There is a new IMF paper out on climate change and what policy instruments are available to do something about it.
I write this post from Brazil, where the fires in the Amazon rage on and the Bolsonaro government ignores this catastrophe and even welcomes it as a way of clearing the land for more agro production by big domestic and foreign companies. Bolsonaro, Trump and other right-wing ‘populists’ of course deny that there is a problem from global warming and climate change. And I know there are even some on the left in the labour movement who are sceptical at least or outright deniers, seeing it as either mistaken science or a scientific establishment conspiracy for grants and careers.
Well, all I can say to that is that evidence remains overwhelmingly convincing that the earth is heating up to levels not seen in recorded human history; that this global warming is caused by big increases in ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide and methane; and that these increases are due to industrialisation and economic growth using fossil fuel energy.
Here is the graph on carbon emissions by NASA as published in the IMF paper.
And as the IMF paper says: “Climate change affects economic outcomes through multiple channels. Rising temperatures, sea-level rises, ocean acidification, shifting rainfall patterns, and extreme events (floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires) affect the economy along multiple dimensions, including through wealth destruction, reduction and volatility of income and growth (Deryugina and Hsiang 2014, Mersch 2018) and effects on the distribution of income and wealth (IMF 2017, Bathiany et al. 2018, De Laubier-Longuet Marx et al. 2019, Pigato, ed., 2019).”
The IMF goes on:“The broad consensus in the literature is that expected damages caused by unmitigated climate change will be high and the probability of catastrophic tail-risk events is nonnegligible.” And: “There is growing agreement between economists and scientists that the tail risks are material and the risk of catastrophic and irreversible disaster is rising, implying potentially infinite costs of unmitigated climate change, including, in the extreme, human extinction (see, e.g., Weitzman 2009).”
Maybe you might think this is scare-mongering and exaggerated. But what if you are wrong and the ‘tail-end risks’ in the normal distribution of probability are fatter than you think? Can you take the risk that it will all be ok?
So let us assume that the science is right and the consequences are potentially catastrophic to the earth, human living conditions and well-being. What can be done about it, either to mitigate the effects or to stop any further rise in global warming?
Mainstream economics is seeped in complacency. William Nordhaus and Paul Romer won ‘Nobel’ prizes in economics for their contributions to the economic analysis and projections of climate change. Using ‘integrated assessment models’ (IAMs), Nordhaus claimed he could make precise the trade-offs of lower economic growth against lower climate change, as well as making clear the critical importance of the social discount rate and the micro-estimates of the cost of adjustment to climate change. And his results showed that things would not be that bad even if global warming accelerated well beyond current forecasts.
This neoclassical growth accounting approach is fraught with flaws, however. And heterodox economist, Steve Keen, among others, has done an effective debunking job on the Nobel Laureate’s forecasts. “If the predictions of Nordhaus’s Damage Function were true, then everyone—including Climate Change Believers (CCBs)—should just relax. An 8.5 percent fall in GDP is twice as bad as the “Great Recession”, as Americans call the 2008 crisis, which reduced real GDP by 4.2% peak to trough. But that happened in just under two years, so the annual decline in GDP was a very noticeable 2%. The 8.5% decline that Nordhaus predicts from a 6 degree increase in average global temperature (here CCDs will have to pretend that AGW is real) would take 130 years if nothing were done to attenuate Climate Change, according to Nordhaus’s model (see Figure 1). Spread over more than a century, that 8.5% fall would mean a decline in GDP growth of less than 0.1% per year”.
That other Nobel prize winner, Paul Romer, is also a ‘climate optimist’. The founder of so-called ‘endogenous growth’ ie growth leads to more inventions and more inventions lead to more growth in a harmonious capitalist way, Romer reckons that ensuring faster growth will deliver innovatory solutions for stopping global warming and climate change. Romer advocates setting up ’charter cities’ in the third world where enclaves in an existing country are handed over to another more stable and successful nation that would accelerate growth through innovation. His favourite model for this was Hong Kong!
The IMF paper notes with sadness that ‘market solutions’ to mitigating global warming are not working. That’s because companies and countries hope that somebody else will fix the problem and they don’t need to spend anything on it; or that companies and states never think long term and are only interested in what will happen in one, three of five years ahead, not fifty or a century. But above all, market solutions are not working because for capitalist companies it is just not profitable to invest in climate change mitigation: “Private investment in productive capital and infrastructure faces high upfront costs and significant uncertainties that cannot always be priced. Investments for the transition to a low-carbon economy are additionally exposed to important political risks, illiquidity and uncertain returns, depending on policy approaches to mitigation as well as unpredictable technological advances.”
