NASA

Until We Confront Capitalism, We Won’t solve the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol ##LabConf18 #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy. #Neoliberalism

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992.

Consumer-focused solutions to climate change such as eating less meat or reducing food mileage, though important, simply won’t be enough to address the systemic nature of the crisis.

So what needs to be done to halt global warming?

Truthout spoke to Simon Pirani about his newest book, Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, and the prospects for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel world.

Anton Woronczuk: Burning Up situates the last few decades of accelerating fossil fuel consumption alongside the social and economic history of energy production and policy.

How does this context help us understand what is driving, and what has driven, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through today?

Simon Pirani: When people think about the threat of dangerous climate change, and decide they want to do something about it, it is not easy to work out what to do. It is clear we have to move away from fossil fuels, but not clear how. Governments claim they have solutions, which people instinctively (and rightly) disbelieve, and newspapers report simple, bullet-point proposals – such as “stop eating meat” – the effect of which is unclear.

Moving away from fossil fuels is difficult because they are so deeply embedded in economic activity, in the way that we live.

In Burning Up I hoped to make clearer how that has happened through recent history. 

Take the example of cars and urban infrastructure based on them.

There are technological drivers.

Using an internal combustion engine for motor transport was a truly remarkable innovation. But it took place in an economic and social context: the rise of American capitalism. The USA had oil resources. It had aggressive entrepreneurs who not only pioneered the use of production lines to build cars – and to help discipline and control the workers who made them – but also dreamt up sales techniques to turn the car into a marketable commodity and an object of consumerism.

By the late 20th century, the motor manufacturers had become a fearsome political lobby.

They had undermined alternative forms of transport, remade American cities to serve cars, and frustrated fuel efficiency regulation.

The American example was followed by cities across the rich world during the post war boom, and beyond it from the 1980s onwards.

It was not inevitable that motor technology would come to be used so inefficiently, or that urban transport systems would become subservient to it.

That was conditioned by the way capitalism expanded.

We need to account for technological, social, economic and political elements, to understand how fossil fuel consumption has become unsustainable.

We also need to specify what we mean by “unsustainable.” The human price paid for fossil fuels has always been high – coal miners killed down pits, urban residents’ lives cut short by air pollution.

Global warming, the nature of which only became clear to scientists about thirty years ago, has made it unsustainable in a whole new way.

You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and economic systems in which they function.

What is the significance of this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?

Simon Pirani

The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war; and of government complicity.

Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late 19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture.

The technologies of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things worse.

The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective network, loaded with commercial content.

By contrast, networked technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.

Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption.

Enthusiasm for geoengineering is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies. 

Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.

Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these techniques with huge concern.

I recently went to a seminar with researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar radiation modification.”

Someone wants to make it sound less like the giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is! 

Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded.

Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking about such deep-going change.

Common solutions promoted by some environmentalists are often framed in terms of changing individual consumption or those of populations, especially of the rich world.

Some of these include eating less (or no) meat, buying more local produce, using more public transportation, etc.

What do these solutions obscure in terms of how fossil fuels are consumed in and through societies (unequally) across the world?

For a start, focusing on rich-world hamburger eaters ignores the whole supply chain that produces such fuel-intensive, unhealthy products.

Appealing to rich-world drivers to get the bus only makes sense as part of a challenge to the whole urban transport system they depend on, that favors cars.

I try to minimize my own hamburger consumption and car use, but I don’t treat consumption as a moral issue. And it is not primarily an individual phenomenon: fuels are consumed by and through technological and economic systems.

Second, working people in the rich world spend their lives fending off the effects of elites’ encroachments on their living standards.

Under the present economic and political conditions, reducing consumption would often make their lives harder.

It needn’t do, but that’s how things stand now.

The French government wrapped up its latest attempt at austerity as a climate policy, and came unstuck.

Too bad for them.

In reality, averting global warming, working out ways to live better lives, and countering social injustice are all part of the same approach to life.

We need to work out how to express that politically. 

Look at the reaction in France to the proposed fuel tax increase.

It ignited a general revolt against neoliberal encroachments on working people’s living standards.

The government has retreated, and not only abandoned the planned tax increase, but also promised to increase the minimum wage.

Right-wing commentators have falsely claimed that the protest movement was against climate policies.

I saw no evidence of that.

While the movement is politically heterogeneous, an overarching theme is that working people are sick of being asked to pay for everything.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established in 1992, was heralded by many as a major accomplishment in international efforts to address global warming; but you argue that Rio, and subsequent UN conferences, ensured that ecological imperatives were subordinate to economic interests.

Can you explain what this entailed and how it persisted through the Paris agreement?

Climate science has a history too.

The world’s ruling elites have long known that coal mines kill mineworkers, and cared little. But they did not know that fossil fuels were feeding into the global warming threat until the 1980s.

Only then did scientists clarify how warming happens, and the role played by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. But once the ruling elites had the science in front of them, they fought desperately to limit the actions taken to those that reinforced, or at least did not threaten, their economic dominance.

The political expression of this was the refusal by the US and other governments to countenance the idea of binding emissions reduction targets.

This was consistent in the international climate negotiations from 1992 onwards. Another theme was that market mechanisms should be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This was the basis of the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the disastrously unsuccessful emissions trading schemes it provided for.

A huge amount of political energy is expended to convince us that the international climate talks are dealing with the global warming problem.

They simply are not.

Since 1992 the annual level of greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel use has risen by more than half.

That is a failure.

If we don’t characterize the talks in that way, we cannot deal with the political consequences.

The 2015 Paris agreement marked the final collapse of attempts to adopt binding emissions targets.

I do not want to say the voluntary targets adopted are worthless, or that the policies adopted in some countries to achieve them are not helpful, or that serious efforts – most obviously, the substantial investment in renewable energy for electricity generation – are not being made to move away from some uses of fossil fuels. But we need to assess progress soberly and not confuse hopes with reality.

A widely celebrated proposal for a “Green New Deal” has been touted by many center-left politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, as a solution to the multiple crises we face today.

What is your evaluation of it?

The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings.

It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.

Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen.

The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering.

Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.

In Burning Up I argued that not just a social-democratic spending program, but a much deeper-going shift to post-capitalist social relations, could provide the context for the fundamental changes in social, economic and technological systems that will be necessary to break the economy’s many-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s how I see the future.

By saying that, I don’t deny the need for immediate responses. But the most noticeable immediate responses will come from governments.

If anyone tells me they are up to the job of dealing with climate change, I would point to the fact that annual global fossil fuel consumption has risen by more than 60 percent since the Rio convention was signed.

That’s the result of governments’ response.

Australian school pupils understand that simple arithmetic better than they understand politicians’ promises, which is why they went on strike in protest at inaction on climate change.

They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.

Press link for more: Truth Out

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#COP24 outcome misses urgency of #climatebreakdown #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani demand #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

As the COP24 climate summit comes to an end, it is clear that governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impacts of climate change that were highlighted in the landmark IPCC report on 1.5°C.

Based on a now widely operational Paris Agreement the next two years need to be used to build far-reaching transformational partnerships and reach the level of ambition science makes clear is necessary.

COP24 failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020. At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rulebook for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate impacts will be provided and accounted for.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

It has also set a good example when, together with several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, it committed to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC report.

However, it has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled their support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

In reaction to the COP24 outcomes, Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:

“The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens.

Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55% reduction some Member States and the European Parliament are calling for.”

ENDS

Contact:

Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Head of Communications, ania@caneurope.org, +32 494 525 738

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change.

With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.

CAN Europe members made the following statements wrapping up COP24:

Jennifer Tollmann, Climate Diplomacy Researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test. Will they pull their weight in closing the global emissions gap and support their climate vulnerable allies to weather the storm?”

Mattias Söderberg, Climate Advisor, DanChurchAid said: “Poor and vulnerable countries are left behind with the agreement from Katowice.

People who face loss and damage due to droughts, flooding and devastating storms are not acknowledged.

This puts more burden on those living in poverty who are affected by the worst impacts of climate change, and who in most cases have very few emissions themselves.”

Christoph Bals, Policy Director of Germanwatch said: “It’s very clear that the world expects the EU to lead in climate politics.

