Are We Missing the Real Issue?

In his article, Don’t Call Me a Pessimist on Climate Change, I am a Realist, William E Rees explores the possibility that the switch to green energy sources will not meet our growing demands. Survival will ultimately depend on us facing hard facts about energy, growth and governance.

Is the modern world deeply addicted to fossil fuels in order to sustain a lifestyle of urbanisation and growth?

In fact, he ventures to assert that existing policy for climate disaster-avoidance seems designed to serve the capitalist growth economy and make the latter appear as the solution rather than cause of the problem. “Unfortunately,” as University of Vienna public policy professor Clive Spash points out, “many environmental non-governmental organisations have bought into this illogical reasoning.” (Note that many NGOs are dependent on the corporate sector for financial support.)

His arguments may seem cynical and pessimistic but they are coherent and persuasive. He frames the discussion around two primary questions:

Question 1: The modern world is deeply addicted to fossil fuels and green energy is no substitute. Am I wrong?

Question 2: Human nature and our methods of governance are proving incapable of saving the world. We need to ‘get real’ about climate science. Am I wrong?

He concludes with an eleven step list of measures that he believes have the real chance to make the difference needed to save us from our current trajectory.

Here, then, is what an effective “Green New Deal” might look like:

1. Formal recognition of the end of material growth and the need to reduce the human ecological footprint;

2. Acknowledgement that, as long as we remain in overshoot — exploiting essential ecosystems faster than they can regenerate — sustainable production/consumption means less production/consumption;

3. Recognition of the theoretical and practical difficulties/impossibility of an all-green quantitatively equivalent energy transition;

4. Assistance to communities, families and individuals to facilitate the adoption of sustainable lifestyles (even North Americans lived happily on half the energy per capita in the 1960s that we use today);

5. Identification and implementation of strategies (e.g., taxes, fines) to encourage/force individuals and corporations to eliminate unnecessary fossil fuel use and reduce energy waste (half or more of energy “consumed” is wasted through inefficiencies and carelessness);

6. Programs to retrain the workforce for constructive employment in the new survival economy;

7. Policies to restructure the global and national economies to remain within the remaining “allowable” carbon budget while developing/improving sustainable energy alternatives;

8. Processes to allocate the remaining carbon budget (through rationing, quotas, etc.) fairly to essential uses only, such as food production, space/water heating, inter-urban transportation;

9. Plans to reduce the need for interregional transportation and increase regional resilience by re-localizing essential economic activity (de-globalization);

10. Recognition that equitable sustainability requires fiscal mechanisms for income/wealth redistribution;

11. A global population strategy to enable a smooth descent to the two to three billion that could live comfortably indefinitely within the biophysical means of nature.

For more detail you can read the original article here.

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