There is hope, but only if the focus is growth. Limits to Growth (1972) missed climate change, yet it made a powerful case for an end to indiscriminate economic growth based only on resource shortages and pollution. Not only did it miss CO2 as the most serious form of pollution, it did not grasp the more general concept of the ecosphere, so I do not think it mentioned desertification (including the oceans), or species or habitat loss. Limits was rubbished by the usual multinational suspects, for whom it was bad news in the short term. Their case was strengthened by the famous bet which Julian Simon won against Paul Ehrlich, on the price of commodities 1980-90. The link I use implies that Limits was indeed wrong, at least in the short to medium term about the ability of entrepreneurs to capitalise on new inventions, pushing the ‘inescapable’ truth of physical limits ever further into the future. But the otherwise perceptive link ignores the consequences of growth in pollution. Hydraulic fracturing is is an example of a new invention which enormously increases the amount of fossil fuel available. An opportunity for capitalists immediately became an imperative, which ignores not only the widely publicized local pollution, the extra CO2 which will be produced, but also the global effects of methane which is not captured. Even so, Limits has been vindicated subsequently in its general projections with one of its two basic tenets (resource exhaustion) refuted in the short term, and without global warming as a part of its case which is still valid, .
But here I am going deep into enemy territory, with one of the more plausible ‘denialist’ statements. Even I, a layman, can criticize the video on its own terms. Its alleged motivation for the climate change agenda is flimsy – academics only get funding if they are alarmist – as against the rather more formidable motivation of Exxonmobil, who have been found out having secretly accepted the ‘alarmist’ case all along. There is even evidence as long ago as 1965 that in the USA the Johnson administration was aware of climate change as a possible problem. The fact remains that there is currently more energy – violence – in weather systems, and CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas which is increasing. I am slightly surprised that neither methane nor water vapour figure much in the case for global warming. What is the effect of gas escaped from the recent fracking bonanza in the USA? And a trial one-year moratorium in aviation might give us some information on water vapour concentrations in the stratosphere.
But the video is plausible enough to sow doubt in millions of undecided minds. For example, the graphs from the geological records showing periodic oscillations show the temperature falling first, and CO2 falling some years later. The speaker hopes you don’t notice that the two rise together, but if both are actually driven by some unidentified third factor, we are indeed in trouble.
New Year is as good a time as any to propose a new culture. Crucial or irrelevant, climate change is a red herring. Any population which is expanding either in numbers or per capita wealth – or both, as is the case currently world-wide – must sooner or later hit the Tragedy of the Commons. There are innumerable so-called primitive tribes who must have experienced this crisis without CO2 being the problem, and emerged with sustainable life styles until disturbed by Europeans. Even Easter Island showed the beginnings of a recovery from a ’Tragedy’.
Many on the ‘warmist’ (alarmist) side blame the capitalists. Leaving aside that we have a lot to thank the capitalists for, although they have never been good at sharing, the ‘Tragedy’ dictates that the capitalists will remain trapped in their now dangerous behaviour until a new, sharing culture emerges.
Goodness me, have I really got so far without mentioning the Citizens’ Basic Income? It could be the beginning of a shift to a sharing culture. But why should capitalists accept such a drastic form of sharing? They may be greedy, but they are not generally stupid. If Milton Friedman, an arch globalizer, could see the sense in the Basic Income, there is hope.