Losing It – George Monbiot #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #Media #auspol #StopEcocide #TellTheTruth Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 Stop stealing our children’s future! #Overshoot #DontLookUp

Losing It – George Monbiot

Faced with the gathering collapse of the biosphere, and governments’ refusal to take the necessary action, how do we stop ourselves from falling apart?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th January 2022

No wonder journalists have slated it.

They’ve produced a hundred excuses not to watch the climate breakdown satire Don’t Look Up: it’s “blunt”, it’s “shrill”, it’s “smug”. But they will not name the real problem: it’s about them.

The movie is, in my view, a powerful demolition of the grotesque failures of public life. And the sector whose failures are most brutally exposed is the media.

While the film is fast and funny, for me, as for many environmental activists and climate scientists, it seemed all too real. I felt as if I were watching my adult life flash past me. As the scientists in the film, trying to draw attention to the approach of a planet-killing comet, bashed their heads against the Great Wall of Denial erected by the media and sought to reach politicians with 10-second attention spans, all the anger and frustration and desperation I’ve felt over the years boiled over.

Above all, when the scientist who had discovered the comet was pushed to the bottom of the schedule by fatuous celebrity gossip on a morning TV show and erupted in fury, I was reminded of my own mortifying loss of control on Good Morning Britain in November. It was soon after the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, where we had seen the least serious of all governments (the UK was hosting the talks) failing to rise to the most serious of all issues. I tried, for the thousandth time, to explain what we are facing, and suddenly couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears on live TV.

I still feel deeply embarrassed about it. The response on social media, like the response to the scientist in the film, was vituperative and vicious. I was faking. I was hysterical. I was mentally ill. But, knowing where we are and what we face, seeing the indifference of those who wield power, seeing how our existential crisis has been marginalised in favour of trivia and frivolity, I now realise that there would be something wrong with me if I hadn’t lost it.

In fighting any great harm, in any age, we find ourselves confronting the same forces: distraction, denial and delusion. Those seeking to sound the alarm about the gathering collapse of our life-support systems soon hit the barrier that stands between us and the people we are trying to reach, a barrier called the media. With a few notable exceptions, the sector that should facilitate communication thwarts it.

It’s not just its individual stupidities that have become inexcusable, such as the platforms repeatedly given to climate deniers. It is the structural stupidity to which the media are committed. It’s the anti-intellectualism, the hostility to new ideas and aversion to complexity. It’s the absence of moral seriousness. It’s the vacuous gossip about celebrities and consumables that takes precedence over the survival of life on Earth. It’s the obsession with generating noise, regardless of signal. It’s the reflexive alignment with the status quo, whatever it may be. It’s the endless promotion of the views of the most selfish, odious and antisocial people, and the exclusion of those who are trying to defend us from catastrophe, on the grounds that they are “worthy”, “extreme” or “mad” (I hear from friends in the BBC that these terms are still used there to describe environmental activists).

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Even when these merchants of distraction do address the issue, they tend to shut out the experts and interview actors, singers and other celebs instead. The media’s obsession with actors vindicates Guy Debord’s predictions in his book The Society of the Spectacle, published in 1967. Substance is replaced by semblance, as even the most serious issues must now be articulated by people whose work involves adopting someone else’s persona and speaking someone else’s words. Then the same media, having turned them into spokespeople, attack these actors as hypocrites for leading a profligate lifestyle.

Similarly, it’s not just the individual failures by governments at Glasgow and elsewhere that have become inexcusable, but the entire framework of negotiations. As crucial Earth systems might be approaching their tipping point, governments still propose to address the issue with tiny increments of action, across decades. It’s as if, in 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global financial system began to sway, governments had announced that they would bail out the banks at the rate of a few million pounds a day between then and 2050. The system would have collapsed 40 years before their programme was complete. Our central, civilisational question, I believe, is this: why do nations scramble to rescue the banks but not the planet?

So, as we race towards Earth system collapse, trying to raise the alarm feels like being trapped behind a thick plate of glass. People can see our mouths opening and closing, but they struggle to hear what we are saying. As we frantically bang the glass, we look ever crazier. And feel it. The situation is genuinely maddening. I’ve been working on these issues since I was 22, and full of confidence and hope. I’m about to turn 59, and the confidence is turning to cold fear, the hope to horror. As manufactured indifference ensures that we remain unheard, it becomes ever harder to know how to hold it together. I cry most days now.

http://www.monbiot.com

— Read on www.monbiot.com/2022/01/10/losing-it/

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods.

Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth.

These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

Overshoot

Scientists call for a moratorium on climate change research until governments take real action #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #auspol #qldpol #StopEcocide stop stealing our children’s future

What should climate scientists do in the face of ever rising emissions? They could continue providing more evidence, join climate activists – or stop work in protest against government inaction.

By

Decades of scientific evidence demonstrate unequivocally that human activities jeopardise life on Earth. Dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system compounds many other drivers of global change. 

Governments concur: the science is settled. But governments have failed to act at the scale and pace required. What should climate change scientists do?

There is an unwritten social contract between science and society. Public investment in science is intended to improve understanding about our world and support beneficial societal outcomes. However, for climate change, the science-society contract is now broken. 

The failure to act decisively is an indictment on governments and political leaders across the board, but climate change scientists cannot be absolved of responsibility. 

As we write in an article about this conundrum, the tragedy is the compulsion to provide ever more evidence when the phenomena are well understood and the science widely accepted. The tragedy is being gaslighted into thinking the impasse is somehow our fault, and we need to do science differently: crafting new scientific institutions, strategies, collaborations and methodologies. 

Yet, global carbon dioxide emissions are 60% higher today than they were in 1990, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first assessment. At some point we need to recognise the problem is political and that further climate change science may even divert attention away from where the problem truly lies.

Was COP26 too little, too late?

The outcome of COP26, summarised in the draft Glasgow Climate Pact, includes some progress, including an agreement to begin reducing coal-fired power, removing subsidies on other fossil fuels, and a commitment to double adaptation finance to improve climate resilience for countries with the lowest incomes. 

But many of the world’s leading scientists argue that this is too little, too late. They note the failure of COP26 to translate the 2015 Paris Agreement into practical reality to keep global warming below 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. 

Even if COP26 commitments are fulfilled, there is a strong likelihood that humanity and life on Earth face a precarious future. 

What are climate change scientists to do in the face of this evidence? We see three possible options — two that are untenable, one that is unpalatable.

Where to from here for climate change scientists?

The first option is to collect more evidence and hope for action. Continue the IPCC process that stays politically neutral and abstains from policy prescriptions. A recent editorial in Nature called on scientists to do just that: stay engaged to support future climate COPs. 

However, this choice not only ignores the complex relationship between science and policy, it runs counter to the logic of our scientific training to reflect and act on the evidence. We know why global warming is happening and what to do. We have known for a long time. 

Governments just haven’t taken the necessary action. In a recent Nature survey, six in ten of the IPCC scientists who responded expect 3℃ warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Persisting with this first option is therefore untenable.

The second option is more intensive social science research and climate change advocacy. As Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes recently observed, the work of the IPCC’s Working Group I (WGI, on the physical science basis of climate change) is complete and should be closed down. Attention needs to focus on translating this understanding into action, which is the realm of WGII (on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and WGIII (on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions). 

In parallel, growing numbers of scientists are getting involved in diverse forms of advocacy, including non-violent civil disobedience.

However, albeit more promising than option one, there is little evidence of impact thus far and it is doubtful this pathway will lead to the urgent transformative actions required. This option is also not tenable.

Halt on IPCC work until governments do their part

The third option is much more radical, but unpalatable. We call for a moratorium on climate change research that does little more than document global warming and maladaptation. 

Attention needs to focus on exposing and re-negotiating the broken science-society contract. Given the rupture to the contract outlined here, we call for a halt on all further IPCC assessments until governments are willing to fulfil their responsibilities in good faith and mobilise action to secure a safe level of global warming. This option is the only way to overcome the tragedy of climate change science.

Readers might agree with our framing of this tragedy but disagree with our assessment of options. Some may want greater detail on what a moratorium could encompass or worry it may damage the credibility and objectivity of the scientific community. 

However, we question whether it is our “duty” to use public funds to continue to refine the state of climate change knowledge (which is unlikely to lead to the actions required), or whether a more radical approach will serve society better. 

We have reached a critical juncture for humanity and the planet. Given the unfolding tragedy, a moratorium on climate change research is the only responsible option for revealing and then restoring the broken science-society contract. The other two options are seductive but offer false hope.

— Read on theconversation.com/scientists-call-for-a-moratorium-on-climate-change-research-until-governments-take-real-action-172690

Letting the Team Down? Considering Australia’s Approach to Climate Policy after Glasgow – Georgetown Journal of International Affairs #ClimateCrisis Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #FundOurFutureNotGas #auspol

Letting the Team Down? Considering Australia’s Approach to Climate Policy after Glasgow – Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

Dr. Wesley Morgan and Tim Baxter

For decades, Australia has dragged its feet on climate action because national interests have been reliant on fossil fuel exports.

However, the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last month makes it clear that this approach will need to be reconsidered.

As the world shifts toward net-zero emissions, Australia is well placed to reposition itself as a renewable energy superpower.

This past November, the United Kingdom hosted the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, precipitating a surge in momentum toward global climate action. Specifically, more than one hundred countries announced plans to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of this century, and key wealthy nations pledged to halve their emissions by the end of the decade. As such, this summit was a critical test of the world’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

However, efforts to combat climate change are still short of what is needed. In 2015, the Paris Agreement set the framework for countries to provide new national targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every five years. Thus, COP26 marked the deadline for the next set of targets, and while most countries committed to greater climate action than they did previously, the sobering reality is that these national targets still leave the world on track for catastrophic warming.

In Glasgow, most wealthy nations set a stronger 2030 target to cut emissions, and the G7 countries promised to collectively halve their emissions by the end of this decade. Yet, there was one country that let the global team down. Australia was the only major developed country that refused to pledge stronger emissions cuts by 2030. In fact, it proposed the same insufficient 2030 emissions target that it had proposed six years earlier in Paris. While the ink was still drying on the Glasgow Climate Pact, the Australian government even maintained that it would also ignore the Pact’s provision for countries to set a new 2030 emissions target in 2022, arguing that Australia’s 2030 target is “fixed.”

