Noam Chomsky: Moral Depravity Defines US Politics #auspol #qldpol #NuclearWar #Environment #ClimateChange #ExtinctionRevolution #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #Democracy #Media #TheDrum

The US midterm elections of November 6, 2018, produced a divided Congress and essentially reaffirmed the existence of two nations in one country. But they also revealed, once again, the deep state of moral and political depravity that prevails in the country’s political culture — at least insofar as political campaigns go. In the interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses how the major issues confronting the United States and the world at large were barely addressed by the majority of candidates of both parties.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, with people still arguing about winners and losers from the 2018 midterm elections (and there is clearly a lot to say about what those elections mean), what do you consider to be the most striking features of the latest manifestation of American democracy in action?

Noam Chomsky: The most striking features are brutally clear.

Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear

These were virtually ignored in the campaign rhetoric and general coverage. There was plenty of criticism of the Trump administration, but scarcely a word about by far the most ominous positions the administration has taken: increasing the already dire threat of nuclear war, and racing to destroy the physical environment that organized human society needs in order to survive.

These are the most critical and urgent questions that have arisen in all of human history.

The fact that they scarcely arose in the campaign is truly stunning — and carries some important, if unpleasant, lessons about our moral and intellectual culture.

To be sure, not everyone was ignoring these matters.

They were front and center for those who are constantly vigilant in their bitter class war to preserve their immense power and privilege.

Several states had important ballot initiatives addressing the impending environmental catastrophe.

The fossil fuel industry spent huge, sometimes record-breaking, sums to defeat the initiatives — including a carbon tax in the mostly Democratic state of Washington — and mostly succeeded.

We should recognize that these are extraordinary crimes against humanity.

They proceed with little notice.

The Democrats helped defeat these critically important initiatives by ignoring them.

They scarcely mentioned them “in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature or on social media,” a New York Times surveyfound.

Nor, of course, were they mentioned by the Republicans, whose leadership is dedicated to driving humanity off the cliff as soon as possible — in full knowledge of what they are doing, as easily demonstrated.

The Times article goes on to explain that “Environmental activists and political scientists say it is a reflection of the issue’s perpetual low ranking among voters, even Democratic voters, and of the intense polarization along party lines that has developed around global warming.”

The article failed to add that this assessment is an incredible indictment of the country and its political, social, economic and media institutions, all of which, so the assessment claims, have sunk to such a level of depravity that the question of whether organized human society can survive in any minimally tolerable form, in the near future, is of little consequence.

Whether that unspoken indictment is correct, we cannot be sure.

It is perhaps of some significance that one Democratic candidate, Sean Casten, flipped a Republican district while making impending climate disaster the centerpiece of his campaign.

There is plenty of competition for moral depravity in the current remarkable moment of human history. Perhaps the prize goes to a bureaucracy, maybe in honor of Kafka: Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Right in the midst of the campaign, it produced a detailed study calling for an end to regulations on emissions, with a rational argument: extrapolating current trends, it turns out that by the end of the century the game will be over.

Automotive emissions don’t contribute very much to the catastrophe, so there isn’t any point trying to limit them.

In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.

This surely qualifies as a contender for the most evil document in history. Again, not an issue in the campaign.

There have been many monsters in the past … but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for survival of organized human society, not in the distant future — in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

It’s hard to find words to describe what is happening before our eyes.

The same is true of the second truly existential threat: nuclear war.

A few weeks before the election, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short-range missiles deployed in Western Europe and Russia — extremely hazardous weapons, which have only a few minutes flight-time to Moscow, posing a decapitation threat, a sudden attack that would destroy any possibility of response. That, of course, sharply increases the danger of a nuclear response to warnings given by automated systems that have often failed in the past, thus ending all of us.

Anyone familiar with the record knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided terminal nuclear war.

The threat, which was already grave, was heightened by the Trump nuclear posture review that authorized new destabilizing weapons and lowered the threshold for nuclear attack.

This latest move increases the threat further.

Scarcely a mention on the campaign trail or in coverage.

The US is withdrawing from the treaty on the grounds that China is not a partner and that the Russians have violated it — they in turn claim that the US has violated it.

It’s plain how to address these problems: through inspections and diplomacy, neither of which has been attempted.

Rather, let’s just blithely increase the threat of total destruction. And let’s ignore all of this in the vast outpourings during the political campaign.

Again, we have to ask some serious questions about the prevailing moral and intellectual culture — and about the urgency of providing remedies, very soon.

Let’s put aside what are merely the most significant questions in human history, and turn to what is within the realm of discussion.

A striking fact about the election is that it once again demonstrated the failure of the Democratic Party as a whole to deal with issues that matter to working people.

While working-class people of color largely supported the Democratic Party, even more than before, the party lost the non–college educated white population. What’s more, it seems to be of little concern, at least to Democratic Party leaders, the “Wall Street Democrats” as they are sometimes called.

They were exultant about their successes in the affluent suburbs, where normally Republican voters were disgusted by Trump’s vulgarity.

Whether they come naturally or are feigned, Trump’s antics help keep his white working-class constituency in line while his party stabs them in the back at every turn, meanwhile serving its real constituency, great wealth and corporate power, with impressive dedication.

The betrayal of working-class America could hardly be clearer, though fortunately, some are breaking free of the treachery.

One positive feature of the midterms was the success of a diverse group of young progressive candidates, mostly women — a tribute to the popular activism of recent years, and a hopeful sign for the future, if it can expand and flourish.

On the surface, it seems that Trump’s success with much of the voting constituency can be attributed to racist and xenophobic appeals, particularly concerning the imminent threat of “invasion” by hordes of terrorists and criminals approaching our borders that he focused his tantrums on up to the election – then dropping the topic when it was no longer needed to rally the faithful.

Few seem to have recalled that Trump was pulling a leaf from Reagan’s playbook. In 1985, our intrepid leader strapped on his cowboy boots and declared a national emergency because Nicaraguan troops were a two days’ drive from Harlingen, Texas — and people didn’t collapse in laughter. Trump made a similar move in warning that if people fleeing from misery and oppression (misery and oppression for which we are largely responsible) reach our borders they’ll try to kill us all. Heavily armed militias travelled to the border to back up the thousands of troops deployed to defend us, and it seems to have worked. Surveys report that people did vote for Trump because only he could save us from destruction by these criminal hordes. That also carries some lessons.

But when we ask why Trump’s strategy works, we find something deeper, which extends pretty much worldwide, with particularities from place to place. In conditions of economic distress, a sense of hopelessness, justified contempt for institutions, and understandable anger and resentment about what is being done to them, people can become easy prey to demagogues who direct their anger toward scapegoats, typically those even more vulnerable, and who foster the symptoms that tend to rise to the surface under such circumstances. That’s been happening, worldwide. We see it in election after election in many countries, and in other ways.

In the US, working-class people have suffered 40 years of stagnation while wealth concentrates in very few hands, leading to staggering inequality.

The Democrats have ignored all this, and worse, have carried forward the neoliberal policies that took off with Reagan and Thatcher and have imposed these consequences, by design. And for the designers, the neoliberal programs have been brilliantly successful, in ways that we need not review here.

Despite low unemployment, wage growth, after a rise in 2014-15, is now barely keeping up with inflation while corporate profits are skyrocketing, particularly for the predatory financial institutions, which emerged from the crisis for which they were responsible even richer and more powerful than before. A side effect is that the country’s wealth is being shifted from R&D, innovation and product development, to financial transactions in the interests of the very rich. Fine for them, but disastrous for the health and future of the society.

