Kris an’ Murphy: Carbon Bubble, Toil, and Trouble

island-without-trees_wide-8c1d457c528aa968ff0aba4276c6ba22d02faf5f-s4-c85Kris:Honestly, Murphy!”

Murphy: “Yes, I’m honestly Murphy. Leastways, I was last time I looked.”

Kris: “Well, you’re in fine form tonight, I see. Wish I could say the same about the oil companies.”

Murphy: “Hm?”

Kris: “It’s this ‘carbon bubble’ business. Oil companies have been piling tons of money into things like fracking and tar sands, so we can pump carbon from these fossil fuels into an atmosphere that’s already got too much of the stuff. How can they possibly defend this? They’ve got to know that they’ll be left holding the bag when governments clamp down on carbon emissions …”

Murphy: “‘When?‘”

Kris: “Yes, dammit, ‘when‘. Governments have already agreed on what the limits need to be.”

Murphy: “But have they agreed on how to implement the limits?”

Kris: “Um …”

Murphy: “No they haven’t. And they’re not going to.”

Kris:What?!? This is the planet we’re talking about, Murphy! And it’s the only one we’ve got! Surely we’re not so bleeding stupid that we’ll wreck it just because oil company profiteers say so!”

Murphy: “Right. So when are you moving into the dorms?”

Kris:Are you nuts!?! Even if I was able to bump my way past the waiting lists because I’m tenured faculty, Sharon and the kids would have my head on a silver platter if I even joked about giving up our spread in the country! Especially for a cramped slum like our dorms are!”

Murphy: “Under any scenario that comes close to meeting climate projections, you aren’t going to have the energy for that two hour commute every day. And you live way too far away to walk. To work, to the markets, to anything.”

Kris: “Surely technological advances …”

Murphy: “Listen up, meathead. The average American generates twice as much trash today as his counterpart in 1960. There are twice as many of us now. In order for us to break even with the trash load of 1960, each of us has to generate one fourth of the trash we typically dump now. I argue, the same thing goes for energy. The technology doesn’t exist that will allow us to carry on at a level of energy expenditure even close to what we use today without burning fossil carbon, and it isn’t going to exist, unless you’ve got some way to break the laws of thermodynamics up your sleeve, and slash the human population on top of that. The only way to meet these carbon targets the governments have allegedly agreed on is for each of us to use less energy. Lots less energy. And you just told me point blank that you’re not going to take it.

“And neither is anyone else. The minute We the People see that those carbon targets are going to hit us where we live, they’re going to be gone with the wind. Not to mention that any government that works out that cheating on the carbon budgets will boost their economies and get their citizens behind their policies, will cheat, and will drive the rest to cheating to keep up. The OPEC cartel’s oil price was only as high as its most flagrant cheater would let it be, and the same sort of dynamic will happen here. The oil companies didn’t get to be megacorporations by being as stupid as their customers. They know damned well how we’re going to behave, and are making their investments and corporate plans accordingly. Push comes to shove, those tar sands are going forward, and it’ll be because We demand it.”

Kris: “But … the planet! We’re going to commit ecocide, like they did on Easter Island when they stripped the place of trees for their damned statues!”

Murphy: “Haven’t heard the latest on that, have you? Wasn’t the Easter Islanders who stripped the trees, it was the rats they brought with them. And even after they lost all the trees, they still were better nourished than the average European at the same point in history.”

Kris: “But how?

Murphy: “They adapted. The island gave them rats, they ate rats. The island gave them open space instead of trees, they made gardens, and they patched their canoes instead of making new ones. Their standard of living may not have been much, but they didn’t know any better, and they got by. You might not move into the dorms, but your grandkids will and be thankful for that much. And, probably, their gas-guzzling cars. For the few that can afford the gas. That’s the real lesson of Easter Island.”

Kris: “What killed them off then?”

Murphy: “European germ warfare. What else?

Kris: “Damn your hide, Murphy. I’m going to the bar.”

Murphy: “Drink up. While you still can.”

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