Australia’s reluctance to embrace climate action stems from a tendency to equate national interests with fossil fuel exports. This article explains how such a calculus has shaped Australia’s approach to UN climate talks for decades now and then considers how Australia might reposition in the future as a clean energy superpower.

A Long Road: Australia’s Approach to Climate Cooperation at the UN

Understanding why Australia drags its heels on taking climate action requires some historical background. When a scientific consensus on climate change emerged in the 1980s, Australia initially positioned itself as a leader in multilateral discussions, strongly supporting ambitious national targets to cut emissions. In 1989, then Foreign Minister Gareth Evans described climate change as “the biggest problem, the biggest challenge, faced by mankind in this or any other age.”

By the mid-1990s, however, under the influence of powerful fossil fuel lobbying, the Australian government decided that taking serious action on climate change was not in the country’s best interests. The argument, which has lasted until today, was that Australia is a fossil fuel-dependent economy, thus making it relatively costlier for the country to reduce emissions. In turn, a brutal assessment was made: rather than promote climate action, Australia would do what it could to avoid obligations to reduce emissions and instead focus on expanding its coal and gas exports. This assessment of Australia’s perceived national interests—misguided as it is—has shaped Australia’s approach to UN climate talks ever since.

For example, when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997, Australia demanded concessions that not only exempted them from cutting emissions but even allowed the country to increase its emissions. Furthermore, when measuring progress for its Kyoto target against its 1990 base year, Australia also demanded that the emissions they released from land clearing would be included. These concessions allowed Australia to claim that it was “meeting and beating” its international obligations, despite the fact that its national emissions from burning fossil fuels continued to significantly rise. Indeed, between 1997 and 2020, Australian energy sector emissions rose by almost 30 percent.

In 2015, when a successor to the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in Paris, Australia set a target that was among the weakest in the developed world, pledging to cut emissions by only 26 to 28 percent by 2030, compared to its 2005 levels. Australia’s Pacific neighbors strongly criticized this target, warning that if the rest of the world copied Australia’s low ambition, vulnerable island nations would disappear.

In Glasgow, Australia refused to strengthen the 2030 target it set in Paris. Yet, just days before the summit, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia would achieve net-zero by 2050. This announcement lacked much detail and appeared merely as a response to pressure from critical allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom; Morrison even commented that Australia was finally accepting the net-zero target because climate change action had become a key pillar of the Western alliance.

Given the cursory nature of this revised target, we must also recognize Morrison’s addendum that Australia would achieve net-zero “the Australian way,” which does not involve shutting down coal and gas production or exports, nor does it even include reaching net-zero in 2050.

In order to continue promoting fossil fuels, Australia now finds itself among a small and isolated group of countries—including Saudi Arabia and Russia—resisting more ambitious global action to cut emissions.

How Australia Could Become a Renewables Superpower

Australia’s position at the back of the pack on climate ambition is by no means a forgone conclusion. While Australia’s fossil fuel exports are significant, Australia has a diversified, advanced economy with many alternative sources of income. For instance, Australia is both the sunniest and second windiest continent on the planet, thereby giving it incredible potential to transform the skilled workforce currently employed in the production of fossil fuels into a workforce working toward zero-emissions industries (e.g. clean energy exports to growing economies in Asia). With the right policies, Australia could establish a mix of clean energy exports—including renewable hydrogen, “green steel,” and the critical minerals needed for batteries and electric vehicles—which exceed the value of today’s fossil fuel exports. In short, Australia is uniquely placed to switch tack, should domestic politics—particularly politics at the federal level—permit it.

Although performance is mixed, Australia’s states and territories are already leading the way on this pivot. Australia’s two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, have pledged to halve emissions by 2030 from its 2005 levels (which is commensurate with the United States, which also aims to cut emissions 50 percent by 2030). A recent assessment suggests that each individual Australian state and territory exhibits a more ambitious climate policy than the federal government. Every one of the country’s sub-national jurisdictions had announced a commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 two years before the beleaguered federal government stumbled into its own net-zero commitment.

That said, Australia’s sub-national governments suffer from the same split loyalties between old and new ways of doing business—particularly old and new ways of sourcing energy—that many of the country’s allies grapple with under their own targets. While there are excellent schemes in operation at the state and territory level, these are still insufficient to reach the sub-national jurisdictions’ own long-term climate goals. Still, the framework for scaling up ambition is present and may well provide a model for future federal governments to scale up their ambition as well. With a federal election due in the next six months, and with the majority of voters in every electorate in favor of increased climate action, there is a real prospect that Australia may soon join its international allies as a peer on climate ambition.

Australia must realize that being one of the last nations to close the door on fossil fuels is no longer in its own national interests. However, Australia is well-placed to reposition itself as a renewable energy superpower of the Indo-Pacific. If Australia can make this necessary pivot, it may come to play a key role in the global effort to avert climate catastrophe, finally bringing an end to its long history of letting the team down.

. . .

Dr. Wesley Morgan is a researcher at the Climate Council. He is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. His research considers the ways countries integrate climate change into their foreign policy and national security strategies. Dr. Morgan has also written widely on Australia’s relations with Pacific island countries.

Tim Baxter is a senior researcher at the Climate Council and a professional climate communicator with an extensive history in environmental and climate law. A passionate educator, Baxter’s working life is now devoted to building momentum toward tackling the global community’s most pressing problem: the extraction and use of coal, oil, and gas. 

— Read on gjia.georgetown.edu/2022/01/10/letting-the-team-down-considering-australias-approach-to-climate-policy-after-glasgow/

Rich nations could see ‘double climate dividend’ by switching to plant-based foods – Carbon Brief #auspol #qldpol Listen to the scientists #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #StopEcocide #Agriculture

Adopting a more plant-based diet could give rich countries a “double climate dividend” of lower emissions and more land for capturing carbon, a new study says.

By AYESHA TANDON

Adopting a more plant-based diet could give rich countries a “double climate dividend” of lower emissions and more land for capturing carbon, a new study says.

Animal-based foods have higher carbon and land footprints than their plant-based alternatives, and are most commonly consumed in high-income countries. The study, published in Nature Food, investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.

High-income countries could cut their agricultural emissions by almost two-thirds through dietary change, the authors find. They add that moving away from animal-based foods could free up an area of land larger than the entire European Union.

If this land were all allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture almost 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions – the authors note. They add that this level of carbon capture “could potentially fulfil high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

The US, France, Australia and Germany would collectively see roughly half of the total carbon benefits, the study notes, because meat and dairy production and consumption are high in these countries.

‘Double climate dividend’

Feeding the world’s population of almost eight billion people is no small task. The global food system is responsible for around one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and half of the planet’s habitable land is used to produce food.

However, not all calories have an equal impact on the planet. On average, animal-based foods produce 10-50 times more emissions than plant-based foods. Meanwhile, livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land, despite producing less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories.

Individuals in high-income nations currently have the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through their dietary choices, because their diets are usually the most meat-orientated. Animal-derived products drive 70% of food-system emissions in high-income countries but only 22% in low–middle-income countries.

(In 2019, Carbon Brief produced a week-long series of articles on food systems, including a discussion of the climate impacts of meat and dairy, and expert views on how changing diets are expected to affect the climate.)

The study explores how the carbon footprint of food production could change if 54 high-income countries were to adopt the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. This is a mainly plant-based diet that is “flexible by providing guidelines to ranges of different food groups that together constitute an optimal diet for human health and environmental sustainability”. 

Dr Paul Behrens from Leiden University, an author on the paper, tells Carbon Brief that the diet varies between countries to account for their “local production and food cultures”.

The study investigates the immediate reduction in emissions from adopting the EAT-Lancet diet using a dataset from the 2010 Food and Agriculture Organization’s statistical Database, linked at the national level to the Food and Agriculture Biomass Input–Output dataset.

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The authors also determine how much land could be spared by a shift in diet. They use global crop and pasture maps – combined with soil carbon and vegetation maps – to quantify how much extra carbon could be drawn down by soil and vegetation if this surplus land were allowed to revert to its natural state of mixed native grassland and forest. 

As well as investigating changes in the 54 high-income countries, the study follows the trade of food between nations to see how dietary shifts in one country can affect the food-related land and carbon footprints around the world.

The map below shows the drop in greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture if the 54 high-income countries were to shift to the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. Dark red shading indicates the largest reductions. Changes in lower-income countries are due to knock-on impacts for food trade.

Changes in greenhouse gas emissions from 54 high-income countries adopting the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. Note the logarithmic scale in the colour bar. Source: Sun et al (2022).

According to the study, high-income nations could reduce their agricultural emissions by 62% by shifting to a more plant-based diet. Dr Sonja Vermeulen is the lead global food scientist at WWF, and is not involved in the study. She helped to put this figure into perspective:

“To put this in perspective, it’s about the same positive impact as all countries signing up to and implementing the COP26 declaration on the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans globally by 2040.” 

Freeing up land

The study finds that moving away from animal-based foods could free an area of land larger than the entire European Union. If this area were allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture around 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions from 2010 – by the end of the century, the authors find.  

The map below shows the potential carbon sequestration from surplus land if the 54 high-income countries were to shift to the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet, with dark green shading indicating the largest potential. Changes in lower-income countries are due to knock-on impacts for food trade. 

Changes in carbon sequestration from 54 high-income countries adopting the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. Note the logarithmic scale in the colour bar. Source: Sun et al (2022).

Approximately half of the carbon benefit from cutting emissions and increasing carbon sequestration could be seen collectively in the US, France, Australia and Germany, the study says.

The authors also highlight that, according to past research, limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels requires the 54 high-income countries in this analysis to achieve cumulative CO2 removals of 85-531bn tonnes of CO2 by the end of the century. This range comes from uncertainty in the amount of CO2 removal required, and in the amount that should be allocated to each country.