In the end we have seen some attempts of EU countries to play a constructive role in the high ambition coalition. But only far reaching transformational partnerships between EU members and other countries can develop the necessary geopolitical dynamics for transformation.”

Neil Makaroff, European Policy Officer of Reseau Action Climat France said: “The COP24 climate negotiations should be a wakeup call for EU countries: there is no time to waste in childish divisions.

The IPCC report clearly highlighted that our home is burning and we have a limited time to save it.

Governments should be united in engaging Europe in a more ambitious climate policy, both boosting the energy transition and ensuring that it is socially just, benefiting to all. Europeans have this special responsibility to pave the way and lead climate actions by example.”

Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change, CARE International said: “At COP24, a number of powerful countries driven by short-sighted interests pushed to abolish the ambitious 1.5°C limit and throw away the alarming findings on harmful climate impacts of the IPCC Special Report.

The most vulnerable countries, civil society and people on the ground have been leading the fight for climate justice.

While governments accomplished the task of adopting a rulebook to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the world now requires much faster and stronger climate action at the national level, and support for poor countries to build climate resilience.”

Sebastian Scholz, Head of Climate Policy, NABU/BirdLife Germany said: “Again at this COP civil society made their demand clear to those decide to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming.

None the less several issues weren’t solved by the delegations.

Even the alarming findings of the IPCC Special Report weren’t properly integrated into the outcome.

The EU had a rather weak position on closing loopholes in the accounting guidelines of the rulebook.

This won’t help to limit emissions, but also incentivise the use of non sustainable biomass for energy supply, and therefore risks a further loss of biodiversity.”

Karin Lexén, Secretary General of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said: “Two months ago, the scientific community sent an emergency message on the state of the climate crisis.

Coming to Katowice, we demanded no less than an emergency response.

This was not delivered.

Now all countries must urgently pick up the baton, do their homework and get ready to radically scale up climate action at home.

In Sweden, we demand a ban on fossil fuels by 2030.”

Otto Bruun, Climate Policy Officer, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation said: “Climate scientists have highlighted a safe option to avert climate chaos. Early retirement of fossil fuels should go hand in hand with the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. While the governments at the Katowice conference did not produce the rulebook to match the ambition of the Paris treaty, governments must now mind the gap in ambition and increase their efforts at once. The April 2019 general election in Finland looks set be a climate election. Our collective ambition in civil society is to drive through an unforeseen and just policy shift to immediately protect and restore forest and peatland carbon sinks while retiring all fossil fuels altogether within two decades.”

Press link for more: CAN Europe

Burning Down The House: Fighting Climate Action From The Centre Will Leave Us In Ashes #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian leftwing writer, editor and former socialist activist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the co-author of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He is also the author of Communism: A Love Story and Killing: Misadventures in Violence. Wikipedia

Demonstrators stand next to metal barriers around the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at The Arc of Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 1, 2018. (IMAGE: vfutscher, Flickr)

As the globe – and the political climate aimed at saving it – heats up, we need a different politics to tackle an entrenched problem, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Sensible centrism will doom us all.

Take Emmanuel Macron, once hailed everywhere as the savior of liberalism.

“Macron,” explained Politico in April this year, “has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame.”

Nor was this an anomalous view in the English-speaking world.

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid expressed the perspective of many American Democrats, when she quipped that Macron should be running Washington.

As Salon put it, “Macron appeared to have everything that centrist Democrats could ever want in a candidate; he was young, smart and charismatic, yet also mature and pragmatic (as all centrists are, in the neoliberal worldview).

Macron also appeared to be different and innovative, like a political version of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and claimed to be “neither left nor right,” as if to have a political ideology was to have an outdated worldview, something like using a flip phone in 2018.”

In Britain, he generated the same kind of excitement among the same kind of people, with Labourite opponents of Jeremy Corbyn enthusing over the ‘new Tony Blair’, even as a new Macron-inspired centrist party called Renew came into being.

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured in 2018. (IMAGE: Mike Bloomberg, Flickr)

One doubts that the Boy Wonder will feature much in Renew’s further history (if indeed it has one), given that recent opinion polls, conducted in the wake of the heroic Yellow Vest rebellion revealed him to be the most unpopular leader in recent times.

With riots, blockades and protests spreading across the country, the demand for Macron’s resignation provided a central slogan uniting an often fractious movement.

But his failure represents something more than the misfire of an overhyped media personality.

It illustrates the peculiar danger posed by the ongoing infatuation of supposed progressives with the so-called ‘radical centre’.

Macron’s international boosters had presented him as the figure to stem the rise of reactionary populism in Europe, someone who would combine market-based prosperity with liberal reforms.

When, in December 2017, Trump repudiated the Paris Climate Accords, Macron launched a slick social media campaign around the slogan ‘Make the planet great again’.

To that end, he proposed a so-called ‘eco tax’ on fuel, a levy intended, he explained, to discourage car use and to raise funds for climate change mitigation.

Symptomatically, though, he provided no alternative for working class drivers in the outer suburbs, small towns and rural areas without public transport.

The meteoric rise of the Yellow Vests reflected the widespread (and accurate) perception that the fuel tax constituted another attack by a government of the rich on some of the poorest people in the country.

In many ways, the tax represented the final straw for a population long sick of austerity.

The Macron bubble had, in fact, already burst well before the Yellow Vests took over the streets.

In September, Reuters reported his popularity at a then record low, with voters “ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain[ing]his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich”.

Yellow Vests protestors, pictured in Paris on December 1. (IMAGE: Prachatai, Flickr)

Nevertheless, for those of us watching from afar, it’s worth reflecting on how centrism brought the rhetoric of environmentalism directly into conflict with the aspirations of the people, in a manner that gave ammunition to the worst denialists.

Hasn’t every right-wing demagogue, from Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson, denounced climate change as a chatter class preoccupation imposed to shackle the working man?

Thus, rather than defeating the reactionary populists, Macron provided them, via his tax, with an effective talking point, a confirmation of the perspective they’ve long argued.

As he back-pedalled, the president acknowledged what he called the tension between ‘the end of the world’ and the ‘end of the month’.

The formulation was repeated by sympathetic commentators who declared that, in the future, environmental measures must be imposed gradually, so as to ease the pain of those living payday to payday. But that argument, too, accepts the underlying frame of the far right, positing workers as innately opposed to an environmentalism that, by definition, rendered them poorer and more miserable.

In reality, it’s climate change, not climate action, that necessarily threatens ordinary people, simply because the environmental crisis can no longer be disentangled from the broader crisis of a decaying capitalism.

The catastrophic weather associated with global warming will, for instance, overwhelmingly affect those already targeted by austerity – the individuals too poor to relocate or rebuild or use aircon or take other preventative measures.

The refugees from rising seas will be indistinguishable from the victims of war and poverty; the political ruptures provoked by drought, land degradation and other environmental disasters will blend into the general instability of the 21st century.

Yellow Vest protestors in Metz, Lorraine. (IMAGE: Dmitry Dzhus, Flickr)

The tension between climate activism and the working class emerges not from the nature of the problem but from the logic of centrist solutions, which always centre on neoliberal mechanisms such as carbon taxes.

But there’s no environmental reason to rely on the market to combat fossil fuels.

A government could, after all, forcibly acquire polluting industries at the stroke of the pen, much as almost every regime nationalised parts of the economy during the Second World War.


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To put it another way, the decarbonisation of the developed nations could be presented in a program designed to extend democratic control over industry, improve working conditions and materially improve the lives of the populace.

If it’s not – if climate action instead becomes a fig-leaf for austerity – that’s because of political choice rather than necessity.

Centrists pride themselves on their political acumen.

Carbon taxes and other market mechanisms might not be ideal, they say, but they reflect the horizon of the possible. 

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

Macron’s example demonstrates the bankruptcy of that argument.

To their credit, the Yellow Vests seem to be moving to the left rather than to the right.

Nevertheless, the French situation will inspire right-wing populists everywhere to bring climate denial to the front of their agenda, adding to the difficulty of achieving genuine environmental change across Europe and elsewhere.

The fight for climate change depends on ordinary working people.

