The year has not ended well, even as there is some hope that 2020 will bring a reversal of the perfect storm of 2016 that elected a buffoon to the WH.

A recent article outlined the cascading possibility of connected tipping points in the Climate Crisis. This emergency cannot be unmet.

With the current electoral politics, the most likely outcome in 2020 could be some form of “Big Structural Change” where in the US, the Green New Deal (GND) is only a start. In a de facto binary contest the other option will be more of the same looting of the national economy with the threat of global economic chaos.

Capitalists’ response to this is to maintain their wealth by bureaucratic means beyond capturing the administrative state by manipulating law and economics no differently than how 25% of US federal judgeships will be occupied by Trumpists. In international policy, the path to the emergency is focused only on trade profit, with no expectation of altering environmental policies. Rather, four years of continued rollback of existing regulatory policies might hasten multiple tipping points.

Public policy canons depend on Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) bandaged by sensitivity analysis, and symptomatic of the limitations on neoliberal methodologies. CBA is always limited by scale and in a case of global crisis no reliance on policies constrained by CBA will solve a climate crisis.

In our view, the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute (see ‘Emergency: do the maths’).


  • We define emergency (E) as the product of risk and urgency. Risk (R) is defined by insurers as probability (p) multiplied by damage (D). Urgency (U) is defined in emergency situations as reaction time to an alert (τ) divided by the intervention time left to avoid a bad outcome (T). Thus:
  • E = R × U = p × D × τ / T

  • The situation is an emergency if both risk and urgency are high. If reaction time is longer than the intervention time left (τ / T > 1), we have lost control.

We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens. A saving grace is that the rate at which damage accumulates from tipping — and hence the risk posed — could still be under our control to some extent.

The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action — not just words — must reflect this.…

We are way past worrying about persuasion ethics since it is now clear that malign elements would support anti-fracking movements only to ensure their own fossil-fuel profit margins.

Exposing and explaining the techniques of denial are crucial steps in neutralizing disinformation, not just from the fossil fuel industry but from any source. Once people know the ways they can be deceived, disinformation no longer has power over them. As Edward Everett once said: “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” But it’s not enough to offer information – we also have to expose disinformation, so that people understand what we have been up against.…

  • December 29, 2019
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