Climate Change

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Zali Steggall’s climate bill is a step backwards

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 2:06pm in

Independent MP Zali Steggall has presented her new
climate bill as a way to break the deadlock on climate action. But it avoids
the key question of what policies we need to cut emissions—and so will get us
nowhere.

It would simply set up a Climate Change Commission to
draw up five-year plans on how to reduce emissions, focused on a target of zero
emissions by 2050. But labelling the plans “independent” is just a sleight of
hand. There is no way of avoiding the debate about what mechanisms are best to
reduce emissions. If the Commission proposed a carbon price, another carbon
tax, it would only generate the same opposition about higher power prices that
the Liberals used to undermine support for climate action under Tony Abbott.

The fact that the Bill has attracted support from not
just business figures like Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes but even the
Business Council of Australia, which represents the country’s 100 biggest
corporations including oil and gas company Woodside and mining giant Rio Tinto,
should set off alarm bells. They see it as a way to argue for climate policies
that won’t hurt corporate profits.

We need the kind of action that will
impose costs on business—large-scale government investment in jobs and
renewable energy, paid for by taxing corporations and the rich. Steggall’s Bill
would only set back climate action.

The post Zali Steggall’s climate bill is a step backwards appeared first on Solidarity Online.

How Germany phased out coal—without sacking workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 2:05pm in

While Australia plans to open new coal
mines, Germany is in the process of closing down its mining sector.

The last of the black coal mines in the
historic industrial centre of the Ruhr Valley was decommissioned in 2018,
although other coal mines remain. In the face of catastrophic climate change
and an urgent need to transition away from coal-fired power, Germany is an
example of how a just transition could work in practice.

At the height of industrial coal mining,
Germany was producing 150 million tonnes of black coal and employed 607,000
miners in the fossil fuel industries. In 1957, the coal, iron and steel
industries provided 70 per cent of the jobs in the Ruhr region.

The industry’s decline began because
mining coal underground in deeper and deeper shafts became more expensive than
importing it from elsewhere. By the 1980s the industry was already in sharp
decline, and required large government subsidies to continue operating.

The government began investing heavily in
re-training for new industries such as engineering, business and technology.
Since 1961, there have been six new universities, 15 technical colleges and 60
research facilities built in the Ruhr.

Together with funding for the
environmental clean-up of old mines, this meant the same number of jobs were
created in new service industries as were lost in coal and steel between 1957
and 2000.

By 2007, coal industries accounted for
less than 2 per cent of total employment. That year an agreement was struck to
close coal mining in the region altogether, although coal-fired power stations
and manufacturing continue.

Staggered mine closures aimed to ensure
not a single worker was sacked. A just transition package provided early
retirement schemes as well as training and on-the-job certification to move
into other industries. Unions have ensured that former miners are entering
high-wage, high-skill industries and secured substantial pay outs for people
leaving the workforce altogether. However the process of closure took 11 years,
allowing 10,600 workers to transfer to work at other coal mines during gradual
closures.

The German transition has been pro-active
and long term, allowing for new jobs and investment to fill the hole left by
the coal industry. By contrast the Hazelwood coal power station and mine in
Victoria closed with just five months’ notice.

Germany has sought to reinvent itself as
a leader in new energy production, focusing on environmental technologies and
renewable energy as well as playing on the existing strengths, skills and
industry of the Ruhr region. Two of the world’s leading wind turbine
manufacturers, for instance, are companies in the Ruhr that formerly produced
coal mining equipment.

This all required large-scale public
investment, to the tune of 14 billion euros in grants to stimulate the local
economy, with a further 26 billion euros for research and development
programmes. These funds are being used to build new infrastructure projects
such as road and rail, as well as sports and recreational facilities, and
investment in leisure and cultural industries including eco-tourism.

Complete phase out

Germany continues to use significant
amounts of coal, which produced 29 per cent of its energy last year. Much of it
is cheap and heavily polluting brown coal.

But in January 2019, the German
government announced it would also be shutting down all remaining coal power
stations along with remaining brown coal mines by 2038.

However, the transition is not without
fault. It would allow the burning of coal to continue for another two decades.
This is too slow compared to what is needed to meet Paris Agreement targets to
keep global warming below 2 degrees. Germany looks unlikely to reach its 2030
target of 55 per cent emissions reduction until 2046, according to a McKinsey
study.

And it is currently constructing a brand
new coal power station, Datteln 4, the only one being built in Western Europe.

Its plan also relies mainly on private
investment in new industries, with companies being encouraged to invest through
tax cuts and regulatory exemptions. We need to fight for 100 per cent
publicly-owned renewable energy to ensure that investment reflects what is
needed to maintain energy production, and not what is profitable for the
capitalists.

While the German transition is not
perfect, it shows how a properly funded and planned transition away from fossil
fuels can ensure secure, well-paid union jobs are at the heart of new
industries.

The Morrison government is desperately
trying to keep coal power stations running, committing millions of dollars in
subsidies. Australia should take a leaf out of Germany’s book and ensure that
public investment is spent on new infrastructure projects and public renewable
energy to ensure that every coal worker has a good, union job to transition
into.

By Ruby Wawn

The post How Germany phased out coal—without sacking workers appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Uni staff plan for month of Climate Strikes in May

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 2:04pm in

Two
major strikes in May will see unions and students out in force for climate
action. Last year School Strike for Climate brought 350,000 to the streets on
20 September.

Their next Climate Strike has been called for 15 May.
And on 1 May, trade unions in Sydney will stop work to rally for workers’
rights and climate action.

University workers in Sydney from five campuses met in
early February to plan for the mobilisations.

The meeting attracted 40 staff from Sydney University,
UTS, UNSW, Western Sydney University and Macquarie and centred on building
staff contingents to the Climate Crisis National Day of Action on 22 February.
It also strongly backed a resolution to mobilise widely for the 1 May strike
rally and for the Climate Strike on 15 May.

Kurt Iveson, Sydney branch president of the National
Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), explained why the union had strongly backed
the Climate Strikes in 2019 and argued that the union has to become a vehicle
for staff climate activism. He pointed to examples of past political strikes
such as the Builders Labourers Federation’s Green Bans and railway strikes
against uranium mining in the 1970s.

Others drew out lessons from mobilising on campus last
year. University Vice-Chancellors (VCs) were pressured to concede that no one
attending the strikes would be penalised. But in many departments staff had to
fight even to use paid leave or their lunch break to attend. To shut down whole
departments we will have to fight the VC and local administrators tooth and
nail.

