A final warning on the global climate crisis and an increasingly desperate call for action, thus is the IPPC report of March 2023. The Government response here and internationally, is essentially a business as usual approach with fossil fuel energy replacement strategies such as electric cars that suit the wealthier members of society, as is the case with desiring private sector investments. ( ‘The IPPC estimates that investment in climate mitigation and adaptation is three to six times lower than where it needs to be. ‘ Editorial – Don’t socialise the risk in global heating – profits should not be privatised Guardian 21/3/2023). Who profits or faces losses from financing climate change mitigation is important and poorer members of society should not bear the price of mitigation economically or socially. This is one aspect of a wider consideration.
Since the industrial revolution our economic growth system has been based on two fundamentals – fossil fuels (for transport, energy, agriculture, goods, development) and consumerism (spending for jobs and taxes and profits and investments) and been justified by two desired outcomes, increasing our standard of living and supporting our exponential population rise. The collateral damage of this In/Out equation are pollution, waste, resource depletion and biodiversity loss.
Government policy is attempting to confront only one of these inputs, with the obdurate focus on replacing our carbon fuel dependency, linked with well meaning munificent measures to stick fingers in the dyke of environmental degradation output. Regardless of and not decrying these efforts, we appear to have about faced on the three other attendant factors at play in our economic growth model and a failure to address these will destine meeting IPPC calls for meaningful reductions in carbon pollution, a failure.
The set of conditions to confront are thus: firstly, managing our standard of living through wealth distribution and setting foundations for citizen well being; secondly reducing the requirement to produce, Production, and spend , Consumerism; and thirdly, reducing our unsustainable population growth rate, all welded to climate change mitigation as absolute societal imperatives. Governments can set goals to drive change through far reaching fiscal policies and employment strategies that ensure secure and healthy living, while ensuring investments, pensions, public goods are maintained. This is the road map to a secure and healthy future. If it sounds Utopian and impossible it is not so. We have the means and expertise to set our brightest thinkers, scientists, economists on informing politicians in a government of national unity, to find accelerated solutions to problems that have brewed for at least 50 years of inactivity of political will and technological tinkering.
Promoting electric cars over diesel or petrol, funding technological solutions with or without private investment, are a smoke screen to mask the elephant in the room that our economic growth model has had its day. Way back in 1966, Kenneth Boulding in his presentation ‘Earth as a Spaceship’, likened the economy to a ‘cowboy’ open system. There are no undiscovered plains left to recklessly exploit and degrade in his spaceship analogy – no technological boom, green or other wise – but rather success is to be measured not by maximising consumption and production but increasing the ‘nature, extent, quality and complexity of the total stock of capital, including in this the state of human bodies and minds included in the system.’
And that’s a good place to continue the journey.