We have more to learn from the Yellow Vests and their militancy than we do from ‘sensible centrists’, no matter how much they drape themselves in green.

Now, more than ever, climate action must become radical.

Press link for more: New Matilda

What’s a universal basic income doing in Ocasio-Cortez’s “#GreenNewDeal”? #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

By Dan Kopf

AP/Susan Walsh

Throwing the kitchen sink at climate change.

In 2007, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a story calling for a “Green New Deal.”

Friedman explained that he no longer believed that there was one silver-bullet program that would solve climate change.

Rather, just as a variety of programs were part of former US president Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” for economic revitalization in the 1930s, so it would take a variety of investments in environmentally-friendly technologies to help stabilize the climate.

Friedman almost certainly could not have imagined that some day politicians would propose a Green New Deal that might include a universal basic income.

Newly elected US congress member and rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for office on an ambitious climate-change platform which she also calls a Green New Deal.

The plan has gained attention and supporters over the last month, and is becoming a main talking point among Democrats who are looking for a meaningful agenda for the party over the next decade.

Ocasio-Cortez envisions the federal government leading efforts to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions by investing in renewable energy infrastructure, improving the efficiency of residential and industrial buildings, and constructing an energy-efficient electricity grid.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, however, involves taking on not only climate change, but also poverty and inequality.

To achieve the Green New Deal’s goals, the government would need to hire millions of people. Ocasio-Cortez sees this as an opportunity to transform the economy.

The Green New Deal would include training and education for workers, as well as a federal job-guarantee program.

Further, all investments would be focused on low-income communities.

Presenting climate-change mitigation as a jobs program, rather than an economy killer, may be politically savvy.

As if all that wasn’t ambitious enough, the Green New Deal would also include “basic income programs, universal healthcare programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor-market flexibility, and entrepreneurism.”

It is basically everything liberals desire and more.

Supporters defend the need for these welfare programs as ways to alleviate the disruption that would be caused by the elimination of fossil fuel-supported jobs.

With a universal basic income and government-guaranteed health care, losing your oil-industry gig wouldn’t be as bad.

The program would of course be very expensive.

It’s hard to estimate how much it would cost, as the details are still murky. Green Party leader Jill Stein estimated that her version of the Green New Deal, which is less ambitious than the one presented by Ocasio-Cortez, would cost $700 billion to $1 trillion annually.

Ocasio-Cortez says hers would be funded by debt spending and tax increases.

In Friedman’s original conception, the government played a much smaller role in the Green New Deal.

He believed the government’s place was not in funding projects, but in seeding research and creating tax incentives and efficiency standards (paywall), and that harnessing the power of the private sector was the key to taking on climate change.

While Ocasio-Cortez believes the private sector has a role to play, she argues that the scale of the project is too big to leave to government-guided market forces.

The Green New Deal has come a long and very expensive way.

It still far cheaper than catastrophic climate change.

Press link for more: QZ.Com

We need a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #TheDrum Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy

By Ruth Kaser

Ruth Kaser is a retired Roseburg teacher. A past board member of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition.

When the Roseburg Library opens its doors, get your hands on “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan. It is page-turner nonfiction that follows some tough, hard-luck people through the Dust Bowl.

It is a story with surprising resonance today.

Australia in the grip of record drought.

My parents grew up during those years of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. My dad farmed in Colorado, a part of the country deeply impacted by that natural, economic and human disaster.

Maybe I wasn’t listening, or dad didn’t want to burden his kids with those stories, but I had no idea the scale of misery visited largely on the poorest, least-powerful people in this country in those years.

A compelling story that resonates today, it tells of hard working people trying to realize the American dream by plowing up the prairie and planting it in wheat — acre after acre of wheat.

These people, boxed out of opportunity in the East and Far West, are encouraged to come to the southern plains.

They are enticed to farm a dry buffalo grass prairie by a government that is at a minimum ignorant of how all that plowing will impact the cattlemen who already were there, the native people who had been promised this land seen as useless, the wildlife that had flourished in its harsh environment, and ultimately the farmers themselves, who would be ruined by their own success.

It is also the story of a government which belatedly took drastic but successful action to reclaim that now ruined land by creating soil protection districts, teaching new methods of farming and planting thousands of trees as wind breaks.

That government action was opposed by hate filled politicians who blamed Jews or immigrants or nature for the disaster.

It was opposed by honorable men who feared a federal government’s power. But those who recognized the scale and potential of this horror show were tenacious and dogged and won.

Had they not been, the misery would have been even worse, and this country may have had an economy that never recovered.

We now face a worldwide disaster in climate change of even greater size and potential to cause misery to hardworking people everywhere.

Once again it is largely the result of humans and of governments either ignorant of the price of complacency or willing to sacrifice the bulk of humanity for re-election, power or wealth.

We need leaders the equal of those who then took on all the forces that said “Do nothing,” or “Do less,” and through their courage and tenacity led this country out of the dark misery of the Dust Bowl.

We need to support all those young people calling for a Green New Deal to match the New Deal of the 1930s.

We need to have the grit of the Americans who lived through watching their children die of dust pneumonia.

Americans who lost everything, surviving on wild game and pickled tumble weeds, and kept going.

If they could suffer all that and not throw up their hands in despair so that we could enjoy all the opportunity and ease we have today, surely we can use less, drive less and vote more for leaders who recognize the catastrophe on the horizon.

Somewhere all three Roosevelt’s, FDR, Teddy and Eleanor, are rooting for us to do just that.

Press link for more: NR Today

How to create a leaderless revolution and win lasting political change #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #TheDrum #GreenNewDeal

The gilets jaunes movement in France is a leaderless political uprising.

It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

Occupy, the Arab spring and #MeToo are other recent examples of this new politics.

Some of it is good.

Some of it is not: a leaderless movement, self-organised on Reddit, helped elect Donald Trump.

But leaderless movements are spreading, and we need to understand where they come from, what is legitimate action and, if you want to start one, what works and what doesn’t.

The Arab spring began with the self-immolation of one despairing young man in Tunisia; the revolt rapidly spread across the region, just as protests have proliferated in France.

In highly connected complex systems, such as the world today, the action of a single agent can suddenly trigger what complexity theorists call a “phase shift” across the entire system.

We cannot predict which agent or what event might be that trigger. But we already know that the multiplying connections of our worldoffer an unprecedented opportunity for the rise and spread of leaderless movements.

Leaderless movements spring from frustration with conventional top-down politics, a frustration shared by many, not only those on the streets.

Polls suggest the gilets jaunes are supported by a large majority of the French public.

Who believes that writing to your MP, or signing a petition to No 10 makes any difference to problems such as inequality, the chronic housing shortage or the emerging climate disaster?

Even voting feels like a feeble response to these deep-seated problems that are functions not only of government policies but more of the economic system itself.

What such movements oppose is usually clear, but what they propose is inevitably less so: that is their nature.

The serial popular uprisings of the Arab spring all rejected authoritarian rule, whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. But in most places there was no agreement about what kind of government should replace the dictators.

In Eygpt, the Tahrir Square protests failed to create an organised democratic political party that could win an election.

Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood, long highly organised and thus prepared for such a moment, stepped into the political vacuum.

In turn, this provoked further mass protest, which eventually brought to power another dictatorship as repressive as Hosni Mubarak’s.

When the demand is for change in social relations– norms more than laws – such as the end of sexual harassment, the results can be as rapid but also more enduring and positive.

The #MeToo movement has provoked questioning of gender relations across the world.

The British deputy prime minister, Damian Green, was forced to resign; in India, a cabinet minister. The effects are uneven, and far from universal, but sexual harassers have been outed and ousted from positions of power in the media, NGOs and governments.

Some mass action has required leadership. The race discrimination that confronted the US civil rights movement was deeply entrenched in both American society and its laws. Martin Luther King and other leaders paid exquisite attention to strategy, switching tactics according to what worked and what didn’t.

King correctly judged, however, that real and lasting equality required the reform of capitalism – a change in the system itself.

In a sense, his objective went from the singular to the plural. And that is where his campaign hit the rocks.

Momentum dissipated when King started to talk about economic equality: there was no agreement on the diagnosis, or the solution.