Several workers mentioned the importance of linking
industrial issues to the climate action mobilisations. A number of people have
joined the NTEU through the climate strikes as a result of the
union’s role in leading calls for investment in publicly-owned renewables and a
just transition for workers. So climate mobilisation can strengthen the fight
over casualisation and management restructures. But to get a real strike over
climate action, we will also need to build up people’s confidence to strike
over industrial issues, and to win those industrial fights.

Iveson raised that white-collar unions like the NTEU
need to build credibility with blue collar unions, whose members face the loss
of jobs in fossil fuel industries, in order to win stronger union support for
climate action.

Others responded by saying the best way to build
credibility with unions like the CFMEU and the MUA was to hit the streets with
them shoulder-to-shoulder for the 1 May strike rally. Last year thousands of
workers marched off construction sites, factories and wharves against the
Morrison government’s anti-union laws. This year the 1 May stopwork rally
includes demands for climate action, alongside workers’ rights and social
justice. 

Mass
mobilisation

Mass
mobilisation will be crucial to winning jobs, public investment in renewables
and the emissions reduction required to avoid future climate disasters.

At the 20 September Climate Strike in Sydney teachers,
public servants, nurses, electricians, construction workers, wharfies, land
regeneration workers and many more came as part of around 20 different
contingents. University staff and students organised a 5000-strong contingent
to march into the Domain.

Hutchison workers at Port Botany, as well as NUW
members at Fenner Dunlop and farmworkers from Melbourne, all on strike over
workplace issues, attended the rallies. We will need larger contingents and
many more workplaces out on strike for climate justice in future.

The 22 February day of action has been endorsed by the
United Workers Union, the Maritime Union and the Nurses union nationally—as
well as Unions NSW and Unions ACT.

Working class support for the climate movement is
vital. Workers are the only force in society with the power to win the
movement’s demands—through strike action that stops the gears of the economy
turning.

That’s why Morrison always talks of job losses and
higher electricity prices to try to undermine support for climate action. The
truth is that Morrison doesn’t care about job losses or workers’ rights—but the
climate movement should.

It’s crucial that we build the
largest possible walk-offs for the Climate Strike on 15 May. But it’s also
vital that the movement seriously mobilises for the 1 May strike rally, and
stands in solidarity with workers who are defying the law to fight for workers’
rights.

As the Liberals attack militant unions like the CFMEU
through their union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill, climate activists and
unionists everywhere need to back their fight.

The climate movement will only succeed if it nails the
real culprits—the big polluting companies and the politicians who back them. We
need to tax the rich to deliver publicly-owned renewables—and to shut down the workplaces
and the streets to win it.  

By Miro Sandev

The post Uni staff plan for month of Climate Strikes in May appeared first on Solidarity Online.

A Green New Deal requires a frontal challenge to capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 1:28pm in

Naomi Klein’s new book taps into a growing sentiment
around the need for large-scale social transformation in response to the
climate crisis, which is coalescing around the call for a Green New Deal.

Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez have helped popularise it, and new Australian Greens leader Adam
Bandt has also made it a focus. 

According to Klein, the Green New Deal would involve
government investment to create millions of new jobs in renewable energy,
health, education, care work, construction, transport, land management and
other industries.

It would also involve providing a job guarantee, and
increasing welfare payments and free education and healthcare, as a way of
tackling growing inequality. 

The focus on positive demands for jobs and increased
living standards, not just blocking fossil fuels developments, is an important
step forward for the environmental movement and should be encouraged.

Winning
a Green New Deal

The
key question is how can we win these kinds of policies and what power must be
mobilised?

While Klein talks about the
importance of social movements, the framework of the Green New Deal revolves
around electing progressive politicians to legislate it—she mentions Democrats
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as people with a track record of standing
up to the vested interests.

Klein explicitly looks to US President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930’s, which included expansion of public
investment in housing, infrastructure, education, health and social security as
well as job guarantees.

While American capitalists disliked some parts of the
New Deal, overall they were enthusiastic supporters of it as a way of saving
capitalism from itself.

The US in the 1930s was in the grips of the Great
Depression: capitalists had stopped investing, production was contracting and
up to a third of the working age population was unemployed. Government
investment on a mass scale could generate new demand to help private
investment.

The New Deal was also attractive to capitalists
because it included policies that co-opted the leadership of the unions into
doing deals with bosses quickly, instead of organising protracted strikes that
hurt profits. It made it harder for union branches to go on strike legally if
they did not have the support of their national leadership, who were usually
more conservative.

Vested
interests

Another of the big differences between FDR’s New Deal
and Klein’s version is that Klein’s would include the phasing out of the fossil
fuel industries, which are still very profitable. This will be vigorously
opposed by the capitalists. 

Klein understands that the bosses will have to be
fought in order to deliver even a slice of the Green New Deal, but she
underestimates the ferocity of the bosses’ response.

They are willing to unleash vicious police brutality
on movements like the Yellow Vests and general strikes in France. These
movements by comparison are calling for quite moderate demands. The repression
against a militant Green New Deal movement, backed by strikes, would be much
worse.

Klein’s book articulates the need for system change in
order to address the climate crisis and is right in saying we need to,
“confront the economic order and replace it with something that is rooted in
both human and planetary security”.

But when she discusses what this economic order is,
she references “deregulated capitalism” as the main obstacle to a just
transition. This suggests a more regulated capitalism could tolerate the huge
cuts into profits that are required to avert climate disaster.

But the truth is no form of legal regulation can alter
the relations of production in capitalism which are the ultimate cause of
climate change.

Climate change is caused by a system is addicted to
fossil fuels which, as Marx said, “robs both the soil and the worker”.

Capitalism will need to be smashed, not “saved from
itself”. 

In order to build the workers’ power that can
ultimately do this, any Green New Deal movement needs to be deeply embedded in
the already existing struggles workers are waging, like the recent teachers’
strikes.

And it cannot pin its hopes on presidential hopefuls
like Bernie Sanders. It must call on 
workers to take matters into their own hands—to go on strike and force
the government to build public renewables and transition the economy away from
fossil fuels, regardless of who sits in the White House.

