A serious discussion is unfolding in the popular press. When I published my book Climatopolis in 2010, people were afraid to debate its ideas. Hurricane Sandy has been quite good for revitalizing this debate.
Posted: Friday, December 7th, 2012 at
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That’s what all the creationists said of Stephen J. Gould, that he was afraid to debate their ideas.
What is more likely: the world’s governments come together to reduce carbon production by 50% in the near future thus avoiding cataclysmic, world wide disaster by 2050 or we all merrily skip along trying to increase our respective GDP’s forgetting all about our planetary responsibilities? Would it be easier to “turn off the spigot” of carbon by giving the world economies a slight push in the wrong direction? A disagreement over how the fiscal cliff should be handled….. and off we go! Our fragile economic recoveries slowly begin to fail, austerity measures pile up reinforcing the decline and before you know it, a world wide depression. Carbon output at one quarter! Success. Except that the human suffering will be colossal. No amount of environmental success will assuage the damaged social, political and economic pain that would come with a depression of that magnitude. Many are waiting to make that collapse work for them to achieve their own ends. Watching the Greeks collapse into a failed state is the cautionary tale we could hold up to the light but we are blinded by our comfort zones. We should decide now how we want to have this played out in the even of a depression. I wonder at what rate policy change must take effect in order to correct the environmental misdirection? Three policies per day? Right now the US congress can barely even discuss it out loud much less propose a carbon tax, or ratify the Kyoto accords or quit giving the fossil fuel industries tax breaks. We have a bet in my circle of friends about the number of weather events on the scale of Sandy or New Orleans that it will take to change the beltway’s view of our planet. So when does the business of planetary survival outweigh the business of the Koch brothers? I’ve got a dollar on 7. Seven, $50 billion dollar hits from extreme weather and then we will start to demand congressional action. $350 billion. Is that a big enough slap? If not, how would this be calculated? At what point do the insurance companies fail and the re-insurance companies begin to buckle? When do we see martial law FEMA style imposed?
To relieve the pain of unemployment: a Works Progress Administration style organization to produce and install wind/solar/new infrastructure/mass transit
To make our governments more fair and effective: more local control of those organizations, including state and city run efforts that focus locally while the federal government coordinates with the rest of the world on how to support these smaller efforts. Some efforts are for the feds and some are for municipalities. And the economics follow the control: community control over the wind farm will make the community, the “owners”, have the agency we all crave in our government. There will be communities that “own” nuclear plants too.
To reduce the dependency on the spread out supply chain, all goods and services will be produced as locally as possible with a surcharge on the per mile travel to get the product to the end use. An apple from China sent to the state of Washington would have huge tariffs. A solar panel built in L.A. for the Mojave desert power tower array would have none.
Products not designed and built to last a long time would be fined. No more planned obsolescence. Unless it biodegrades.
I don’t believe any of this is actually possible with this kind of governmental morass we are in now. But a little depression, a couple of storms, and all could change. Think negative! Or quit your job and start lobbying like a madman.
The Reality-Based Community