMatter campaign launch. ? ? ? Watch live here ?  https://t.co/z0a1zv9fzk #PensionsWithIntention | #ClimateAction…  https://t.co/QJUqB0WG8N"

“On Adolf Hitler, nothing comes to my mind”. These prophetic words by the Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, written in 1933 but published only posthumously in 1952, often come to my mind when I see how our current elites react to the accelerating climate crisis. Admitted, this time it is not about the absurdity of a murderous regime that cannot possibly be put in words, even by a satirist. A regime that had even at that time cast away – in its own perverse logic of efficiency – the last remaining shreds of something even remotely resembling a moral compass. This time it is about the utter absurdity of an apparent mass apathy which seems to have gripped our elites, which might very well prove, in the long run, to be just as murderous, even if unintended. Elites that seem so hell bent on preserving the status quo, they seem to have lost any shred of attachment to the real world.

This year we have been seeing various localised crazy temperature and rainfall events, including over 40°C in Spain in May, a heat wave in the middle of the winter in South America, biblical floods in Greece and Libya, and currently absolutely scary scenes from a massive wildfire in Argentina. About a week ago, however, new global data came out showing that the temperature of the Earth during the last month has made a huge jump upwards. So this time we have data representing the state of the entire planet. You can explain to a child that this graph is the equivalent of a space image showing a meteorite hurtling towards Earth. If this looks like things are out of control, they are. 

So where are the rushed press conferences with world leaders announcing immediate emergency measures to get us out of the collision course? Of course there are none, as we have seen for about 40 to 50 years. Yes, some scientists have been expressing their awe at what is happening: ‘Gobsmackingly bananas!”. I’m only glad they didn’t say they were surprised. After that, though, nothing followed. The Guardian really hit the nail on its head with their headline: scientists ‘stunned’ – as they have always been.

I have borrowed the term ‘mass apathy’, which can easily tip over into its opposite, mass hysteria, from Andri Snaer Magansson’s remarkable book ‘Of Time and Water’. In it, he describes his observation at several climate science conferences where one apocalyptic news was reported after another. And yet, none of that seemed to even touch the presenters. It seemed like they needed to be anaesthetized to be able to speak to their colleagues.

As expected, the search for the reasons of this yet unexplainable climate capriole is already under way. One factor is the current El Niño in the equatorial Pacific, which has meant a lot of the extra heat we’ve put into the oceans has resurfaced temporarily in the atmosphere. But this explains only 0.1 to 0.2°C of the jump of 0.7°C – and such events have regularly affected past temperature records. Another factor is that various policy measures have partially cleaned up the atmosphere from pollution, which so far had masked the true extent of the heating caused by greenhouse gas emissions, such as, chiefly, carbon dioxide. As if that was a cause for relief.

And yet, on the political front nothing but roaring silence! Only when it comes to silencing and criminalising the only people who seem to be able to express the enormity of what is happening, the political class shows its true creativity and resourcefulness. Another sign that our elites live in a parallel cosmos of unspeakable absurdity, given that they do not realise for a second that these radical climate protesters are not even protesting for something that is in their specific self interest, like for example better protesting conditions.

What we are witnessing is such an absurd and tragicomical case of shooting the messenger, there are literally no words for it! Let’s cast away any learned self censorship and think for a moment what would be fair and just. Wouldn’t it be fair if these people were compensated by the taxpayer for their service to humanity and be paid at least a 100, if not a 1000 times that of the oil industry lobbyists – instead of their ribs being broken and them being put in jail? It’s not such a far-fetched idea, given that during the pandemic, several Moderna billionaires were created as a ‘thank you’ for developing a COVID vaccine, after profiting from massive amounts of money through public funding, publicly guaranteed sales, and legal immunity.

And what are our leading climate scientists doing, notably paid by taxpayer money as well?  Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, long-time confidante of Greta Thunberg and the ‘Rock star’ of the climate movement gives us a lecture on climate activism in this long interview with climate scientist and outspoken critic of the ‘climate glitterati’ Kevin Anderson. Rockström explains to us how a normal distribution looks like and how radical climate activists were on the one extreme, and the climate deniers on the other.

Thank you, and welcome to the Titanic dinner party! Captain, we need to go full steam reverse, quick! Yes, thank you for this view, I know, you have this extreme view, and there are also those who just want to party, on the other side. But I am the captain and need to speak for the majority and find the right compromise!

The only thing I can say is that I wished there really was a Planet B. Because I would seriously consider emigrating.

Good bye!

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  1. Wolfgang Knorr, where have you been all my life? Between this essay and “The Truth Please – Your Personal One,” you have articulated everything I’ve been thinking for so very long now. Thank you, thank you for your cogent eloquence.

    Some of us strongly believe, noting that nothing can change until something shifts, that we must get our governments to stop giving our tax money to fossil fuel corporations in the form of direct and indirect subsidies (now $7 trillion USD per year globally, according to the IMF, 2023).

    Why would anyone in power change anything when powerful people are all so comfy and cozy and rich? But if we can get our politicians to grow some b … ravery, perhaps they’ll snap out of their deadly stupor, put a stop to a century of corporate welfare, start charging fossil fuel companies the full costs of their social (health) and environmental damage and destruction, and then watch as fossil fuels become uneconomic. Oh, and then governments around the world can invest that $7 trillion in zero-carbon technologies, better healthcare and education, affordable food and housing, more research in food security in a changing climate … you catch my drift.

    I mean, why should we have to pay $7 TRILLION EVERY YEAR for the fossil fuel menace with our health, our lives, our future — while FF bullies and their shareholders get all the investments, profits and dividends? I would think this would upset all the (so-called) free-market climate emergency deniers even more than climate change itself.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. Thanks so much. I like “corporate welfare”, nail on its head! The narrative needs to shift from coziness to anger to action. Something like the Climate Majority Project, not the corporate net zero one!).

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