By
Miro Sandev

On Fire, The
Burning Case for a Green New Deal

By Naomi
Klein, Allen Lane, $29.99

The post A Green New Deal requires a frontal challenge to capitalism appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Why capitalism can’t act on the climate crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 1:08pm in

The competitive drive structured into capitalism prevents the rich and powerful from acting on the climate crisis, argues Feiyi Zhang

This summer will be remembered for
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii whilst Australia burned red with
apocalyptic skies and charred black forests. It is an image of our political
leaders completely apathetic and indifferent whilst we are overtaken by climate
horror.

But the forces standing against climate action are
much bigger than just Scott Morrison, or even the Liberals and the major
parties. It is an entire capitalist system embedded from head to toe in fossil
fuels.

The climate crisis is so undeniable that even
Conservative leaders like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are backflipping to
declare that they accept the reality of climate change.

After previously scoffing that, “there is plenty of
snow in our winters these days” he is now opportunistically arguing, “The
evidence is overwhelming, and this phenomenon of global warming is taking its
toll on the most vulnerable populations around the planet.”

NASA’s Operation Icebridge recently discovered that a
cavity in the Thwaites ridge in the “Doomsday” glacier in Antarctica is melting
much faster than expected. If the glacier melts it would send sea levels
surging by 60cm and submerge major coastal cities.

It’s often said that everyone will be affected by
climate change. Workers and the poor will be worst hit—as those least able to
afford to move from disaster ravaged areas. But corporations and governments
will also be dramatically affected.

Global investment firms like BlackRock are
increasingly concerned about the “sustainability-related risks” that climate
change poses to investments.

They have enormous sums to lose. Global not-for-profit
Carbon Disclosure Project asked firms to calculate how they thought climate
change would impact them financially. After analysing submissions from 215 of
the world’s 500 biggest corporations, they found that they faced $1 trillion in
losses within the coming decades, with a majority of those losses in the next
five years or so.

Previous calculations published in the journal Nature
estimated losses to the financial sector of between $1.7 trillion and $24.2
trillion.

But even given the scale of the climate crisis and the
green rhetoric from some of them, governments and the rich and powerful are
neither able, nor willing, to act to solve the disaster.

Instead they have sought to fiddle with market-based schemes
or use accounting tricks to say they are divesting from polluting industries
whilst emissions keep rising.

Capitalism
and fossil fuels

Capitalism,
the economic system we live under, has a relentless logic of its own that
forces companies and governments to operate according to its dictates.

Capitalism is not a rational system based on ensuring
environmental sustainability or meeting human needs.

One third of global food production is wasted,
according to a study for the UN food agency, whilst one in seven people do not
have enough to eat. People die because of lack of access to medicines because
pharmaceutical companies control patents.

Capitalism has produced destruction on a massive scale
in the past—the two world wars killed over 100 million people and shattered
whole economies. It has also taken us to the brink of nuclear annihilation
during the Cold War.

Karl Marx spent decades trying to understand the
system and explain its dynamics, culminating in his masterwork, Capital.

Marx argued that capitalism is based on the
exploitation of workers and competition for profit.

At its heart is competition between rival
companies—both within every country and across the globe. To survive,
corporations need to not only guarantee their profits but remain competitive
against other corporations, which are constantly looking to decrease costs and
undercut their competitors.

One important way to do this is developing and
installing new technology that is more efficient or requires fewer workers.
Companies need to continually expand their profits to ensure they can stay at
the technological cutting edge and prevent rivals taking them over.

Fossil fuels play a special role in capitalism—they
became structured into the system’s DNA as it developed.

Coal was a central part of creating the first centres
of capitalist industry in Britain. Coal power allowed factories to move away
from traditional sources of energy next to water sources. Coal and steam
engines allowed capitalism to become mobile and create cities.

The use of oil alongside the invention of combustion
engines and aeroplanes transformed transport and war machines. As corporations
grew and consolidated by the 1930s more than half of the biggest companies were
based in fossil fuels. They are central not just to energy production but to
industries from manufacturing to clothing, transport and agricultural
fertilisers.

As ecologist Ian Angus wrote, “Fossil fuels are not an
overlay that can be peeled away from capitalism, leaving the system intact.
They are embedded in every aspect of the system.”

Reducing carbon pollution would mean huge costs to
install new production methods in a whole range of industries—something
companies are anxious to avoid.

A government in one country could force them to do so,
but if their rivals in another nation don’t have the same requirements then
they can produce their goods more cheaply, sell them on the global market at a
lower price and drive others out of business.

This leaves each individual corporation and government
paralysed when it comes to addressing climate change.

They can see the threat it poses to profits and their
own national economy in the long term. But each company has to remain
profitable in the here and now—or it faces going bust. And their power, their
military might and billions of dollars are at stake.

This is why governments across the globe have been
unable to agree on the coordinated international action on climate change that
is needed. This is why the UN climate convention talks, which began back in 1992,
have produced 25 years of failure.

Countries like the US, Saudi Arabia and Australia
which are more carbon intensive have acted to sabotage global action because
they know it would impose higher costs on their own economies than on their
rivals.

At the last summit in December, Australia
disgracefully argued to use an accounting trick of carrying over carbon credits
from the previous Kyoto Protocol period to count towards its 2030 carbon
emissions target.

As long as digging up and selling
fossil fuels remains profitable, regardless of the extent of the environmental
disaster or social crisis it causes, corporations and governments will still
invest in carbon, oil or gas.

Even if one company or investor divests from fossil
fuel production, another will pick up its mines and oil rigs and keep them
running if they can make a profit.

To act on climate change would require a massive
writing down of trillions of dollars in current and future investment in fossil
fuels—on a scale that has never been seen before under capitalism.

It is estimated that 33 financial institutions have
provided an estimated total of $1.9tn to future investments in the fossil fuel
sector just between 2016 and 2018. The rich and powerful will fight to defend
this wealth with all the means at their disposal.

Greenwashing and false solutions

The
scale of the climate crisis means that some people think that governments and
corporations will eventually have to act or are already beginning the
transition to renewable energy.

Although we already have the technologies to
transition to 100 per cent renewables within a decade, the wealth invested in
fossil fuels and the competitive nature of the system has prevented renewable
power being built on the scale needed.

The new wave of green technologies in renewable energy
and electric vehicles are still marginal to capitalism compared to the use of
fossil fuels—and, if it’s left to the capitalist market, they are not going to
replace them in the timescale needed.

