Now, What Climate Action?

Naomi and Jim, AndersonBows and Roger, and maybe Lord Stern

Now that we all agree that climate change is happening, has become an emergency after at least two decades of denial and procrastination, and requires urgent action, I suggest that presently there is no informing dialogue about the full spectrum of climate change danger with the full spectrum of possible solutions.

The build up to the People’s Climate March this weekend, a Chris Hedges article, and many Naomi Klein articles and reviews of her new book, contained within dozens of posts on Landwatch, BC’s major enviro listserve, has led to some half conversations here about what we agree upon and disagree about regarding climate change.

Carbon tax or Blockadia; divestment / techno-optimist investment or the necessary end of capitalism; FN/LGBT/PETA/TPL rights or wartime coalition emergency mobilization? Or some such? (Notice I didn’t say Jim’s Magical Tax?)

Now on our listserve we have four main climate posters; although we share most of our info and could all be deemed ‘alarmists’ from a broad public point of view, one is (reductionist arguably) a techno-optimist, one is an ecosocialist, one is broad, pragmatic, non-ideological favouring the personal and local dimensions of change (although we all do, to some degree); and I’m a follower of Sutton-Spratt: BAU is too slow and path dependent for the climate emergency so first step is emergency government to unblock and facilitate needed systemic change (not necessarily creating a strong central government, not ecosocialist at least, I argue).

What if we could have a fully facilitated discussion where we took the time to first come to an agreement about the suite of dangers, and then the degree of mitigation needed, and then a real dialogue on how each of us saw the path or possibly multiple possible paths to get to that effective mitigation?

Now nobody really cares what we on Landwatch think and such a process would take a lot of time and require levels of support we haven’t got – it isn’t practical except as a thought experiment. But you might imagine the protagonists as Naomi Klein, Amory Lovins, Jim Hansen, David Spratt, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Roger Peilke Jr. or some such, and then the possibilities get interesting.

The facilitated discussion would be an iteration of written submissions with maybe meetings (real or online) when needed.

I think us four on LW would have little difficulty agreeing on degree of danger: like the ‘burning embers’ diagram of differing probable consequences of a 1C, 2C, 3C, etc rise in temperature. (Unlike say Peilke with Klein, Spratt and co in the imagined celeb discussion.)

Then I think we could come to rough agreement about what degree of warming we thought should be a safe ceiling (maybe already passed) and then the emission reduction schedule (carbon budget timelines) necessary to stay under such a ceiling. Say we agree on only a 1.5C rise above pre-industrial levels, Schellnhuber’s contraction-convergence calculations, and adequate allowance for slow feedbacks not presently in IPCC modeling.

Once we had this preliminary agreement we’d probably have to flesh out our frame for considering mitigation: BC?, Canada/US? developed world? global? Probably, some combination of local leading hopefully to global. Also, climate change can be considered as just one symptom of a deeper problem of limits of our finite world – do we agree to just concentrate on climate or does the ‘solution’ require dealing with this deeper problem? Are there other caveats?

Then, with this agreed upon understanding about the severity of danger and frame for mitigation, we would each propose our particular path(s) to effective solution, including strategies, tactics and timelines and how we saw probabilities of success. Then, using our agreed upon understanding, we would critique each others proposed path – system change, what system change, emergency government? etc – for as many iterations as would be valuable.

Such a process would help us a lot; we could find strength in our broad agreement and useful criticism of our particular advocated paths, maybe even a wakeup call that we hadn’t fully understood. I think each of us would have to understand how others see climate and effective mitigation. I think we’d each have to do some learning.

Finally, given the presently denied seriousness of this emergency, I think we’d have a much better idea of how to proceed. Right now the solution-must-be-compatible-with-BAU imperative forces most such attempts to formulate climate mitigation down paths with little hope of solution. Possible paths that are outside of this box don’t get anywhere near adequate attention or debate. Impediments to needed change, rightful consideration of neoliberal governments as central problem, for only one example, would finally be included for consideration.

If the celeb group (OK, Lord Stern but not Tony Blair) undertook such a (well facilitated) process, say online with opportunity for improving comment maybe, alternative approaches to both quantifying danger and mitigation options could be deliniated and argued out. This would be very valuable indeed – a far cry from the unexamined, siloed, blinkered by BAU, present climate conversation and negotiation.

This level of discussion/dialogue/policy making should be bottom line given climate’s probable catastrophic dangers and our responsibility for our (societies) use of fossil fuels today. Presently policy formation excludes meaningful debate on real paths to climate solution because all policy formation is dominated by fossil fuel controlled bodies, by ‘dominant advocacy coalitions’ in governments and organizations themselves mostly completely captured by fossil fuel and other related business interests,.

Action on climate – what type of action now? Our political leaders won’t lead so those who do recognize the dangers and who are serious about climate mitigation must step up to the plate.