Project Drawnown Is the World’s Leading Resource for Climate Solutions

Project Drawdown is the ULTIMATE scientifically based Global Green New Deal.

Excerpts from The Drawdown Review:
About Project Drawdown®

“Since the 2017 publication of the New York Times bestseller, Drawdown, the organization has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about climate solutions. We continue to develop that resource by conducting rigorous review and assessment of climate solutions,creating compelling and human communication across mediums, and partnering with efforts to accelerate climate solutions globally.”

10 Key Insights

Our first body of work in 2017 put a spotlight on a vast array of climate solutions, each with its own compelling story and possibility. As the saying goes, it can sometimes be a challenge to “see the forest for the trees,” and that’s certainly true with climate solutions.

Throughout this Review, we aim to illuminate what you might call the “groves” and “forests” beyond the individual trees, which are sometimes hiding in plain view. Here, we surface ten key insights to make essential messages of our work clear, direct, and easy for others to communicate.
Project Drawdown is a living effort and a learning organization. These insights will continue to deepen, refine, and expand as the work itself does.

1

We can reach Drawdown by mid-century if we scale the climate solutions already in hand. Drawdown is a bold goal but an absolutely necessary one,
given that global emissions are still rising each year—not declining as they need to. Our new analysis shows the world can reach Drawdown by mid-century, if we make the best use of all existing climate solutions. Certainly, more solutions are needed and emerging, but there is no reason—or time—to wait on innovation. Now is better than new, and society is well equipped to begin that transformation today. If we pursue climate solutions with purpose and determination, our analysis shows we could reach Drawdown as early as the mid-2040s—or not until the 2060s, depending on our level of ambition. (See more on scenarios below.)

2

Climate solutions are interconnected as a system, and we need all of them. The notion of “silver bullets” has persistent appeal—“what’s the one big thing we can do?”—but they simply don’t exist for complex problems such as the climate crisis. A whole system of solutions is required. Many climate solutions combine and cooperate, leveraging or enabling others for the greatest impact. For example, efficient buildings make distributed, renewable electricity generation more viable. The food system requires interventions on both supply and demand sides—e.g., better farming practices and reduced meat consumption. For greatest benefit, electric vehicles need 100% clean power on which to run. We need many, interconnected solutions for a multi-faceted, systemic challenge.

3

Beyond addressing greenhouse gases, climate solutions can have “co-benefits” that contribute to a better, more equitable world. Climate solutions are rarely just climate solutions. For example, those that curb air pollution are also health solutions. Others that protect and restore ecosystems are also biodiversity solutions. Many can create jobs, foster resilience to climate impacts such as storms and droughts, and bring other environmental benefits such as safeguarding water resources. Climate solutions can advance social and economic equity if utilized wisely and well—with attention to who decides, who benefits, and how any drawbacks are mitigated. The how really matters, as the same practice or technology can have very different outcomes depending on implementation. It takes intention and care to move solutions forward in ways that heal rather than deepen systemic injustices.

4

The financial case for climate solutions is crystal clear, as savings significantly outweigh costs. Unfounded arguments about the economic inviability of climate action persist but are patently false. Project Drawdown analyzes the financial implications of solutions: How much money will a given solution cost, or save, when compared with the status quo technology or practice it replaces? That financial analysis looks at the initial implementation of a solution, as well as the use or operation of that solution over time. Overall, net operational savings exceed net implementation costs four to five times over: an initial cost of $23.4–26.2 trillion versus $96.4–143.5 trillion saved.If we consider the monetary value of co-benefits (e.g., healthcare savings from reduced air pollution) and avoided climate damages (e.g., agricultural losses), the financial case becomes even stronger. So long as we ensure a just transition for those in sunsetting or transitioning industries, such as coal, it’s clear that there is no economic rationale for stalling on climate solutions—and every reason
to forge boldly ahead.

5

The majority of climate solutions reduce or replace the use of fossil fuels. We must accelerate these solutions, while actively stopping the use of coal, oil, and gas. The use of fossil fuels for electricity, transport, and heat currently drives roughly two-thirds of heat-trapping emissions worldwide.2 Of the 76 solutions included in this Review, roughly 30% reduce the use of fossil fuels by enhancing efficiency and almost 30% replace them entirely with alternatives. Together, they can deliver almost
two-thirds of the emissions reductions needed to reach Drawdown.

Alongside accelerating these vital solutions, such as solar and wind power, retrofitting buildings, and public transit, we must actively stop fossil fuel production and expansion—including ending billions of dollars in subsidies and financing and, ideally, directing those funds to climate solutions instead. Reaching Drawdown depends on concurrent “stop” and “start” paths of action. A similar stopstart dynamic exists within food, agriculture, and land use: ending harmful practices (e.g., deforestation)  and advancing helpful ones (e.g., methods of regenerative agriculture)

6

We cannot reach Drawdown without simultaneously reducing emissions toward zero and supporting nature’s carbon sinks.

Imagine the atmosphere as a bathtub overflowing, as the water continues to run. The primary intervention is clear: turn off the tap of greenhouse gases by bringing emissions to zero. In addition to curbing the source of the problem, we can also open the drain somewhat. That’s where nature plays a vital role: absorbing and storing carbon through biological and chemical processes, effectively draining some of the excess out of the atmosphere. Human activities can support natural carbon sinks, and many ecosystem or agriculture-related climate solutions have the double benefit of reducing emissions and absorbing carbon simultaneously. It takes stemming all sources and supporting all sinks to reach Drawdown.
(See further exploration of sources and sinks below.)

7

Some of the most powerful climate solutions receive comparably little attention, reminding us to widen our lens.