Based on these numbers, the study concludes that the 100bn carbon sequestration “could potentially fulfil high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

The study finds that many low and mid-income countries – such as Brazil, India and Botswana – would export less food to high-income nations if they consumed less meat. This would reduce their own agricultural emissions and free up land for drawing down carbon, despite no dietary changes in their own countries, the researchers say. (The study does not assess the economic impact of this reduced trade.)

Around two-thirds of the carbon sequestration potential from dietary changes in high-income countries is domestic, the study finds. Meanwhile, almost a quarter is located in other high-income countries and around an eighth is from low and middle income countries.

Dr Nynke Schulp is an associate professor of land use, lifestyle and ecosystem change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and was not involved in the study. She tells Carbon Brief that existing studies “tend to work from the assumption that the whole world adopts a specific dietary change”, and so “this study’s focus on dietary change in high-income nations is an important nuance, both from a mitigation potential perspective and from a climate justice perspective”.

Capturing carbon

The study assumes that any land freed up by a change in diet would be allowed to revert to its natural state through a “natural climate solution” called passive restoration, in which land is allowed to revert to its past state. Behrens explains in a press release that this technique has a range of co-benefits, including “water quality, biodiversity, air pollution and access to nature, to name just a few”.

The study breaks down the carbon sequestration potential of passive restoration into three categories: aboveground biomass carbon (AGBC), belowground biomass carbon (BGBC) and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks. These refer to carbon held in plant matter above the soil, plant matter below the soil, and the soil itself, respectively.

The plot below shows the total carbon sequestration (left) and emissions reductions (right) potentials from a range of different food types. The red lines on the left and right mark fixed values to make comparisons between the charts easier. Note that carbon sequestration is shown as a total over the 21st century, while the reduction in emissions is shown per year.

Carbon sequestration (left) and potential greenhouse gas reductions (right) from “animal products” (top), “mixed products” (middle) and “plant-based products” (bottom). The red line on the left shows +5 GtCO2e sequestration and on the right shows −0.01 GtCO2e emissions. Source: Sun et al (2022).

The plot shows that animal-based products – most notably beef – have high carbon and land footprints. The authors highlight that the US and Australia in particular would see benefits from reducing their beef intake, due to their high domestic production and consumption. 

Vermeulen tells Carbon Brief that changing diets in these countries could “transform” them:

“The term ‘food system transformation’ is perhaps often used too lightly – but there can be no doubt that the changes in these places would constitute total transformation of local economies, landscapes and cultures. Imagine the vast cattle ranches of the US and Australia replaced with equally vast rewilded or repurposed lands – would these be used for biomass and bioenergy, or conservation and biodiversity, and how would rural communities create new livelihoods for themselves?”

Dietary choices

High-income countries could see the largest per-capita carbon reductions by shifting to a planet-friendly diet, the study concludes. However, asking individuals to take charge of their personal carbon footprints can be a controversial area of discussion.

For example, the authors note that alcoholic beverages and “stimulants” including coffee, cocoa products and tea comprise 5.8% of dietary greenhouse gas emissions. These “luxury, low-nutrition crops” are predominantly consumed in high-income countries and present a “non-negligible” opportunity for cutting emissions and capturing carbon, according to the study. However, “sociological and policy complications” would make it difficult to reduce consumption of these products in practice, the authors say.

They also highlight that eating more offal – a co-product of meat production – could be a good way for individuals to reduce their meat-related carbon footprints. However, the authors say that offal is “not typically consumed in high-income nations due to convention and consumer preference”.

Dr Matthew Hayek is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at NYU arts and science, who was not involved in the study. He tells Carbon Brief how governments could incentivise individuals to eat more sustainably: 

“Folks in developed countries eat far more meat and dairy than the global average… Reducing emissions from food consumption in rich countries is critical. For consumers who have ample food choices, these choices play a sizable role in contributing to our climate goals. Our policies must reflect this by making healthy and sustainable food choices more prevalent, convenient, and inexpensive.”

And Behrens tells Carbon Brief that “the onus is on high-income nations to transform food systems”. In the press release, he adds:

“It will be vital that we redirect agricultural subsidies to farmers for biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration. We must look after farming communities to enable this in a just food transition. We don’t have to be purist about this, even just cutting animal intake would be helpful. Imagine if half of the public in richer regions cut half the animal products in their diets, you’re still talking about a massive opportunity in environmental outcomes and public health.”

— Read on www.carbonbrief.org/rich-nations-could-see-double-climate-dividend-by-switching-to-plant-based-foods

Great Barrier Reef election battle brews amid fears of more coral bleaching #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #auspol #qldpol #Overshoot demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #StopEcocide stop stealing our children’s future

By

The government agency that oversees the Great Barrier Reef has warned it is at risk of another summer of coral bleaching as the major parties prepare for an election campaign clash over management of the natural wonder.

Visiting Queensland on Friday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese attacked the government’s environmental record as he pledged $163 million for conservation and to dismantle the controversial Great Barrier Reef Foundation championed by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Albanese said the foundation, which received $443 million in seed capital in 2018 and set a target to raise $357 million in private funds, had failed to deliver value for taxpayers. Australia’s Auditor-General found in May the organisation had raised just $54 million – 99 per cent of which was for in-kind services, with just $684,000 in cash donations. As of September last year, the foundation had secured pledges valued up to $157 million.

The Opposition Leader also accused the government of being “hostage” to climate sceptics in the Coalition.

“If you’re allowing [Nationals leader] Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals party to control your climate policy, then you’re not fair dinkum about protecting the reef. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government had committed $1.9 billion for the reef to date.

“The Morrison government will continue to invest heavily in the reef and in its community,” the spokesman said.

The Great Barrier Reef is a relatively uncontroversial environmental issue for both major parties to campaign on heading into the federal election, due by the end of May, with the tourism drawcard supporting 64,000 jobs and contributing $6.4 billion to the economy.

Central Queensland, where coal and gas are major industries, is a key battleground for votes and speculation is rife in the sector that the government will soon make the reef a subject of an election commitment with a hefty price tag.

Scientists say both major parties’ climate commitments fail to act consistently with the global action required to reduce carbon emissions enough to save the reef. The government and Labor have committed to reach net zero by 2050 and to curb emissions 28 per cent and 43 per cent by 2030, respectively.

Climate change is heating ocean and atmospheric temperatures, raising the risk of mass bleaching events. The Great Barrier Reef suffered severe back-to-back bleaching that wiped out swathes of corals in 2016, 2017 and 2020.

While there have been consecutive La Nina weather events, which typically bring cooler conditions, in the past two years, Australia has warmed by 1.4 degrees, faster than the global average, and scientists warn the reef is now at risk of bleaching every summer.

Global coral cover is forecast to decline 95 per cent under 2 degrees of warming, and 70 per cent under 1.5 degrees.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is expecting another bleaching event this summer, with corals already under heat stress due to elevated sea surface temperatures since December.

However, the authority said on Friday it remained to be seen if bleaching would be small or large scale, with its severity dependent on cloud cover, rain or cyclones.

“In the past, La Nina conditions would have meant very little chance of mass bleaching on the reef, but as average sea surface temperatures are rising, this is no longer the case,” a spokesperson said.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change.”

Meanwhile, the government faces a test over the reef from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which is considering another move to rescind its World Heritage status.

UNESCO issued a draft decision in June to list the reef’s World Heritage status as “in danger”, citing concerns over Australia’s climate change policy and management of water quality. While a majority of countries on UNESCO’s committee voted against downgrading the reef’s status, Australia is required to provide an update to justify its World Heritage ranking by next month.

— Read on www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/great-barrier-reef-election-battle-brews-amid-fears-of-more-coral-bleaching-20220107-p59mmj.html

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods. Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth. These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

A calm but unflinching realist, Catton suggests that we cannot stop this wave – for we have already overshot the Earth’s capacity to support so huge a load. He contradicts those scientists, engineers, and technocrats who continue to write optimistically about energy alternatives. Catton asserts that the technological panaceas proposed by those who would harvest from the seas, harness the winds, and farm the deserts are ignoring the fundamental premise that “the principals of ecology apply to all living things.” These principles tell us that, within a finite system, economic expansion is not irreversible and population growth cannot continue indefinitely. If we disregard these facts, our sagging American Dream will soon shatter completely.

Overshoot

What the ‘Don’t Look Up’ Action Campaign Gets So Wrong #DontLookUp #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #OverShoot #Capitalism = #PlanetwideEcocide #auspol #StopEcocide stop stealing our children’s future!

The film’s calls to action are the same ones we’re been hearing for decades. It’s time to try something new.

Don’t Look Up made history recently, breaking Netflix’s record for the number of viewing hours in one week. People spent more than 152 million hours collectively watching the movie last week, indicating an incredible amount of interest.

Regardless of what you think of the movie, this many people watching a movie with climate themes has undeniable merit. But what its creators and climate-focused star, Leonardo DiCaprio, are looking to do—convince people to act on climate after seeing it—has serious problems.

The role of Randall Mindy, the scientist who is desperately trying to alert the world about an extinction-level comet headed for Earth, seems to be a natural fit for DiCaprio at this point in his career. His reach is enormous, and his star power undeniable; there’s no question he helped drive up viewership. He’s also one of Hollywood’s most vocal climate advocates. He started an environment-focused foundation in 1998; interviewed Barack Obama about the Paris Agreement; centered his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech around climate; was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2014; and sits on the board of several environmental charities.

Don’t Look Up has been promoted as a call to action by both its creators and DiCaprio, who has been busy promoting similar themes in interviews and sharing the movie’s website and calls to action on Twitter. Yet those calls are where things go a little off the rails, reflecting a failure of imagination.

One of the big problems I had with Don’t Look Up is that a comet is actually a pretty bad analogy for climate change. It’s an outside factor easily stoppable by brute force and the movie suggests simply looking up is all humanity needs to do. 

Similarly, Don’t Look Up’s official action website, which DiCaprio and the film’s creators have been heavily promoting, offers a host of individual actions (eating vegetables, talking to friends and colleagues, walking to work). These personal actions are all good and fine, but the idea that individuals can fix a systemic problem by altering their personal choices is an idea that was originally created and promoted by fossil fuel companies. It will never be enough.