The concentration of wealth and enhancement of corporate power translate automatically to decline of democracy. Research in academic political science has revealed that a large majority of voters are literally disenfranchised, in that their own representatives pay no attention to their wishes but listen to the voices of the donor class. It is furthermore well established that elections are pretty much bought: electability, hence policy, is predictable with remarkable precision from the single variable of campaign spending, both for the executive and Congress. Thomas Ferguson’s work is particularly revealing, going far back and including the 2016 election. And that is a bare beginning. Legislation is commonly shaped, even written, by corporate lobbyists, while representatives who sign it have their eyes on funding for the next election.

The midterms highlighted other ominous developments. The Republicans increased their Senate majority — with barely 40 percent of the votes cast. Right now, 60 senators are elected by states with 25 percent of the population, which means some 15 percent of the vote (mostly rural, white, religious, skeptical of science, heavily armed). And the tendency is increasing. It’s hard to see how some form of civil conflict can be avoided unless the Democrats reverse course sharply and become a political party that doesn’t simply abandon the working class to its bitter class enemy, as they have done for 40 years.

How do we explain the fact that while US politics seems nastier, more polarized and more divided than any other time in recent history, both parties stay away from addressing the most critical issues facing the country and the world at large?

In 1895, the highly successful campaign manager Mark Hanna famously said: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first ismoney, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

Those who control the wealth of the country have their own priorities, primarily self-enrichment and enhancement of decision-making power. And these are the priorities that prevail in a neoliberal democracy with the annoying public dismissed to the back rooms where they belong.

The CEOs of major banks surely understand the extraordinary threat of environmental catastrophe but are increasing investment in fossil fuels because that’s where the money is. Like the energy corporations, they are hardly eager to support candidates warning of the serious crimes they are committing. Lockheed-Martin and its cohorts are quite happy to see vast increases in the military budget and are surely delighted with such declarations as the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy, just released by the US Institute of Peace (lacking a sense of irony, the bureaucracy is quite happy to caricature Orwell).

This somber document warns that our dangerously depleted military, which almost overwhelms the rest of the world combined, might not be able to prevail in a two-front war against Russia and China. Of course, neither military industry nor the distinguished authors of the report believe that such a war could even be fought without terminal destruction, but it’s a great way to siphon taxpayer dollars away from absurdities like health and education and into the deserving pockets of the captains of industry and finance.

Not many political figures will dare to dismiss such awesome threats to our security.

As for the nastiness, it’s largely a result of the drift to the right of both parties during the neoliberal years, the Democrats becoming what used to be called “moderate Republicans” (or often worse) and the Republicans drifting off the spectrum, with devotion to wealth and corporate power so extreme that they cannot possibly win elections on their actual policies. They have therefore been compelled to mobilize voting constituencies on “cultural issues,” diverting attention away from actual policies. To keep them in line, it’s natural for the leadership to demonize the political opposition as not merely wrong but intent on demolishing their most deeply held values — and for the latter to resort to contempt for the “deplorables.” Soon antagonisms degenerate to warfare.

There are many illustrations of how the Republican leadership has sought to organize a voting constituency, some of which we’ve discussed before. One revealing case is abortion rights. In the ‘60s, the Republican Party was strongly pro-choice, including the leadership (Reagan, Ford, George H.W. Bush and others). Same with voters. In 1972, two-thirds of Republicans believed abortion to be a private matter, with no government involvement.

Nixon and his cohorts realized that they could attract the Catholic vote, traditionally Democratic, by adopting an anti-abortion plank. Later in the ‘70s, evangelicals began to organize for political action. Among their demands was maintaining segregated schools. Republican operative Paul Weyrich recognized an opportunity. An open call for segregated schools wouldn’t work, but if the Republican Party pretended to oppose abortion, it could pick up the huge evangelical vote, now a core part of Trump’s voting base. The leadership accordingly shifted to passionate “pro-life” advocates, including those who it is sometimes believed had some character and honesty, like Bush I, who shifted along with the rest.

Meanwhile the actual constituency of the Republican Party remains great wealth and corporate power, even more dramatically so under Trump. It is quite an achievement to serve this actual constituency with dedication while maintaining a hold on the voting base.

As their voting base shrinks, Republican leaders understand that the GOP is becoming a minority party, which is why they are so dedicated to finding modes of voter suppression and packing the courts with reactionaries who will support their efforts.

It should also be noted that popular opinion differs from the party leadership on many central issues. But as already mentioned, since the majority of the population is disenfranchised, it doesn’t matter much. To take just one example, for 40 years of polling the population has strongly favored higher taxes on the rich — as taxes on the rich decline.

Bernie Sanders was re-elected to the Senate while his protégé Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a smashing victory over her Republican opponent for New York’s 14th District and became, in fact, the youngest woman elected to Congress. In fact, there are now probably as many Democratic Socialists in the House as there are conservative Democrats, so the question is whether progressives should go on to form a third party or try to change the Democratic Party from within.

What’s your take on this matter?

In the 18th century, with all of its extreme flaws, the US constitutional system was a major step forward in democratic participation as compared with Europe.

Even the concept “we the people,” though grossly misleading, was a conceptual breakthrough. Over the years, however, by comparative standards the system increasingly ranks as quite regressive. It is doubtful, for example, that Europe would admit a country with the US system as a new member.

In particular, the system is radically rigged against any challenge to the governing duopoly.

To develop a basis for a third party would require a serious and sustained effort in popular mobilization — not impossible, but not now on the horizon.

There do seem to be possibilities to shift the character of the Democratic Party, at least back to its modern New Deal origins, and beyond (it already is considerably beyond in some respects as a result of the civilizing effect of the activism of the ‘60s and its aftermath).

There are possibilities for development of independent parties, beginning at the local level, adopting fusion policies for more general elections, perhaps gaining enough traction to take part more actively in the political system.

But we should never forget that electoral politics, while not to be dismissed, should not be the prime focus of serious radical political action, which aims to change the basic institutions that undergird the political system, to dismantle hegemonic ideologies, and to help develop the kind of mass consciousness that must be the basis for badly — even desperately — needed social and political change.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is the author of Optimism Over Despair: Noam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, an anthology of interviews with Chomsky originally published at Truthout and collected by Haymarket Books.

Press link for more: Global Policy

World must triple efforts or face catastrophic #climatechange, says UN #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #StopAdani demand #ClimateAction #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #TheDrum

Rapid emissions turnaround needed to keep global warming at less than 2C, report suggests

New taxes on fossil fuels, investment in clean technology and much stronger government policies to bring down emissions are likely to be necessary.

Governments must also stop subsidising fossil fuels, directly and indirectly, the UN said.

Gunnar Luderer, one of the authors of the UN report and senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said: “There is still a tremendous gap between words and deeds, between the targets agreed by governments and the measures to achieve these goals.

“Only a rapid turnaround here can help. Emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 [to keep warming to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels] and for 1.5C emissions would have to be halved.”

In all, a tripling of effort may be needed to keep warming to less than 2C, meeting scientific advice on avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions continued their long-term rise last year, according to the UN, but they could be brought under control.

There are promising signs, such as investment from the private sector in renewable energy and other technologies to cut carbon, but these are currently insufficient to meet scientific advice.

Joyce Msuya, deputy executive director of UN Environment, said: “The science is clear: for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency.