Indeed: “The large gap between the private and social returns on low-carbon investments is likely to persist into the future, as future paths for carbon taxation and carbon pricing are highly uncertain, not least for political economy reasons. This means that there is not only a missing market for current climate mitigation as carbon emissions are currently not priced, but also missing markets for future mitigation, which is relevant for the returns to private investment in future climate mitigation technology, infrastructure and capital.” In other words, it ain’t profitable to do anything significant.
The IMF then lists various measures of monetary and fiscal policy by governments that might be used to mitigate climate change. They boil down to credit incentives to companies, or issuing ‘green bonds’ to try and fund climate change mitigation projects. Then it considers what fiscal policies might be applied ie government investment in green projects or taxes on carbon emissions etc.
What does the IMF conclude on the efficacy of these policies: “Adding climate change mitigation as a goal in macroeconomic policy gives rise to questions about policy assignment and interactions with other policy goals such as financial stability, business cycle stabilization, and price stability. Political economy considerations complicate these questions. The literature does not provide answers yet.” In other words, they see so many complications in using traditional policy tools within the framework of the capitalist mode of production for profit, that they don’t have any answers. In effect, how can the threat of disasters be averted if capitalist accumulation for profit must continue?
Now some on the left argue that the answer is to end the ‘growth mentality’ in capitalism. Just ploughing on producing blindly and wastefully more will ensure disaster. This is the ‘no-growth’ option. And it is undoubtedly true that when economies accelerate in growth and industrial output, based on fossil fuel energy, then carbon emissions also rise inexorably. Jose Tapia, a Marxist economist in the US, has produced firm empirical evidence of the correlation between economic growth and carbon emissions. Indeed, whenever there is a recession as in 2008-9, carbon emission growth falls.
Tapia points out that “the evolution of CO2 emissions and the economy in the past half century leaves no room to doubt that emissions are directly connected with economic growth. The only periods in which the greenhouse emissions that are destroying the stability of the Earth climate have declined have been the years in which the world economy has ceased growing and has contracted, i.e., during economic crises. From the point of view of climate change, economic crises are a blessing, while economic prosperity is a scourge.” Inexorable march toward utter climate disaster [f] (1)
There is an extensive literature arguing for this no growth option to be adopted by the labour movement and socialists globally. But is no growth the answer, when there are three billion people in dire poverty and when even in the more advanced capitalist economies, stagnating economies would mean falling living standards and worse lives for the rest? Instead, can we not mitigate climate change and environmental disasters, and even reverse the process through ending the capitalist mode of production? Then under democratic global planning of the commonly owned resources of the world, we can phase out fossil fuel energy and still expand production to meet the needs of the many. Is this utopian or a practical possibility?
I won’t spell out how that can be done because I think that Richard Smith has expounded how in a series of comprehensive articles. As he says, what we need is not ‘no growth’ but ‘eco-socialism’. It is not a choice between global warming and ‘no growth’ recession and depression for billions; but between capitalist production disaster or socialist planning. Green capitalism won’t work, as the IMF paper hints at, and a Green New Deal won’t be enough if the capitalist mode of production for profit still dominates. But under democratic planning we can control unnecessary consumption and return resources to the environment in a way to keep the planet, human beings and nature as balanced as possible. We can “innovate”, create new things, but still balance our ecological inputs and outputs. It’s a practical possibility, but time is running out.
83 thoughts on “Climate change and mitigation”
Capitalism has come to stay. Any ecological solution for the planet has to come from capitalism. Everything else is just utopia.
Sheer ignorance, no doubt based in ideological blindness. Go back to school and get an education.
If you feel the urge to go to a socialist blog to post capitalism has come to stay, then that means that capitalism has not come to stay.
Look folks you need to hear talks from climate scientists that totally deny what the IPCC says and there are a lot of them. Many left the IPCC in disgust. There is no climate catastrophe looming. Not even close. You will end up with egg on your face pushing this stuff. I can provide you a dozen links that discredit this nonsense. Start with this one, it’s actually the least mild in criticizing this pseudo-science or con.
Mark, If I and 95% of climate scientists are wrong and yours are right, then Ill happily eat the egg on my face because it will be great news. I shall read your link.
That 95% of climate scientists number you’ve deployed is completely bogus. 30 thousand qualified scientists, nearly a third pf them with phd’s signed the Oregon petition specifically denouncing the idea of manmade global warming or whatever name it is currently masquerading under.