The idea that raising awareness is the key to climate action has also dominated discourse for decades. There are no shortage of campaigns to do just that, and many of them are run by the same wealthy nonprofitsDiCaprio sits on the boards of. Yet we continue to hurtle toward disaster precisely because we need much more than awareness and individual-level fixes in everyday people’s lives. 

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Whenever DiCaprio is in the news for his climate charity work, a right-wing outlet always smugly runs a piece about his private jet use. While these critiques are in bad faith, they do point out their own inconvenient truth that DiCaprio is part of the sliver of rich people who could actuallymake a real carbon dent if they changed up their lifestyles or gave away more of their money. Just four hours of flying on a private jet emits as much carbon dioxide as the average person living in the EU does each year. If lifestyle changes are where Don’t Look Up wants to focus people’s energies, then its charismatic star could certainly do a lot more than a random viewer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The actions DiCaprio is promoting as part of Don’t Look Up fail to properly confront power. Celebrity activism is inherently a strange, slippery slope. But compare what the Don’t Look Up push is trying to do to, say, the work of Jane Fonda in recent years. She’s stood on the frontlines, sparking an uprising with Fire Drill Fridays, and showing up to support Indigenous protesters fighting the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Her work confronts the powers driving the climate crisis directly and aligns with Indigenous and other groups who stand to lose the most from the climate crisis. That has the potential for getting people involved in creating lasting, transformational change in line with what’s neededrather than telling folks to put down that hamburger. DiCaprio’s activism is where climate action has been stuck for a few decades, as an elite class attempts to “raise awareness” about climate; Fonda’s direct action feels like the future of confronting power and holding them accountable. Netflix, for its part, reached out to climate communicators on how to improve its site to reflect the scope of what’s needed.

A call to action from Jane Fonda, one of the most inspiring activists of our time, urging us to wake up to the looming disaster of climate change and equipping us with the tools we need to join her in protest.

This is the last possible moment in history when changing course can mean saving lives and species on an unimaginable scale.

It’s too late for moderation.

Our climate is in a crisis. 2019 saw atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases hit the highest level ever recorded in human history, and our window of opportunity to avoid disaster is quickly closing.

In the autumn of 2019, frustrated with the inaction of politicians, Jane Fonda moved to Washington, D.C. to lead weekly climate change demonstrations – dubbed Fire Drill Fridays – on Capitol Hill. There, she led thousands of people in non-violent civil disobedience, risking arrest to protest for action. In What Can I Do?, Fonda’s deeply personal journey as an activist is weaved alongside interviews with leading climate scientists, and discussions of issues, such as water, migration, and human rights, to emphasise what is at stake. Throughout, Fonda provides concrete solutions and actions that everybody can take in order to combat the climate crisis in their community. As Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace US and Fonda’s partner in developing FDF, has declared, “Change is inevitable; by design, or by disaster.” The problems we face now require every one of us to join the fight. The fight not only for our immediate future, but for the future of generations to come. 100% of the author’s net proceeds from What Can I Do? will go to Greenpeace

What Can I Do?

There are limits to engaging with a capitalist machine like Hollywood to send a political message on something as complex as climate. While DiCaprio and Don’t Look Up’s creators clearly want the movie to function both as a hugely successful piece of entertainment and a call to action, it’s not that easy. 

It’s also, frankly, a little hard to be told by someone who partied with Jeff Bezos on a $150 million yacht for New Year’s that we’re not paying enough attention to climate change. It’s a strange feeling to have that same guy, who earned $30 million for this climate-themed movie, tweet about a website that tells me to switch to LED lights to fix the problem. People should tell climate stories in art because they’re interesting, compelling stories, as Don’t Look Up’s success proves. Art is a powerful lens to look at the society we have and how to fix what is broken. But fashioning this movie as an action campaign needs a lot more nuance than this.

— Read on gizmodo.com/what-don-t-look-up-s-action-campaign-gets-so-wrong-1848319605

2022 is Going to be The Most F**ked Up Year on Planet Earth Since -66,000,000 – Watching the World Go Bye #auspol #qldpol #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #Overshoot #TellTheTruth #DontLookUp

2022 is Going to be The Most F**ked Up Year on Planet Earth Since -66,000,000 – Watching the World Go Bye.

By

The title refers to the approximate year that an asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico causing the fifth great extinction (the latest research places the asteroid at 65.95 mya, ± 40k years). In particular, it was the event that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs.

We are now in the midst of the sixth great extinction and we are the dinosaurs. In my opinion, 2022 is the year that the metaphorical asteroid will hit humanity and the planet. This is the year the cataclysmic impacts of climate change will strike en masse, affecting all species of plants and animals, no matter where they reside, air, sea or land. In this blog post, I will be making my predictions for what’s ahead in 2022.

First, from a purely numerical perspective, CO will break 422 ppm (parts per million) at Mauna Loa at its peak this coming April, breaching 420 for the first time. 350 ppm was the last viable level (see this article), and breaking 400 ppm was viewed as cataclysmic (we passed 400 ppm in 2013). The last time CO was at 420 ppm was 3 million years ago, when oceans were as much as 100 feet higher and global temperatures were 10F hotter (see this post). And we just keep on going.

We will also see the global average of methane break 1900 ppb (parts per billion) for the first time over the next few months. Even 1910 ppb is in reach in 2022. Methane is over 80 times as potent a GHG as CO₂ over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

I note that there is a small chance of a massive methane burst coming from permafrost melt in Siberia or the East Siberian Arctic Sea (ESAS) methane clathrates that could radically increase global methane in 2022. What is more likely is that increased methane from these sources will lead to further acceleration of global methane. This increase will defeat the politicized mitigating path forward decreed in COP-26 of 30% reduction in global methane by 2030.

Next, expect novel and tragic climate disasters to escalate. The Canadian province of British Columbia is the model for what’s to come to your neighborhood in 2022. From record heat (Canadian record of 121F), to the fire that destroyed Lytton, to floods that destroyed transportation infrastructure throughout BC, to record cold, the beating BC is taking continues into 2022. The recent wildfires in Colorado near Boulder at the end of December, 2021, fueled by 100+ mph winds and a historic drought, burned with a ferocity that had never been seen in the region for as long as humans have documented such events. The scale, scope and duration of catastrophic climate events to come in 2022 is terrifying.

If you haven’t heard, it’s been hot in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere the last few months. For example, on December 26, Kodiak, Alaska hit 67F. Winter heat waves have consumed most of Europe and large parts of the U.S. High temperature records are being obliterated by 10F and more. These heat waves have set the stage for untold surprises in the farm and field.  This article explains just a few of the consequences, which in the U.S. include failed peach, cherry, blueberry and citrus harvests, collapse of bee populations and increases in tick and mosquito-born diseases.

In 2022, we can expect extreme heat and humidity to bring increasingly large parts of the planet nearer to lethal wet-bulb temperatures. Those who can migrate will do so in earnest. Expect climate migration to get going at a scale never seen before as mobile populations look for refuge.  Expect border battles to escalate as nations seal themselves off from the invading “aliens.” Expect heat, drought and water wars to cause civil unrest, desperation, disease and death among those who cannot migrate.

Many countries are starting 2022 with record numbers of Covid cases. While the omicron variant appears to lead to less severe illness (although this study concludes omicron and delta are roughly equal), the magnitude of this wave is sure to cause a tsunami of death and long-term disability. We don’t know what’s coming after omicron, but given the trajectory we’ve experienced the last two years, there is no reason to expect omicron to be the last bullet Covid fires at us.

On the political front, the decline of democratic ideals and the rise of hate is an inevitable consequence of misdirected ignorance and fear. We want something we can control, so we project our fear of the coming collapse of civilization onto a political party or candidate. The media-fueled outrage machine creates and supports the silo of our choice. It’s them. If only our party had full power, all the problems would be solved. Autocracy is the consequence.

Expect the rise of totalitarian and authoritarian governments. Here in the U.S. we have our midterm elections, poised to give new power to States to overthrow vote tallies that the majority in power does not like. Election control has been going on for generations in places like Russia, Iran and China. This year, the U.S. is poised to see the “autocratic party” usurp power for good.

Expect more people to become aware of the inevitability of the collapse of global industrial civilization in 2022. Expect more movement towards the bright green lies of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and nuclear. Expect more children and working poor to be enslaved in lithium and cobalt mines to feed the first-world’s hunger for clean energy. Among the wealthy, owning a Tesla and having solar on your rooftop (with battery backup) will be the symbol for having done your part to save the planet.

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods. Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth. These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

A calm but unflinching realist, Catton suggests that we cannot stop this wave – for we have already overshot the Earth’s capacity to support so huge a load. He contradicts those scientists, engineers, and technocrats who continue to write optimistically about energy alternatives. Catton asserts that the technological panaceas proposed by those who would harvest from the seas, harness the winds, and farm the deserts are ignoring the fundamental premise that “the principals of ecology apply to all living things.” These principles tell us that, within a finite system, economic expansion is not irreversible and population growth cannot continue indefinitely. If we disregard these facts, our sagging American Dream will soon shatter completely.

Overshoot

As food becomes more scarce and supply chains continue to degrade, necessities will be harder to find and prices will go up. Expect inflation to accelerate. In the other direction, a long overdue stock market correction will be set in motion by monetary policy and fear. In short, 2022 is the year that the financial “everything bubble” will pop.  Expect the filthy rich to get filthy richer.

There is some good news. I don’t anticipate that a BOE (blue ocean event) will occur in 2022. A BOE is less than 1 million square kilometers of Arctic ice extent at the minimum in September. Nor do I expect the Thwaites glacier (the “doomsday glacier”) to collapse, raising sea level by 2 feet, or for massive quantities of Greenland’s ice to unexpectedly slide into the North Atlantic. These singular tipping points will happen soon enough. The IPCC predicts a BOE by 2050. My personal over/under is 2043 (seethis post). Recent news puts the Thwaites glacier at risk in the next 5 years. Greenland had record melt in 2021 that included the first rain ever recorded on Greenland’s summit. Expect the Arctic, Thwaites and Greenland to make it through 2022.

Expect over-population and overshoot to take its toll everywhere and in every way in 2022. There are too many people on planet Earth, too many of whom consume too much. We are a failed and invasive species on a dying planet and these are sad times.

