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Where do we stand? Where are we going? How long do we have? What must we do?

In my last two blog posts I articulated four basic principles to aid us in formulating effective strategies to combat global warming. In this final blog of the series I will try to succinctly answer the four posed above and offer a few suggested positions and actions consistent with those principles.

Where do we stand: We’ve gained a degree Celius and it is increasingly likely that we’ll surpass two degrees by 2040. That’s because it takes approximately 30 years to feel all the climatic impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Today we are experiencing the full effect of emissions we generated prior to 1985, and we will not feel all the results of those we’ve produced since until 2044. Moreover, we’ve drastically increased such emissions since 1985.

Where are we going: The science says we can’t avoid positive feedback mechanisms once we reach three degrees increase, possibly as low as just over two degrees. In any event, if we continue on our current course, it is likely we will approach three degrees by 2050 and trigger the positive feedback loops. If we allow that to occur, the positive feedback mechanisms will become unstoppable, and by 2100 trigger an additional three degrees of global temperature rise. It is doubtful that civilization as we know it would survive if we reach that point, and such an increase would compromise the habitability of our planet.

How long do we have: I am wary of those who categorically state that it is not too late to avoid this nightmare scenario. I think such statements are both wishful thinking and manipulative. Better to say it MAY not be too late, and act as if it were not too late, because we have no choice. Two things are almost certain: We must act quickly and we must make basic structural changes to maximize our chances of avoiding catastrophe. If we have not shifted course significantly by 2020 we will have less than a 10% chance of avoiding the positive feedback mechanisms. That means we do not have time to take ineffective action.

What must we do: To be effective, our positions/actions must address the root causes of the problem. Economic growth and the huge increase in consumption and population that have accompanied that growth are the primary causes. Capitalism, which requires constant growth and increased consumption is the engine driving this growth.

Here are suggested positions/actions I believe anti-global warming activists should take.

1. Bring green and anti-war forces together. Attack military activity on environmental grounds. For example, we should demand to know the carbon footprint of the new war against ISIS.

2. Because poor people are more vulnerable to the disruptions caused by climate change, and people of color comprise a disproportionate percentage of the poor, bring green, poor people’s and anti-racist movements together.

3. Call for the reversal of all international trade agreements that undermine development of sustainable technology and the public subsidization of localized economic activity.

4. Couple a call to double the minimum wage with a maximum 30-hour work-week. Our objective should be to put people back to work without increasing total economic activity.

5. Support divestment from fossil fuel companies, eliminate the oil depletion allowance, tax fossil fuel income and forbid the export of fossil fuel.

6. Educate people about the carbon consequences of their activities and consumption.

7. Support indigenous people’s efforts to protect the environment.

8. Explore and develop “degrowth” concepts to manage the transition to decreased economic activity, localization of economic activity, reduction in population, and reduced travel. Read More 
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