Friday 21st August 2009
We are very near to the tipping point beyond which catastrophic climate change will be a certainty.
We have to act, this much is clear, but in what way?
First let's agree the following: if it is not economically viable to save the planet, then the economic system must be wrong.
I could at this point cite a hundred sources on the poor record of the current system in making changes, and the extremely poor prognosis for change in future, but let's base the argument on a voice from the establishment: Lord Stern, who was commissioned by the UK government to study The Economics of Climate Change (London, 2007). Stern advocates aiming for a likely 3 degree temperature rise as being "economically viable", and rejects all other options as non-viable. The report then includes all sorts of evidence that shows the 3 degree rise to be a huge gamble, with odds of 50:50 in some cases of much worse consequences.
In other words, as set out by Stern at the behest of the UK Treasury, our economic system cannot support odds better than the toss of a coin for avoiding catastrophic change. Can we conclude anything other than that the economic system itself is at fault?
Look at this another way: what is the only natural phenomenon that requires continuous growth in order to survive? The answer is cancer. This type of growth is, of course, a prerequisite of capitalist enterprise, and, unsurprisingly, a finite resource like planet Earth could never sustain this growth indefinitely.
If it is not economically viable to save the planet, then the economic system must be wrong. So: we must change the economy.