This is going to be one f**k of a tough year to be a plant or animal on planet Earth. As much as you are able, be kind, be generous and be of service.

Here are the top 22 impacts of climate change that we will see in 2022:

  1. Acid rain
  2. Algae blooms
  3. Ash & smoke
  4. Bees dying & pollination loss
  5. Climate refugees & migration
  6. Coral bleaching
  7. Crop failures
  8. Disease, pandemics (plants & animals)
  9. Droughts
  10. Extreme cold
  11. Financial/bank/stock collapse
  12. Fires
  13. Floods
  14. Food & water riots
  15. Heat waves: frequency, power, duration
  16. Hunger, famine & starvation
  17. Infrastructure collapse
  18. Price instability & inflation
  19. Storms — more frequent, power, duration
  20. Supply chain & transportation collapse
  21. Unemployment & poverty
  22. War & terrorism

— Read on www.climatedisaster.net/2022/01/2022-is-going-to-be-the-most-fked-up-year-on-planet-earth-since-66000000/


“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Degrowth is about global justice – Resilience #auspol #qldpol #Overshoot #SDGs #LimitsToGrowth #TellTheTruth #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #Extinction #StopEcocide stop stealing our children’s future!

When it comes to what politicians can and cannot say, I do not think they absolutely must use the word “degrowth”, it’s just a useful word

Campaigners for degrowth have thrown into question the dogma that holds that a growing economy is always a sign of progress.

In Less is More, anthropologist Jason Hickel argues that only degrowth can steer the world away from its worsening ecological crisis. We sat down with him to discuss his new book and ask what degrowth would mean for relations between the Global North and South.

A groundbreaking exploration of the best possible solution to the climate crisis: a new economic model, and a new way of viewing our relationship with the natural world. 

A Financial Times Book of the Year 

Our planet is in trouble. But how can we reverse the current crisis and create a sustainable future?

The answer is: DEGROWTH. 

Less is More  is the wake-up call we need. By shining a light on ecological breakdown and the system that’s causing it, Hickel shows how we can bring our economy back into balance with the living world and build a thriving society for all. This is our chance to change course, but we must act now. 

Less is More

Green European Journal: One of the most compelling critiques of degrowth is that it is an idea for comfy Westerners with little relevance for the Global South. Less is More takes a different view, arguing that degrowth is about global justice and decolonisation.

Could you explain?

Jason Hickel: Who’s driving the ecological crisis? It is overwhelmingly the rich countries of the Global North: the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. These countries are collectively responsible for 92 per cent of excess emissions. They have colonised the atmospheric commons for their own enrichment. Meanwhile the entirety of the Global South – all of Asia, Africa, Latin America – is responsible for only 8 per cent, and that’s from just a small number of countries. Most countries in the Global South are still well within their fair share of the safe carbon budget and have therefore contributed nothing to the climate crisis.

The same can be said for resource consumption. Rich countries consume on average 28 tonnes of material stuff per person per year – which is about four times over the safe per capita boundary for the planet. Most Global South countries are well under that boundary. In fact, many low-income countries need to increase resource use to meet human needs. The ecological crisis is being driven overwhelmingly by rich countries using too many resources and too much energy.

We also have to keep in mind that resource use in the Global North is in large part net appropriated from the Global South, through what are effectively patterns of imperial power. Nearly half of all resources consumed in the Global North every year are net appropriated from the South. Resources that could be used to meet human needs – to build hospitals and produce food – are used instead to service growthism in the Global North.

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Degrowth is therefore a demand targeted at the Global North. It is a demand for global justice, and it has been articulated from the South now for several decades. Social movements in the South recognise that growth in the North is colonising their ecosystems and appropriating their resources, driving catastrophe on a global scale. Degrowth is a call to liberate the South from imperial appropriation and decolonise the atmosphere. This language is clear in the 2010 People’s Agreement of Cochabamba, a text that should be mandatory reading for climate activists in the North [In 2010, Global South movements gathered in Bolivia after the failed COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen]. Degrowth principles are represented in this text as part of a broader set of anti-colonial demands.

Degrowth has roots in the anti-colonial movements, going back to key leaders and thinkers such as Gandhi, Franz Fanon, and Thomas Sankara. They recognised that the growth of the North depended on the plunder of Southern resources and labour, as it still does today. From as early as the 1930s, their position has always been to refuse to be exploited by the North. Degrowth is about demolishing the imperial arrangement.

You mention Gandhi, Fanon, and Sankara. These very different figures of the anti-colonial struggle all saw decolonisation as an opportunity to live and develop differently. But it didn’t really pan out. Today, the path towards development around the world is often just as resource intensive as in the Global North. What happened?

The anti-colonial movement was explicitly organised around achieving economic sovereignty, the idea that domestic resources and labour should be mobilised to meet domestic needs. You see it in the work of Sankara, Fanon, and Gandhi. And the newly independent nations did achieve that to varying degrees. But, in doing so, they caused a crisis of capital accumulation in the Global North.

You see, capitalist growth in the Global North depends on income suppression in the Global South. This keeps the supply price low and enables capital accumulation. As countries in the Global South increased wages, took control of resources, and increased their prices, they deprived the Global North of the access to cheap resources and labour that they had enjoyed under colonialism. This shift led to the 1970s’ crisis of stagflation (low growth and high inflation) in the Global North.

Confronted with this situation, the Global North had two options: either abandon capital accumulation, or try by all means to maintain it. It chose the second route. They attacked the unions and cut the wages of the working class at home, while imposing structural adjustment programmes across the Global South. In the newly formed republics in the Global South, this backlash reversed progressive reforms, dismantled economic sovereignty, and restored Northern access to cheap Southern resources and labour.

Note also that the re-imposition of the imperial arrangement was also often violently organised through coups against key progressive leaders like Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Salvador Allende in Chile, Sukarno in Indonesia, and Mohammed Mosaddeq in Iran. These figures and many others were deposed and replaced with neoliberal regimes that were more amenable to Western economic interests. The anti-colonial movement was more or less destroyed, except in a few places in Latin America. That’s the reality of the world we live in today.

Readings of the West’s economic crisis of the 1970s usually overlook the role of the anti-colonial struggle. Even the oil crisis of 1973 is not often discussed in terms of decolonisation.

The oil embargo of 1973 was an anti-colonial act. Global South countries banded together to make sure their resources could no longer be appropriated so cheaply. It wasn’t just oil – they did this for several other key raw materials and commodities. In the West, this made capital accumulation impossible and spelt the collapse of corporations and profits. Capital’s response to this was to impose neoliberalism at home and structural adjustment abroad.

Mainstream progressive economists like Paul Krugman have a difficult time explaining neoliberalism. They see it as a sort of “mistake”, and they fantasise about returning to the less violent version of capitalism that prevailed in the post-war era. But neoliberalism was not some kind of mistake. It was necessary, in the face of the anti-colonial movement, to force prices back down and maintain the conditions for capital accumulation. The problem is not neoliberalism as such; it is just a symptom. The problem is capitalism.

One conclusion of your argument is that progressive moments in the Global North should prioritise aligning with movements in the Global South. What are some of the most important potential allies in the Global South?

The sad thing is that the progressive governments of the 1960s and the 1970s have mostly been dismantled so we cannot really look to governments anymore – although again there are a few exceptions. Instead, we need to look to the social movements. And there are thousands of them. We need to build alliances with the movements and organisations that backed the Cochabamba agreement, and which advance its spirit today, such as the Vía Campesina food sovereignty movement and indigenous movements such as the people behind the Red Deal. A similar analysis can be found in other Global South documents such as the Managua Declaration and the Anchorage Declaration. Virtually every major declaration that has come from Global South movements has the same message: the world economy is imperialist in nature and the ecological crisis is its consequence. Green politics in the Global North need to grapple with this analysis and align with the demands of Southern movements.

You talk about Global Green New Deal. How is it different from the usual Green New Deal framework?

There are several key differences. The first is that global climate justice requires richer nations to de-carbonise much more quickly than poorer ones. We know that we need to cut emissions to zero by 2050 in order to stay under 1.5 degrees. But this is a global average target. Rich countries need to decarbonise much more quickly than this, given their disproportionate contributions to the problem. So, a Global Green New Deal would centre this basic principle of climate justice.

The second difference is that a Global Green New Deal recognises that the ecological crisis is about more than just climate. Resource use – both where it is sourced and how much is consumed – is also a problem. A Global Green New Deal must address excess resource consumption in the North. We can reduce resource use in rich nations quite dramatically while still meeting human needs at a high standard by scaling down forms of economic activity that are socially less crucial. SUVs, fast fashion, private jets, advertising, planned obsolescence, the military industrial complex… there are huge chunks of production that are organised primarily around corporate power and elite consumption and are actually irrelevant to human needs.

The third thing to understand is that renewable energy doesn’t come out of thin air. Solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium batteries all have a material basis, most of which are extracted from the Global South in ways that are both ecologically and socially harmful. So, we need to pursue the energy transition, yes. But if we continue to pursue growth at the same time we have a problem, because more growth means more energy demand, and that means more pressure on Global South resources, which will increasingly harm communities that are already being affected by extractivism. By contrast, if rich nations abandon growth as an objective and reduce energy demand, the transition will be less destructive. If we want the energy transition to be ecologically coherent and socially just, we need degrowth.

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods. Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth. These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

A calm but unflinching realist, Catton suggests that we cannot stop this wave – for we have already overshot the Earth’s capacity to support so huge a load. He contradicts those scientists, engineers, and technocrats who continue to write optimistically about energy alternatives. Catton asserts that the technological panaceas proposed by those who would harvest from the seas, harness the winds, and farm the deserts are ignoring the fundamental premise that “the principals of ecology apply to all living things.” These principles tell us that, within a finite system, economic expansion is not irreversible and population growth cannot continue indefinitely. If we disregard these facts, our sagging American Dream will soon shatter completely.

Overshoot

In Europe, the EU institutions are taking climate and ecological issues much more seriously and are putting in place some promising policies. At the same time, we’re not talking about moving towards a degrowth economy or anything like that. How do you read the mainstreaming of green issues?

