Sunday, February 2, 2014

Climate change as the paramount issue

I may have mentioned before that I participate in a local study group on sustainability which has now been running for slightly less than a year. We discuss many aspects of sustainability but so far we have tended to focus on social and economic issues. Although the issue of climate change has always been there in our minds, we have tended not to focus on it. This, I think, is because none of our early participants has a significant scientific education and so other aspects of sustainability have seemed more accessible.

I think we have to tackle the subject nevertheless. This is because I think the threat from climate change requires us to overturn a lot of generally-accepted thinking about the economy and this has profound political and social implications. Furthermore, other perceived threats to our civilisation -  such as food shortages resulting from over-population - would look manageable were they not amplified either by the effects of climate change or by action needed to tackle it. Before I elaborate, I should clarify some of my premises:-

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Nasty, brutish and short?

A pregnant relation recently asked me: what does global warming really mean? I replied something along these lines: it means that if your child has a child, then global warming may render that child's life nasty, brutish and short. I wondered afterwards whether I could really justify what I had said. Everything I have read recently suggests that I was right but I want to be prepared to set out in detail why.

In my last blog post, about Tim Jackson's Prosperity without growth?, I hinted that I would be trying to update some of Jackson's figures. In fact, I have a more general project to get a better handle on the figures relevant to global warming and related issues. This familiarisation is intended as a prelude to a wider project to do more campaigning on the issue of climate change.

For some years I have been alarmed at the disconnect between what the science tells us about global warming and what politicians and the public seem prepared to contemplate by way of action. There is, for instance, much talk among politicians about returning to economic growth and hardly any discussion about whether growth is compatible with serious action to mitigate the threat from global warming.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Prosperity without growth?

I have just re-read Prosperity without growth?, by Tim Jackson, published in 2009 by the Sustainable Development Commission, which the government abolished in 2011. I skimmed through it when it first came out but, not then having  the time to study it in detail, I was left wondering whether action to tackle climate change really does mean doing without economic growth. Although in the long run (perhaps when we're all dead) growth can't continue on a finite planet, it's possible to argue in principle that growth can continue for some years or even decades while we transition towards a zero-carbon economy.