EXCERPT: Business as usual

October 11, 2015

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Empowering Climate-Change Strategies with Bernard Lonergan’s Method 

By John Raymaker with Ijaz Durrani
Empowering Climate-Change Strategies with Bernard Lonergan’s Method By John Raymaker with Ijaz Durrani
Climate change will lead to more natural disasters and a rise in sea level. A family displaced by flooding wades through flood waters in Bello Patan, Sindh. 	— Reuters
Climate change will lead to more natural disasters and a rise in sea level. A family displaced by flooding wades through flood waters in Bello Patan, Sindh. — Reuters

By John Raymaker and Ijaz Durrani

WHAT strategies should governments follow to face climate change threats? Can Generalised Emperical Method with Functional Specialisations (GEM-FS), reinforce such strategies? We can answer such questions by summarising climate change viewpoints under the labels of a do nothing, business as usual scenario and an alternate scenario that would use new technologies to combat climate change. The two scenarios feature the perennial debate between the deniers and protagonists of the issue.

Unfortunately, “business as usual” scenarios have no such strategies. They ignore the fact that if fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions were to continue to increase at a rate of 2 pc per year as in the past decade, it would result in a further warming of 2-3°C this century across the planet. This would provoke changes and a dangerously different planet. The last time the earth was 2-3°C warmer than it is now was three million years ago, when sea levels were some 80 feet higher. Eighty feet! In that case, the US would lose such East Coast cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Miami. Practically the entire state of Florida would be under water. Fifty million people in the US are now living below such projected sea levels. Other places would fare worse. China would have 250 million displaced persons. Bangladesh would wind up with 120 million refugees — practically the entire nation. India would lose land now occupied by 150 million of its people.

In fact, a business laissez faire scenario would cause the ice sheets to disintegrate. The only question is when the collapse of these sheets would begin. This scenario would produce global chaos, leaving fewer resources with which to mitigate the catastrophes due to global warming. The effect of the ongoing loss of ice on the global sea level is still small, but it is accelerating. The likelihood of the sudden collapse of ice sheets increases as global warning continues. Warming oceans melt the off shore accumulation of the “ice shelves” that form a barrier between the ice sheets and the ocean.

As the ice shelves melt, more icebergs are discharged from the ice sheets into the ocean. And as the ice sheet discharges more icebergs into the ocean and loses mass, its surface sinks to a lower level where the temperature is warmer, causing it to melt faster — a vicious circle. Laissez faire pundits insist that continued growth of fossil fuel use and of carbon dioxide emissions are facts that can hardly be altered. Their prophecies are self fulfilling ones: government subsidies and intensive efforts by special interest groups prevent the public from becoming well informed so that no actions are taken to address rises in sea levels.

A rise in sea levels necessarily begins slowly. Massive ice sheets must be weakened before rapid disintegration and melting occurs and sea levels rise. It may require up to a few centuries to produce most of the long term response. But the inertia of the ice sheets is not our ally against the effects of global warming. The Earth’s history reveals cases in which sea levels, once ice sheets began to collapse, rose one metre (1.1 yards) every 20 years for centuries. That would be a calamity for hundreds of cities around the world, most of them far larger than New Orleans. Devastation from rising seas occurs as a result of local storms. Such storms are expected to cause repeated retreats from transitory shorelines and a rebuilding away from them.

For the sociologist Richard Moodey, progress has to include an ecological dimension. We must move toward a second industrial revolution enabling us to produce the goods and services needed to maintain human population in ecologically sustainable ways. A dimension of the problem of evil consists in the way our current manner of industrial production is eating up non-renewable resources and dumping ever-increasing amounts of waste, some of it highly toxic, into the air, water, and earth. Movements towards a sustainable form of industrial production are blocked by powerful interests. Moodey, who is not unfamiliar with GEM-FS, is hard put to see how FS collaboration in various academic disciplines could have an effect upon how decisions are made in the boardrooms of the corporations dominating industrial production. “The officers of corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to act” in ways that will enrich corporate owners. “Even if they were to all become free from individual, group, dramatic, and general bias, they would still have the fiduciary responsibility” to make a profit.

This is a problem of structure, not one of the knowledge or virtue of corporate decision- makers. Moodey knows that changing the corporate structure would require political action; corporate lobbyists have frustrated such action. The result has been that needed attempts to make the structural changes that would lead to ecologically sustainable modes of production have been ineffective.

Pressing problems are already upon us. We need to judge and act promptly — as revealed, for example, in the dire fortunes of Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk prefigures what may increasingly happen if the business-as-usual scenario goes unchecked. In Norfolk, the streets regularly flood at high tide — often trapping people in their homes and preventing them from getting to work. On May 28, 2014, the city’s $24 million Chrysler Museum of Art was forced to empty its basement and move its heating ventilating and air conditioning system to the top floor of the building. Churches in Norfolk now have to post tide charts on their websites so people can determine whether they can even get to church. Some churches are being sold because they can’t pay their skyrocketing flood insurance premiums.

Norfolk ranks behind only New Orleans in terms of American cities whose populations are threatened by rising seas. In 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey declared a 600-mile stretch of coastline, from North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras to Boston, a sea-level rise hotspot, with rates increasing at three to four times the global average.

The planet is in big trouble, but the business-as-usual approach has nothing more to offer than advocating further corporatisation of national and local governments. 

The above is an excerpt taken from the chapter ‘Seeking Effective Ways to Remedy Impending Disasters’.


Excerpted with permission from

Empowering Climate-Change Strategies with Bernard Lonergan’s Method

By John Raymaker with Ijaz Durrani

United Press of America, USA

ISBN 978-0761865124

171pp.