It is increasingly clear that we will probably not be able to keep global heating to less than 1.5 degrees without degrowth in the Global North. And yet right now this is not part of the policy discussion, and it seems unlikely that existing institutions will voluntarily take the steps that are required. For that, we are going to need major political mobilisation.

That being said, there are clearly some circles within these institutions that are interested in radical ideas and do their best to get them into policy. The European Parliament passed a motion this year calling for the use of critical resources to be brought down to sustainable levels. It is a very radical demand. Whether or not that gets put into policy by the European Commission remains to be seen. But this indicates that there are possibilities within these institutions. We need a dual front approach: work with those forces within the institutions as much as possible, but, at the same time, organise strong mobilisations to push the agenda from the outside and take power where necessary and where possible.

What should transnational solidarity look like in practice for parties and movements?

A key step is to recognise that in order to maintain the conditions for capital accumulation and growth in the Global North, any concessions made to working class demands in the Global North are offset by compressing income and consumption in the Global South as much as possible. Solidarity with the Global South means recognising this fact and pushing for a post-growth, post-capitalist economy here in the Global North, to remove this brutal pressure. There’s no way around it and yet unfortunately it is not part of our discourse right now.

Our current discourse sees the ecological crisis as a problem of technology. This is a very shallow analysis of the problem. By contrast, Global South social movements are clear that the crisis is being driven by capitalism and imperialism. The first step is to read their documents, listen to their demands, then back their demands in our public discourse. The second step is to draw attention to their movements and align with their demands in international negotiations, like COP. Solidarity is about platforming their ideas and aligning with their demands. That’s it!

Many green and left-wing parties might share your analysis but avoid explicit anti-capitalist or anti-imperialist rhetoric. For one thing, they are worried about being too radical but also they are not convinced that these words speak to people. How would you deal with these considerations?

I understand where they come from and I share their concerns. But we don’t have time to fudge. We need an accurate analysis. We know what that analysis is, and we should just start a conversation around it. What is a political party for if not to introduce new ideas and point us in a new direction?

We need more courage from parties on this front. But we also need social movements to be there at their flank, opening the Overton window and making it possible for these conversations to take place. I’ve had politicians say to me, “I believe in these demands, but I can’t say them because there is no popular constituency for it. Build a popular constituency and I’ll be there.” Our social movements are not there yet, so we need to expand them. This is classic movement-building; politicians pushing things from one side and social movements making things thinkable on the streets. They enable each other. That’s the double act we need.

When it comes to what politicians can and cannot say, I do not think they absolutely must use the word “degrowth”. I think degrowth is a useful word because it is honest and not co-optable. But for those who choose not to use it for whatever reason, that’s fine. What matters is that the principles are reflected in policies. Then you can call it whatever you want.

Degrowth is an academic term but the policies are very concrete: quality, well-insulated public housing for example. Maybe the programme would speak to people more than the idea?

Yes, absolutely. Most people in the Global North would benefit from a transition to an eco-social economy. We call for reducing unnecessary production and shortening the working week. We call for a radically fairer distribution of income. We call for a climate job guarantee and a basic income. We call for universal public services, and the decommodification of housing. This is the story we need to tell to get ordinary people on board. Remember, there is real poverty in rich countries. Many people live in sub-standard housing and can barely afford rent. In the US people cannot afford healthcare and education. The programme that the degrowth movement calls for answers these concerns about insecurity under capitalism. We need to help people envision what the alternative looks like.

Green parties sometimes think that the battle is to get the working class on board. This illustrates a real problem: the working class is not on board because green policies don’t speak to them! So change your policies, change your narrative. Talk about how we are going to decommodify the core social economy, make housing a public good, ensure universal access to livelihoods and necessary resources, take the question of employment off the table. Then we can talk about scaling down unnecessary production. The only people that are against these ideas are the capitalist class. The obstacle is not ordinary people. The obstacle is capital. That’s the terrain we need to be fighting on.

— Read on www.resilience.org/stories/2022-01-07/degrowth-is-about-global-justice/

The “Selling” of Degrowth – FPIF #Overshoot #LimitsToGrowth #ClimateCrisis #EcologicalCrisis #StopEcocide stop stealing our children’s future. #auspol #qldpol #FundOurFutureNotGas #DontLookUp #SDGs

The “Selling” of Degrowth – FPIF

Can those who advocate hitting the brakes on economic growth get their message across before it’s too late?

Over the last three decades, a growing number of scientists and ecologists have argued that economic growth has long outstripped the capacity of the planetary ecosystem. They have developed numerous sophisticated models to demonstrate their point. They have boiled down the technical information—about the availability of mineral resources, the limits of energy generation, the constraints of food production, the effects of biodiversity loss, and of course the impact of climate change—into accessible texts. They have lobbied governments, and they have crafted soundbites for the media.

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods. Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth. These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

Overshoot

Despite these efforts, economic growth remains at the heart of virtually every government’s national policy. Even the various Green New Deals that have been put forward around the world are wedded to notions of economic expansion. At the heart of these more recent attempts to bring carbon emissions under control is the concept of “green growth,” which has become the current mantra. So, inevitably, advocates of degrowth have addressed this new version of “sustainable” economic expansion.

“We have to continue to pound away with articles and social media to dispel that fuzzy and oxymoronic notion of ‘green growth,’ that there is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment,” observes Brian Czech, the founder of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) in Washington, DC.

  • BRIGHT GREEN LIES dismantles the illusion of green technology in a bold and shocking exposé, revealing the lies and fantastical thinking behind the notion that solar, wind, electric cars, or green consumerism will save the planet. Almost every major environmental organization is pushing for so-called renewable energy. Claims are being made about “green” technologies that are frankly untrue. Words like “clean”, “free”, “safe”, and “sustainable” are often thrown around. But solar panels and wind turbines don’t grow on trees. The mass production of these technologies requires increased mining, industrial manufacturing, habitat destruction, massive greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of toxic waste. So-called renewable energy does not even deliver on its most basic promise of reducing fossil fuel consumption. On a global scale, the energy is stacked on top of what is already being used.

Bright Green Lies

The evidence that economic growth is associated not only with climate change but all the other ills of resource depletion is overwhelming. But evidence is not enough. “When we look at the discourses at the international and even at the national level, the recourse to the evidence is not what is necessarily moving the argument,” points out ecological economist Katharine Farrell of the Universidad del Rosario  in Colombia. “We need to reflect on why the evidence that exists is not being taken into account.”

There are several reasons why the evidence in favor of degrowth has not been persuasive to policymakers and the public. One challenge has been non-rational fears of a world no longer governed by economic expansion. “Maybe we have to sit with people and ask them what they are afraid of if there’s no technological solution, if there is no growth. What are their fears?” suggests Marga Mediavilla, a systems engineer at the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain.

It is also difficult to push against a prevailing consensus, particularly given the risks of exclusion. “The very thought of being rejected will convince us to self-censor,” notes Simon Michaux, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Finland. “We will not look at certain ideas and thought patterns. We will censor what we say based on what we think the rest of the group thinks so that we don’t get pushed into an outside group.”

The complexity of the problem poses certain challenges as well. “We tend to be reductionist in our thinking,” argues William Rees, a bio-ecologist at the University of British Columbia. “We tend to choose one issue at a time to focus on and we lost sight of the overall picture. You can hardly get people to connect the dots, to see climate change, biodiversity loss, the pandemic, ocean pollution, and climate change as all symptoms of overshoot.”

And then there’s the flood of messaging that supports economic growth coming from all sides: governments, media, even the entertainment industry. “There’s a huge fire hydrant blasting people,” says Joshua Farley, an ecological economist at the University of Vermont. “We are an eyedropper trying to give them an alternative.”

Nevertheless, proponents of degrowth have been developing more sophisticated communication strategies to “sell” their ideas. And they have been translating those ideas into specific policy recommendations and platforms that are gaining greater traction in the public sphere. The question is whether they can overcome the aforementioned challenges to change public opinion and public policy in time to avert catastrophe.

Don’t Look Up is a sizzling, coruscating, and biting satire on the modern world and our collective priorities. No one in the motley cast of characters really comes out of this with much credit. DiCaprio’s Dr Mindy has the world’s safety as his priority until he is flattered and seduced by talk show host Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and takes his eye firmly off the apocalyptic ball. A disillusioned Dibiasky, tormented by the fact that White House staff have been charging her and Mindy for refreshments which are actually free, returns home and hooks up with shop-lifting slacker Yule (Timothee Chalamet). The human race itself is divided on the issue of the comet; many believe it will create mass world employment opportunities, others demand that the comet be destroyed, some don’t even believe it exists.  Mindy’s ‘Just Look Up’ campaign to awaken the population to the threat is countered by the President’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ campaign encouraging people to quite literally look the other way.

Don’t Look Up

The Question of Rationality

Human beings behave rationally—some of the time. We analyze the situation, make calculations based on carefully considered evidence, and then act accordingly—on some occasions. The rest of the time, we fly blind, guided by instinct, emotion, and other non-rational factors.

“According to social psychologists, human beings don’t behave rationally,” points out Katharine Farrell. “It’s necessary to communicate with people whose priorities are very different from ours and who are not necessarily paying much attention to the arguments.”

According to neuroscientists, the brain has evolved over time by adding functions. The older parts of the brain, often referred to as “reptilian” or “limbic,” now coexist with the regions of higher functioning in the neocortex. “We live in our cerebral neocortex as rational individuals and we think that that’s where the action takes place,” observes William Rees. “But all of our actions are filtered through the limbic. The bottom line is this: the rational component is often overridden by emotion and instinct. This happens unconsciously. We can think that we’re acting rationally, particularly in relation to other people, when in fact we’re acting out of self-defense mechanisms that arise when our social status or political opinions or other aspects of our identity are threatened. This was highly adaptive as little as 10,000 years ago when things didn’t change much, but it’s maladaptive today when we have to respond to a rapidly changing context.”

It’s not all in the mind either, Katharine Farrell adds. “There’s been a lot of work in brain science that has brought in the stomach and the body, which brings us back to the holistic nature of human existence,” she relates. “For instance, in English, we say it’s a ‘gut decision.’

