Sunday, March 25, 2007


Global warming and Habermas

This is an article on the global warming crisis worth reading. It deals briefly with the history of the idea, the contours of the problem, the urgency of action. It suggests that nuclear power is necessary in the short term (the next two decades) since we can't wait for alternatives to step into the fossil-fuel gap.

On the history:

The basic science of [global warming] was not in dispute, but the area was also not one of much scientific interest except to one or two mavericks.//One of them was a young American physicist called James Hansen, whose 1967 PhD thesis studied Venus and came to the conclusion that it was the greenhouse effect which made the planet so warm...

I find it impressive how ahead of the game Jurgen Habermas was in Legitimation Crisis:

Even on optimistic assumptions, however, one absolute limitation on growth can be stated...namely, the limit of the environment's ability to absorb heat from energy consumption. (p. 41)

He went on to point out that while this ecological limit upon economic growth applied to "all complex social systems" (i.e. regardless of their economic organisation), the principles of capitalist organisation severely constrained the possible means of dealing with the problem. This was written in 1973, and since it now appears to be in some ways "too late" it's a pity more people didn't listen to him then.

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