The Occupy movement faced a similar problem.

It succeeded in inserting inequality and economic injustice into the mainstream political conversation – politicians had avoided the topic before. But Occupy couldn’t articulate a specific political programme to reform the system.

I was in Zuccotti Park in New York City, where the protest movement began, when the “general assembly” invited the participants to pin notes listing their demands on to trees. Ideas were soon plastered up, from petitioning Washington DC to replacing the dollar – many of which, of course, were irreconcilable with each other.

This is why a leaderless response to the climate change disaster is tricky.

It’s striking that in Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax rises the gilets jaunes opposed the very thing demanded by Extinction Rebellion, Britain’s newly minted leaderless movement: aggressive policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero.

Macron’s proposals would have hit the poorest hardest, illustrating that resolving the crises of the environment and inequality requires a more comprehensive, carefully wrought solution to both. But leaderless movements have largely proved incapable of such complicated decision-making, as anyone at Zuccotti Park will attest.

Conventional party politicians, reasserting their own claim to legitimacy, insist that such problems can only be arbitrated by imposing more top-down policy. But when most feel powerless about the things that matter, this may only provoke further protests.

Ultimately, to address profound systemic challenges, we shall need new participatory and inclusive decision-making structures to negotiate the difficult choices.

An example of these forums has emerged in parts of Syria, of all places. Rightly, this is precisely what the Extinction Rebellion is also demanding.

Inevitably, leaderless movements face questions about their legitimacy.

One answer lies in their methods.

The Macron government has exploited the violence seen in Paris and elsewhere to claim that the gilets jaunes movement is illegitimate and anti-democratic.

Mahatma Gandhi, and later King, realised that nonviolent action – such as the satyagraha salt march or the Montgomery bus boycott – denies the authorities this line of attack.

On the contrary, the violence used by those authorities – the British colonial government or the police of the southern US states – against nonviolent protestors helped build their own legitimacy and attracted global attention.

Complexity science tells us something else important.

System-wide shifts happen when the system is primed for change, at so-called criticality.

In the Middle East there was almost universal anger at the existing political status quo, so it took only one match to light the fire of revolt.

Meeting people in colleges and towns across the UK but also in the US (where I lived until recently) you can hear the mounting frustration with a political and economic system that is totally unresponsive to the needs of the 99%, and offers no credible answer to the climate emergency.

There will be more leaderless movements to express this frustration, just as there will be more rightwing demagogues, like Trump or Boris Johnson, who seek to exploit it to their own advantage.

For the right ones to prevail, we must insist on nonviolence as well as commitment to dialogue with – and not denunciation of – those who disagree.

Messily, a new form of politics is upon us, and we must ensure that it peacefully and democratically produces deep systematic reform, not the counter-reaction of the authoritarians.

Get ready.

 Carne Ross is a former British diplomat and author of The Leaderless Revolution

Press link for more: The Guardian

Coastal Warning: An Unwelcome Messenger on the Risks of Rising Seas #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange demand a #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum

Marine scientist Orrin Pilkey has long been cautioning about sea level rise and the folly of building and rebuilding along coastlines.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about why an eventual retreat from oceanfront property on the U.S. coast is inevitable.

Flooded homes in Ocean County, New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

For six decades, Orrin Pilkey has written, taught, and preached about the beauty of barrier islands and the extraordinary risk of building in coastal floodplains. In more than 40 books, 250 scientific papers and journal articles, and countless opinion pieces, Pilkey has fashioned a vision of coasts as dynamic, living landscapes, with their own personalities, quirks and flaws, “not unlike people,” he says. 

To the extent that America has a public conscience of its coasts, it just may be the voluble marine geologist, a short, hobbit-like figure who for decades wore an unruly gray beard like the wizard Gandalf. Pilkey warned about interfering with the natural processes of shorelines and questioned developers, politicians, and engineers who helped to fill the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts with trillions of dollars of vacation houses, investment properties, and businesses, often subsidized with generous federal tax dollars. 

Orrin Pilkey

Unsurprisingly, not everyone appreciated his message. Some beach town mayors viewed Pilkey as the Antichrist. “I hate him, hate him, hate him,” bellowed the mayor of one of the largest and richest beach towns in New Jersey — this after Pilkey observed that the shoreline there was rapidly eroding. In 1991, the town council of Folly Beach, South Carolina, even passed a resolution condemning Pilkey’s research as “insulting, uninformed, and radical.” Pilkey framed the resolution and hung it on his office wall.

Now 84, the former Duke University professor is still busy and has a new bookon sea level rise coming out next August. With growing concerns about sea level rise and another year of catastrophic hurricanes (2018’s Florence and Michael), it seemed like a good time to talk with Pilkey about how his ideas have evolved over time, and what he sees as the biggest challenges ahead in an age of climate change, warming oceans, torrential rain storms, and more violent hurricanes.

Yale Environment 360: Recent reports by the United Nations and the National Climate Assessment highlight the risks of crowding the nation’s shorelines with risky property, and raise the possibility that millions may be forced to retreat to higher ground as the seas rise and hurricanes do more damage. You’ve been warning about these threats for decades, dating back to 1969, when Hurricane Camille wrecked your parents’ Mississippi retirement house. Was that a turning point in your career? 

Orrin Pilkey: Yes, the loss of my parents’ house was the point at which I realized for the first time the immense power of the sea and the need to inform the world that building next to the shoreline is almost suicidal. The recent UN report and National Climate Assessment confirmed some of my worst fears about the future threats of flooding and storms. Yet people continue to build in risky places. In Waveland, Mississippi, where my parents retired to a house with 13 feet of elevation, I saw an example of a beachfront house that was destroyed by Hurricane Camille, a replacement house destroyed again by Hurricane Katrina (2005), and the vacant lot for sale for $80,000. A loud activist voice was needed. 

“The question that needed to be answered was…Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?”

e360: You grew up in Washington State and were a smoke jumper for a time. How did you go from fighting fires to studying the coasts and earning a PhD in marine geology?

Pilkey: I first saw the ocean in Puget Sound as a teenager and was fascinated by the waves, the sea smells, and the infinite vistas. That love of the ocean continues to this day. But like me, I believe that many marine scientists have grown up far from the sea. The late Bruce Heezen, the father of marine geology, for example, grew up as an Iowa farm boy. 

e360: You were one of the first coastal geologists to take a public stance about building in harm’s way, arguing that armoring the coasts with seawalls, rock groins, and other defenses was not sufficient. What was your thinking at the time? 

Pilkey: I was primarily concerned that these devices were being sold as the way to save the beautiful beach cottage communities. When they didn’t work, which was the usual case, the excuse used by the engineers was that the storm that destroyed the devices was unusually severe and unexpected. It was clear that beaches were being destroyed in order to save oceanfront houses, with seawalls and other structures interfering with the natural flow of sand and accelerating erosion, and that a voice expressing that was severely needed. The question that needed to be answered from the standpoint of Americans everywhere was: Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?

e360: In some ways we appear to be going back to the future at the coasts. Charleston and Miami are building seawalls and giant pumps. New York City is planning for a huge surge gate. And Texans are trying to get the federal government to pay for a Dutch-style gate across the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, in Galveston. In your view, will these steps work and, if so, for how long?

Pilkey: Protection of major cities is different from the protection of much smaller resort communities on barrier islands. Stabilizing the shoreline, that is, holding it still, may be a reasonable priority for portions of big cities, but not so for smaller tourist developments, which depend on a good beach. Hard structures, such as seawalls and groins, almost always eventually destroy the beach. Surge gates depend on the blind luck that no superstorms will occur and overtop or destroy them, and also depend on a low rate of sea level rise. Their lifetime is likely to be only a decade or two. It is also likely that many other coastal cities will clamor for a surge gate once one city has one. Can we afford construction and maintenance of these large structures in view of their questionable success? The Dutch have a small country, much of it below sea level, and there is no place to escape the coming sea level rise. Therefore, they must use extreme engineering. But Americans have plenty of room to retreat.