We’re feeding this fire, while the means to extinguish it are within reach.”

Australia is feeding the fire with coal.

Global emissions have reached what the UN has called “historic levels” of 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and are showing no signs of peaking, despite a levelling off in the past decade.

The report came a day after Donald Trump said he did not believe his own administration’s latest report warning about the dire risk of inaction on climate change.

Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions soaring since government axed the carbon price.

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of the dire effects of allowing global warming to reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The world has a little over a decade to bring down greenhouse gas emissions before such dangerous levels of warming become inevitable.

Only 57 countries, representing 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, are on track to cause their emissions to peak before 2030. If emissions are allowed to rise beyond that, the IPCC has said countries are likely to breach the 1.5C limit, which will trigger sea-level rises, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events.

On Monday, the biggest review of climate change in the UK for a decade found that flooding was likely to become more severe and summers could become more than 5C hotter within 50 years.

The UN’s warning comes before key talks in Poland next month, when governments will meet to discuss how to implement the commitments made in Paris in 2015. According to the Paris agreement, the first global pact to bind both developed and developing countries to a specific temperature goal, governments must do all they can to stop warming reaching 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit warming to no more than 1.5C.

Jian Liu, the chief scientist at UN Environment, said some of the necessary policies were clear and available, if there was political will to implement them. “When governments embrace fiscal policy measures to subsidise low-carbon alternatives and tax fossil fuels, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions. If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by 2030.”

Carbon pricing is one way of achieving this, but has run into difficulties as taxes are often unpopular and schemes to reduce carbon through emissions tradingare often contested by businesses and other interests.

Greenhouse gas emissions stalled soon after the global financial crisis of a decade ago, then quickly resumed their rise, to the consternation of climate experts. For three years before 2017 they fell once again, but last year there was an increase. Emissions are expected to rise further this year, pointing to an emissions gap between what countries promised in Paris and what their policies are delivering.

Looking for human remains after recent fires in California

Another problem is that infrastructure such as buildings, transport networks and energy generation that is built now to rely on fossil fuels will in effect lock infuture emissions for the lifetime in which that infrastructure operates, usually up to 50 years.

Changing the way we construct infrastructure is therefore essential, but many companies and governments still rely on old measures of economic performance and old ways of generating energy and constructing buildings.

Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said: “The window of opportunity is starting to close and if we fail to act now the opportunity will be gone.

Failure to act will lock in catastrophic global warming that will change the planet irrevocably and condemn millions to suffering. What are governments waiting for?”

Stephanie Pfeifer, the chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, said some businesses were taking action. “Investors understand the opportunity presented by the move to a low-carbon economy. The right signals from government will help to unlock low-carbon investment from the private sector.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Why the 🌍 needs a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange is now a #ClimateEmergency #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #QandA

Building a major green jobs project is clearly good politics.

Far more important, it’s necessary to our future

As the mythical caravan threat magically disappeared two weeks after the election, with the announcement that troops deployed would start to come home, a genuine existential threat has increasingly come into focus—the threat of climate change, heralded by a wave of wildfires in California, most notably the Camp Fire, the most deadly U.S. wildfire in almost a century.

Searchers looking for human remains

Since a Nov. 13 protest at Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill first drew attention to it, organizing to push Democrats to commit to a New Green Deal has continued to mount. “We need a Green New Deal and we need to get to 100 percent renewables because our lives depend on it,” Rep.-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez told reporters, as 51 protesters with the Sunrise Movement were arrested (and later released).

Since then 13 members of Congress have signed on to support her proposal to establish a select committee tasked with developing a plan to transition to a carbon-neutral economy and beyond, with the ultimate goal of “economic and environmental justice and equality.”

But the political world still seems disastrously disconnected from the real world around it, even as smoke from California’s wildfires reached all the way to the East Coast:

The Camp Fire has an official death toll of 77, with 15,850 structures destroyed, but it’s hardly alone. According a Nov. 19 Cal Fire factsheet, five of the 10 most destructive wildfires in California history occurred in the last two years, with a sixth in 2015. All but one have happened since 2003. 

The result is “Making Some California Homes Uninsurable,” as the New York Times reported:

“We’re not in a crisis yet, but all of the trends are in a bad direction,” said Dave Jones, who is completing his eighth and final year as California’s insurance commissioner. “We’re slowly marching toward a world that’s uninsurable.”

And it’s not just wildfires. A paper published Nov. 19 in Nature Climate Changefound a broad threat to humanity from the cumulative impacts of global warming:

We found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry.

As the New York Times reported, by the end of this century “some parts of the world could face as many as six climate-related crises at the same time.” The headline called it a “Terror Movie” — and that was right, as everyone watching the Camp Fire could already see.

“Unprecedented fires in Queensland, Australia today.

Record temperatures 4C hotter than previous November record set in 1971.

Politicians and pundits may still be sleepwalking, but the insurance industry is wide awake. 

The entire world might become uninsurable by the end of the century, with a four-degree rise in global temperatures, according to Australian insurance giant IAG, as reported by The Australian Financial Review. 

Popular and desperately needed

It’s not just that drastic action is needed.

The basic idea of a New Green Deal is wildly popular.

There was 70 percent support for “Green New Deal — Millions Of Clean-Energy Jobs” in the “Big Ideas” poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Institute in January 2015. This year, Data for Progress advanced its own, more detailed Green New Deal Plan, with polling showing related political appeal: In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — key to Trump’s 2016 election — voters were more, rather than less, likely to support a candidate “who supports moving the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030” by  32, 27 and 26 points, respectively. 

“Green New Deal combines two things voters love: the environment and jobs,” Data for Progress co-founder Sean McElwee told Salon. “Pundits are trapped in a framework in which the environment is pitted against jobs, which is silly,” he said. 

Silly, but extremely popular with the GOP business class, which has dominated the framing of most political discourse over the past half-century. Plenty of “business-friendly” Democrats have joined in as well, even as climate change has increasingly emerged as a profound threat to the business community itself. This is epitomized by the reinsurance industry, tasked with trying to manage the enormous and increasingly unpredictable unpaid, externalized costs of climate change.

The problem of skyrocketing global warming insurance costs was highlighted in the late 1990s by Ross Gelspan in his book, “The Heat Is On.” Five years ago, the Geneva Association, a global insurance think tank, issued a report, “Warming of the Oceans and Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry,” warning that traditional underwriting methods could no longer cope with the unpredictable nature of climate change, which was threatening to make some regions uninsurable. 

“Traditional approaches … solely based on analysing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard  probabilities,” it said. “In some high-risk areas, ocean warming and climate change threaten the insurability of catastrophe risk more generally.” A story about that report noted that the number of weather catastrophes had risen “from around 300 a year in 1980 to around 900 in 2012, according to figures from reinsurer, Munich Re.”

“The American public is thirsty for bold climate action because the drumbeat of news just keeps getting worse,” RL Miller, founder of the Climate Hawks Vote superPAC told Salon. “And the Democrats’ plans to date — mild carbon taxes, small tax credits, rebates, etc. — don’t inspire people the way the Green New Deal does. Polls show that the Green New Deal is very politically popular, far more so than a carbon tax.”

Part of the reason is a universal one — that bold, easy-to-grasp proposals are more inspiring than convoluted wonky ones — and part is quite specific. “The Green New Deal is, by design, centered around jobs, and thus it makes a lot more sense to working-class families than other carbon plans attacked by the right as ‘increasing your utility bills,” Miller said.