A projection in September by the US government Energy
Information Administration found global coal use would remain steady until 2040
and then increase.

While renewable energy use is expected to grow, it
would simply meet the huge increase in electricity demand over the coming
decades.

Instead, as the climate crisis heightens, so does
“greenwashing” by corporations and governments to sell the idea that there is
action being taken on climate change whilst business continues as usual.

Norway is one country that is celebrated for
decarbonising its economy. Last year Norway’s enormous sovereign wealth fund
announced that it would divest from fossil fuel investments. But, in fact, it
would still own shares in major oil companies like BP and Shell because they
have renewable energy divisions—despite the fact these are a tiny part of their
operations.

The country also “decreases” its emissions by buying
offset permits from other countries. With emissions projected to decrease by
only 12 per cent by 2030 under current policies, Norway would only meet its 40
per cent target through forest sinks or offsets.

We need to fight for system change; for solutions that
break from the logic of the profit system by demanding government investment in
publicly-owned renewable energy.

To win this will require a massive fight against the
power of the fossil fuel industry and the political establishment—and the logic
of the system itself.

Ultimately, we need to fight for a socialist society
based on democratic planning, to ensure a sustainable society that is capable
of making the emergency transition needed to tackle the climate crisis and
organise an economy to meet human needs.

The post Why capitalism can’t act on the climate crisis appeared first on Solidarity Online.

The Planet-Saving Potential of Whale Poop

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 3:32am in

The late, great comic Robin Williams once opined that there is nothing quite as boring as whale shit. Dull or not, this unsung substance may be key to solving our climate crisis. Researchers believe rebuilding populations of great whales could significantly increase the vast amount of atmospheric carbon absorbed by tiny marine algae called phytoplankton, which rely on nutrients from the leviathans’ fecal plumes. 

Though scientists have long known about phytoplankton’s importance to climate stability, the counterintuitive connection between whales and the climate has failed to gain mainstream traction — until now. A chance encounter on the high seas between marine researchers and an IMF economist has produced an unorthodox calculation that’s attracting the interest of investors: $2 million per whale.

whaleChami, an economist at the International Monetary Fund, calculated great whales provide over $1 trillion in economic value, in large part due to their role in fighting climate change. Credit: James Lee / Flickr

Dr. Ralph Chami is not an expert on marine mammals. An assistant director at the International Monetary Fund, his day job focuses mainly on working with fragile states in Africa and the Middle East. But in 2018, he tagged along on a scientific survey of blue whales off the coast of Baja, Mexico with Michael Fishbach of the Great Whale Conservancy and other researchers from around the world.

Long days on the water were followed by evenings of shoptalk over beers and dinner, during which Chami was introduced to jargon like “whale carbon” and the “whale pump” — phrases that describe how these marine mammals help remove huge amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. 

whales environment infographicCourtesy: IMF

The largest animal that has ever lived, blue whales can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh over 180 tons. An entire African elephant could fit inside the mouth of these giants. Like all living things, whales accumulate carbon in their bodies as they grow, and because they typically sink when they die, they take all that carbon with them to their watery graves. Upon its demise, the average whale can carry the equivalent of 1,500 trees worth of carbon to the bottom of the ocean and out of atmospheric circulation for centuries. 

It is while they’re alive, however, that whales play a more active role in fighting climate change. Feasting on shrimp-like krill at depth, they release fecal plumes rich in nitrogen and iron when they surface to breathe. In delivering these deep ocean nutrients to the sunlit surface, they encourage the growth of phytoplankton, the microscopic algae that are truly the lungs of the planet. This process is called the whale pump

Courtesy: IMF

Phytoplankton capture about 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and produce half of all atmospheric oxygen — the equivalent of four Amazon rainforests. Every second breath you take is provided by these tiny marine plants. They are also the primary food supply of krill, so whales are helping to feed their own food supply by providing the nutrients that nourish them. Scientists believe this is why whales do their bathroom business within phytoplankton blooms, helping to maximize the biological benefit to themselves. 

What is a whale worth?

Aboard the research vessel, Chami knew he wasn’t much help to his crewmates in their studies of whale behavior. As an economist, his expertise lies in linking monetary values to real-world outcomes. It was during the voyage, however, that he had an epiphany: He realized how economics could help solve the problem of turning an esoteric concept like the whale pump into tangible action to fight climate change. 

“Maybe I can help you guys,” Chami told the scientists. “The problem is that the language you speak is not the language the money guys speak.” Back in his office, he started assigning dollar values to the benefits whales provide the planet.  

What he discovered would make any investor buy stock in whales. An average whale in its lifetime will store the equivalent of 32 tons of carbon dioxide in its body. Factoring in enhanced carbon capture by phytoplankton from fecal fertilizing, as well as improving local fish stocks and ecotourism, Chami calculated that great whales are worth at least $2 million each. Multiplied by all the filter-feeding whales on the planet, that means these marine giants provide over $1 trillion in economic value around the world. 

chamiRalph Chami and Michael Fishbach of the Great Whale Conservancy. Photo courtesy Ralph Chami.

In December, he published his findings in an IMF publication, sparking renewed interest in whale conservation that is now reaching an influential audience in the finance world. Chami and Fishbach recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. After finishing their presentation to a room filled with global bankers and investors, “We were mobbed,” he says.

Based on the response his research has received, Chami believes the financial world could play an important role in contributing to whale conservation. Now that Chami and his collaborators have put hard numbers on the ecosystem services provided by these marine giants, economists could craft market-based pricing mechanisms so that whales could, in effect, fund their own recovery efforts. 

Saving the whales so they can save us

Many whale populations are now bouncing back from the edge of extinction. While this is a conservation success story, much more could be done to speed their recovery. Some species like the blue whale are still at only three percent of their historic numbers.  

The causes of whale mortality are well known, but addressing them requires changes that will cost countries and companies money. For instance, in spite of an international whaling moratorium signed in 1987, Japan, Norway and Iceland still kill over 1,000 whales per year in commercial or “scientific” hunting (a dubious designation.) However, Chami has revealed that a live whale is worth over 20 times more than a “harvested” one, which has a market value of only about $80,000.