“Government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more storm damage.”

e360: Hurricanes by far account for the costliest natural disasters in the U.S., with over $500 billion in damage in recent years, and the likelihood of even more catastrophic storms in the future. Yet Americans keep building in harm’s way, often with the aid of generous federal subsidies, including flood insurance, disaster aid, and Army Corps of Engineers’ beach repairs. Don’t these subsidies distort the risks, shifting them from private homeowners to public taxpayers, and make it harder to encourage people to retreat to higher ground?

Pilkey: Unquestionably, government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more and more storm damage. The mentality is why retreat when the government is right there to help you put things back the way they were before the storm.

e360: I am thinking about Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, which has been repeatedly battered by hurricanes and has received tens of millions in federal aid. After Katrina, in 2005, a few dozen homeowners wanted the government to buy their homes, so they could move inland, but there was no money. Why don’t buyouts work at the coast?

Pilkey: The western half of Dauphin Island is the least suitable location for development along the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico. North Topsail Beach in North Carolina, is similarly vulnerable. Buyouts on Dauphin Island would make sense because serious damage has occurred there five times since 1973, mostly on the west end where all of the vacation homes are. The government would have saved money in the long run if they had purchased the damaged properties, but the extreme high price of beachfront buildings prevents the buyout approach. It’s a shame. Buying these vulnerable properties could be the first step in managed retreat.

Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. NOAA/NWS

e360: Increasingly, coastal communities are seeing regular flooding, largely as a result of rising seas. Miami has its King Tides. Areas of Norfolk, the Outer Banks and New Jersey now routinely flood in ordinary thunderstorms. What does your recent research tell us about what’s happening and what residents can expect?

Pilkey: The flooding that is occurring along the fringes of many American communities is called sunny-day flooding or nuisance flooding. These high tides correspond to spring tides but have been raised higher by sea level rise, and are the first concrete evidence of a rising sea. The highest of these nuisance floods are called King Tides, which occur three or four times a year. As sea level rises, nuisance flooding will penetrate further and further inland, threatening more property and resulting in more flood claims.

e360: The general scientific consensus is that we can expect about 3.5 feet of additional water by the end of the century. But if the ice sheets melt or sea level rise accelerates, we could see 6 to 8.5 feet, which would be catastrophic. By some estimates, up to a trillion dollars worth of coastal property could literally be under water. Will we likely see a mass migration from the coast at some point?

Pilkey: Millions of people will be fleeing drowned cities this century. Low-lying cities, such as Miami, Charleston, and New Orleans, and many barrier island communities, especially in Florida – Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach – are likely to produce huge numbers of evacuees. Miami alone will produce 4 million climate refugees, probably well before 2100. Currently, there are no plans to accommodate these refugees in inland cities. Even places with higher elevations will be at risk. Surrounding access roads at lower elevations may flood in storms or high tides and prevent residents from reaching businesses, schools, stores, and churches.

“Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible.”

e360: In a few coastal resorts we are beginning to see home buyers factor sea level rise and flood risks into the price of real estate. In Miami, condos at higher elevation carry a premium. How quickly do you see real estate prices at the coast sinking, and what impact do you expect that will have on future development? 

Pilkey: I believe that we are due for a crash in the price of beachfront property. No one knows exactly when this will occur, but it is likely within a decade or two. There are already small price reductions occurring in some places. Probably sinking prices will cause a dramatic reduction in new beachfront development nationwide. Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible. Edingsville Beach in South Carolina, a town of 60 houses on a barrier island, disappeared in a major hurricane in 1893. Along the Holderness Coast in England, 26 towns are under water on the Continental Shelf.

e360: If you owned an oceanfront home, say in New Jersey, what would you do?

Pilkey: If I owned a house in view of the sea, I would remember that along our coastal plains, if you can see the sea, the sea can see you. If I opted to stay, I would first investigate the evacuation routes. I would want to know what the biggest storm on record did to the coast there. Very likely, I would move my home well back from the shoreline. Better yet, I would probably look into the feasibility of moving it to the mainland. One other temporary useful alternative would be to raise the building to allow storm surge to flow underneath it. Most likely, however, I would sell.

Press link for more: E360 Yale

Is a #GreenNewDeal Possible Without a Revolution? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #TheDrum #ClimateChange The end of #Neoliberalism #COP24

By Eric Levitz

A Green New Deal is the name of our desire. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Frederick Douglass wasn’t exaggerating: Power really does concede nothing without a demand — not even a plan to make a plan to prevent the powerful’s own grandkids from perishing in the end-times.

As of few weeks ago, congressional Democrats had no clear vision for how they intended to develop a clear vision for tackling climate change.

The party’s leading 2020 contenders had put forward ambitious policies on health care, housing, criminal justice, the racial wealth gap, child care, wage stagnation, corporate governance reform, and legal ganja — but virtually nothing on the small issue of how to ensure that human civilization outlives Barron Trump.

And then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington — and brought hundreds of activists from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats along with her.

One month and two occupations of Nancy Pelosi’s office later, the “Green New Deal” has become the hottest idea in Democratic politics.

More than 20 members of Congress have called for a select committee dedicated to developing a draft bill of the Green New Deal.

Chuck Schumer has informed Donald Trump that Democrats will not support any infrastructure bill, unless it’s a green, New Deal-esque infrastructure bill. And the political press is chock-full of headlines like, “How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Might Help Save the Planet,” and “Is the Green New Deal the Only Way Forward?

All of which has led the boldly naïve to ask, “What, exactly, is a Green New Deal?”

The answer will depend on whom you ask.

To the median Democrat, a Green New Deal is just a fancy name for an infrastructure bill that includes significant investments in renewable energy, and climate resiliency.

To the progressive think tank Data for Progress, it’s a comprehensive plan for America to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, through a combination of massive public investment in renewables, smart grids, battery technology, and resiliency; turbocharged environmental regulations; and policies that promote urbanization, reforestation, wetland restoration, and soil sustainability — all designed with an eye toward achieving full employment, and advancing racial justice.

But to the American left’s most utopian reformists, the Green New Deal is shorthand for an ambition even more sweeping.

More precisely, it is a means of conveying their vision for radical change to a popular audience, by way of analogy.

Eighty years ago, the United States was faced with a malign force that threatened to eradicate the possibility of decent civilization.

We responded by entrusting our elected government to reorganize our economy, and concentrate our nation’s resources on nullifying the Axis threat.

In the process, America not only defeated fascism abroad, but consolidated a progressive transformation of its domestic political economy.

The war effort affirmed the public sector’s competence at directing economic activity, fostered unprecedented levels of social solidarity — and, in so doing, banished laissez-faire from the realm of respectable opinion.

In the course of a decade, ideas from the far-left fringe of American thought became pillars of Establishment consensus: Very serious people suddenly agreed that it was legitimate for the state to enforce collective bargaining rights, impose steeply progressive income taxes, administer redistributive social programs, subsidize home ownership, and promote full employment.

The New Deal ceased to be a single president’s ad hoc recovery program, and became a consensus economic model.

An unprecedented contraction in economic inequality ensued; the most prosperous middle-class in human history was born.

Many contemporary leftists believe this history is worth repeating: Just as the fight against fascism facilitated a democratic transition from laissez-faire to Keynesian liberalism, so the fight for climate sustainability can shepard America out of neoliberalism, and into ecofriendly, intersectional, democratic socialism.

“The last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II, and so we’ve been here before and we have a blueprint of doing this before” Ocasio-Cortez told supporters in October. “What we did was that we chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy and we put hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to work” — a mobilization that the congresswoman-elect sees as “a potential path towards a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all.”

The climate journalist Kate Aronoff offers this portrait of the future Green New Dealers want:

IT’S THE SPRING of 2043, and Gina is graduating college with the rest of her class. She had a relatively stable childhood. Her parents availed themselves of some of the year of paid family leave they were entitled to, and after that she was dropped off at a free child care program.

Pre-K and K-12 were also free, of course, but so was her time at college, which she began after a year of public service, during which she spent six months restoring wetlands and another six volunteering at a day care much like the one she had gone to.

Now that she’s graduated, it’s time to think about what to do with her life. Without student debt, the options are broad. She also won’t have to worry about health insurance costs, since everyone is now eligible for Medicare. Like most people, she isn’t extraordinarily wealthy, so she can live in public, rent-controlled housing — not in the underfunded, neglected units we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States, but in one of any number of buildings that the country’s top architects have competed for the privilege to design, featuring lush green spaces, child care centers, and even bars and restaurants.