Green New Deal goals

The core of the proposal from Ocasio-Cortez is directed beyond just getting to a carbon-neutral economy. The list of 10-year goals includes:

  1. 100 percent of national power generation from renewable sources;
  2. Building a national, energy-efficient “smart” grid;
  3. Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
  4. Decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries;
  5. Decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure;
  6. Funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases;
  7. 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 carbon-neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

There’s other language that broadens the scope, addressing “climate change, pollution and other environmental harm” and recognizing “that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.” It also outlines specific areas to address, including education, training and “a job guarantee program to assure every person who wants one, a living wage job;” as well as “additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism” and “innovative public and other financing structures.”

While dealing with climate change is the key component, the Data for Progress plan more specifically highlights a broader range of environmental and environmental justice needs. It cites lead exposure and asthma as prime concerns. It notes that “there are at least 4 million children living in households exposed to high levels of lead and half a million children with high blood lead levels,” with disproportionately high levels of exposure for black and low-income children. In addition, one in 13 Americans have asthma, while black Americans are “nearly twice as likely to suffer from asthma, and three times as likely to endure hospitalization,” with air pollution as a significant environmental trigger for symptoms. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

This broader environmental scope makes the plan both more comprehensive and more popular, McElwee noted. “Climate change is an abstract concern people don’t fully grasp,” he said. “They grasp how pollution poisons their water and gives their kids asthma.”

Both versions aren’t just a New Deal-style jobs program that happens to be green. They are carefully put together to reflect lessons from the past, redressing mistakes and building on principles of justice. “The racial exclusion of the New Deal was a great failing,” McElwee said. “We need to ensure that the Green New Deal is equitable because the communities that suffer most from pollution are disproportionately poor communities of color.” 

Ocasio-Cortez may have been a bartender before running for Congress, but she’s not ignorant of how Congress works. Her select committee proposal is a detailed blueprint for getting something truly massive done, with the full knowledge that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump would never sign off on it. It’s intended to guide the development of fully-fleshed out legislation to be ready to go in the first months of the next administration, with the plan completed by Jan. 1, 2020.

It’s also intended to appeal to a broad constituency within the Democratic coalition — as well as working-class voters that neoliberal Democrats have long alienated. In addition to the basic green job-creation appeal, the proposal goes further, saying that the plan will “provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure every person who wants one, a living wage job.”

I’ve written before about the crucial importance of a just transition provision. In early 2017, writing specifically about the coal industry, I cited a just transition plan developed by Robert Pollin and Brian Callaci “that would ensure a just transition away from a polluting economy for fossil fuel workers.” In an article describing the plan they argued: “A combination of better jobs and pensions will remove one political obstacle to a green transition — and it’s the right thing to do.” Given the understandable — and well-justified — political resistance if nothing is done, they wrote:

It follows that the global climate stabilization project must unequivocally commit to providing generous transitional support for workers and communities tied to the fossil fuel industry. The late U.S. labor leader and environmental visionary Tony Mazzocchi pioneered thinking on what is now termed a “Just Transition” for these workers and communities. As Mazzocchi wrote as early as 1993, “Paying people to make the transition from one kind of economy to another is not welfare. Those who work with toxic materials on a daily basis … in order to provide the world with the energy and the materials it needs deserve a helping hand to make a new start in life.”

The cost of this is trivial, an estimated $500 million per year. That’s about “1 percent of the annual $50 billion in new public investment that will be needed to advance a successful overall U.S. climate stabilization program,” which “would pay for income, retraining, and relocation support for workers facing retrenchments as well as effective transition programs for what are now fossil fuel–dependent communities.”

I can’t think of anything remotely comparable that any neoliberal, centrist or conservative Democrat has come up with in the way of rebuilding trust and support for the Democratic Party with those mythical voters they pretend to care about so much more than progressives do. At the same time, a related logic of equity connects with core Democratic Party communities — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately subject to fossil fuel pollution. 

Broader lessons

There’s also a broader political lesson involved in the Green New Deal. In their book, “Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats,” Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins do a lot to explain why it’s so hard to advance a coherent progressive agenda, despite the fact that individual elements of it — non-discrimination, a livable wage, universal health care, etc. — enjoy significant support. The Green New Deal solves that ancient problem in a concrete, practical way, because it fuses all those different elements into a unified policy whole, where the different facets synergistically reinforce each other.  Without that, the default tendency is for progressive ideas to be judged one-by-one, by conservative standards, without people even realizing what they are doing. 

The unified whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, McElwee noted. “In the places where Green New Deal-style programs have worked it has been due to a collaboration between environmental, labor and racial justice groups,” he said. “That’s a key component of success.” 

As things stand now, the odds still seem stacked against Ocasio-Cortez getting her select committee established. The inside politics response has been predictable. Politico played up resistance inside the Democratic Party, while failing to mention that the opponents it cited all had received fossil fuel donations. (The DNC banned such donations earlier this year, passing a resolution drafted by Pelosi’s daughter, Christine Pelosi, before reversing itself two months later.) But Ocasio-Cortez has beaten long odds before. And as before, the outside world realities are in her favor.

“With people being burned alive in California right now, it’s time for members of Congress to stop making excuses and start showing the leadership required of them in this moment,” Sunrise Movement founder Varshini Prakash said in a statement on Nov. 21, following another day of mass lobbying. “Now is the time to come together to develop a plan to get us out of this crisis. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Select Committee on a Green New Deal is currently the only proposal on the table that matches the scale and urgency of what is required in this moment, and we encourage all members of Congress to join us and the 73 other organizations who have come out in support of it.”

Meanwhile, in Long Beach, California, RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote was at the California Democratic Party convention this past weekend. She’s chair of the state party’s Environmental Caucus, and she addressed the general assembly, about 200 people from across the state. “I asked everyone to stand up if they’d been directly affected by wildfire — and nearly half the room stood,” she said. “Then I asked everyone to stand if they knew someone who had — and virtually the entire room stood.” 

It was that kind of universal recognition moment. Miller herself had flames come within 500 feet of her home and was evacuated for 72 hours. 

“This is an epidemic, like gun violence, where ‘everyone knows someone who’s been hurt.’ Every single person in California, all 40 million of us, is on the front lines of climate change,” she said. Elsewhere it’s hurricanes, heatwaves, floods or droughts, but the number of those on the front lines are swelling dramatically everywhere. 

But there’s another side as well, McElwee suggested. We’re not just facing climate threat, we’re longing for something positive. “I think there is a real, true sense in which humans feel uncomfortable with the environment in which they live,” he said. “There is a desire to go back to our roots — that’s why people love hikes. We need to use that in our politics.”

Press link for more:

#ClimateChange Puts Economy & Lives at Risk! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #StopChinaStone join the #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike demand #ClimateAction #TheDrum #Insiders #QandA


The National Climate Assessment warns of increasing extreme rainfall events, like the storm that flooded communities across a large swath of Louisiana in 2016. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s climate scientists issued a blunt warning on Friday, writing that global warming is a growing threat to human life, property and ecosystems across the country, and that the economic damage—from worsening heat waves, extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts and wildfires—will spiral in the coming decades.

The country can reduce those costs if the U.S. and the rest of the world cut their greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. Capping global greenhouse gas emissions to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) or less would avoid hundreds of billions of dollars of future damages, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, written by a science panel representing 13 federal agencies.