A far larger number are killed by ship strikes, entanglement with fishing gear, marine noise and plastic pollution. Solving these problems will mean shifting commercial shipping routes and slowing vessel speeds in places where whales are likely to be present. Improved fishing gear and better local enforcement will reduce the number of whales caught in floating ropes and nets. Fishbach also flags the need to ban single-use plastics accumulating in the ocean. “These animals can’t swim around in a garbage dump and survive.” 

whaleChami has revealed that a live whale is worth over 20 times more than a “harvested” one, which has a market value of only about $80,000. Credit: Humberto Braojos

All of which is to say, strategies for boosting whale populations will cut into various entities’ profit margins, which is why it’s important to monetize the value of individual whales. Take ship strikes, for example. Altering busy shipping lanes to avoid seasonal whale migrations has been shown to work in places like Boston Harbor, where slight changes made to navigation routes in 2007 decreased whale and ship encounters by over 65 percent. Such changes aren’t free, but the figures provided by Chami and the co-authors of his study put these trade-offs in perspective. For instance, Maersk is the largest container shipping company in the world, operating 786 vessels that travel to 116 countries. As large as this operation is, operating revenue for Maersk in 2018 was $39 billion — less than four percent of the $1 trillion in climate value provided by the world’s remaining great whales.

Clearly the costs incurred to save whales are worth it from an overall monetary perspective. But who will reimburse companies like Maersk so they’ll change their behavior?

Chami believes framing whale conservation around economic benefits will enlist powerful organizations like the World Bank, the IMF and United Nations to help coordinate recovery efforts or manage a global whale fund. Governments around the world collected $44 billion in carbon pricing in 2018 so, in theory, there is ample money available to direct it where it is most needed. Small island nations like East Timor and the Dominican Republic have globally important populations of whales passing through their waters and could benefit from outside funds to speed their resurgence. Increased whale populations would likewise build ecotourism and the productivity of local fisheries in countries with weaker economies.

Accelerating the recovery of great whales could be considered a “no-tech” type of geoengineering to scale up removing existing CO2 from the atmosphere. It is estimated that increasing phytoplankton populations by only one percent would be the equivalent of adding another two billion mature trees to the planet. 

Saving the whales for their own sake is important enough. We are just beginning to recognize that they are also saving us. Putting a price on their services could be a positive way to increase the abundance of these magnificent creatures — and their planet-saving poo.

The post The Planet-Saving Potential of Whale Poop appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

In fact, there's plenty we can do to make future fires less likely

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 5:43pm in

One of the dominant ideas buzzing around the internet is that there’s little we can do to escape the prospect of more frequent and worse bushfires - ever.

That’s because there’s little we can do to slow or reverse the change in the climate.

Australia accounts for just 1.3% of global emissions. That’s much more than you would expect on the basis of our share of world’s population, which is 0.33%. But even if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions as soon as we could and started sucking carbon back in (as would be possible with reafforestation) it’d make little difference to total global emissions, which is what matters – or so the argument goes.

But this argument ignores the huge out-of-proportion power we have to influence other countries.

There’s no better indicator of that than in Ross Garnaut’s new book Super-power: Australia’s low-carbon opportunity.

We’re more important than we think

Garnaut conducted two climate change reviews for Australian governments, the first in 2008 for the state and Commonwealth governments, and the second in 2011 for the Gillard government.

In the second, he produced two projections of China’s emissions, based on what was known at the time.

One was “business as usual”, which showed continued very rapid increases. The other took into account China’s commitments at the just-completed 2010 United Nations Cancun climate change conference.

China’s annual emissions matter more than those of any other country – they account for 27% of the global total, which is a relatively new phenomenon.

The bulk of the industrial carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere was put there by the United States and the Soviet Union, who have been big emitters for much longer.

Egged on by the US Obama administration and by governments including Australia’s under Julia Gillard, China agreed at Cancun to slow its growth in emissions, and at the Paris talks in 2015 hardened this into a commitment to stabilise them by 2030.

The extraordinary graph

Garnaut’s 2011 projections showed growth moderating as a result of China’s commitment, which was at the time a cause for optimism.

When he returned to the numbers in 2019 to prepare his book, he was stunned. Egged on by the example of countries including the US and Australia, China had done far, far better than either “business as usual” or its Cancun commitments. Instead of continuing to grow rapidly, or less rapidly as China had said they would, they had almost stopped growing.

The graph, produced on page 29 of Garnaut’s book, is the most striking I have seen.

Since 2011, China’s emissions have been close to spirit-level flat. They climbed again only from 2017 when, under Trump in the US and various Coalition prime ministers in Australia, the moral pressure eased.

From the start of this century until 2011, China’s consumption of coal for electricity climbed at double-digit rates each year. From 2013 to 2016 (more than) every single bit of China’s extra electricity production came from non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind and sun.

There are many potential explanations for the abrupt change. Pressure from nations including the US and Australia is only one.

What happened once could happen again

And there are many potential explanations for China’s return to form after Trump backslid on the Paris Agreement and Australia started quibbling about definitions. An easing of overseas pressure is only one.

But, however brief, the extraordinary pause gives us cause for hope.

Australia can matter, in part because it is hugely respected in international forums for its technical expertise in accounting for carbon emissions, and in part because of its special role as one of the world’s leading energy exporters.

Garnaut’s book is about something else – an enormous and lucrative opportunity for Australia to produce and export embedded energy sourced from wind and the sun at a cost and scale other nations won’t be able to match.

Read more: Australia could fall apart under climate change. But there's a way to avoid it

Some of it can be used to convert water into hydrogen. That can be used to turn what would otherwise be an intermittent power supply into a continuous one that enables around-the-clock production of the green steel, aluminium, and other zero-emission products Japan, Korea, the European Union and the United Kingdom are going to be demanding.

It’s a vision backed by Australia’s chief scientist.

It wouldn’t have been possible before. It has been made possible now by the extraordinary fall in the cost of solar and wind generation, and by something just as important – much lower global interest rates. Solar and wind generators cost money upfront but cost very little to operate. Interest rates are the cost of the money upfront.

At least three consortia are drawing up plans.

There’s not much to lose

There’s much that needs to be done, including establishing the right electricity transmission links. But Garnaut believes it can all be done within the government’s present emissions policy, helping it achieve its emission reduction targets along the way.

What’s relevant here is that moving to ultra-low emissions would do more. It could give us the kind of outsized international influence we are capable of. It could help us make a difference.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Peter Martin is economics correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He blogs at petermartin.com.au and tweets at @1petermartin.

