The curve we’ve been forced onto bends so steeply, that the pace of victory is part of victory itself. Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. We cannot afford to pursue past strategies, aimed at limited gains towards distant goals. In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways, means defeat. It guarantees defeat.
Fortunately, the Paris Agreement offers ways of securing increased ambition, while taking due account of ”means of implementation and support” and being conducted ”in the light of equity”
Ultimately, the challenges here will crystalize around the 2023 Global Stocktake, but the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue will set important precedents. Thus, it must pioneer a process for assessing the adequacy and fairness not only of collective ambition, but of individual country contributions as well.
To that end, Parties should prepare to justify their efforts as fair contributions to a shared 1.5°C global effort. They should do so in transparent ways, measuring their contributions against fundamental equity principles. If their contributions fall short, they must be prepared to quickly strengthen them.
Despite today’s unhappy political circumstances, this reality must be universally recognized and turned to action. We must cease to pretend that we are on track. The Parties must very soon increase ambition far beyond the Paris pledges. This increase must begin before 2020, and at the same time FD2018 must focus on ratcheting up the first round of NDCs.
“We live like kings today, on the backs of roughly 100 energy slaves each (human metabolism is 100 Watts, but Americans enjoy 10,000 W of continuous power). Our richness is very much tied to surplus energy availability, and that so far has been a story of finite fossil fuels.”
“Every American thus has a veritable army of invisible servants, which is why even those below the official poverty line live, for the most part, lives far more comfortable and lavish with respect to energy and stuff than kings and queens of old (but obviously not as high in social status). Being long dead and pulled from the ground — and thus a bit zombie-esque — these energy slaves don’t complain, don’t sleep, and don’t need to be fed. However, as we are increasingly learning, they do inhale, exhale, and leave behind waste.
“This all raises the question — or at least should — of whether it might not be a good idea to set the fossil slaves free and let them rest, since they’re going away soon anyhow and when they do we will really need a livable planet. They don’t need jobs, and we don’t need dollars for happiness.”
Britain tried to keep secret how its machines were made, but people went there to learn about them and took the techniques back home. Sometimes they smuggled the machines out in rowboats to neighboring countries. The first countries after Britain to develop factories and railroads were Belgium, Switzerland, France, and the states that became Germany. Building a national railroad system proved an essential part of industrialization. Belgium began its railroads in 1834, France in 1842, Switzerland in 1847, and Germany in the 1850s.
What if no one cares?
The world is awash with money. You park it in the paradise, or Panama, whatever, you know? People have so much money they do not even know what to do with it, except avoiding taxes of course. That’s a big sport, huh? But otherwise what to do with it? So private money is available if one were to set up a public/private transformation fund.
The Pope captures this really well in his encyclical where he says “the alliance of technology and economics ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests… whereas any genuine attempt to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions.” Where are those romantic illusions? What are the real romantic illusions? A belief in naive and ephemeral text-book economics; an unshakeable confidence in technical utopia — as an engineer I am quite prone to that one; the deliberate neglect of time; faith in Machiavellian mathematics; and an implicit assumption that nature follows our rules. You’d think that after 13 billion years we’d know that nature will always win out.
My somewhat questionable interpretation from inside the climate community is that in developing 2°C emissions scenarios, we’ve applied questionable assumptions and fine-tuned our analysis to fit with political and economic sensibilities. Universities and NGOs have been corrupted by near-term power — we want to be at meetings in Davos, we want to be with the great and the good in our society, we fear questioning the dominant social paradigm — that is much more important than physics apparently — and we have a naive focus on particular pet technologies whether it is nuclear, wind or solar — its always a supply technology.
The technology — we do not know if it will work, we are not really sure what it will look like, but we are relying on it already, in our own governments’ position in this policy debate.… If these things don’t work we are locking ourselves into a 3 to 5 degree future.
There is no such thing as delivering on Paris without the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and there is no such thing as achieving the SDGs without succeeding on Paris, and there is very strong scientific support for this.
And if we do all of this — an energy revolution, an agricultural revolution a technology revolution and a sustainability revolution — we have a 66% chance of staying under 2 degrees.
We are really talking about shifting the productive capacity of society from what it does today and for at least the next 50 years to responding to the climate challenge. Renewables are really important but renewables have really only been in addition to other fuels so far, they have not been substituting, and the climate does not care about renewables — of course I am very much in favor of them. It does not care about energy efficiency. All it cares about is how much carbon you are putting into it. And therefore we have to close down the incumbents. At the moment, every single year we burn more peat, more oil, more gas, more coal. We have never in human history, post-industrial revolution, seen a substitution in energy types at the global level.
We all adopted after the Second World War a culture of convenience and consumption. This is simply the wrong pattern. Along that pattern there is no solution to the climate crisis and to the SDGs.
In principle there is a simple narrative for modernizing our society. It would be renewables, plus distributed storage, plus electro-mobility, plus a cap on air travelling — we have to reduce the flights simply, there is no other way — plus dietary change, and of course, we have to change the construction sector completely. We have to get rid of cement and we have to return to wooden buildings once again.
Albert Bates is an Emergency Planetary Technician, founder of Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology (gvix.org), and Chief Permaculture Officer for eCO2, a COOL DESIGN services company focusing on climate recovery strategies. Please consider supporting this work by becoming a patron at https://www.patreon.com/peaksurfer