Wednesday, August 08, 2018

How Are We Doing?

This is the summer climate change got real for lots of people. Simon Lewis writes in The Guardian:

This is the summer when, for many, climate change got real. The future looks fiery and dangerous. Hot on the heels of Trump, fake news and the parlous state of the Brexit negotiations, despair is in the air. Now a new scientific report makes the case that even fairly modest future carbon dioxide emissions could set off a cascade of catastrophe, with melting permafrost releasing methane to ratchet up global temperatures enough to drive much of the Amazon to die off, and so on in a chain reaction around the world that pushes Earth into a terrifying new hothouse state from which there is no return. Civilisation as we know it would surely not survive. How do we deal with such news?

There are three ways to deal with the news:

We face the same three choices in response to climate change as we did before this scorching summer: reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), make changes to reduce the adverse impacts of the new conditions we create (adaptation), or suffer the consequences of what we fail to mitigate or adapt to. It is useful to come back to these three options, and settle on the formula that serious mitigation and wise adaptation means little suffering.

As Lewis sees it, "we are heading for some mitigation, very little adaptation, and a lot of suffering:

This is because while the diagnosis of climate change being a problem is a scientific issue, the response to it is not. Leaving fossil fuels in the ground is, for example, a question of regulation, while investing in renewable energy is a policy choice, and modernising our housing stock to make it energy efficient is about overcoming the lobbying power of the building industry. Solving climate change is about power, money, and political will.

Science provides the diagnosis. But politics -- only politics -- can provide the solution:

Thinking about climate change as a practical political problem helps avoid despair because we know that huge political changes have happened in the past and continue to do so. The future is up to us if we act collectively and engage in politics. To quote Antonio Gramsci: “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Looked at this way, we can see the politics as a battle between a future shaped by fear versus a future shaped by hope.
That hope is built on a better story of the future and routes to enact it. The outline of this story is that given the colossal wealth and the scientific knowledge available today, we can solve many of the world’s pressing problems and all live well. Given that our environmental impacts are so long-lasting, the future is the politics we make today.

It's all about the politics we make today. How are we doing?



The Mound of Sound said...

I found his prescription hopeful but implausible. His solution lies in "cooperative internationalism," some sort of quasi-world government. Imagine the degree of stability and harmony our nations would have to achieve to adopt this notion of internationalism. Lewis is right and that's where his solution falters.

Owen Gray said...

The cooperative internationalism which led to the acid rain treaty doesn't exist anymore, Mound. The world has changed. That change is neo-liberalism's legacy.