The challenge, Marga Mediavilla clarifies, is not with emotions or instincts per se. “The problem is that rationally we are seeing a problem that the instincts don’t want to see. What we need is coherence among the three levels, with feelings, instincts, and rationality all working together.”

William Rees agrees. “I was not suggesting that there is anything wrong with emotions or instinct,” he adds. “But often they are in conflict with what our rational analyses tells us. If you believe a certain thing emotionally and are confronted with contrary information, it can be very difficult to accept alternative information.”

The Persistence of Group Think

It’s one thing when individuals are struggling in their own minds—and indeed throughout their entire bodies—to reconcile emotionally felt convictions with a set of fact-based assertions. This struggle becomes considerably more complex when it intersects with group dynamics.

For instance, an individual might conclude, based on available evidence, that the sky is about to fall. But the community where the individual lives dismisses this conclusion for no other reason than that it goes against received notions. Should the individual go public with the evidence based on rational observation and data collection? Or should the whistleblower keep quiet out of a fear of ridicule?

“Humans are entirely social,” Joshua Farley points out. “We can’t survive apart from the group. So, being part of the group is the most rational thing to do, from an evolutionary point of view. To signify that you’re part of the group is often to believe in crazy shit. Believing in crazy shit helps you stay alive. Rational science is good for the next 50 years, but if you’re not part of a group you’re dead in a few weeks in evolutionary terms.”

This group mentality applies to everyone, from scientists to those who belong to anti-vaccination groups. It has been shaped by our evolved neurobiology, William Rees points out, and it forms our identity from an early age. “Every group has ingrained but socially constructed beliefs that distinguish the ingroup from the outgroup,” he notes. “This is absolutely the case for scientists as well those who are religious and those who oppose everything we support. We are part of our tribes, and we seek out people and experiences that reinforce the way we think.”

Simon Michaux provides an example of the challenges of groupthink from his involvement in a meeting on sustainable development within the European Commission in Brussels. “There were CEOS, ministers, lots of bigwigs impressed with their own opinions,” he recalls. “They were getting up and saying that they want to take the world to a more sustainable place. I stood up and made two observations. First, I said that all industrial products in Europe depend on raw materials mined from the Global South, that the components are manufactured in China or Southeast Asia. All their sustainability rhetoric was lovely and what we should be going toward, but they were ignoring where the stuff was coming from. They were saying that ‘we don’t mine, it’s a dirty business,’ but they were still buying stuff from China.”

Michaux continues, “The second thing I said was that everything on the list they wanted to achieve was achieved by aboriginal culture thousands of years ago, an outcome that was stabilized for thousands of years. Then European colonialists turned up and destroyed that culture. ‘Can anyone refute those two points?’ I asked. And the room went silent. At a chemical level, humans are terrified of being rejected and getting pushed into an outside group.”

It is one thing to convince individuals to change their minds. It’s no easy task to alter the thought patterns of a group. Marga Mediavilla suggests borrowing techniques from social psychology. “To get out of this automatic mind, according to psychologists, is to make the unconscious conscious,” she points out. “Once it is conscious, then we can change the behavior. We don’t know that we believe in these unconscious beliefs that are causing us problems. It’s probably because we are experiencing some kind of trauma. We don’t want to look at the scarcity of minerals or planetary limits. We are worried that we might have to go back to a lifestyle that is not as comfortable as today. But our beliefs are preventing us from having a better relationship with nature.”

Katharine Farrell notes that colonialism is another trauma that affects groupthink. When someone calls that colonial narrative into question, as Simon Michaux did in Brussels, “the audience becomes uncomfortable,” she observes. “If they can ignore you, they will.” She also offers a powerful reminder that the group identity of humans derives from different sources. “Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos: these are the primates closest to us,” she relates. “Bonobos manage all of their relations through sex, compassion, and love. They’re generally quite timid and form a small and isolated population. Gorillas and chimps, on the other hand, are among the most violent animals on the planet—and we are more violent than they are.”

One way of overcoming groupthink based on faulty information or deeply held erroneous beliefs is to patiently establish new patterns of thinking through social learning—by way of educational systems, government programs, advocacy campaigns, and the like.

The second path is through a shock to the system. “People will remain in climate denial until they are up to their knees in water,” William Rees notes. “Here in Canada we experienced a record heat wave this summer, registering the second highest temperature in the world. It was the worst wildfire season on record, and now we’re having the wettest November in the history of the country. In the last two weeks, the water has pushed 17,000 people off their farms and killed so many farm animals. It’s been an absolutely catastrophe. A lot of people said that they didn’t believe in climate change until now. They didn’t believe in it until it’s right in their face.”

He adds that these catastrophes are straining the budgets of governments, “which are already stretched to the limit bailing us out of pandemic. It won’t be long before all the money in the economy will be devoted to repairing the damage done because of overshoot.”

The Challenge of Complexity

Absent a shock to the system, it can be difficult to persuade others of the perils of resource depletion and ecological overshoot because of the sheer complexity of the issue.

“Climate change is only one aspect of unsustainability,” Marga Mediavilla points out. “The world is now focused on climate change, but we face other problems like the depletion of resources. When you put them together it’s possible to see the whole picture of unsustainability.”

“Last year, it was the pandemic,” William Rees agrees. “Before that it was climate change and before that it was the economy. The human brain evolved in very simple times when you only had a few people to deal with and you lived in a relatively small space that you couldn’t influence that much. There’s been no natural selection to think in systems terms. Humans cannot anticipate the nature of behavior of most complex systems. We don’t know about thresholds and tipping points until they occur. The COP negotiators, who were policy wonks, economists, and politicians not climate scientists, had no real understanding of the complexity of interacting climate, economic and ecosphere systems—or else they wouldn’t have come to the conclusions they came to.”

“Most people don’t even know what steady state means,” adds Simon Michaux. “When they talk about the circular economy, it’s all about using things better. They talk about the value chain—manufacture, consumption, waste management, recycling, and back to manufacture. Then they say, ‘Hurrah, we’ve done our job and now we can have a nice lie-down.’ They don’t touch the inner ring of money, energy, and information systems. They think that world resources are infinite, that the ecosystem is fine and it’s just an economic problem. They have an attention span of 30 seconds. You have to convince them in 30 seconds before they move on to the next challenge.”

Complexity at an individual level is certainly a challenge, agrees Katharine Farrell. “The basic neurological functioning of a human being, which developed in stages, requires a certain amount of maturity to handle contradictions, which is the beginning of complexity.” But complexity is a different matter at a communal level. “The culture of consumption is just one culture,” she continues. “Analysis, the breaking into parts, is a trick of modern industrialized science and technology whereby we’re able to isolate certain aspects of physics and subject them to our will—and in the process of getting so obsessed with the toys, lose sight of the operator of the toys.” But other cultures “deal with cyclical knowledge and complex dynamics. And it’s incomplete to assume that complexity is the opposite of oversimplifying things. The complexity of a haiku is phenomenal.”

Communication Strategies

Understanding the limits of human cognition—the influence of non-rational factors, the persistence of groupthink, and the challenges of complexity—can help in developing more effective communication strategies. As with any effective communication, however, it’s important to know your audience.

“Everything has to be couched in the professional terms of the people we’re trying to reach,” Simon Michaux recommends. “If you don’t communicate in the language of the people you’re talking to, they’ll see you as threatening and the fight-or-flight instinct will kick in. Finance ministers want the language of accounting. They don’t care about technical details; they want numbers, preferably in graphs with shiny colors. Engineers and scientists want details and data, and if you’re not precise they’ll go after you. Investment people, the millionaires and billionaires, they also have a language. They also have counter-languages that they use as defensive postures to weed out troublemakers.”

“Occupying frontiers is not something everyone can do,” Katharine Farrell adds in an aside. “I’ve been in ecological economics my whole career. You get beat up when you occupy frontiers like that.”

Another key element of effective communication is a unified message. “We really need to unite around common rhetoric, phraseology, and terminology,” Brian Czech suggests. “There is a notion out there that it doesn’t matter what we call our alternative, as long as we are all after the same thing. But if you assess successful policy strategy over the past decades, you realize the importance of name recognition, which applies to individual candidates in electoral politics as well as to policy advocacy. When people say, ‘if you’re against economic growth, what are you for?’ we have to know right away what to say, and be united on that front. If we’re not for a steady-state economy, at a stabilized size that’s sustainable, then I don’t know what we’re for. Because we’re decades beyond a sustainable economy, we at CASSE have adopted ‘degrowth toward a steady-state economy.’ We have to bring the $133 trillion pre-COVID global economy down to a sustainable level.”

William Rees agrees on this last point: “If you look at the ecology, the global economy has to be a third the size or less of what we have now.”

Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes.

In many ways, the message contained in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse.

Limits To Growth

A unified message can have an impact—as long as it has a fair chance of reaching an audience. “To have a community, you need good information,” argues Marga Mediavilla. “The information that comes to the public in Spain is crazy: 99 percent of the information comes from one side while only one percent makes sense and provides technically solid and sensible ways of getting out of the current climate crisis. People are overwhelmed by information, and it is of very low quality. People have no time to think. How do we build communities without a nervous system? We have to behave as an intelligent system but our system doesn’t have any nerves.”

Joshua Farley agrees that the average person is inundated with information, almost all of it supporting economic growth in both direct and indirect ways. “The amount of money spent on advertising, convincing us that the path to a better life is through consumption, is equal to the GDP of Canada, and it’s probably even more now. The biggest corporations are based on consumerism—Facebook, Amazon Google—all getting us to look at ads or buy things directly. We’ve given our airwaves over to the private sector, which sends the message that your life sucks unless you buy more things.”

Advertising is part of a larger economic system built around a messaging system of “market signals” that is devoted to the inflation of needs. “The problem is that we don’t produce for our needs but are artificially inflating our needs,” Marga Mediavilla points out. “This is because of two mechanisms. First, corporations are trying to inflate our needs so that we consume more than we need and so that they can get more profit. Second, people need jobs, and jobs depend on production. Working-class people think that they need growth in order to keep their jobs. These two mechanisms create a vicious circle.”