Many climate solutions focus on reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions, but others are needed too. Among the top solutions assessed by Project Drawdown, we find some “eye-openers” that are on par with solutions that often get the spotlight, such as onshore wind turbines and utility-scale solar photovoltaics:

▶ Food waste reduction and plant-rich diets, which together curb demand, deforestation, and associated emissions;
▶ Preventing leaks and improving disposal of chemical refrigerants, which are potent greenhouse gases, the use of which is projected to grow significantly;
▶ Restoration of temperate and tropical forests, which are powerful, vast carbon sinks;
▶ Access to high-quality, voluntary reproductive healthcare and high-quality, inclusive education, the many ripple effects of which include climate benefits.

These results are a reminder to look beyond the obvious, to a broader suite of solutions, and beyond technology, to natural and social systems.

8

Accelerators are critical to move solutions forward at the scale, speed, and scope required.

It goes without saying: solutions do not scale themselves. We need means of removing barriers and accelerating their implementation and expansion. Key “accelerators” can create the conditions for solutions to move forward with greater speed and wider scope. Some, such as changing policy and shifting capital, are closer in and have more direct impacts; others, such as shaping culture and building political power, are further out and more indirect in their effect. Accelerators are heavily dependent on social and political contexts and work at different scales, from individuals to larger groups to entire nations. As with solutions, they intersect and interact; none are singularly effective, and we need them all. (See more on accelerators below.)

9

Footholds of agency exist at every level, for all individuals and institutions to participate in advancing climate solutions.

The climate crisis requires systemic, structural change across our global society and economy. The reality of intervening in a complex system is that no one can do it all, and we all have an opening to show up as problem-solvers and change-agents and contribute in significant ways—even when we feel small. The range of climate solutions illuminates diverse intervention points across individual, community, organizational, regional, national, and global scales.The necessary accelerators expand that array of action opportunities even more. It will take a whole ecosystem of activities and actors to create the transformation that’s required.

10

Immense commitment, collaboration, and ingenuity will be necessary to depart the perilous path we are on and realize the path that’s possible. But the mission is clear: make possibility reality.

In September 2019, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg testified before the U.S. Congress. “You must unite behind the science,” she urged. “You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.”3 In four short sentences, she articulated exactly the task and challenge at hand. Project Drawdown’s mission is to help the world reach Drawdown as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. That could also be humanity’s mission in this pivotal moment for life on Earth. The current path we are on is beyond dangerous, and it’s easy to be paralyzed by that perilousness. Yet possibility remains to change it. Together, we can build a bridge from where we are today to the world we want for ourselves, for all of life, and, most importantly, for generations yet to come.

https://www.drawdown.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Economic response to COVID-19 pandemic: go big, go fast

Image: NIAID/Flickr

The health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic is of course the primary concern of Canadians, and the first priority for government to address. But it is increasingly clear that the economic fallout from the pandemic is also going to constitute an emergency. And it requires government to respond as urgently and powerfully in the economic sphere, as they are attempting for public health.

I was invited onto CBC Radio’s special broadcast today to discuss the economic consequences of the pandemic, and needed policy responses — and also to comment on the policy announcements made by Finance Minister Morneau, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, and superintendent of financial institutions Jeremy Rudin at a special joint news conference.

Here are some quick thoughts on what we can expect in coming months, the nature and dimensions of the policy response, and — of course — how we pay for it!

What we’re in for

There is no doubt that the macroeconomy, already near-stagnant at the end of 2019, will now slide into recession. The immediate spillover effects of cancelled transportation, cancelled tourism and entertainment events and services, and reduced output in many different industries are knocking GDP backward right now. Second-order effects will be experienced across a wide swath of the economy, as both consumers and businesses scale back their purchases dramatically. Even a short-term surge in purchases of groceries and essentials (including toilet paper!) won’t offset that shock decline in aggregate demand.

Another category of impacts will be felt through disrupted supply chains. Imported parts and supplies from overseas producers (especially but not exclusively China) have been seriously disrupted, and that will have a ripple effect on Canadian production — even assuming we are allowed to go to work in the first place. All that will be enough to produce a serious, but not unusual, recession: a loss of two-four per cent of real GDP, lasting for two-four quarters, driving unemployment up to perhaps eight per cent.

However, if we end up facing a full-out lockdown (as experienced in China or Italy) then the downturn takes on a new order of magnitude. We could see a decline in second-quarter GDP of perhaps 10 per cent (at annualized rates), and an enormous jump in unemployment (well into double digits). In fact, if government statisticians are also on lock-down, we won’t even be able to measure how bad it gets. How soon and how sharply production begins to recover is unknown, depending first and foremost on how quickly people are allowed to begin leaving their homes and resuming normal activity (including working and spending). And if the experience of the “Great Recession” — a decade of slow growth and underutilization that followed the 2008-2009 GFC — is any indication, we would then likely face an extended period of hardship, perhaps lasting another decade.

Another dimension of the crisis could be its potentially dramatic effects on financial stability. It was out of that concern that the announcement today featured all three critical government players (Morneau, Poloz, and Rudin) at the same podium – and why all their announcements were focused on the goal of maintaining credit flows (through emergency lending for small and medium-sized companies, lower interest rates and relaxed credit quality controls). Since the 2008-2009 crisis, the private credit system has behaved in predictably Minskian fashion: first cautious, then (as memories of the meltdown faded) expansive, and finally speculative (entering Minsky’s “Ponzi” phase). This time the debt bubble in the U.S. was concentrated in places other than real estate (the focal point of the 2008-2009 meltdown). Risky (“high-yield”) corporate debt is the most fragile link in the current financial daisy chain: already high-yield bond markets have seen interest rate spreads explode (to seven-eight percentage points above normal corporate lending), and credit is starting to seize up. With many fragile companies, some of them very large, unable to borrow (even for routine or “overnight” purposes) just as their cash flow evaporates from the recession, they will face quick collapse. Other financial weak spots exist in the U.S., too (including credit cards, student debt and some oversold equities).