….For work, she trained to become a high-level engineer at a solar panel manufacturer, though some of her friends are going into nursing and teaching. All are well-paid, unionized positions, and are considered an essential part of the transition away from fossil fuels, updates about which are broadcast over the nightly news.

This vision is compelling — and, on a substantive level, so is Ocasio-Cortez’s historical analogy. In the long run, climate change surely poses as great a threat to the United States (and to liberal democratic governance) as the Nazis ever did. And a rational response to the climate threat quite clearly requires a drastic expansion of state-economic planning, and thus, an overhaul of the American political economy — so, while we’re renovating things, why not install that Nordic welfare state we’ve been eyeing, take down some of the hideous structures white supremacy built, and pare back that overgrown financial industry?

But when viewed through a strictly political lens, the analogy breaks down.

The Axis powers posed an immediate threat to many American capitalists, and their overseas investments — while U.S. victory in the war promised corporate America a bonanza. This self-interest dampened corporate resistance to FDR’s mobilization of the war economy, which itself massively increased the leverage of American labor. Securing global hegemony for American capital required victory, and victory required maintaining labor peace in a context of full employment. Unions could deliver the latter, and thus, were in a position to demand concessions. With that leverage, they secured “maintenance of membership” rules that allowed them to count all new employees at unionized plants as members, and immediately charge them dues; as a result, a record-high 35.5 percent of the nonagricultural labor force was unionized by 1945.

By contrast, climate change poses less of an immediate threat to America’s contemporary economic elites than the Green New Deal does.

The Koch Network fears the euthanasia of the fossil fuel industry — and confiscatory top tax rates — a lot more than rising sea levels.

Thus, corporate resistance to World War II–esque state-led mobilization to combat climate change (let alone, an avowedly socialist one) is certain to be immense. And given the conservative movement’s tightening grip over the federal judiciary, and red America’s increasingly disproportionate influence over state governments and the Senate, Green New Dealers would need to defeat near-unanimous corporate opposition on a playing field sharply tilted to their rivals’ advantage.

Further, replicating FDR’s model will take more than just winning power. Consolidating the New Deal order required the Democratic Party to maintain continuous control of the White House for two decades.

Considering the contemporary partisan alignment — and existence of presidential term limits — it seems unlikely that a pro-Green New Deal governing coalition would retain power long enough to turn core aspects of its radical agenda into pillars of a new bipartisan consensus.

None of this is to suggest that the Green New Deal isn’t a worthwhile ideal.

In an era replete with dystopias, and starved for futures to believe in, Aronoff’s (modest) utopia is a welcome intervention. Rather, my intention is merely to spark discussion of the following question: If persuading a couple dozen Democrats to support a select committee to draft a Green New Deal (which many of them understand as a little more than a climate-centric infrastructure stimulus) took repeatedly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office, what will it take to institutionalize 100 percent renewable social democracy atop the ruins of the fossil fuel industry?

In lieu of an answer to that daunting query, let me offer a take on (what I believe to be) a related one.

Earlier this week, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress asked (in so many words) why certain progressives were cheering the yellow vests protests in France.

And on one level, Tanden’s bafflement was justified. There’s little doubt that significant portions of the French protest movement are deeply reactionary, on questions of both climate policy and immigration. And regardless of the Marcon regime’s broader failings and provocations, the fact that an ambitious effort at carbon pricing was met with an insurrection is sure to weaken the hand of anyone pushing for similar policies in other countries.

And yet, the yellow vest protests didn’t just demonstrate that carbon taxes can provoke popular backlash (at least, when paired with austerity and tax breaks for the rich) — they also served as a reminder that it is still possible for ordinary people to change political realities within their governing institutions, by practicing politics outside of them. Grassroots, social-media-powered political organizing can fuel reactionary movements and genocides; but it can also trigger teachers’ strikes.

We’re going to need carbon taxes to get where Green New Dealers wish to take us. But we’ll also need a dash of mass civil disobedience (or at least, a million millennial march or two).

Press link for more: NYMAG

UN Secretary-General “ #ClimateChange is a matter of life” #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #StopAdani Demand a #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

Secretary-General’s remarks at the closing of the High-Level Segment of the Talanoa Dialogue, COP-24 [as delivered]

Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In my opening statement to this conference one week ago, I told you that this was the most important COP since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

I warned that climate change is running faster than we are and that Katowice must—in no uncertain terms—be a success, as a necessary platform to reverse this trend.

To achieve it, I said that ambition and compromises were both needed. Never have the stakes been higher.

I left Katowice hopeful, but uncertain.

While I was away, three more reports were added to the long list of warnings signals:

A Special WHO report on impacts to health due to climate change;

A UN Environment Programme report which highlights the opportunities for reducing emissions in the construction sector; and

NASA’s research on the first signs of significant melting of glaciers in East Antarctica.

Returning to Katowice, I see that despite progress in the negotiating texts much remains to be done.

And today, the Presidency is presenting a text as new basis for negotiations.

I’d like to thank the Polish Presidency for its efforts.

I understand it takes an enormous amount of energy and work to organize such a conference.

I also understand the weight of responsibility that this COP carries.

There can be no doubt that it is a moment of truth.

In this regard, key political issues remain unresolved.

This is not surprising—we recognize the complexity of this work. But we are running out of time.

Today, it is only fitting that we meet under the auspices of the Talanoa Dialogue.

I’d like to thank Fiji for initiating this Dialogue.

It’s no coincidence they’re the ones who established the process to discuss ambition to meet a 1.5C° goal.

Small Island States know better than any of us the importance of meeting that goal.

As I said in my opening remarks, for people living on those islands, climate change isn’t a theoretical exercise about the future – it’s a matter of life and death today.

Talanoa’s spirit is exactly how we can achieve a successful result in these last crucial days of COP24.

It is defined by openness, driven by optimism, and focused not on political differences, but on the collective well-being of those living on this planet.

And let me be open and transparent.

The IPCC Special Report is a stark acknowledgment of what the consequences of global warming beyond 1.5 degrees will mean for billions of people around the world, especially those who call small island states home.

This is not good news, but we cannot afford to ignore it.

Excellencies,

Over the last 10 days, many of you have worked long, hard hours and I want to acknowledge your efforts.

But we need to accelerate those efforts to reach consensus if we want to follow-up on the commitments made in Paris.

The Katowice package needs to deliver the Paris Agreement Work Program, progress on finance and a strong basis for the revision of National Determined Contributions under the Talanoa Dialogue.

These three components are linked by one central idea—boosting ambition.

Ambition when it comes to predictable and accessible financial flows for the economic transition towards a low-emission and climate-resilient world.

Ambition with respect to climate action.

And ambition with respect to developing a flexible but robust set of rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Let us start by finance.

The financial obligation from developed countries to support efforts of developing countries was established in the Convention when it was adopted in 1992—more than 25 years ago.

It’s very difficult to explain to those suffering from the effects of climate change that we have not managed to find predictable support for the actions that must be taken.

But there is some good news.

Sir David Attenborough “Time is running out”

https://youtu.be/b6Vh-g0oZ9w

The World Bank announced a new set of climate targets for 2021-2025, doubling its current 5-year investments to US$ 200 billion, both in mitigation and adaptation, in support for countries to take ambitious climate action.

Here at COP24, Multilateral Development Banks announced the alignment of their activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement and in line with the science-based evidence identified by the IPCC.

It represents US$ 35 billion in developing and emerging economies with an additional leverage on US$ 52 billion from private and public sources.

And before the COP, we saw a new Investor Agenda, as well as, for example, an announcement by ING that it would set science-based targets to shift its lending portfolio towards a low-emission future.

These private sector actors are making important progress because they recognize the seriousness of the climate challenge we face and the opportunities related to addressing it.

Failing here in Katowice would send a disastrous message to those who stand ready to shift to a green economy.

So, I urge you to find common ground that will allow us to show the world that we are listening, that we care.

Developed countries must scale up their contributions to jointly mobilize US$100 billion annually by 2020.