The larger goal, she continues, is for humans to decide human needs: “to make jobs and corporate profit a satisfaction of human needs rather than of production.” To do that requires delinking salaries from production. She describes an electricity cooperative where the owners, who are also the users, produce only as much as they need—and the compensation of the employees is not linked to the amount of electricity generated or distributed.

On top of all the challenges in communicating the degrowth message, Mediavilla concludes that “we are shy in presenting alternatives. If we don’t picture how life could be, people won’t see it.”

Remorseless financial crises. Extreme inequalities in wealth. Relentless pressure on the environment. Anyone can see that our economic system is broken. But can it be fixed?

In Doughnut Economics, Oxford academic Kate Raworth identifies the seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray – from selling us the myth of ‘rational economic man’ to obsessing over growth at all costs – and offers instead an alternative roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. Ambitious, radical and thoughtful, she offers a new, cutting-edge economic model fit for the challenges of the 21st century. 

Doughnut Economics

Developing Specific Asks

When he gives talks on ecological overshoot, William Rees includes a slide that lists what he considers to be the necessary requirements to exit the current crisis.

On the energy side of equation, the to-do list includes the phase-out of all frivolous use of fossil fuels. Among other things, this includes the elimination of all cars, including electric vehicles, and the cessation of all non-essential air travel. The remaining fossil fuel use that can be burned without exceeding the global carbon budget would go only to essential functions such as agriculture, industry serving basic needs, public transportation, and the heating of space and water. Manufacturing and agriculture would be re-localized to eliminate the carbon emissions associated with global supply chains.

Houses would be made more energy-efficient and considerably downsized. “In 1950-60, the average house in North America was 1,000 square feet and was inhabited by 3.8 people,” Rees notes. “Today, the average house is 2,500 square feet and is inhabited by 2.6 people. So, one person today gets the same square footage as an entire house from 60 years ago.” To cut down on transportation and remove the need for cars, most people would live in urban bioregions.

At the macroeconomic level, carbon taxes would discourage the use of fossil fuel while a fair income tax would distribute the economic burden. Money would be allocated to restore ecosystems. And to reduce the size of the future population, governments would deploy “non-coercive family planning programs, starting with better education and economic independence for women.”

In the United States, Brian Czech and CASSE have been focusing on revising the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act (FEBGA) of 1978, otherwise known as the Humphrey-Hawkins bill. “This is the central economic policy of the United States, which puts the country on the GDP-growth path,” Czech says. “Those were amendments to the original 1946 employment act. A new set of amendments is way overdue. As part of the low-hanging fruit for amendment, we want the economic report to the president to include an ecological footprint analysis based on the prior five years and looking at the upcoming five years too.” The reporting would also look at indicators like GDP, which Czech doesn’t want to discard because it would continue to serve as a useful measure, just as a scale remains helpful for someone trying to lose weight. He also recommends renaming the act by taking out “balanced growth” and calling it simply the Full and Sustainable Employment Act.

Czech sees the passage of such an act as the kick-off to “what we call steady statesmanship: international diplomacy toward a contraction and convergence of the wealthier and the poorer countries.” For Marga Mediavilla, an essential element of remaking the global economy is reducing economic competition among countries, which creates an international version of what Barbara Ehrenreich called the “fear of falling” that has so paralyzed the American middle class. Another item on the wish list for many is Universal Basic Income, though Joshua Farley prefers that such a universal payment be tied to needs.

“When people ask me what we should do,” Katharine Farrell says, “I always say ‘buy local and get to know your neighbors. It’s a very simplistic way of addressing long global supply chains that generate information gaps that lead to cycles of overconsumption and the possibility of exploiting people without knowing it.”

Joshua Farley agrees that it’s important to buy local and get to know one’s neighbors. But he also points out that the “people in small communities who are already buying local and who know all of their neighbors are being hammered by biodiversity loss and by climate change, so it’s not enough.” William Rees adds that “buying locally is very difficult if everything is built somewhere else. All you’re doing is feeding the commercial machine without building up local artisanal capacity. We need greater economic diversity before buying locally can really mean anything.” Finally, Brian Czech notes that buying local is great “but if you have the bulldozer of fiscal and monetary macropolicy set to 3 percent growth, you’ll be plowed under.”

“I’m not sure that my predilection to buy local and know one’s neighbors is the leading edge,” Farrell concedes. “But it’s part of looking for the strange attractors that point in the right direction. It’s important not to waste time fighting decaying structures that will fall on you if you don’t get out of the way in time. Transformative change doesn’t take place inside the deteriorating extant structure. It takes place on the frontiers of transformative regeneration in the newly emerging structure.”

Despite all the pessimism about the current trajectory of the world and the challenges that face advocates of degrowth, Brian Czech remains cautiously optimistic. “We have two major allies: sound science and common sense,” he concludes. “We’re going to win at some point. There will be major catastrophes first, but it’s crucial that we have the leading explanations so that the pieces can be picked up correctly afterwards.”

— Read on fpif.org/the-selling-of-degrowth/

“We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” . James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012. 

Planetwide Ecocide

Don’t Look Up Illustrates 5 Myths That Fuel Rejection of Science – Scientific American #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #FundOurFutureNotGas #auspol #qldpol Listen to the scientists #TellTheTruth

The farcical allegory of climate change shows the pitfalls of relying solely on technology and misunderstanding scientific certainty

Every disaster movie seems to open with a scientist being ignored. “Don’t Look Up” is no exception—in fact, people ignoring or flat out denying scientific evidence is the point.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers who make a literally Earth-shattering discovery and then try to persuade the president to take action to save humanity. It’s a satire that explores how individuals, scientists, the media and politicians respond when faced with scientific facts that are uncomfortable, threatening and inconvenient.

The movie is an allegory for climate change, showing how those with the power to do something about global warming willfully avoid taking action and how those with vested interests can mislead the public. But it also reflects science denial more broadly, including what the world has been seeing with COVID-19.

The most important difference between the film’s premise and humanity’s actual looming crisis is that while individuals may be powerless against a comet, everyone can act decisively to stop fueling climate change.

Knowing the myths that feed science denial can help.

As research psychologists and the authors of “Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It”, we recognize these aspects of science denial all too well.

Myth #1: We can’t act unless the science is 100% certain

The first question President Orlean (Meryl Streep) asks the scientists after they explain that a comet is on a collision course with Earth is, “So how certain is this?” Learning that the certitude is 99.78%, the president’s chief of staff (Jonah Hill) responds with relief: “Oh great, so it’s not 100%!” Government scientist Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) replies, “Scientists never like to say 100%.”

This reluctance to claim 100% certainty is a strength of science. Even when the evidence points clearly in one direction, scientists keep exploring to learn more. At the same time, they recognize overwhelming evidence and act on it. The evidence is overwhelming that Earth’s climate is changing in dangerous ways because of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, and it has been overwhelming for many years.

When politicians take a “let’s wait and see” attitude toward climate change (or “sit tight and assess,” as the movie puts it), suggesting they need more evidence before taking any action, it’s often a form of science denial.

Myth #2: Disturbing realities as described by scientists are too difficult for the public to accept

The title phrase, “Don’t Look Up,” portrays this psychological assumption and how some politicians conveniently use it as an excuse for inaction while promoting their own interests.

Anxiety is a growing and understandable psychological response to climate change. Research shows there are strategies people can use to effectively cope with climate anxiety, such as becoming better informed and talking about the problem with others. This gives individuals a way to manage anxiety while at the same time taking actions to lower the risks.

A 2021 international study found that 80% of individuals are indeed willing to make changes in how they live and work to help reduce the effects of climate change.

Myth #3: Technology will save us, so we don’t have to act

Often, individuals want to believe in an outcome they prefer, rather than confront reality known to be true, a response that psychologists call motivated reasoning.

For example, belief that a single technological solution, such as carbon capture, will fix the climate crisis without the need for change in policies, lifestyles and practices may be more grounded in hope than reality. Technology can help reduce our impact on the climate; however, research suggests advances are unlikely to come quickly enough.

Hoping for such solutions diverts attention from significant changes needed in the way we work, live and play, and is a form of science denial.

Myth #4: The economy is more important than anything, including impending crises predicted by science

Taking action to slow climate change will be expensive, but not acting has extraordinary costs—in lives lost as well as property.

Consider the costs of recent Western wildfires. Boulder County, Colorado, lost nearly 1,000 homes to a fire on Dec. 30, 2021, after a hot, dry summer and fall and little recent rain or snow. A study of California’s fires in 2018—another hot, dry year—when the town of Paradise burned, estimated the damage, including health costs and economic disruption, at about $148.5 billion.

When people say we can’t take action because action is expensive, they are in denial of the cost of inaction.

Myth #5: Our actions should always align with our social identity group

In a politically polarized society, individuals may feel pressured to make decisions based on what their social group believes. In the case of beliefs about science, this can have dire consequences—as the world has seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the U.S. alone, more than 825,000 people with COVID-19 have died while powerful identity groups actively discourage people from getting vaccines or taking other precautions that could protect them.

Viruses are oblivious to political affiliation, and so is the changing climate. Rising global temperatures, worsening storms and sea level rise will affect everyone in harm’s way, regardless of the person’s social group.

How to combat science denial—and climate change

A comet headed for Earth might leave little for individuals to do, but this is not the case with climate change. People can change their own practices to reduce carbon emissions and, importantly, pressure leaders in government, business and industry to take actions, such as reducing fossil fuel use, converting to cleaner energy and changing agricultural practices to reduce emissions.

In our book, we discuss steps that individuals, educators, science communicators and policymakers can take to confront the science denial that prevents moving forward on this looming issue. For example:

  • Individuals can check their own motivations and beliefs about climate change and remain open minded to scientific evidence.

  • Educators can teach students how to source scientific information and evaluate it.

  • Science communicators can explain not just what scientists know but how they know it.

  • Policymakers can make decisions based on scientific evidence.

As scholars who work to help people make sound decisions about complex problems, we encourage people to consume news and science information from sources outside their own identity group. Break out of your social bubble and listen to and talk with others. Look up.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

— Read on www.scientificamerican.com/article/dont-look-up-illustrates-5-myths-that-fuel-rejection-of-science/