In Canada, as in 2008-2009, the financial system has been less adventurous and hence is not as fragile. The biggest risk here would be a serious downturn in inflated housing prices (the main legacy of our own debt expansion), with cascading impacts on consumer spending, household financial stress and ultimately the stability of banks and other financial institutions. Stopping that kind of contagion quickly is almost as important to the government, as stopping the spread of the actual virus.

How government should respond

I look forward to working with other progressive economists to imagine and describe a fulsome, comprehensive, ambitious and concrete vision for responding to this crisis. Here are some of the obvious areas:

Immediate Mobilization of Resources to Protect Health: Obviously governments and health authorities must now throw every possible real resource into protecting health, as much as they can, including:

  • More staff at health facilities.
  • Alternate off-site or mobile testing capacities.
  • Home support for people quarantined or recovering at home.
  • Quick expansion of capital equipment (including buildings and equipment), as much as possible.

This mobilization will cost many billions of dollars, and constitutes an unfortunate form of “stimulus.”

Income Protection for Workers: The pandemic has exposed a frightening and dangerous aspect of the new precarious labour market. Only about half of employed people now work in a “standard” full-time permanent job with benefits — like sick leave. So when people are instructed to stay home from work to avoid spreading the virus, many incur a major and immediate financial loss. Unfortunately, that will compel some to ignore the health advice and keep working — with catastrophic health consequences. This pandemic is reminding us that the wellbeing of everyone, depends on the wellbeing of everyone else. The short-sighted responses of some business leaders, complaining about the cost of sick leave and that workers “whine” or “fake” their conditions, is as morally repugnant as it is clinically destructive. (For a despicable example, see Howard Levitt’s comments about workers imagining illness on CBC’s The Current).

An obvious place to protect workers whose incomes are being interrupted by the pandemic is through the EI system, but it needs immediate and far-reaching emergency changes (I listed some of these in my recent Toronto Star column):

  • Waive the 1-week waiting period for EI (the government has already said it will).
  • Waive the qualifying hours requirement for the period of the pandemic (and, of course, it should be fixed long-term anyway).
  • Consider special emergency payments (similar to EI’s existing natural disaster provisions).
  • Consider special payments to contractors, gig workers and others not normally entitled to EI.
  • Accelerate work-sharing arrangements to allow more people to keep their jobs.

In addition to extending EI and other income supports, workers need other protections in the coming period: including waiving requirements to fetch doctors’ notes and other red tape and having full job protection during the pandemic (so their jobs are not at risk for following health advice). All of this highlights the need for big reform in Canada’s existing laws governing sick pay (only Quebec ensures minimum paid sick leave), STD and LTD measures, and job protection. These problems were already glaring; the pandemic has now brought them to everyone’s attention, and reminded everyone that their personal health depends on collective well-being.

Other ways to put spending power directly into the pockets of low- and middle-income Canadians, reducing the financial barriers to staying at home, could include direct one-time payments to all households (as Australia did in 2009, with great success), or more targeted income assistance to reflect and offset the economic impact on more financially vulnerable households. One option in that regard would be to expand and accelerate payments of GST credits and Canada Child Benefit cheques.

Debt Relief: Morneau and his colleagues moved quickly today to assure businesses that they can continue to access credit to maintain operations and stave off bankruptcy. There will likely be a need for more hands-on support for firms in many industries (including airlines and other transportation and tourism providers). It makes sense to keep businesses from going bankrupt at a time when unemployment is rising anyway, but those interventions need to learn from the mistakes of past rescues. Conditions must be attached to protect employees at these firms right through the crisis (like no layoffs), and to ensure that rescued companies are held to long-term performance requirements (including future Canadian production and employment). The memory of major banks and automakers that were bailed out at the public’s expense in 2009, and then quickly returned to their bad old ways (speculative lending and industrial disinvestment, respectively) reminds us to leverage our support during times of crisis into long-run influence over their subsequent activities. The best approach in that regard is to take public equity stakes in these businesses as a condition of financial support (as some European countries did with banks and other major bailed-out businesses).

At the same time, other segments of society also need protection from their creditors, as their ability to work and earn disappears. There should be restrictions placed on foreclosures and evictions (for both homeowners and renters), and deferral periods for personal and credit card debts.

Other Short-Term Fiscal Stimulus: The federal government will need to consider other ways to inject immediate spending power into the economy in its March 30 budget, or earlier. Expanded transfer payments to the provinces for health-related expenses is an obvious option. Other ideas are helpfully catalogued in the annual “Alternative Federal Budget” documents.

Longer-Run Reconstruction: On the assumption that the coming recession is harsh and its after-effects long-lasting, the government will need to play a leading role in the longer-term reconstruction and reorientation of the economy. The traditional tools of stabilization (monetary and fiscal adjustments) are clearly not capable of addressing the scale of the problem. Monetary policy, indeed, has already lost most of its effectiveness: with interest rates near zero, and borrowers scared deeply about what lies ahead, the emergency interest rates cuts announced by the Bank of Canada this week will have virtually no impact on real economic activity in the coming year or longer. (It probably won’t even reignite house price inflation, which has been its dominant “achievement” of late.)

And fiscal interventions will need to go far beyond counter-cyclical stabilization. Canada’s economy will need to rely on public service, public investment and public entrepreneurship as its main “engines” of growth, to recover from the coming downturn, prepare for future health and environmental crises, and improve conditions in our communities. The abysmal failure of private business capital spending in recent years — which has fallen by one-third as a share of GDP since the turn of the century, despite hugely expensive corporate tax cuts — was already indicating a growing role for public investment to lead the way. Now, in this moment, it is laughable to imagine that private capital spending or exports will somehow lead the reconstruction of a national economy that will experience an unprecedented and scarring shock.