The report, like a recent comprehensive assessment issued by the United Nations, signaled the mounting urgency for governments to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before locking in high risks. And it underscored, without saying so directly, how the Trump administration is moving in the opposite direction.

The agencies write that global warming is:

  • Intensifying and increasing the frequency of extreme rainstorms that cause devastating flooding and crop losses.

  • Putting people and economies at risk as temperatures rise: Increases in extreme heat waves could kill up to 2,000 more people per year in the Midwest alone by 2090, and Chicago’s climate could be more like Phoenix, with temperatures reaching 100°F on 50 to 60 days in summer.

  • Increasing the drying of land and vegetation, which puts crops at risk and contributes to deadly wildfires.

  • Harming U.S. forests, making them more vulnerable to fire and insects, disrupting their watersheds and wildlife habitat, and also reducing their ability to store carbon.

  • Putting water supplies and water quality at risk, with “significant changes already evident across the country,” including more pollution runoff from extreme rainfall that, along with warmer water, fuels and toxic algae blooms.

  • Creating multiple threats for coastal communities, including significant shifts in fish populations, ocean acidification, direct flooding damage from rising sea level and tropical storms. Along the coasts, $1 trillion in public infrastructure and private property are threatened by flooding, rising sea level and storm surges.

  • Threatening indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies by affecting fishing, agriculture and forestry.

The report looks at the damage already happening and what’s ahead in each region, describing damage from wildfires and the impact of ocean acidification on shellfish in the Northwest; rising temperatures thawing permafrost in Alaska; coral reef damage in Hawaii; hurricanes, coastal flooding and mosquito-borne diseases in the Southeast; extreme rainfall destroying crops and eroding farm soil in the Midwest; flash droughts in the Northern Plains; and the dwindling of the snowpack and the Colorado River that the Southwest relies on.

U.S. temperatures have already risen about 1.8°F (1°C) since the start of the Industrial era, and that warming has been accelerating in recent decades. “Recent record-setting hot years are projected to become common in the near future for the United States,” the report says.

“It drives home the fact that climate change isn’t a far off threat,” said Pennsylvania State University Climate researcher Michael Mann.

The report also shows how global warming impacts will be multiplied by disruptions to energy, transportation and other infrastructure that cascade across economic sectors, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist David Easterling, a lead author for the climate science section.

For example, heat waves and droughts can cut energy production if there is not enough water to cool power plants, which can limit manufacturing and even affect health care in hospitals. Hurricane Harvey’s damage to power infrastructure affected water treatment plants and refineries, shutting down 11 percent of U.S. oil refining capacities and causing a temporary spike in gas prices.

Industries that rely on natural resources are especially vulnerable.

“Without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, extinctions and transformative impacts on some ecosystems cannot be avoided, with varying impacts on the economic, recreational, and subsistence activities they support,” Easterling said.

Huge Economic Costs, and They’re Rising

With detailed projections for geographic regions, scientists can now also project the multibillion-dollar costs of global warming impacts based on robust data, said Philip Mote, a climate researcher at the University of Washington who worked on the report.

“We’re finally seeing a lot more economic data. In the past, we could talk about, well this is going to happen, there will be lower streamflow(s), there will be more invasive species, this might happen, that might happen,” he said. Now, more economic studies show the rising costs. In the worst-case, high-emissions scenario, global warming costs could total 10 percent of U.S. GDP by the end of the century, according to the report.

How much those costs can be reduced will depend on how fast emissions of both carbon dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants like methane and HFCs are reduced and land-based carbon storage is ramped up.

“Decisions that decrease or increase emissions over the next few decades will set into motion the degree of impacts that will likely last throughout the rest of this century, with some impacts (such as sea level rise) lasting for thousands of years or even longer,” the report says. “Early mitigation can reduce climate impacts in the nearer term (such as reducing the loss of perennial sea ice and effects on ice-dwelling species) and, in the longer term, prevent critical thresholds from being crossed (such as marine ice sheet instability and the resulting consequences for global sea level change).”

The release of the report suggests federal science has fared better then expected in the past two years, “due in part to some degree of bipartisan resolve that still remains when it comes to governmental support for science,” Mann said. 

But that doesn’t offset the harm caused by the dismantling of environmental protections and green-lighting of climate-unfriendly energy policies at the Departments of Energy and Interior and elsewhere, he said.

The severe damage caused by recent record floods from Hurricanes Harvey and Florence, as well as the catastrophic California wildfires, also suggest that “models aren’t completely capturing the physics relevant to understanding and projecting these unprecedented weather extremes,” Mann said.

Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also said that climate impact assessments in general tend to under-emphasize the effect of global warming on climate extremes.

“A lot more is attributable than is generally accepted,” Trenberth said, citing recent research he worked on showing links between deep ocean heat content and the damaging floods from Hurricane Harvey. In the Pacific, global warming is likely to intensify El Niños, with “bigger and with stronger droughts and floods around the world.”

And the U.S. is still behind the curve when it comes to responding to the growing threat.

Up to now, “neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades,” the report concludes.

Farms and Food System at Higher Risk

The report stressed that American farmers and ranchers are already feeling the effects of climate change, and that those effects will worsen dramatically, with more extreme rainfall, flooding and drought.  

“The farm and food system as we know it is transforming before our eyes, and the productivity we’ve benefited from is in jeopardy,” explained Marcia DeLonge, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We’re going to lose commodity cropsdue to different growing seasons, droughts, floods, and the costs to farmers and ranchers—and taxpayers—will be huge. And we’re likely underestimating them.”

Climate change will hit the Corn Belt particularly hard. Under a high-emissions scenario, the Midwest will see greater increases in warm-season temperatures than anywhere else in the country, with the frost-free season projected to increase by an average of 10 days from 2016 to 2045. 

A rise in temperatures in the Midwest is “projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture,” the report says. Agricultural productivity could drop to 1980s levels by 2050, the report said, essentially wiping out gains made in recent decades from improved technologies.

Millions of People Become More Vulnerable

World Resources Institute scientist Andrew Light, an author of the mitigation chapter, said it’s clear the report is at odds with the administration’s policy and with what President Trump says about climate change.

But that doesn’t change the fact that millions of people are becoming more vulnerable to global warming impacts.

“We need to be reaching a point in this country where we are arguing about the best solutions, not over whether a problem exists. This report creates very clear terrain around which one could have this discussion,” Light said.

He said some of the regional findings make it clear what’s at stake for people. In New England, under a high emissions scenario, the distinctive seasons of New England could disappear, altering the region’s fundamental character.

“It’s hard to imagine there won’t be distinct seasons. That indelibly changes the place,” he said.

And in his native state of Georgia, the report identifies a growing risk of wildfires.

“That’s incredibly distressing. It’s not part of our annual cycle, we don’t have a forest fire season in the Southeast, so it’s horrible to imagine those kinds of impacts if you think about what we’re seeing in California right now.”

The 2016 wildfire that burned through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a prime example of how communities can be caught unaware of the risks.

“The people were not ready at all, and the changes that create this type of risk could happen quickly,” Light said.

Was Trump Trying to Bury the Warnings?

The report is based on thousands of climate studies and is written by the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program, which includes scientists and policy experts from 13 federal agencies. A 1990 law created the program and mandates regular climate assessments.

The release of the report was originally scheduled for early December, but the date was moved up to the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, sometime during the past week, leading to concerns that the Trump administration meant to bury the report by publishing it during a holiday weekend. That drew scorn from some politicians.