CLIMATE JUSTICE: Tools for teaching

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 4:38am in

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue of inequality, environmental justice, globalization, and consumption – it is an issue of climate justice.

How can we teach others about global warming through the lens of climate justice? Here are some resources:

One of my previous posts explores the variation in the causes and consequences of climate change. Below, the emissions of select nations on a per capita basis from 1960 to 2013 are updated. Click on the image to go to the Google public data tool.

Here you can see that among the dominant economies of the US, Germany, the UK, and China and especially compared to a few developing countries, like India, Bangladesh, and Kenya, the US emits the greatest amount of per capita greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and others that contribute to global warming. We see that different nations have contributed different levels of emissions to the problems we currently face and will continue to deal with for at least the rest of this century. Click here to read that full post and see other ways that we can consider nation’s contribution to the problem. This is the foundation of the arguments of climate justice.

There is vast inequality in the CAUSES  of the problem of climate change.

I also recently did a TEDx talk on climate justice that provides a brief overview of climate justice. Click on the image below to be directed to an embedded link.

If we look at climate change emissions from a per capita basis we see that it takes two people from China, the UK, or Germany to generate the same emissions of the average person in the US.

Per capita, in 2014, it took six people from Brazil, nine from India, or thirteen from Honduras to emit the same level of emissions as the per capita emissions of a single person in the US.

For the small island nation of Kiribati, which is already being inundated by rising seas and in the coming decades will have to move its people and culture elsewhere, it would take 30 of their citizens to emit the same per capita emissions as a single person from the US. It takes 50 Kenyans or 56 Nepalese to emit the same level of emissions as a single person from the US from an annual per capita basis!

 

For a basic introduction to the issue, you can also use this analogy that I created to help students understand the perspective of developing countries that have contributed little to the problem.

Read the full post here.

Many doubt the US commitment to address climate change.

Survey research I have done with the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) shows that civil society actors throughout Africa had little trust in the US to fulfill its emissions reductions commitments. Even before the election of Trump and the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, members of PACJA doubted that the US would reduce their emissions, provide sufficient finance or transfer sufficient technology.

Click here to read the full post and see more figures of the results.

It is not just in the causes of climate change that we see inequality, but also in the consequences.

Wealthy, developed nations have the resources and infrastructure to better buffer the negative consequences of climate change (see my TEDx talk above for some examples). So while the US has been the primary contributor to climate change, it will also be able to avoid, delay, or dampen the severity of many consequences of climate change, while developing nations (that contributed little to the current problem) are already suffering life threatening consequences.

Teach well, it matters.

. . .

PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH and the U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: Still disproportionally white and wealthy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/04/2017 - 1:00am in

Updated April 25th, 2017

In the fall of 2014, the largest climate protest to date occurred at the People’s Climate March in New York City. An estimated 400,000 people marched demanding action on global warming. On April 29th, 2017 Washington, DC and dozens of other cities around the country and world will host the second People’s Climate March: March for Climate, Jobs and Justice.

See the celebratory video of the 2014 New York People’s Climate March by clicking on the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.33.44 PMWhile the march was declared a success by the organizers, questions remain about whether the climate change movement is successfully overcoming past criticism that the mainstream environmental movement is too white, too wealthy, and too male.

Various media outposts have pointed out that the environmental movement, in general, is lacking diversity, that is, it is too white. In particular, Brentin Mock wrote about it extensively as a columnist for Grist (he recently moved to The Atlantic).

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This is far from a new issue, but rather is something that organizations have supposedly been working on since at least the 1970s.

This lack of diversity has also been documented by several academics, most notably Dr. Dorceta Taylor at the University Michigan. Her 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, examines mainstream environmental NGOS, foundations, and government agencies for their degree of diversity of race/ethnicity, class, and gender.

The trends in Taylor’s data show that the percentage of minorities in leadership position in the environmental movement have increased since the 1990s but may have plateaued at a rate lower than the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the US population. See a key figure from her report below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.42.04 AM

However, the report focuses on the organizations’ leadership, not the members.

Concerns about the diversity of the environmental movement more broadly continue as we head into the People’s Climate March in DC.

According to Lindsey McDougle, “The number of environmental groups has increased in recent years, growing nearly 20 percent from 11,233 in 2003 to 13,283 in 2013. Despite this growth, people from communities of color engage in environmental volunteerism at lower rates than whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2015, for instance, 3.1 percent of white Americans volunteered for green causes, while only 1.6 percent of Latinos and 1 percent of black Americans did so.”

Others have been critical of Earth Day, as lacking an appropriate edge, based on the current state of the planet. Emily Atkin writes in the New Republic, “Why is Earth Day so benign and toothless when the immediate threats to the planet—particularly to its most vulnerable populations—are so severe?”

Previously, in response to Trump’s executive orders and proposed budget decimating the EPA, she wrote, “Largely missing from [the] attacks were fears about how Trump’s executive order could disproportionately hurt people living in low-income, minority, and indigenous communities. Environmental justice advocates say they’re used to this issue being overlooked. And perhaps there is some logic to the broader focus on global warming; after all, if the planet gets too hot, we’re all doomed.

 

What about the people who are being mobilized in the streets demanding action on climate change. Who’s voices are these?

Are organizations doing enough to ensure the movement represents the increasing racial and gender diversity of US society? As income inequality grows in our society, is the climate change movement an income-diverse movement or is it the wealthier voices that are being heard?

P1100107

With the help of a team of nearly 20 research assistants I collected just over 1,000 surveys from a random sample of protestors at the 2014 People’s Climate March. Anecdotally, looking at the crowd that was in New York City that day it was diverse in a number of ways: race, gender, issue orientation, and age. However, random sample survey data provides more accurate information than one’s individual observations.

The general population of the US is a majority white (at least for another decade or two), so we would expect that whites are still the most predominant in number at such an event. However, we can look at the proportions of different races and ethnicities in the US as a whole and compare that to the proportions at the 2014 People’s Climate March to examine the level of diversity at the march.

