Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Global cooling by realpolitik: what effective international climate action would look like

Crack in Pine Island glacier, West Antarctic Ice Sheet, October  26, 2011
From Wikimedia Commons

From Paul Gilding, green business leader and former CEO of Greenpeace, and Jorgen Rogers, co-author of the 1972 Club of Rome report The Limits to Growth, we have a 2009 paper entitled "The One Degree War Plan." It describes in some detail what kind of action would be necessary to hold global temperature rise to one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

PDF download is available here. An excerpt:

Clearly agreement to a One Degree War Plan is hard to imagine in today’s world. However in both WWII and the current financial crisis, there are clear examples of how
fast things can change and how strong opposition and resistance can quickly evaporate. In the case of WWII the speed of response by the US was quite extraordinary. For example, whereas in 1940, defence spending was just 1.6% of the economy (measured as GDP), within three years it had increased to 32%, and by 1945 to 37%. But the GDP increased itself by 75% in that time, making the observed increases even more extraordinary. The war effort demonstrated a tenfold increase in (inflation adjusted) dollars spent in just the 4 years from 1941 and 1945. Similarly extraordinary political decisions were made to take control of the economy. For example just 4 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the auto industry was ordered to cease production of civilian vehicles. 

So it can be done, if we ever decide to act. But how will it be done? It is unlikely that the One Degree War will result from a universal global agreement. More likely a small
number of powerful countries, a kind of “Coalition of the Cooling”, will decide to act and then others will follow. Some will follow in order to align with the major powers, and some under military, economic and diplomatic pressure. In a technical sense this process is quite easy. A full 50 % of global climate gas emissions will be covered if 3 “countries” (China, US and EU-27) agree to act. If we add another 4 countries (Russia, India, Japan, and Brazil) the coalition will control 67 % of global emissions.
So the issue is not humanity’s capacity to act, but the conditions being such that humanity decides to act. This will be when it is broadly accepted that the threat posed by not acting is greater than the threats posed by strongly acting.

Core to our argument therefore, is that the physical momentum for change in the climate system is now so strong that it is inevitable the public view will change. This is because physical reality will overcome the current and proposed attempts at adaptationand mitigation, which are, relative to the problem, feeble and certain to create little impact. When the dominant view becomes that climate change threatens the viability of civilisation and the collapse of the global economy, a crisis response will rapidly follow. Then society’s framework will change from “what is politically possible” to Churchill’s “what is necessary”. 
While we contend this transition is inevitable, the timing is certainly debatable. It is our view that these conditions will emerge before 2020. For planning purposes, we are assuming 2018. 

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