“No matter how hard they try, the Trump administration can’t bury the effects of climate change in a Black Friday news dump – effects their own federal government scientists have uncovered,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island. 

“This report shows how climate change will affect every single one of our communities,” he said. “The president says outrageous things like climate change is a hoax engineered by the Chinese and raking forests will prevent catastrophic wildfires, but serious consequences like collapsing coastal housing prices and trillions of dollars in stranded fossil fuel assets await us if we don’t act.”

InsideClimate News reporter Georgina Gustin contributed to this report.

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

Are you keeping up with a greener Singapore? #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike demand #ClimateAction #StopAdani #VicVotes2018 #TheDrum #QandA #Insiders #SDGs

Growing awareness around the carbon footprint of the built environment is creating a demand for greener, smarter buildings.

Is your organisation keeping up with the green wave, or will it be left behind, asks Johnson Controls’ Ken Lim.

In many Asian cities, including Singapore, the interest in sustainable living is growing as the effects of global warming—intense extreme weather events and rising sea levels—leave their mark across the region.

Without radical change, Asia Pacific will account for 48 per cent of global carbon emissions by 2030.

The race to build green cities across Asia is on.

An estimated US$6 billion is expected to go into financing projects to counter climate change by 2020, focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, resilient infrastructure, and better preparation for climate-related disasters.

Singapore: A fast-growing green city

Green buildings, which have a lower carbon footprint compared to regular buildings, are key to sustainable urban planning since the built environment contributes 33 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

It has been estimated that urban residents could save as much as US$16 billion annually through the use of intelligent, energy efficient technologies. To date, Singapore has “greened” more than a third of the building stock (by gross floor area). In fact, we rank second among global cities for green buildings, according to a 2016 report.

But to reach the government’s aim of having 80 per cent of Singapore’s buildings certified under the Building and Construction Authority Green Mark scheme by 2030, we need to green an additional 50 per cent of our buildings within the next 12 years.

More than 80 per cent of local organisations and 70 per cent of global organisations today than in 2016, according to the 2017 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, which polled more than 1,500 facility and management executives worldwide.

With 2018 designated as the Year of Climate Action for Singapore, close to a quarter of a million citizens, business corporations and civil have pledged to take climate action and reduce their carbon footprint. The nation has also committed under the Paris Agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 36 per cent compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

Singapore’s artificial natural paradise.

Are you focusing on energy efficiency?

Given the importance of energy efficiency in sustainable living, how are local companies addressing the issue?

Our survey findings revealed a strong positive outlook for green investments among local respondents. Eighty-three per cent of Singapore companies have said they are expecting to increase investments on energy efficiency projects, a strong lead over the global average of nearly 60 per cent.

Outfitting buildings to be more energy efficient is a key component of creating sustainable buildings. Some possible solutions include energy-efficient cooling devices and systems that streamline energy use. In fact, improvements to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ranked as the top energy efficiency measure adopted by nearly 80 per cent of local companies in the survey.

Are you actively integrating your building systems?

Smart technologies are an integral part of green buildings. As built environments become greener and smarter, there will be more demand for agile products and systems that are smart, cyber-secure and future ready.

In the last year, about 43 per cent of local organisations have reported investing in systems integration. Heading the list is integration with external data sources, such as weather and utility information with other building technology systems, followed by integration with energy management, life safety systems, and lighting systems.

Smart buildings are responsive to the needs of the occupants in real time, leveraging building data to optimise energy usage, lower facility costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring safety and sustainability. These green buildings often connect internal systems—such as heating, ventilation, cooling, data networks, power management and surveillance—with external networks to manage building operations more efficiently.

Do you have net zero built environments in the pipeline?

Building net zero energy building and further reducing greenhouse gas footprint should also be on organisations’ radars as we move toward green, sustainable urban living.

The increase in local demand for green buildings is expected to pump up demand for net zero energy buildings as well, according to our survey. It showed that 66 per cent of organisations in Singapore are very likely to plan to achieve near zero, net zero or energy positive status for at least one building within the next 10 years. In comparison, about 54 per cent of organisations globally are committed to the same goal.

Effective carbon reduction in the built environment is a concerted effort that depends on a combination of planning, design, construction and use. New buildings offer the largest potential savings of 75 per cent or higher in energy use; although it would require an approach that combines technological and behavioural change. Building owners should thus consider energy savings from the beginning of the project as part of construction and design.

However, nearly 30 per cent of local companies lack the technical expertise to evaluate or execute projects as the primary barrier to pursuing energy efficiency. Other obstacles included the lack of funding to pay for improvements, as well as the uncertainty regarding savings and performance.

Green up to keep up

It will take active involvement, close cooperation and mindset change of organisations and communities to achieve environmental sustainability.

Joining the growing ranks of organisations that have integrated myriad systems such as life safety, lighting, water management with advanced building technology would be a good start. Gaining insights and new ideas from regional collaborative platforms, such as the World Green Building Council, to jump-start your green building projects could be another.

Leveraging performance benchmarking and certifications can be effective in driving energy efficiency improvements. More than 80 per cent of local respondents ranked benchmarking and certification as very important. Other effective policies included government leadership in leasing, building design, and retrofits; as well as public and private sector building efficiency targets.

Experts have singled out a clearly defined governance structure and effective leadership as the bedrock to the success of any enterprise-wide strategy. Without exception, a successful climate change strategy necessitates a holistic approach that requires competence that cuts across functions, operations and geographies.

Ken Lim is General Manager and Managing Director, BT&S Singapore at Johnson Controls. This article was written for Eco-Business. 

Press link for more: Eco Business

Humanitarian Crisis in California! Catastrophic #ClimateChange 79 Dead, 700 missing, thousands homeless. Demand #GreenNewDeal #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #auspol

The wildfires in California signal that in the era of climate catastrophe no one will be untouched.

Time to make the planet great again.

We need to join movements like the Extinction Rebellion, Climate Strike, Stop Adani and 350.Org.

The time for procrastination is over.

The climate crisis is here we need to demand a Green New Deal.

Why I won’t be giving any presents this Christmas. #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #ClimateChange #TheDrum #QandA #Auspol #Qldpol

By Rupert Read

I’m in London, to be with the family at Christmas.

Every year, the lights are bigger and brighter.

Is this progress?

Thinking about the meaning of ‘progress’ is not easy to do in our society. Because it’s hard-wired into the hegemony of capitalist economics and of liberal technocracy that any technological change, any increase in GDP, anything getting bigger and brighter IS progress.

By definition.

In fact, we’re often told, if we dare to try to question any of this, “You can’t stop progress!”.

This idiom casually works its way into daily conversations on a variety of topics, informing views on cultural products, technological innovations, and providing the backdrop to political initiatives.

It is a way in which our socio-political (let alone environmental) anxieties are often allayed or brushed aside, and the alleged grand sweep of history is affirmed. But when one listens more closely, what one notices is that this stock phrase is very often said with a sigh. “You can’t stop progress… [*sigh*, and a shrug of the shoulders]”; i.e. you can’t stop things getting worse.

That’s what “progress” now means, in human terms and ecological terms alike: things getting worse.

Ecologically, we are experiencing unprecedented biodiversity crises; there are crises of desertification and soil disruption; there is a crisis of plastic pollution, especially in the oceans; and of course there is the escalating climate crisis, which will probably finish us, unless we question the myths that rule us, and fast.