There is no shortage of urgent rebuilding required in our economy and our communities: sustainable transit, green energy, non-market housing, expanded public services (including aged care and early child education) and any number of other urgent priorities. The case for mobilizing those resources, under the leadership of governments and other public institutions, is compelling. We can put people to work, repair the damage of this crisis (and better prepare for the next one), and deliver valuable services. All we need is the willingness to imagine a different model of organizing and leading economic activity.

Last nail in coffin of deficit-mania?

Image result for jason kennet doctors

Incredibly, Conservatives like Jason Kenney and Pierre Poilievre have still been scare-mongering about deficits, even as the public-health emergency gathered momentum. Kenney in particular should be politically shunned for his incredible decision to attack Alberta’s doctors and rip up their employment contracts (alongside his other attacks on public-health workers) — just as we ask them to risk their lives, to save ours. This tired old deficit-mania will have zero resonance with the public in coming months: they are quite rightly preoccupied with more important things.

Nevertheless, long-standing indoctrination in the ideology of austerity will hold back the government response to the crisis. Mainstream proposals for fiscal stimulus will be too small to make a significant difference. For example, bank economists today are suggesting injections worth one per cent of GDP; that wouldn’t put a dent in the more daunting recession scenarios I described above. It is not unusual for national governments to experience deficits equal to five per cent or more of GDP during severe economic downturns. That works out to $120 billion for the federal government. Anything less than that, and the government is literally not doing its job in trying to protect Canadians from this downturn.

Interest rates, already rock-bottom, have plunged in the last month. The government of Canada can now issue 30-year bonds for well below one per cent annual interest. That is negative in real terms (ie. lower than inflation). So quite literally, the government will save money by borrowing more (paying back less in real terms, after 30 years, than they borrowed) — to say nothing of the economic and social good that would be done by putting that money to work in emergency public projects and services.

Of course, we can and should consider alternative financing mechanisms (like quantitative easing and other methods of directly harnessing public credit institutions to finance public works). That genie was let out of the bottle in the 2008-2009 crisis, but so far has been used in a stinted, one-sided way: using central-bank-created money to purchase financial assets from investors and institutions, in hopes they then spend or lend their excess cash to get the economy moving. A much better approach — perhaps called “people’s quantitative easing”? — would be to use created funds (from the central bank or other public banks) to directly finance needed investments and services, thus putting the new money directly into the projects and people that need it most. That would have much more economic bang for the QE buck. But it would constitute a sacrilege against the traditional property relationships embedded in private credit banking.

A turning point?

Image result for turning pointGreat crises like this are frightening and dangerous. Our economic, social and democratic institutions are still damaged and fraying after 10 long years trying to recover from the last meltdown. Dangerous populist and authoritarian impulses have sprouted from that hardship. Progressives are not sufficiently united, confident and focused on what needs to be done, to turn the tide in our favour.

But a crisis can also be an opportunity. The failure of financialized, neo-liberal capitalism will be laid bare more clearly than ever in coming months. For example, the inability of rich countries (like the U.S.) to provide even rudimentary coordination and communication during a public emergency, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths, starkly highlights the enormous misallocation of human and economic capacity under capitalism, and its inherent and repeating coordination failures. The private sector will definitely be unable to get the economy back on its feet after this crisis. So we need to look elsewhere for economic leadership.

Just as the Second World War “solved” the Great Depression by mobilizing enormous resources in an urgent attempt to meet a huge threat (global fascism), we now need another, peaceful war — a war on poverty, on epidemics and on pollution. And by organizing ourselves as society to fight that war, we will actually make ourselves better off right now: creating jobs and incomes, providing needed care and services, generating taxes. And we will benefit in the long-run by winning those “wars,” and building a safer, sustainable world.

This is the time to develop and advance a progressive vision for a massive, public-led reconstruction agenda. Parts of it already exist, in various forms:

    • The “High-Investment Sustainable Full-Employment Economy” I describe in Chapter 28 of my Economics for Everyone.
    • The various incarnations of the Green New Deal program that have been proposed in various countries.
    • The CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget.
    • The “Jobs You Can Count On” strategy developed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
    • And many more…

Conservatives and the wealthy they serve never let a crisis go to waste. They follow well the advice of Milton Friedman:

“Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” (Capitalism and Freedom, 1982, p. xiv)

Naomi Klein showed us how the powerful take advantage of crisis to reinforce their power, even when it was their power that caused the crisis. We gotta know they will try to do the same with this crisis: pushing their well-known agenda of austerity, privatization and inequality into still more frightening and authoritarian directions.

So we desperately need our own courageous, ambitious, holistic alternatives. And if we do a good job educating, organizing and mobilizing around that more hopeful and democratic agenda, then it too can become politically inevitable. That’s the silver lining to this very scary moment.

SOURCE

Jim Stanford is economist and director of the Centre for Future Work, and divides his time between Vancouver and Sydney. The article originally appeared on the Progressive Economics Forum

Vulnerability, Community, and Connection

Illustration by Jia Sung

“Thrown all together, in one unrelenting present, we are made to recognize in one another what we deny most vehemently about ourselves: In the end, it’s our vulnerability that connects us.” —Jon Mooallem

As we wake up each morning amidst an unfolding global pandemic crisis—one that is bringing rapid and unexpected change into our lives—many are asking how best to respond.

Uncertainty in times of crisis breeds fear and anxiety, but it can also uncover opportunities for greater connection and attention to the threads of relationship that so profoundly connect us. It is our vulnerability that can, ultimately, bring us closer together.

With the coronavirus quickly spreading, there is an ever-growing list of things we can’t and shouldn’t do—practical and critical steps to keep ourselves, our communities, and those we love safe. But beyond the immediate needs, what are the broader responsibilities we all share in how we respond to this crisis? In such dire times, what can we do to respond from a place of reflection and not just reaction?

