2020 Reith Lecture 4: From Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity

The 2020 Lecture sounds knowledgeable and reassuring, but I have a ”Why is the Emperor still not wearing any clothes?’ type question::

What’s new?

I was jolted into climate activism (what became the Green Party) by the Limits to Growth ’ report in 1972. But the oil industry  already knew of the danger in 1968. The USA government had done its own research in 1965 (link Within the above link), and had come to the same conclusion, but colluded with the oil industry in suppressing the information.  The reasons for this highly irresponsible action was obvious to me (as per this weblog).

But Buckminster Fuller’s book Spaceship Earth first appeared around the same time, and it has been updated.

Much more is now known about how. damage to the ecosphere has proceeded, if anything faster than originally feared, but the danger was clear enough then, so I repeat:

Why was an answer to a threat to the entire ecosphere not drafted 45 years ago, at least aa a blueprint which governments could offer to whole populations in good time?

To his credit, Mark Carney makes no attempt to downplay the mounting evidence. He cites salient points. He even has the chutzpah to quote Greta Thunberg’s anger. But he is an insider keen to maintain the status quo.. I was intrigued as to how he would justify business as (close as possible to) usual.

It might even work. If every government does exactly as he recommends, immediately, Kate Raworth’s ‘soft landing’ as per Doughnut Economics could still happen, sort of. But how likely is that? What is completely missing from Mark Carney’s solution is any hint of humility, of a ‘Buddhist’ approach to economics. Technological innovation will take us to the sunit uplands. Business as usual.

But serious damage including habitat loss has already happened. Lives, including human lives, have been avoidably lost already, Even if CO2 levels are kept to the current levels, 45% higher than historical levels, which seems extremely unlikely, we would expect a continuation of the abnormal events which have already occurred.

I still do not understand how almost all who agree with me on the seriousness, and even the probability of the threat to the ecosphere, dismiss the universal basic income (UBI) as relevant as a part of the solution. The examination of the prematurely ended Finnish UBI trial  does not appear to mention this aspect though I have seen anecdotal comments that it might. I postulate that a UBI opens up the possibilitythat (all( individuals are ffree o perceive global threats as more important than immediate practical threats, such as not eating, or paying rent. The economic downturn due to Coronavirus is a gentle warning of the effect if the economy collapses due to continued business as usual.

Averting, or at least reducing the impact of an economic contraction seemed to me an obvious benefit of the UBI  It seems a pity not to try it with the entire ecosphere at risk.

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