green growth – a dubious concept

This article points to the basic error in assuming that economic growth can be ‘green’ when it is, in fact, the driver of ecological destruction, now at a level of overshoot that probably cannot be retrieved without major social breakdown. The academic author concludes her analysis as follows:

Proposals for green growth that rely solely on technology to solve the climate crisis are based on a flawed idea. This is, that the limits to the world’s physical systems are flexible, but the structure of its economies are not. This seems entirely backwards and more a reflection of the importance of politics and power in determining what solutions are deemed viable, than any reflection of reality.

Bernie Sanders places a Green New Deal 10-year plan at the centre of his bid for nomination as a US presidential candidate. Report from Common Dreams, the independent news source 23 August 2019. Democratic party aspirants to the nomination are avoiding a debate about climate change in their next televised encounter.

So society should ask, are these global institutions promoting green growth because they believe it’s the most promising way of avoiding climate breakdown? Or is it because they believe it’s simply not politically feasible to talk about the alternatives?

UN report on land (ab)use

This BBC article anticipates a forthcoming scientific report warning of the imbalance between CO2 emission and CO2 sequestration resulting from the way humans use the land around the planet. Land use contributes and estimated 25% of CO2 emissions linked to anthropogenic global heating and ocean acidification.

The scientists will warn of a battle for land between multiple competing demands: biofuels, plant material for plastics and fibres, timber, wildlife, paper and pulp – and food for a growing population.

The Economist article on the IPCC interim report on how land use contributes to carbon emissions.

This article in the Atlantic gives a much more thorough account and commentary on the IPCC report

And this article from The Conversation on the same report adds the usual largely ignored message “there is no time to lose!”

Monbiot in this article strongly criticises the UN IPCC report for failing to look at the opportunity costs that current agriculture by excessive production of animal feed for meat and dairy production. Over half UK arable land is used to grow fodder crops requiring land that could otherwise be used to make the UK self-sufficient if a plant-based diet became universal.

the language of energy transition

This article illustrates just how embedded fossil fuels are in our language. We talk of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid cars but never about fossil-fuelled (petrol, gasoline or diesel) cars. Similarly, climate change has been preferred to climate emergency or crisis, although this usage is now itself in transition. The visceral reaction of those who profit from fossil energy use is to “circle the wagons” and become deniers. Others who see the enormous challenge of energy transition become climate defeatists. This Canadian professor advocates a language of opportunity in relation to a 20-year transition to low carbon future.

We have cars and electricity and home heating and transportation systems and agricultural and industrial production. None of them normally have adjectives that denote their reliance on fossil fuels. That reliance is natural and therefore invisible and unspoken. Normal.

As a society, we have not made the status quo strange and the negative aspects of fossil fuel dominance visible in our language and labels: dirty, gas-powered cars; polluting, coal-fired electricity; unsustainable, oil-dependent agriculture. And we need to.

In their book Ending the Fossil Fuel Era, Thomas Princen, Jack Manno and Pamela Martin explore U.S. philosopher Richard Rorty’s provocative idea that major social change is in part dependent on “speaking differently” to the problem of climate change. Making the fossil fuel world strange and negative in our thoughts, speech and labels is part of pursuing the transformation that we need to stave off the worst implications of climate change.

Social media spread false information and pseudo-science – about climate science, vaccines and viruses (The Conversation, August 2019). This is an added reason to promote critical thinking and scepticism about what is on Youtube and other such sources of such infomration that use algorithms to feed peoples’ biases.