Over the past few decades, one of the significant challenges to waking up to the ecological crisis has been that we’re not always directly impacted by it. Urgent calls to action often go unanswered when we experience the great privilege of ecological disaster happening to someone else, somewhere else. It seems only when we are thrust directly into the storm that we begin to realize the extent of our interconnectedness. We can see more clearly both the negative consequences of failing to tend to threads of relationship and real opportunities for growth and change.

We have been asking ourselves: what are the growing edges of uncertainty? What can we learn? What are new ways to practice empathy, compassion, resilience, and stillness? Responses can be as simple as not forgetting the beauty and humanity that is present all around us, even in times of fear and chaos. The living world—whether the budding tree outside our window or the sounds of birdsong—can help orient us to a wider community, and be a grounding source of solace and reassurance.

Perhaps most importantly, we can strive to remember that we are in this together, that we must support our local and global communities, and not be afraid to reflect deeply on the opportunity our vulnerability offers us at this time. SOURCE

Patriotism could be the unlikely answer to solving the climate crisis

Last week’s budget [UK] was a missed opportunity: we need to mobilise our attachment to country

Global heating is being blamed for the wildfires that devastated much of New South Wales in Australia in recent months Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

When it comes to fighting climate change and its effects, both greens and conservatives pay far too much attention to localism, voluntarism, and corporate responsibility. All are valuable; none are adequate. If, as many environmentalists say, the struggle against global heating requires a sense of wartime emergency, then fighting it while chiefly relying on these assets is as if Britain fought the Second World War relying on the Home Guard.

Last week’s budget contained some useful steps to limit carbon emissions; but they are far too small, and offset by road construction and the failure to lift the freeze on fuel taxes brought in 10 years ago.

Climate change, if unchecked, threatens the destruction of Britain; yet the new money allocated to combat it is less than one fifteenth of the annual defence bill and well under half the cost of the two Royal Navy aircraft carriers – which increasingly seem to have no national strategic purpose.

The best way of looking at the idea of state-led national green new deals is to see them as the latest episode in the 200-year-old history of efforts to save capitalism from itself. The difference is that in the past, unrestrained capitalism could only destroy one country’s political and economic order. Today, by continuing to boost carbon emissions, it can destroy the whole of modern civilisation. 

Throughout modern history, just as today, there have been capitalists, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have called for the reform of capitalism, whether from conscience or fear of revolution, but, in the end, parliaments still had to pass the laws and states had to implement them. If we had left it to capitalism to regulate itself, seven-year-olds would still be working down coal mines – or, more likely, Britain would have collapsed into communism. Capitalism, when left alone, cannot regulate itself. If we did not know that before the crash of 2008, we certainly know it now.

Central to the taming of capitalism has always been the creation of welfare states. Enhanced social security and state healthcare as part of any green new deal are essential to the fight to limit carbon emissions for three reasons: to compensate those workers and sections of society that will suffer as a result of the abandonment of fossil fuels; to make the necessary sacrifices politically possible by sharing those sacrifices through progressive taxation; and to build the social and national resilience which we will need if our democratic orders are to survive the shocks of the decades to come – including the spread of tropical diseases as a result of climate change.

This need for social solidarity links the green new deal to the patriotic origins of the welfare state. Both conservatives and socialists have agreed in attributing the welfare state to socialism; conservatives because they have come to dislike it, the left because they want to claim all credit for it.

In fact, the origins of the British welfare state lie very largely in the social imperialism movement in the years before 1914. The supporters of this movement were an extraordinarily varied bunch: H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb on the left; liberal imperialists such as Winston Churchill and William Beveridge; patriotic writers including Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle; imperial bureaucrats such as Lord Milner and John Buchan; and soldiers including Field Marshal Lord Roberts. Their thinking echoed, in key respects, Bismarck’s social security programme in Germany and the reformist “new nationalism” of Theodore Roosevelt in the US.

As Lord Roberts declared: “To tens of thousands of Englishmen engaged in daily toil, the call to ‘sacrifice’ themselves for their country must seem an insult to their reason; for those conditions amid which they work make their lives already an unending sacrifice.”

What all these figures had in common was a fear of social disintegration and revolution; a belief (right or wrong) in the British Empire as a force for progress; and a belief that social solidarity, “national efficiency”, and a degree of national self-sufficiency were essential to survive what they (correctly) saw would be the colossal social, economic and political strains of a new European war.

My own thinking about this has also been shaped by my experience of working in Qatar, which has engaged in an intense and successful state-led effort at national self-sufficiency in response to the blockade by Saudi Arabia and other neighbours.

The social imperialist tradition flowed into the later development of the welfare state as a result of the Second World War. In the course of these conflicts most of the Labour party became intensely patriotic, while the Conservatives became one-nation Tories, committed to social solidarity and state involvement in the economy.

When, in 1960, Bernard Semmel wrote his classic study of social imperialism, Imperialism and Social Reform, he took for granted its victory on both sides of the political spectrum: “Today, the Cobdenites [ie radical free-market liberals] and the international socialists are virtually extinct breeds.”

This is the spirit we need to recover in response to the climate emergency and associated menaces. International agreements and protest movements are valuable and necessary but they can’t do anything themselves. Their purpose is to nudge and shame states into taking action. And state governments, in the end, take action on behalf of their national populations. That is their duty, and it is also what those populations expect and vote for.

The task then is to mobilise patriotism by convincing national populations that global heating is a threat, not just to humanity and the planet but to the interests and the future survival of their own countries; and that society, as a whole, will pull together, alleviate suffering and make sacrifices as part of a common effort.

If we can’t manage this I very much doubt that liberal democracy will survive what is coming at us down the line. SOURCE


 Anatol Lieven is the author of Climate Change and the Nation State: The Realist Case

Carbon benefits of fast-growing trees have been clearly proven

Paul Brannen says the RSPB needs to see the bigger picture on woodland planting, while Stuart Goodall believes we need to follow the science if we are to tackle the climate crisis

There is little point in saving the curlew’s habitat if, as a consequence, we lose the battle against climate change,’ writes Paul Brannen. Photograph: MediaWorldImages//Alamy

The article based on the RSPB’s recent report (Tree plantations ‘do not help climate’ as timber not used over long term, 11 March) is an unhelpful contribution to the critical debate on land use in the context of the climate crisis.

