Saturday, May 25, 2019

Why We'll Never Get Meaningful Action on Climate Change.

The facts are curious. We have come so far in the development of alternative, clean energy at costs far lower than fossil fuels that the developed world in particular could decarbonize rapidly. Even the Bank of Canada has come to recognize that the 'carbon economy' is actually an economy wrecker, a slow-motion train wreck.

So, what gives? Much of the answer can be found in the warnings given to us by the current and former governors of the Bank of England. They've been telling anyone who'll listen that the global economy is sitting on a potentially catastrophic 'carbon bubble.' What's that all about?

It's estimated that there is some 27 Trillion dollars in proven fossil fuel reserves subscribed on the stock markets and bourses of the world.  Banks, other institutional lenders, hedge funds, pension funds and such are all neck deep in fossil fuel investments. If that carbon bubble bursts, well, that could be an economy wrecker.

Now, in case you haven't heard, most of the global economy is in the grip of neoliberalism. Our own government is decidedly neoliberal as petro-states routinely are.  Petro-states have much to fear from anything that threatens to pop the global carbon bubble. They have the most to lose from a global depression triggered by the implosion of the carbon economy.

There is a reason the Liberals, in their first term in office, have fallen behind in meeting Stephen Harper's modest targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have the slightest intention of honouring the IPCC call for a 50 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and a carbon-neutral position by 2050.  Liberals, like the Conservatives, have chosen to back the carbon economy over providing some sort of viable future for our grandchildren. Think of it as their 'Sophie's Choice' only without all the angst. Tragically neither Trudeau nor Scheer understands that they're propping up something that cannot be saved.

While on the matter of neoliberalism, one of its proponents favourite arguments, is that it has lifted the world out of poverty. That's a con. Anthropologist, Jason Hickel, demolished this nonsense so popular with Bill Gates and the Davos crowd.
Last week, as world leaders and business elites arrived in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates tweeted an infographic to his 46 million followers showing that the world has been getting better and better. “This is one of my favourite infographics,” he wrote. “A lot of people underestimate just how much life has improved over the past two centuries.” 
Of the six graphs – developed by Max Roser of Our World in Data – the first has attracted the most attention by far. It shows that the proportion of people living in poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today. The claim is simple and compelling.
...It’s a powerful narrative. And it’s completely wrong.

There are a number of problems with this graph, though. First of all, real data on poverty has only been collected since 1981. Anything before that is extremely sketchy, and to go back as far as 1820 is meaningless. Roser draws on a dataset that was never intended to describe poverty, but rather inequality in the distribution of world GDP – and that for only a limited range of countries. There is no actual research to bolster the claims about long-term poverty. It’s not science; it’s social media.

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. 
...Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.
...Scholars have been calling for a more reasonable poverty line for many years. Most agree that people need a minimum of about $7.40 per day to achieve basic nutrition and normal human life expectancy, plus a half-decent chance of seeing their kids survive their fifth birthday. And many scholars, including Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, insist that the poverty line should be set even higher, at $10 to $15 per day. 
So what happens if we measure global poverty at the low end of this more realistic spectrum – $7.40 per day, to be extra conservative? Well, we see that the number of people living under this line has increased dramatically since measurements began in 1981, reaching some 4.2 billion people today. Suddenly the happy Davos narrative melts away.

Moreover, the few gains that have been made have virtually all happened in one place: China. It is disingenuous, then, for the likes of Gates and Pinker to claim these gains as victories for Washington-consensus neoliberalism. Take China out of the equation, and the numbers look even worse.
Another comment on the corrosive impacts of neoliberalism is provided by Michael Gallant, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance.
“No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark.” 
Immigration is perhaps the defining political issue of the Trump era. The political left, right, and center, each offer their own vision for the proper treatment of those who arrive on American borders in search of a better life. However, as Poet Warsan Shire’s words remind us, migration does not begin at the border, it begins in homes and communities that are rarely abandoned without necessity. 
Though the dynamics of migration are complex, at least one of Shire’s sharks has a name: neoliberal globalization. Since the era of Reagan and Thatcher, powerful states and the wealthy interests that they represent have built a global economic order that places the market above all else. This has resulted in the systematic uprooting of the poor, the working class, and the subaltern of the Global South. Acting through trade deals and international financial institutions, neoliberal globalization causes displacement by creating conditions of poverty, imposing corporate agricultural policies, and fueling environmental destruction.
...The migration crisis is, more accurately, a crisis of displacement. It is the product of a model of globalization that prioritizes the profits of a few over the lives of the many. To solve it requires more than just humane border policy; it requires an alternative globalization. 
An alternative system of trade would build global protections for workers and the environment while limiting the power of capital. A new agricultural policy would encourage, not deter, protections for peasants and indigenous communities. Democratizing international financial institutions like the World Bank would empower those most impacted by their policies. A binding global treaty would hold transnational corporations accountable for their human rights violations and a New Bretton Woods and Global Green New Deal would make major strides against global inequality and climate change. Though such systemic change will not come easily, it is necessary to address displacement at its root.
Of course, we're Canadians and Canada doesn't harm the weak and vulnerable in distant lands except that we do. We just don't pay any attention to it. When was the last time you read a report in a Canadian newspaper about the damage - displacement, suffering, death - being inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable nations by the petro-states? When was the last time you heard a Canadian prime minister candidly discuss the role the petro-states are playing in fueling the next mass extinction of life on Earth? We don't do that because linking the two might make us look like monsters.


thwap said...

Even though we're busy destroying the indigenous people living within our borders:


Grassy Narrows

Tar Sands and Cancer

We're still busy devastating communities all over the world as one of the world's biggest mining companies:

"What's Yours Is Mined"

T'was ever thus.

They ignore the criminal suffering they inflict now and so, of course they'll ignore the criminal suffering they're setting up for the future.

The Mound of Sound said...

It took me a long time before I had to face that realization, Thwap. Today it makes me cringe a bit when I hear these people claiming the mantle of 'progressive' based on some notional difference from the Tories.

Lorne said...

Until we start to pay attention to "the man behind the curtain," Mound, we will continue blindly accepting platitudes like, "A rising tide lifts all boats." To fully appreciate that for the arrant nonsense it is requires an informed and engaged citizenry, something we are far from achieving.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think the die is cast, Lorne. Meaningful change in public awareness at this point is such a long shot that it would border on the miraculous. We'll know in October if the LPC and CPC together account for something close to 70 per cent of the vote.

Anonymous said...

When has anyone heard a descent discussion on anything important to Canadians like inequality on TV at all in the past 40 yeasrs? Our leaders don't know how except for May.

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