And we need to strengthen the Green Climate Fund.

Germany’s pledge to double its contribution in the current replenishment process is a very positive sign that I hope will inspire others to do the same.

I have appointed the President of France and Prime Minister of Jamaica to lead the mobilization of the international community, both public and private, to reach the target of US$ 100 billion in the context of the preparation of the Climate Summit I have convened in September of next year.

Second, the rulebook.

I just arrived from Marrakech.

It reminded me that the deadline to finalize the Paris Agreement Work Program was not one that was imposed upon Parties by anyone—it was a deadline Parties imposed upon themselves at COP22, precisely in Marrakech.

Both the Convention and the Paris Agreement recognize that countries have different realities, different capacities and different circumstances.

We must find a formula that balances the responsibilities of all countries.

This will allow us to have a regime that is fair and effective for all.

To achieve this, and to build the trust that everyone is doing their fair share, we need to have a strong transparency framework to monitor and assess progress on all fronts: mitigation, adaptation and provision of support, including finance, technology and capacity building.

I am aware that this issue is also technically complex and many linkages across different parts of the texts are being considered.

But I have confidence that you will find a way to overcome those challenges.

Third: climate action.

Today, Katowice is the hub of global climate action. The eyes of the world are on us. And more than 32,000 people have come here to find solutions to climate change.

They are inspired, engaged and they want us to deliver. They want us to finish the job.

Katowice must be, Mr. President, the dawn of a new determination to unleash the promise of the Paris Agreement.

We clearly have the know-how and the ability to reach 1.5C.

We see incredible momentum from all segments of society to lower emissions and make the transition from the grey economy to the green.

We have the ways.

What we need is the political will to move forward.

As the IPCC Special Report indicates, the intersection between State and non-State is essential to reaching our climate goals.

This Talanoa Dialogue is an example of how this can all come together.

The IPCC report outlined a catastrophic future if we do not act immediately.

It also clearly states that the window of opportunity is closing.

We no longer have the luxury of time.

That’s why we need to have our work here in Katowice finalized—and finalized in less than three days.

Meeting your deadline means we can immediately unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement and its promise of a low-emissions climate-resilient future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I understand that none of this is easy. I understand some of you will need to make some tough political decisions.

But this is the time for consensus. This is the time for political compromises to be reached. This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively.

I challenge you to work together for that purpose.

I challenge you to accelerate and finish the job.

And to raise ambition on all fronts.

To waste this opportunity in Katowice would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change.

It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.

This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal.

Let us then carry forth the spirit of the Talanoa Dialogue in these crucial next few days and let us heed its messages.

It’s about more than the future of each country.

I have three young granddaughters. I will not be here at the end of the century. The same probably applies to all of you.

I do not want my granddaughters or anybody else’s to suffer the consequences of our failures.

They would not forgive us if uncontrolled and spiraling climate change would be our legacy to them.

Thank you. 

Press link for more: UN.ORG

We Have To Make Sure the “#GreenNewDeal” Doesn’t Become Green #Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #TheDrum

A conversation with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves in late November when she called for a Green New Deal (GND)—a plan to “transition” the U.S. economy to “become carbon neutral” over the course of 10 years.

In adraft resolution, she proposes the formation of a Select Committee to develop a plan for massive public works programs, powered by a jobs guarantee and public banks, with the goal of “meeting 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.”

According to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan aims to eliminate poverty, bring down greenhouse gas emissions, and “ensure a ‘just transition’ for all workers, low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities.”

The GND is still in its nascent phase, and concrete details haven’t yet been hashed out, but the proposal has received backing from the youth climate organization, the Sunrise Movement, which staged direct actions and protests to build political support for the framework.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is throwing his political weight behind the plan and 35 House members have endorsed it.

Ocasio-Cortez—who identifies as a democratic socialist—is poised to lead the progressive conversation about climate change at the federal level.

Yet, some climate justice organizations are responding with more cautious support.

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of front-line environmental justice organizations, including the Southwest Workers Union and Black Mesa Water Coalition, praised the GND as “a much-needed aggressive national pivot away from climate denialism to climate action.” But CJA said in a statement released earlier this week that “the proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops [as opposed to grassroots] level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.”

While the GND is in its developmental phase, the Climate Justice Alliance says it is critical for social movement groups to fight for the best possible version of the deal—and ensure that it does not include false solutions such as “carbon markets, offsets and emissions trading regimes or geoengineering technologies.”

CJA says any jobs plan should restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and form unions, and it should be predicated on non-extractive policies that build “local community wealth that is democratically governed.”

Any deal must ensure “free, prior and informed consent by Indigenous peoples,” CJA insists, and should be directed by those communities bearing the brunt of the “dig, burn, dump” economy.

In These Times spoke with Kali Akuno, director of the CJA-affiliated Cooperation Jackson, a Missisippi-based group that aims to build a “solidarity economy” that is “anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.”

According to Akuno, movements must defend the best components of the GND, while challenging–and offering alternatives to–the capitalist logic embedded in some of its proposals. “While this is still in the drafting phase,” he argues, “let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.”

Kali Akuno

Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. 

Sarah Lazare: What do you think of proposal for a Green New Deal put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Kali Akuno: One, I’m glad that something like this is being introduced and is being discussed so widely, particularly coming from a freshman congresswoman. I don’t think that’s insignificant at all. I’m excited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even had the courage to take this up. Let’s be real: To walk in as a freshman congresswoman in this environment and atmosphere, she should be applauded.

Is it perfect, is it everything we want? Absolutely not. To a certain extent, that’s fine. She has to play ball in the balance of power as it concretely exists. The broad public debate that the introduction of the Green New Deal proposal has generated presents an opportunity for the Left to strengthen our forces, gather new forces and expand the base of the movement. Her putting this forward is a profound opportunity for the Left.

I think the Left needs to seize it. We can do that by talking about it: the things we support, why we support them, the things we want to see strengthened, improved and changed. We should communicate that as far and wide as we can. We have to shift the conversation and put the Right on the defensive. Right now, they’re on the offensive.

We need to critically analyze some of the shortfalls of the capitalist logic embedded in this plan. We have to push back and improve upon the Green New Deal. In a real practical and concrete way, the Left has to intervene.

Dismissing it and not having a dialogue and talking just about how it’s imperfect is not good enough. If we believe there is a limited time to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we have to seize every opportunity to educate people, create the policy framework, and to take action to implement it on the ground in real time. We need to talk about it, raise awareness and build a base for our point of view. Let’s use the platform her winning the election has provided to move people and to take action.

Sarah: What should a left intervention look like?

Kali: Let me get to the heart of it. Because of the capitalist logic that’s embedded in what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put forth, at this point, the Left needs to intervene.

We need to be putting out and elevating the counter-proposals many of us have been putting forward. There is the “just transition” framework coming out of some social movements and organized labor. There are some concrete suggestions many of us have been putting forward for years. Healing the soil, reintroducing small-scale agriculture, restoring the commons, making more space available for wildlife reintroduction. This has been coming from the It Takes Roots Alliance, which consists of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Right to the City Alliance. On the ground, organizations from oppressed communities have been putting forward a just transition for a while.

Representatives from It Takes Roots are opening a dialogue with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Our aim is to lift up our demands and concrete solutions and have them constitute core components of the legislation that she puts forward. We’re seeing the beginning of an opening in that regard.

While this is still in the drafting phase, let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.

Sarah: What needs to be improved?

Kali: There are some things in the framework that she put forth that need to be challenged. The one that I always highlight is this notion that the different types of solutions that are developed through the entrepreneurial innovations that come out of this program, like renewable energy technologies, that the U.S. government and major transnational corporations should be exporters of this energy and knowledge. That’s deeply embedding this thing as a new export industry, which is a new cycle of capital accumulation. That part really needs to be challenged. This is trying to embed the solution in market-based dynamics, but the market is not going to solve this problem.

Editor’s note: In her draft text calling for a committee on the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez includes the following objective, to be accomplished within 10 years of the plan’s implementation: “making ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.”

Sarah: U.S. industries have played tremendous and disproportionate role in driving climate change. It seems predatory for those industries to develop “solutions” and then turn around and sell them to the Global South.