The danger with the article, and the RSPB report, is that it undermines the scientific argument for a significant increase in commercial conifer planting.

A recent report from the government’s Committee on Climate Change, entitled Land use: policies for a net zero UK, makes it clear that we need to increase “UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares or more of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year” and the conifers are needed for “wood in construction, creating an additional stock of carbon in the built environment”. This construction timber will be substituted for concrete and steel, which together are responsible for 12% of global carbon emissions.

There is little point in saving the curlew’s habitat if, as a consequence, we lose the battle against climate change. It’s time the RSPB acknowledged the bigger picture.
Paul Brannen
Former MEP and member of the EU’s agriculture committee

 Government policy is based on advice from independent organisations like the Committee on Climate Change, which examine the evidence on carbon sequestration to take a full life-cycle picture.

The full evidence on the carbon benefits of fast-growing trees does take into account all the uses of wood harvested in the UK and recognises that the trees are replaced with new fast-growing trees.

Wood burned for energy replaces non-renewable fossil fuels, and wood used, for example, in a fence, does not magically give up its carbon to the atmosphere when that fence is replaced (with more wood). Typically, it is reused and recycled. This adds to the positive carbon story and is an exemplar of reuse.

It is irresponsible to raise the spectre of land management practices, specifically planting on ground containing deep peat, which ended decades ago and will not happen again. The claims that newly planted native woodlands are much richer in wildlife than modern forests planted to produce wood and designed against high standards is also not supported by the evidence.

If we are serious about tackling climate change and benefiting nature, we need to base policy on the full suite of evidence and embrace positive solutions.
Stuart Goodall
Chief executive, Confor: Promoting forestry and wood

SOURCE

 

COVID-19, Brought to You by Globalization

How the virus exploits traits of our economy extolled as modern triumphs.

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A Viking cruise ship docked in France in 2017. Viking and Princess Lines have halted operations. Cruise ships combine urban-like crowding with worldwide mobility. Photo: Wikimedia

This pandemic, with an estimated mortality rate of one to two per cent, is not a world ender or something to be truly feared.

But it deserves our respect and it certainly has our attention.

Pandemics, which go off like improvised bombs, don’t have to be formidable killers to be bad. Even modest biological detonations can upend your day and alter your world.

As SARS-CoV-2 — the respiratory virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — begins its explosive global journey, it has proven its ability to clog hospitals and freeze economies.

It is worth remembering that SARS-CoV-2, unlike influenza, is a novel cold-like virus that Homo sapiens have never experienced before. We have no immunity and must acquire it either through exposure to the virus or a vaccine that most likely won’t be ready till the pandemic is over.

SARS-CoV-2 will play with different populations differently, making use of the demographic material at hand along with human follies such as the criminal dearth of testing in the United States for the last month.

And it won’t be the last. This particular biological invader springs from an ancient, large and diverse family of viruses hosted by a variety of wild animals, including bats and birds.

These species are particularly hard pressed by global economic forces now ruinously reducing biological diversity everywhere. As biological biodiversity declines, viruses will seek reliable hosts and jump from animals into people at any given opportunity. Peter Daszak, a pioneering disease ecologist, says we now live in Age of Pandemics.

SARS, a close relative of SARS-CoV-2, plugged up hospital systems and cost $50 billion to bring under control in 2003/2004. MERS, a coronavirus present in bats and camels, has burdened the care of patients with diabetes and heart disease in Middle Eastern hospitals for years now.

COVID-19 behaves a lot like its relatives. It targets the ill, smokers and the elderly. For 80 per cent of the infected, it appears as a cold-like nuisance; for 20 per cent, it is a life or death battle with hellish pneumonia (see sidebar). Judging by the escalating outbreaks in Australia, Spain, U.S., England and France, COVID-19 will trump the impacts of SARS or MERS by several orders of magnitude.

Still, at this point it seems COVID-19’s effect on the globe’s highly complex and fragile economy will likely be far more severe than its impact on public graveyards.

Practicing for de-growth

Because the pandemic shut down China, the high-speed driver of global growth, SARS-CoV-2 will usher in a prolonged global recession.

Viewed through the lens of climate crisis survival, the pandemic has produced some good news. Reduced economic activity in China, the world’s largest oil user, has already resulted in a 25 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions and blue skies. Container ship traffic across the Pacific has dropped by half to 100 sailings a month. Auto sales are down 80 per cent and exports have fallen off by nearly 20 per cent.

In this regard, the virus is readying us for what could be the new reality. To really address the climate emergency, we must slow down economic activity, reduce trade, re-localize economies and severely restrict travel.

Already, though, we see there is no smooth glide down. Dramatic decreases in oil consumption — up to four million barrels a day — have collapsed oil prices. That has given Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s top petro states, an opportunity to engage in a price war.

Increasing oil price volatility could have social and economic ramifications as calamitous as the virus for many oil-exporting nations, including Canada. SOURCE

David Attenborough calls for ban on ‘devastating’ deep sea mining

Proposed mining of seabed could destroy unstudied ecosystems and disrupt vital carbon-storing functions, says naturalist

 Deep sea corals provide habitat to a variety of organisms that could be destroyed by deep sea mining. Photograph: NOAA

Sir David Attenborough has urged governments to ban deep sea mining, following a study warning of “potentially disastrous” risks to the ocean’s life-support systems if it goes ahead.