P1100089

Despite the awareness that the environmental movement has historically lacked diversity, the People’s Climate March was still disproportionally white. In 2014, whites (according to US Census estimates) represented 62% of the population as a whole, yet they were over-represented as 71% of the protesters at the People’s Climate March. Hispanic and Latinos were well underrepresented as they make up 17% of the US population but only 7% of the protesters that day in New York City. Blacks made up only 7% of the People’s Climate March activists, while making up 13% of the total population in 2014. Native Americans were also underrepresented as only 0.5% of the marchers but 1.2% of the US population. Asians were slightly over-represented as 6% of the marchers and 5% of the overall population. The “other” category represents bi-racial identities and (in the data below) Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.22.06 PM

It is not just racial and ethnic diversity that is of concern, but also economic diversity. Is the climate change movement, like the mainstream environmental movement, disproportionally upper-middle and upper class? One way of measuring the income distribution is dividing the population by five, or into clusters of 20% of the population (quintiles). The survey data indicates that participants in the 2014 People’s Climate March disproportionally fell into the upper two quintile income brackets in the US. The income ranges in the figure below each represent 20% of the US population. If the protesters were evenly distributed across incomes, each of the bars in the figure below would be at 20%. Instead, the data shows that just over 50% of the protesters were from the top two US income quintiles in the US. Just 32% of the protesters were from the bottom two quintiles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.34.35 PM

. . .

Lastly, the gender distribution within environmental organizations has also been criticized as disproportionally male. Dorceta Taylor’s research shows that the boards of organizations remain disproportionally male, while the staff are disproportionally female, as seen in her charts below.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.50.39 AM

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.54.03 AM

The participants in the historical 2014 People’s Climate March were split in roughly the same gender proportions as the US population (see the figure below). The gender distribution of marchers shows greater equality than either the race/ethnicity or income distribution.

Regarding leadership, 350.org is the main organizer of the People’s Climate March both in 2014 and 2017. A quick count of the staff listed on 350.org’s web page (as of October 2015) indicates that 57% of their global staff are women. Of their seven board members, four are women.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.05.12 AM

. . .

Climate organizations need to make a greater and continued effort to ensure that all the communities being negatively impacted by climate change have a voice and are present in the mass mobilizations. We continue to live in a racialized society (see my previous posts if in doubt, here, here and here among others) and overcoming that will take intentional effort, reaching out to minority groups with specific rather than open invitations, and ensuring that they are part of the planning not just invited at the last minute. As Naomi Klein, prominent author and board member of 350.org writes in the article linked to below:

“What does #BlackLivesMatter, and the unshakable moral principle that it represents, have to do with climate change? Everything. Because we can be quite sure that if wealthy white Americans had been the ones left without food and water for days in a giant sports stadium after Hurricane Katrina, even George W. Bush would have gotten serious about climate change. Similarly, if Australia were at risk of disappearing, and not large parts of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be a lot less likely to publicly celebrate the burning of coal as “good for humanity,” as he did on the occasion of the opening of a vast new coal mine. And if my own city of Toronto were being battered, year after year, by historic typhoons demanding mass evacuations, and not Tacloban in the Philippines, we can also be sure that Canada would not have made building tar sands pipelines the centerpiece of its foreign policy.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 5.36.41 PM

This piece has focused on the movement in the US and around one particular mass mobilization. It is important to remember that the lack of diversity at the People’s Climate March was not because the working class and racial minorities don’t care about the issue (nor was it that the organizers did not care about diversity). The NAACP has a campaign called the Climate Justice Initiative that “works at addressing the many practices that are harming communities nationwide and worldwide and the policies needed to rectify these impacts.” Nations of the Global South, predominantly not white and less developed than the advanced industrialized Western nations (read greenhouse gas emitters) have been mobilizing against climate change for some time now. On the African continent, there is the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA). Others include Focus on the Global South, La Via Campesina, and many others. See some survey data on the views of organizational members of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance here.

The US climate movement must stay focused on the principles of climate justice if it wants to be inclusive and not just the mass mobilization of wealthy, white, males. While improvements in this area have been made, much remains to be done.

I’ll have another research team collecting survey data at the 2017 march in both DC and Chicago. Watch for updated data as those results come in. See you at the protest!

 

Teach well, it matters.

. . .

A couple of “thinking critically” caveats about the data that need to be considered. First, in conjunction with the main event, the People’s Climate March in New York City, there were a few hundred other smaller protests held in cities throughout the country and world. My data is limited to the New York City event. While we could speculate that these other events may have been more racially and economically diverse (but we have to reason to believe so), the bulk of the organizing efforts seemed to go into the march in New York City. The main march, with an estimated 400,000 people is the event that received the media attention, the primary purpose of the event. So, even if the smaller, more local events were of greater diversity, they were peripheral.

Secondly, the event was held in New York City and the income distribution within the metropolitan area is skewed slightly upward relative to the nation as a whole. While the organizers made a herculean effort to bring in people from all over the country, there is a still a chance that the crowd was predominantly from New York City. If we only considered the income distribution in NYC, this would likely result in a more even distribution among income quintiles.

. . .

Corporations and climate change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/05/2016 - 8:20am in

Global businesses, many of them now larger and more powerful than nation states, exhibit enormous sway on humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Indeed, during the Paris climate talks in December last year, growing media focus centred on business “leadership” on climate change. For instance, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, BHP Billiton and management consultancy McKinsey & Co. announced the establishment of a committee to advise governments on how to combat global warming while strengthening economic growth. This follows other announcements such as Unilever’s chief executive officer, Paul Polman, emphasising the need for private sector mobilisation to close the shortfall in emission commitments made by governments, as well as Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson who has argued that “our only hope to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.”

These proclamations need to be viewed in the broader context of business opposition to the fundamental economic change necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. A good example of the duality of this corporate engagement has been the revelation that oil-giant Exxon, for decades a leading opponent of carbon regulation and funder of climate change denial, has since the early-1980s been well aware of the disastrous implications of fossil fuel use for the Earth’s climate. This self-serving logic parallels other well-known examples of business obfuscation such as BP’s infamous ‘Beyond Petroleum’ greenwashing in the early 2000s, and more recently Peabody Energy’s marketing of coal as a response to “energy poverty” in the developing world.

Wright NybergHow then to make sense of the mixed messages from corporations on climate change?

In our new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, Daniel Nyberg and I explore the role of corporations and corporate capitalism within the climate crisis. We argue that while many global businesses promote a message of “action” and “leadership”, this ignores the deeper problem 0f how corporate capitalism is locked into a cycle of promoting ever more creative ways of exploiting nature and destroying a habitable climate.