Kali: Yeah, it’s this logic of, I created the problem, I control the resolution of the problem through various mechanisms, I play a big role in preventing any serious motion that might happen at the level of intergovernmental exchange through the United Nations—under Obama, and now under 45. I set it up so that we come up with these technology solutions—some are pure scientific fiction–come up with a few carbon sequestration solutions, and I’m going to charge exorbitant rates selling technology to the Global South. Primarily Trump, the United States and western Europe created the problem and prevent anyone from coming up with solutions. They come up with market solutions and sell them back to us through force.

We need to struggle with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others about this. We have to frame this in a way that really speaks to the global nature of the problem. We have to include the peoples of the world at the frontlines of the transition in the discussion to resolve it – Indigenous peoples, the peoples of Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the African continent. It’s not just a national problem. The way this is framed is really as if we’re going to stop certain problems within U.S. borders. But carbon emissions don’t observe national boundaries—they never have and never will. Nation-state policy limits us in certain ways. That’s another aspect of this that we have to push back on and challenge. This has to include front-line communities in the United States and from all throughout the world.

Sarah: What would the ideal global climate policy look like? What do you think about the framework of reparations?

Kali: Reparations is one of the key aspects that has to be introduced into the dialogue. The United States has, under all administrations, blocked this kind of approach. It is not new to Trump. The concept of reparations needs to be introduced into several different levels of the conversation. You can think of reparations in terms of financial compensation, and you can think of it in terms of decolonization—returning lands back to indigenous and colonized people subjected to the United States and Western Europe much of the past 500 years.

The market-based capitalist extractive system has been highlighted through the World Trade Organization. You have intellectual patents that are being codified into law through the WTO, which the United States and Western Europe have pushed on the world. If we look at Monsanto, they basically took agricultural practices and indigenous knowledge, codified it with their technology of splicing genes, and now have power and control over it. Patents need to be abolished and dissolved and we need to open up space in many areas for small farmers like those aligned with the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, to return to traditional practices of growing food. That is a major form of reparations: repairing harm that’s been done.

Sarah: What about the fossil fuel industry? Should we be talking about going to battle with the industry? Shutting it down?

Kali: There is no question about it. That has to be target number one. We have to adopt a program of “keep it in the ground.” There is no way to get around that. That’s a demand coming from Indigenous communities. If we just look at the raw science, all the raw data that is out there, that’s what we need to do. We’re locked into an old exploitative logic that is only maintained through the grip the petrochemical companies have on the political process. We are going to have to take them on head on.

What happened at Standing Rock really points the way forward for the future. I don’t think we should hide from that or step away from that. We’re going to have to take direct action on a massive scale to shut that industry down on an international level. There are a ton of alternatives that could be scaled up—solar, wind—and they need to be scaled up.

To think that they can keep pumping and drilling, and we’ll just phase them out with alternatives, on the basis of some kind of market logic, is not going to work. There is no question that we need to adopt a “keep it in the ground” policy—like, yesterday. That has to be one of our central demands.We have to scale up our campaigns against the oil companies, and we have to win. This is a necessary political struggle.

Sarah: Can you talk more about the concept of a “just transition”—where it comes from, what it’s calling for?

Kali: Just so folks know, the term comes out of the labor movement in the 1980s, particularly some folks who were working in labor sectors, including the petrochemical and thermonuclear industries. The concept was adopted to say that our interests around having a clean and safe environment, and your interest in having a living-wage job, are not and should not be opposed. There is a system in place keeping us at odds with each other in the short term. We have to change the system. A key part is taking care of our communities, making sure that the overall impacts of toxic contamination are thoroughly addressed. There has to be a way in which new jobs are created that enable workers to go through a just transition from one set of skills to another set of skills and maintain a high standard of living.

For Cooperation Jackson, which is part of the It Takes Roots Alliance, we fully endorse the just transition framework. This means highlighting grassroots, independent solutions in front-line communities: programs centering on reparations, decolonization and building a democratic economy through the advancement of the social and solidarity economy. For us at Cooperation Jackson, this is linked to a program of eco-socialist development. We are going to have to ultimately do a major overhaul in how things are produced, distributed, consumed and recycled back into the natural resource systems that we depend on. If we don’t think about just transition in a long-term, holistic way, we are missing the point. To think we can make some tweaks to capitalism or expansive “carbon neutral” production—that is also missing the point.

To address our deep problems, we have to shift wealth and power—it has to be moved from the United States and Europe to the rest of the world. We know we are going to run into a great deal of resistance from corporations and governments. We want to include that in our narrative of what a just transition entails.

Right now, as we speak, the COP24 climate talks are happening in Poland, and there are workers there in the coal industry who are trying to appropriate the term “just transition” to say “clean coal” is part of the just transition, which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the concept, especially knowing how that industry is contributing to the crisis we are in.

Sarah: What do you think about the Green New Deal’s call for a jobs guarantee?

Kali: It excites me, because I could see the immediate benefits here in my community in Jackson, Mississippi. That would create a lot of jobs for the young people in my community for the people who are chronically unemployed and underemployed. However, we should push for this plan with open eyes. There’s a limit to how many jobs could be created and how long they could be sustained. At a certain point, the logic of expansion has to run its course and end. You have to go back to eco-socialism. There need to be limits we impose on ourselves. We can’t just keep extracting minerals out of the earth—we’re going to have to figure out some natural limits to live in. I would like to see more of that infused into the Green New Deal: real conversations about our natural limits and how to create a truly sustainable system, so that we don’t exhaust all of the earth’s resources and deprive them to future generations. We have to start thinking about that now.

Sarah: Among other things, the Green New Deal calls for new investment in public banking. The draft text reads, “Many will say, ‘Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

What do you think of this public banking component?

Kali: We are big-time supporters of public banking. We’ve been thinking of that in relation to the implementation of the Jackson-Kush Plan going back 10 years, and we’re still trying to figure out how to put it in practice on the municipal level. I’m excited to see it embedded in Green New Deal proposal. Without that, you won’t have certain kinds of capital controls over the process. But we need to make sure there’s going to be sufficient investment in communities. I don’t think enough of the Left is really talking about it.

Some people will say public banking is just another reform measure in the logic of capitalism. That’s true but we’re not going to eliminate finance overnight, like it or not. One of the first steps in the socialist transition as we see it, is that we’re going to have to learn how to discipline capital and put it to public use. That’s a key thing that I think public banks will help us do as we learn and grow. There will still be contradictions to deal with, on display in struggle against the pipeline in North Dakota, because the public banks there are invested in that. This is not without contradiction, but we will have to set them up to be run by communities, and they must have a profoundly different orientation and logic. Whoever on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s team that put that in there, I was very much pleased to see it.

Sarah: To what extent were front-lines environmental justice groups consulted about the Green New Deal?

Kali: As an individual I was not consulted, but I think it’s a two-way street, because I also didn’t do much to help her get elected. The natural inclination is you’re going to listen to the folks who support you. The political trade off, whether we like it or not, is that you listen to those who put skin in the game to help you. That’s a reality we need to start with. Whether or not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches out, we have an obligation to tap her on her shoulder and say some of these ideas are terrible, here’s why, here are alternatives, here are examples of what the alternative looks like in practice—you can elevate them and use them as a model. That’s our task on the left—to intervene in that particular way. It’s not a question of whether or not she will listen: She’s an elected official, and we have move her to listen through the force of our organizing initiatives. We have to struggle with her to make sure she votes in the broadest interests possible, since she’s trying to lead this on a national level.

For me, it’s our task to hit her up, to contact her, to make sure we are very upfront and vocal from this point forward, to make sure what we’re demanding and proposing is very clear. We have to win other folks over to that position as well. Some of the best ideas might not carry the day if they don’t have an organized constituency behind them. She’s going to have to go to battle, she’s going to have to fight for the Green New Deal, and she’s probably going to listen to those forces that have the greatest leverage in terms of resources, or the greatest number of voices in sheer numbers. Those are things we have to deliver—we need to deliver that to make sure she’s accountable to our demands. We need to be real about how this game is going to play out. And be clear about what we bring to the table to make sure we get the outcomes we need.

Press link for more: In These Times