The study, by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), warns proposed plans to mine the seabed could cause significant loss of biodiversity, disruption of the ocean’s “biological pump”, and the loss of microbes important for storing carbon. The process, requiring machines operating thousands of metres under the sea, could also create plumes of sediment that smother areas far from the mining sites and kill wildlife.

Dozens of exploratory licences, two of which are sponsored by the UK, have already been granted for huge tracts of the sea bed, ahead of a race to mine commercially for ores and minerals such as copper, used in mobile phones and batteries. But the rules to govern the responsible exploitation of this global resource are not finalised – they are expected to be completed at a meeting in July at the UN International Seabed Authority.

Attenborough, the vice president of FFI, said deep sea mining could create a “devastating series of impacts” threatening processes critical to the health and function of the oceans, and called on governments to be guided by scientists.

“Fauna & Flora International is calling on global governments to put in place a moratorium on all deep sea mining – a call I wholeheartedly support,” Attenborough said.

In a foreword to the report, Attenborough said it was “beyond reason” for countries to consider the destruction of deep sea places before they have understood them or the role they play in the health of the planet.

Attenborough said: “The rush to mine this pristine and unexplored environment risks creating terrible impacts that cannot be reversed. We need to be guided by science when faced with decisions of such great environmental consequence.”

FFI warned that human activity was already putting a huge strain on the oceans, which have absorbed a third of our carbon emissions and 93% of the extra heat trapped by the rising concentration of greenhouse gases.

Oceans are becoming more acidic because of the carbon dioxide dissolving into them, fisheries are under pressure as a result of over-exploitation and there are hundreds of huge “dead zones”, it said.

Pippa Howard, director at FFI and lead author of the report, called for a moratorium on deep sea mining. She said: “The conclusions we have come to after extensive study could hardly be more troubling.

“From methane release to disruption of the ocean’s life-support systems and the destruction of unstudied ecosystems, the risks of deep sea mining are numerous and potentially disastrous.”

Louise Casson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said the UK government’s holding of exploration contracts for deep sea mining was at odds with its position as a “global ocean champion”.

Casson said: “The UK government now has a choice to make: listen to industry and press ahead with this dangerous new practice, or listen to scientific warnings, public concern and the creator of Blue Planet himself and ban deep sea mining.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK continues to press for the highest international environmental standards, including on deep sea mineral extraction.

“While we have sponsored two exploration licences, these allow only for marine research to understand the effects of deep sea mining.

“We will not issue a single exploitation licence without a full assessment of the environmental impact.” SOURCE

RELATED:

In too deep: why the seabed should be off-limits to mining companies

TAKE ACTION! Global Climate Strike: Green New Deal, Green New Decade!

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Friday April 3, 12pm (noon)
Queen’s Park, Toronto
Join us on April 3rd for Toronto’s Global Climate Strike!
We will be rallying at 12pm at Queen’s Park and then we will begin the march at 12:45pm.
Our demands:


Indigenous self determination
Liveable futures for all
Separation of oil and state
Universal public service and infrastructure
A just transition
Defending land, water and life
Justice for migrants and refugees
Zero carbon economy
  

 

Opinion: Coronavirus Can Teach Us the Value of a Democratic Economy Heading into November

Credit:  Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Wise people always remind us to never let a good crisis go to waste.

Wise people with evil inclinations have, of course, taken this sage advice to heart, often exploiting crises, sometimes even arguably manufacturing them, in order to achieve nefarious ends. Naomi Klein, for example, in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, develops precisely this thesis. She studies crises, such as the Iraq War or Hurricane Katrina, as moments when political and economic leaders took advantage of people’s physical and emotional distraction, their fear and vulnerability and desperate need, to push through neoliberal policies that effectively rolled back civil rights and democracy, furthered economic inequality, and basically consolidated power even further in the hands of the few.

So, the question before us is whether we can make the crisis of the coronavirus outbreak an opportunity to clearly see the flaws, or perpetual and ongoing crises that are typically less visible, in U.S. society that any major crisis tends to draw into relief, or whether the coronavirus outbreak will further threaten the health of our already weakened and teetering democracy in America.

What can we learn from what is going on, if we are paying attention?

Well, here are a few thoughts:

Perhaps the defining hallmark of neoliberalism, as I’ll discuss throughout this piece, is its rejection of any concept of a determinable public good and its insistence that there are only private interests.  This neoliberal kernel of thought undergirds the bootstrap ideology so prevalent in American culture, the idea that people need to pull themselves up through their own efforts and stop asking for help or blaming societal conditions for their miseries and deprivations.  On a more extreme level, this thought kernel is also the premise for attacks on the social safety net, on so-called “entitlement” programs like social security and medicare, and generally on progressive policies that want to leverage tax dollars to provide vital social services, programs, and infrastructure for the American people. Neoliberal voices frequently refer to this package of programs as “free stuff,” even though the programs that provide safety nets are typically insurance programs into which most Americans pay.

The conditions drawn into relief by the coronavirus make clear, however, that we cannot separate private interests from the public good, or, more to point, that serving the public good is vital to our abilities to pursue and further our private interests.  The two are intimately intertwined. We must ensure others are taken care of if we are to be taken care and be able to take care of ourselves and get the care we need.

Let’s look at the situation in concrete terms. A person with coronavirus without paid sick days who can’t afford to miss work shows up to your workplace, to the school your children attend, or to the cafeteria where you eat. What’s worse, the person has poor or no health insurance so he can’t get tested and there are public provisions for testing.  You are now at risk. Your private interests are impacted by the fact that we do not have an adequately resourced public health system and response.

Or, think about the healthcare workers who contract the virus because of an inadequate public health response and thus cannot be available to treat you when you are in need.

It is not uncommon in our American world to hear people complain about taxes to help support someone else or give someone else a lunch or a doctor’s visit. But the bottom line is that we all need to participate in taking care of each other out of our own self-interests. And the reality, if we’re honest, is that we already do this.

