Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Glass Half Full

The good news. Global CO2 emissions remained stable last year for the third year in a row despite an overall increase in GDP. That means our increased production of stuff is being met with alternative, clean energy resources. Good news for renewables and all that jazz.

The other news. 1, 2, and 3. We're still growing, we're still making more stuff and we're still not slashing our greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the Cheeto Benito in the White House is intent on wrecking his nation's commitment, perhaps the world's, to the fight against climate change. To Drumpf it's just a "waste of money."

As I've preached here for years, you can't fight climate change unless you're also willing to tackle overpopulation and overconsumption of our world's oh so finite resources. It simply can't be done. And we're not even beginning to address those other two crises.

It's great that we've held the line on GHG emissions but that's less than what we should be doing. We should be making serious emissions cuts by now, not holding the line.

A lot of people will like the idea that the global economy grew by 3.1% last year but that means a commensurate increase in our already ravenous over consumption of the world's resources, renewables and non-renewables. The problem with non-renewables is obvious. When you're out, you're out. The really insidious part, however, is our over consumption of renewables, everything from freshwater to biomass. Last year mankind's ecological footprint was 1.75 times greater than the Earth's rate of resource renewal, also known as the environment's "carrying capacity." Since then, it seems, we added another 5% or so to that overload.

I'm focusing on over consumption because it reveals the core problem we're having with all these existential crises - equity, as in "fairness." When resources are inadequate you could say it's unfair for 5% of the population to consume 40% of the pie. That's like the two society matrons in the bow of the lifeboat gorging themselves on the emergency rations before tossing the scraps to the plebs manning the oars.

We of the Developed World, especially we Norte Americanos, have grown fat and sassy by consuming the lion's share of the world's fossil energy but, in the process, sharing with the entire world all of our carbon emissions. Doesn't sound very equitable, does it?

We could atone for our sins, at least a bit, but that would mean two things - one, that we decarbonize our economies first and very rapidly; and two, that we voluntarily accept a huge reduction in our per capita consumption, our Rich Man's World environmental footprint. And now Donald Trump has served notice, plain as day, that these sorts of fairness arguments are dead on arrival as far as the White House is concerned. Yet before we heap too much blame on Trump let's admit that damned few of us would accept this sort of sharing sacrifice either.

Canadians have no right to be smug either, not after the Dauphin has cleared the way for massive expansion of Tar Sands production. Sure the crud will be burned overseas but that'll be 100% Athabasca CO2 and plenty of it wafting into the atmosphere.

It's good news that we seem to have arrested growth in CO2 emissions, however temporarily. Good news, let's just take that for what it is.


Hugh said...

So if the way forward is to reduce GDP, that would conflict with our current provincial and federal governments, and our central bank.

The Mound of Sound said...

No question, Hugh. Perpetual, exponential growth is a cardinal dictate of neoliberalism. It makes not the slightest difference how irrational that is. Without perpetual, exponential growth the facade of neoliberalism collapses. And so we stay busy sawing the branch off behind ourselves.

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