While the last two centuries of industrialisation and capitalist expansion have promoted a mythology that economic development leads to environmental improvement (the so-called ecological modernisation thesis), climate change fundamentally challenges these beliefs. Despite the growing uptake of the language and practices of “sustainability”, “corporate environmentalism” and “green growth”, humanity’s degradation of the environment has in fact accelerated. We can see this not only in the physical manifestations of climate change – the melting Arctic, record-breaking droughts and floods, rising sea levels and ocean acidification – but also in the destruction of habitat and declining biodiversity.

Humans have become a force of nature and scientists argue we are now entering a new geological epoch, the so-called “Anthropocene”. One of the defining features of this new age of humans is the loss of vast numbers of animal and plant species – what writer Elizabeth Kolbert has termed the “Sixth Great Extinction”. As a result, in a relatively short period of time, global capitalism, powered by fossil fuel-based energy, has changed the very chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans with devastating consequences.

In our book we argue that global capitalism is now locked into a process of what we term “creative self-destruction”. By this we mean our economies are now reliant upon ever-more ingenious ways of exploiting the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves and consuming the very life-support systems we rely on for our survival. This is evident in the rush by the world’s largest companies to develop new sources of fossil fuels such as deep-water and Arctic oil drilling, tar-sands processing, new mega-coalmines, and the “fracking” of shale and coal-seam gas. This is occurring at the same time as crucial carbon sinks such as the world’s forests and oceans are being ever further denuded (witness for example the massive forest fires that recently raged across Indonesia aimed at converting rainforest into plantations for palm oil and paper).

We argue that as the folly of our fossil fuel path has become ever more evident, so the corporate response has reinforced the grip of creative self-destruction. A great example of this fossil fuel lock-in was the significant portion of funding provided to last year’s Paris climate talks by major fossil fuel companies and carbon emitters. This was a situation that French climate officials admitted was unfortunate but financially unavoidable if the talks were to proceed!

Indeed, Plan B for climate response has involved growing discussion by businesses and technocrats of “geoengineering”. This includes proposals such as the dispersal of sulphate particles in the atmosphere to dim incoming solar radiation, increasing the reflectivity of clouds or even “fertilising” the oceans through encouraging algal blooms. Despite the likely catastrophic side effects (these plans have after all been compared to chemotherapy for a dying planet!), money and resources are being swiftly mobilised around these technocratic “innovations”.

These examples highlight both the inventive genius of corporate capitalism, and the blindness of industry and government to the ecological catastrophe they are fashioning. We argue this is how we have arrived at a political discourse whereby blocking out the sun or seeding the oceans are somehow seen as sensible options in responding to climate change. This framing allows us to accept that corporate capitalism is able not only to solve the climate crisis it has created, but to actually engineer a new climate.

Of course, a key question is how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally destructive behaviour despite the disastrous consequences for human society and a habitable climate? In our book we argue that corporations and their spokespeople are able to achieve this by incorporating criticism and reinventing the daily ritual of “business as usual” as a perfectly normal and ecologically sound process.

For instance, through the narrative of “green” capitalism, corporations and markets are portrayed as the best means of responding to the climate crisis. Underpinning this view is the, as yet unproven, claim that new technologies and markets can decouple economic growth from environmental impacts. So as we document at length in the book, many large companies have established new roles and practices aimed at improving their eco-efficiency, greening their supply chains, producing new green products and services, marketing and branding their environmental worthiness, and reporting on their “sustainability” upon a range of industry metrics.

This sparkling image of corporate environmentalism and business sustainability falsely promises no conflicts and no trade-offs. Here, it is seen as possible to address climate change while continuing the current global expansion of consumption. In contrast to the blinding evidence of ever-escalating greenhouse gas emissions, this comforting political myth promises no contradiction between material affluence and environmental well-being. We can have it all and, according to the myth of corporate environmentalism, avoid climate catastrophe!

Moreover, we point out that citizens are increasingly called upon to enrol in this mythology as active constituents in corporate campaigns against improved emissions standards or carbon taxes, as well as consumers and “ecopreneurs” in the quest for “green consumption”. We have thus become the brands we wear, the cars we drive, the products we buy; and we are comforted to find the future portrayed as “safely” in the hands of the market.

The supremacy of “business as usual” thus exacts a powerful grip on our daily thinking and actions. It is a grip strengthened by the promotion of every new “green” product, a grip tightened through the establishment of sustainability functions in business and government, and a grip defended with every “offset” we purchase for a flight to a holiday destination.

MontOf course, this is also a vision that fits well within the dominant economic ideology of our time; neoliberalism. Alternatives, such as state regulation and mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel use, are viewed as counterproductive and even harmful. For instance, in response to a call to ban new coal mines, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invoked the so-called “drug-dealer’s defence” in rejecting calls for restrictions on our massive coal exports. That is, if we don’t sell it someone else will! In this view, there is no alternative to the market. And so echoing Fredric Jameson, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”.

Taken together these discourses and practices conceal the environmental destruction that is built into our economic system. Actually dealing with climate change as perhaps the ultimate contradiction of capitalism would require material trade-offs that challenge basic identities and interests.

This is why the alternative to “business as usual” is much harder to imagine and easier to dismiss as the enemy of social well-being – what critics so often characterise as going back to living in caves or a return to the “dark ages”. Indeed, those environmentally aware citizens who argue that we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels “in the ground” are demonised as extremists, green terrorists, and a threat to national prosperity. As we saw last year in the Federal Government’s much satirised “radicalisation awareness program” (#Freekaren), ordinary citizens that question our economic madness are now subversives of the highest order!

Ultimately the “success” or otherwise of the Paris Agreement is unlikely to threaten the fundamental dynamics underlying the climate crisis. Dramatic decarbonisation based around mandatory limits upon consumption, economic growth, and corporate influence are not on the agenda nor open for discussion. Rather, global elites have framed the response to climate change around an accentuation of the very causes of the crisis.

In essence, the prevailing corporate view is that capitalism should be seen not as a cause of climate change but as an answer to it. Thus a problem brought about by overconsumption, the logic goes, should be addressed through more consumption.

This capitalist imaginary of unending growth, prosperity and mastery over the natural world is central to our undoing. Unfortunately, until this changes, the dominance of corporate capitalism will ensure the continued and rapid decline of our once-bountiful and habitable planet. As we conclude in our book, changing this world-view is perhaps the most profound challenge we face in responding to the existential crisis that is climate change.

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