Stop and think about all the people you depend on—whether you ever see them or not—for the food you eat, the medicine you get, the information communicated to you, the heat in your home, the water you drink, and so on and so on.

Albert Einstein stopped to think about our inevitable interdependence in 1949 when he reflected on what he termed “the essence of the crisis of our time.”  He wrote:

“It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration.”

Einstein profoundly asserts that dependence is not weakness but strength—and, more to the point, undeniable reality.   Our fear and denial of this dependence is actually what threatens us.

If I deny my dependence on others, will I seek to make sure those others are healthy, well-fed, housed, have the basic conditions necessary to sustain their lives?  If I don’t do that, I actually end up endangering my own existence because I them to make my life possible.

As Einstein reminds us, “In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary.”

We tend to de-value others and their labor in the U.S., arguing over which lives matter, often insisting some don’t.

And yet, as Einstein explains in the essay I’ve been quoting titled “Why Socialism?,” valuing others’ lives is essential to sustaining our own.

Recognizing the reality of our mutual dependence may be the basis for actually developing a democratic economy that properly values people’s lives and labor, including our own, ensuring access to all the resources that make our lives possible.

If we pay attention, the developments of the coronavirus crisis might provide the insight and impetus to realize this transformation.

CA

Climate Change Has Lessons for Fighting the Coronavirus

María Medem

“Alarming levels of inaction.” That is what the World Health Organization said Wednesday about the global response to coronavirus.

It is a familiar refrain to anyone who works on climate change, and it is why global efforts to slow down warming offer a cautionary tale for the effort to slow down the pandemic.

“Both demand early aggressive action to minimize loss,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was teaching classes remotely this week. “Only in hindsight will we really understand what we gambled on and what we lost by not acting early enough.”

Scientists like Dr. Cobb have, for years, urged world leaders to bend the curve of planet-warming emissions. Instead, emissions have raced upward. Now the consequences are being felt: a three-month-long flood in the Florida Keyswildfires across a record hot and dry Australia, deadly heat waves in Europe.

Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, called the virus “climate change on warp speed.”

[[ For the latest coronavirus news, read live updates.]]

Why have we not taken climate risks to heart? Politics and psychology play a role.

Change is hard when there’s a powerful industry blocking it. The fossil fuel industry has pushed climate science denial into the public consciousness. It has lobbied against policies that could rein in the emissions of planet-warming gases. And, it has succeeded: The United States, history’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is the only country in the world to have withdrawn from the Paris accord, designed to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Get an informed guide to the global outbreak with our daily coronavirus newsletter.

On display this week was some of that same disregard for scientific evidence with respect to coronavirus, which prompted an unusually blunt editorial in Science magazine. It called out President Trump for demanding a coronavirus vaccine at a time when his administration had gutted funding for scientific research and repeatedly questioned the fundamentals of science, saying, “you can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand.”

Then, there’s human psychology. As with climate change, our collective ability to confront the pandemic is shaped by our brains. We are bad at thinking about tomorrow.

Credit…María Medem

 

Elke Weber, a behavioral scientist at Princeton University, said that makes climate science, which deals in future probabilities, “hard to process and hard for us to be afraid of.”

“We are evolutionarily wired for taking care of the here and now,” Dr. Weber said. “We are bad at these decisions that require planning for the future.”

That appears to be true even if the future isn’t so far away. The Arctic is on track to be ice-free in summers in 20 years, researchers say, while the Amazon rain forest could turn into a savanna in 50 years.

Here, too, are lessons for our ability to confront the virus. Precisely because we are bad as individuals at thinking about tomorrow, economists and psychologists say it’s all the more important to have leaders enact policies that enable us to protect ourselves against future risk.

For coronavirus, those may be costly now, Dr. Wagner pointed out in a telephone interview, but they yield huge benefits in the not-too-distant future.

“It’s costs today and benefits within days and weeks,” Dr. Wagner said of the needed coronavirus measures. “Even though the time scale is compressed, we still apparently can’t figure out what to do.”

Scientists have repeatedly said that global emissions must be reduced by half over the next decade in order to keep average temperatures from rising to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, from preindustrial levels. A failure to do so is likely to usher in catastrophes as early as 2040, including the inundation of coastlines, worsening wildfires and droughts.

Those warnings don’t spark much policy change. We are not told to do the climate equivalent of coughing into our elbows. We are not discouraged from flying. Instead, sales of sports utility vehicles soar. The Amazon burns so more soy and cattle can be produced.

The dangers of to human life, though, are already being felt. Climate change was linked to a crippling drought around Cape Town in 2018. Heat waves in Western Europe last summer resulted in hundreds of additional deaths, according to government agencies. In England alone, over the course of two months, there were an additional 892 deaths, mostly older people, while in France that number was 1,435.

A study by University of Chicago researchers projected that, by 2100, climate change would kill roughly as many people as the number who die of cancer and infectious disease today. As with the European heat waves, the most vulnerable in society will bear the brunt. “Today’s poor bear a disproportionately high share of the global mortality risks of climate change,” the paper concluded.

But here’s the big unknown: Will the effort to revive the global economy after the pandemic accelerate the emissions of planet-warming gases, rather than avert climate change? That depends on whether the world’s big economies, like China and the United States, use this moment to enact green growth policies or continue to prop up fossil fuel industries.

This was to be a crucial year for global climate goals, with presidents and prime ministers under pressure to get more ambitious about reining in greenhouse gas emissions when they gather for United Nations-led climate talks in Glasgow in November. The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has leaned on world leaders to announce more ambitious targets and to end what he called “vast and wasteful subsidies for fossil fuels.”

In a speech this week, Mr. Guterres hinted at another deficit faced by both the health and climate crises.

“In the months ahead, we need to rebuild trust,” he said. “We need to demonstrate that international cooperation is the only way to deliver meaningful results.” SOURCE