The scale and speed of environmental collapse alone belies the myth of progress. But socially, too, our appetites are out of control and we are suffering from the false-affirmation that things are getting better, that we are ‘progressing’. Technological innovations are providing us with ever more private modes of absorption, while our mental health and physical health are at war, as seen in the amount of alcoholism and obesity rampant wherever a commodity culture reigns. All the while, the political ‘Left’ are either enthralled in a nostalgia for an imagined past that induces a forgetfulness of the shortcomings of the present, or enthralled by ludicrous technophilic visions of the future; and the political Right are enabling madly unequal unbridled consumption in the hope it will bring about that other contemporary fetish: growth.

Indeed, ‘progress’ is often measured by the prospects for growth – this being taken as an unalloyed good. But we are living well beyond the limits of the planet, while stuck in a present beyond which we cannot see a future.

Yet, the narrative of ‘progress’ persists.

These are symptoms of a profound, underlying malady.

Our moment has been diagnosed by the late Mark Fischer as ‘capitalist realism’: the neoliberal application of capitalist and market logics to every aspect of culture and governance.

This interrupts our capacity to think of ways of improving our society.

However, whereas Fisher’s diagnosis proposes to work at the level of the ‘real’, it seems to me that the battle to be thought through and won is at the level of the political imaginary: to confront how powerfully exceptional the neoliberal and ‘liberal-democratic’ economic bubbles of the last 60 years are, how socially and culturally expensive individualism is, how the ecologically-ravaged future needs to be confronted in its stark impending reality, how entirely different models of collective dependence need to be forged in relation to the reproduction of life because there is very little ecological space remaining and the ultimate poverty is at the level of our impoverished imaginary.

Fisher’s analysis takes a famous line from Frederick Jameson: ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’. I’d suggest we struggle just as much to think outside of the discursive coordinates of ‘progress’. This is pervasive insofar as it provides the end for our social and economic enterprises and therefore feeds into the rationale of governance. It infects political discourse at every level.

As part of ‘progressive’ discussions to organise a forceful opposition and intervene, there has been little or no questioning this guiding ideology. Our political discourse is so saturated by the narrative of progress that the health of our society is judged in accordance with a metric that buys into its guiding notions. The measure of our national well-being is judged in accordance with GDP, which takes the quantity of goods and services produced as the key indicators of a working economy. It’s been well known for 50 years that this is a terrible measure of well-being. And yet, it still dominates the media and political discourse, and only marginalised Greens dare to challenge it.

The voice of ‘Leftist’ opposition buys into the very economic premises that give life-blood to these absurdities. The antagonism between the left and right is working out a dialectic whereby both seek to secure economic growth and progress, albeit by slightly different means: austerity, corporate tax breaks, and trickle-down economics from the right, who claim to hold to the notion that the freest markets will yield the fairest distribution of incomes and the most productive combination of labour and capital; stricter regulation of the financial sector to stop corporate tax avoidance and more rigorous redistribution from the left who argue uneven distribution of wealth brings with it an uneven distribution of risk and vulnerability across social strata. The latter is far more attractive – but, insofar as it feeds into precisely the same fantasy of ‘progress’ = endless growth, ultimately just as dangerous.

Taking growth as the prerogative and progress as the goal: If coca-cola must destroy forests, they should do so: new factories hold the promise for more growth. If the manufacture of more cars signals growth, we should pursue this goal despite now obvious costs to public and environmental health. Just look at Labour’s 2017 manifesto: which insisted on faster economic growth than the Conservatives, and put its money where its mouth was by calling for road-building, airport-expansion, HS2-construction, a massive programme of house-building and much much more: economics as if there were no tomorrow.

Progress is not just a myth that benefits the few; it is the narrative harbinger of doomsday.

There must be a new order of the political informed by a different narrative logic, one that breeds hope for the future while facing up to brutal realities about the damaged future that our growthism and fealty to the god of ‘progress’ have made virtually certain. Before the altar of progress, we have demanded ever more sacrifice from the natural world, and now we’re willing to offer up the biosphere itself, and the entire human future with it. We are quite literally putting these into the balance. Unconscionably.

We need a new narrative that affirms precautionary thinking, ‘enough-ism’, one-planet-living, and that moves toward managing appetites without demanding the poor tighten their belts and make a stoical ethic out of it while the rich loosen their inhibitions.

Progress is entirely incommensurable with precaution, with a ‘No’ to recklessness. It’s time to say enough to progress and begin to reorient our political narratives around a precautionary logic.

Happy Christmas. And a better 2019.

Make a start by doing as I do: don’t give any presents except those that have cost no money, involve no material things, and so represent no drain on the Earth.

Now that would be: real progress.

Press link for more: The London Economic

Christian #climatechange activists arrested outside Downing Street #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #Airpollution kills millions every year. #TheDrum #QandA

By Eno Adeogun

Ruth Jarman, 55, Phil Kingston, 82, Fr Martin Newell, 51, Richard Barnard, 45, and Nick Cooper, 36, used spray paint cans to write messages that called for a zero carbon future.

Shortly before his arrest, Richard Barnard said: “I decided to take part on behalf of all the people around the world who are already suffering the effects of climate change.

“Of course I’d rather not be here today; I would rather be at home. However, I have the privilege of being able to speak out for justice and I will do that for those around the world who don’t have that luxury.”

The group also attempted to block the entrance to Downing Street and Jarman used glue to stick herself to railings, before being removed by police.

The Extinction Rebellion protest was one of a series that happened across the capital yesterday.

The group had previously declared a fortnight of planned protests they described as ”the rebellion’ after the government failed to agree to their demands by 12th November which included declaring a state of emergency around climate change.

Kingston, 82 who is a Christian Climate Action member, was led away two weeks ago by police without being arrested after lying in the road outside parliament for several hours.

Those involved with the ‘rebellion’ have said the movement is “prepared to risk arrest in order to ensure the world avoids climate breakdown”.

Press link for more: Premier

If you’re wondering why people are demanding change watch this video from Churchill College Cambridge

Australian health professionals’ statement on climate change and health. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #springst #wapol #StopAdani join #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #TheDrum

The Australian Government’s contemptuous dismissal of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the panel’s recommendation to dramatically reduce coal power by 2050, is unacceptable.
As Australian health professionals and scientists, we are dismayed by the implications of our government’s ongoing stance to disregard the consensus of the world’s leading climate scientists, the precautionary principle, and any idea of duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours.
Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and produces about 7% of the world’s coal. 
Worldwide, fossil fuel burning produces around 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities. 
To limit global warming to 2°C, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and more than 80% of current coal reserves as of 2010 should remain unused. 
Air pollution from coal burning is responsible for numerous health problems—according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, around 2·5 million deaths were caused by solid fuel burning worldwide.
Ironically, no other member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is as vulnerable to climate disruption as Australia.
Climate disruption is already amplifying the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and tropical storms, causing harm and damaging livelihoods.
As with other established historical harms to human health (eg, tobacco and exorbitant hepatitis C drug prices), narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.
The Australian Government must commit immediately to embrace strategies of energy generation that do not put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (panel)—with healthier communities reaping the benefits now and in the future. Without concerted action by all, the IPCC recommendation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will certainly not be achieved.
Because of processes of colonisation and marginalisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia have been cut off from lands and seas and are in poorer overall health; climate change will only amplify these inequities. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours are also highly vulnerable to climate-related risks to health, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, habitability, food security, water supply, and economic growth.
Our disregard of their plight through continued coal burning is shameful.
Press link for more: The Lancet
A must watch video from Cambridge University Churchill College

The #ExtinctionRebellion – A Tipping Point for the Climate Emergency? #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #springst #wapol #TheDrum #QandA #ClimateStrike #StopAdani

By Paul Gilding

Paul Gilding

Paul Gilding is an Australian environmentalist, consultant, and author.

Gilding, a former executive director of Greenpeace International, and a Fellow at University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, is the author of The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World (2011).

In 2012, Gilding delivered a presentation on the thesis of his book at the 2012 TED conferencetitled The Earth is Full, which earned him press attention.

He lives in southern Tasmania with his wife and children.

The Extinction Rebellion – A Tipping Point for the Climate Emergency?

The only rational response to the scientific evidence on climate change, is to declare a global emergency – to mobilise all of society to do whatever it takes to fix it. As the UN Secretary General Guterres recently stated: “We face a direct existential threat”.

Failure is really not an option when “failure” means we could “annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential”  This is now a war for civilisation’s survival. [1]

Meanwhile we blunder on…. Deeply committed to making verbal commitments, while delivering pathetically inadequate actual responses. Responses that treat the clear and urgent advice of the world’s top scientists – that we face the risk of global collapse – as merely passing thoughts to be casually contemplated.

Well, time’s up. To quote Winston Churchill: “Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger.  The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences …We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…”

Enter the Extinction Rebellion.

This is group of people who have simply had enough.

They have looked at the science and concluded that the world has gone mad, that we now face the risk of extinction. And they’ve decided not to stand by in the face of that – but instead to rebel against the madness that has overtaken us. To try to shock us all into action, to face up to reality.

Extreme? Over-reaction?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Of course, we can’t know for sure.

The crucial mistake we tend to make in complicated issues like climate, is to fail on very basic risk assessment and management.

We don’t knowsociety definitelyfaces collapse, so we assume (or hope) it won’t and act accordingly.

This is madness.

If your doctor told you, “on balance I think your child will be dead in five years – I can’t be sure but the best medical science suggests a 90% likelihood.

However, if you take these simple steps – steps that will be quite inconvenient and disruptive but totally doable – the likelihood of their death will fall to 5%.” What would you do?

Wait for certainty?

Which could only come when your child was on their death bed?


That’s the point of the Extinction Rebellion.

To make us all stop and think – to ask the simple question: Am I really paying attention?

To what I know, to what we all now know?

The big question is whether this will be any different from the past 30 years of climate activism.

It may of course not be.

We have shown an incredible ability to stay in denial about what is now asked of us. But it may also be very different.

Why? I suggest five reasons.

  1. Civil Disobedience at (potentially) large scale. 

To date most climate activism has been advocacy for policy, with a relatively small focus on direct action protests. When the latter has occurred, it has focused on specific activities e.g. Keystone and other pipelines, new coal mines. Important and often powerful, but the debate then tends to then go those particular developments, with the global climate issue as the context. Extinction Rebellion (XR) proposes something quite different. They plan civil disobedience blockades at scale – and if they get sufficient support, to shut down cities. To stop the world and make us think. It’s kind of Occupy Wall St meets the Arab Spring and Tahir Square, but armed with the world’s top science and clear, practical and actionable solutions.

Civil Disobedience has a strong and powerful history in political and social change, including the civil rights, suffragette and peace movements and in bringing down many autocratic governments. In today’s political context, it may become a powerful, hopeful and emotionally engaging way for young people to respond to the despair and frustration they feel.  XR may be flooded with people joining them. As Greta Thunberg – the Swedish 15 year old who started the School Strike For Climate said: “We’re facing an immediate unprecedented crisis that has never been treated as a crisis and our leaders are all acting like children. We need to wake up and change everything.”

  1. The science is now crystal clear. This is an emergency. 

Civil disobedience is of course not new on climate change. At Greenpeace International in 1993 I helped organised a blockade of a key city intersection demanding the Dutch Government take action on climate change. It had little impact. Why might this be different?

This is not 1993. We have 25 years more evidence of the problem. We are also now living in the reality of a changed climate, with the process just beginning. To avoid catastrophic risk, the most recent IPCC report [2] said we have around a decade to have cut CO2 emissions by about 50%. To be clear : not a decade to start doing it, but a decade to have it done. Churchill’s “era of procrastination” is well and truly over.

  1. The solutions are ready.

We also have 25 years of progress in both developing and delivering solutions. In 2008, when I wrote with Professor Jorgen Randers, the One Degree War Plan, showing how we could slash emissions by 50% in five years, commencing in 2018, it was seen by many as economic fantasy.  Fast forward just 10 years and we see renewables blitzing fossil fuels in the market. The most recent annual report from Lazard on the levelized cost of energy concluded: “We have reached an inflection point where, in some cases, it is more cost effective to build and operate new alternative energy projects than to maintain existing conventional generation plants”. Consider that – it is often already cheaper (and getting cheaper every year) to build and operate newrenewable power plants than to just operateold (i.e. fully depreciated and paid for) fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. This is without strong policy on climate change – so imagine how fast we could move if we had it!

  1. The Extinction Rebellion is not alone.

This all comes on top of a growing awakening  that climate change is a real emergency. Groups like The Climate Mobilization (TCM) formed by people who also faced despair but decided that telling the truth and taking action was the right response. TCM has taken the climate emergency message across the USA getting cities and towns to formally declare an emergency. They also acted in the recent US elections, which saw unprecedented engagement by young people with strong action on climate change one of their key demands. One result is that new members of Congress, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are now fully engaged in the emergency mobilizing approach.

Meanwhile, continuing to build on the intellectual basis for all this, think tanks like Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration have put forward the clear scientific case for an emergency and, I think critically, defined what an emergency mobilisation is. They explain this is not just a verbal intent to accelerate urgency and action, but a practical organising basis with clear goals, most closely referenced by the industrial transformation and economic mobilisation we saw in WWII.

Considering this growing momentum, XR might just be the tipping point.

  1. Nothing else we are doing is working.

My final reason this could be different is the very uncomfortable fact we in the climate movement must face. We are failing. We have built huge and widespread global support for action across policy makers, business and the public. Never has there been such engagement on the climate issue. But success cannot be defined as support for potential action. Success is slashing emissions. And on that we are failing. There are countless good reasons and justifications for this – and it’s not like millions of us aren’t trying as hard as we can. But we are still failing. And time is up.

Of course, it’s possible that Extinction Rebellion will also fail. That a few protests will gather media attention then fade away. Perhaps their deep commitment to non-violence will be disrupted by outsiders or agent provocateurs. Perhaps they will be written off as the crazy fringe, with wacky ideas about the future of democracy. All possible.

But they may also succeed. They may make enough of us ask some questions: Am I part of the problem? Am I sitting back clearly recognising the scale of the crisis and the risk of collapse, maybe even extinction, but paralysed by either fear and despair? Or just not knowing what the hell else to do? Should I join them on the streets?  Is it time?

Extinction Rebellion may be the crazy fringe. Or they may be the only sane people in the room.

  1. Quote from Page 13 “What Lies Beneath”. Dunlop and Spratt. Published by Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration. This report provides an excellent overview of existential threat, the climate science and why we tend to the understatement of risk on climate.
2. IPCC 1.5 degree report  Note these reductions are from 2010 levels, with the task actually greater given 2018 emissions are higher. And this is for a low level of certainty of achieving the 1.5 degree goal ( 40% – 60% likelihood ).

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We must be the change.