Attention. NASA has confirmed we are in the maudling phase of the sun’s output. The last time this happened in the 18th century the Thames froze over and their were frost fairs on the river. So despite the fact that solar output is at a minimum, I repeat minimum, the planet is warming up rather than cooling down. What happens in 12 years time when the sun’s output normalises????? On a happier note the Labour Party has a resolution to conference supported by Clive Lewis proposing an immediate income based consumption tax ring fenced so it’s proceeds can only be spent on green issues. The top 0.54% produce 16.7% of personal carbon emissions, the bottom 50% less than 10% I have been pushing for this demand which is to be found on a new posting on my website. Also we should adopt the slogan not a penny for defence all pennies for the repair of the planet. Finally I support the arguments detailed by Michael.
The oregon petition was bogus, there is a real consensus on climate change, and its 97% of actively publishing climate scientists. https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
Mark, it’s still a good idea to transition from filthy fossil: carcinogenic particulates, poisonous oxides of nitrogen, and CO as opposed to CO2, smog, etc. regardless of whether CO2 is implicated in global warming.
We have the resources and know how to begin transitioning jobs from coal to green, backed by pumped-hydro.
MMT describes how the fossil industry can be pensioned off on a job for job basis, during the transition. And as more and more solar and wind farms come on line, the price of energy approaches zero (as the fuel is free).
No it is not a good idea since it further impoverishes the third world keep it a backward slave society. It unnecessarily burdens the rest with things like carbon tax and diverts funds to useless endeavors. Anyway, the planet is a very low levels of CO2 and their going higher just has been greening the planet and increasing crop yields.
“No it is not a good idea since it further impoverishes the third world keep it a backward slave society.”
Exactly as capitalism has maintained less-developed countries for 130 years, petroleum or no petroleum. The point of development is NOT to make the less-developed countries as capitalist, as polluting, as planet-fouling, as callous towards the environmental costs of value production, as the developed countries are now.
There’s this process called uneven and combined development where it is absolutely not necessary for every part of the globe to repeat the miserable history of advanced capitalism in miniature.
Development of “third world” countries is impossible under the conditions of value production. The techniques of exploitation, and resulting destruction and waste, and the use of specific sources of energy as advanced by capitalism are not “neutral,” nor are they objective science. T
Those techniques, which necessarily yield the overproduction of petroleum, are infused, and inseparable from value accumulation, closing off the paths of social development and driving human beings into dependence on energy sources of the most backward type.
What is the primary source of energy, and pollution, in Africa? Biomass. In countries of sub-Saharan Africa, what is one of the primary modes of transportation of goods? Women. Does anyone think for a second that this is an anomaly, separable from the exploitation of resources necessary to the “advanced” uses of petroleum in the “developed” countries?
“Anyway, the planet is a very low levels of CO2 and their going higher just has been greening the planet and increasing crop yields.”
That’s supposed to pass as a scientific statement? What rot.
Transition from filthy fossil to green can be achieved in the first world AND the third world if overseen by a world bank following MMT principles, which would involve some temporary assistance to the third world in the form of transfer of technology and resources from ‘wealthy countries.
Good Marxist policy…..
Your (and Mark’s) anti “climate change” crusade is irrelevant at best (because global green energy by definition is greener/cleaner and affordable), and possibly catastrophic at worst (if *your* ‘proofs’ are wrong and the majority science is correct).
My anti-climate change crusade? Not so good at reading comprehension, are you?
I thought I was replying to replied to Mark, not Anti-Capital re AGW.
(As shown by the quote you attribute to me).
Anyway, MMT shows how we can transit quickly from filthy fossil to clean-green, which is sensible, regardless of the CO2 issue.
Your link asks “how reliable are the climate models”? Unfortunately well intentioned citizen science from folks like Clive Best doesn’t seem great at tackling the issue – https://skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm.
You better run a background check on skepticalscience.com and the guy who runs it. There is a whole history about lying with faked data, law suits (two lost so far) involving politically motivated climate scientists (e.g, Michael Mann), Universities (Aussie). Maybe it’s best that I gather the links and just post them here this weekend.
Suggesting my link needs a background check is really a genetic fallacy. It effectively debunks the citizen ‘science’ you seem to be advocating.
Mark S. and Tom.
Are these reports also false and made by pseudo scientists?
1.- State Administration Usa, report (published on 11/23/2018, Thanksgiving day) of 13 Federal Agencies with 1,600 pages. The US Administration is required by law to issue it every 4 years.
‘’ The greatest economic impact of global warming will be on labor costs, which will mean 155,000 million dollars for public coffers; deaths from high temperatures will amount to 141,000 million and sea level rise will have an impact on coastal properties of 118,000 million ’’
Health impacts // Increased risks from air pollution // Increased sea level // Evidence of climate change
“The evidence observed is not supported by any credible natural explanation for this amount of warming; however, the evidence consistently points towards human activity as the dominant cause.”
2. Ministry of Environment. Spain. The southern half of Spain, from Madrid, will be in African desert climate in 4/5 decades. In other countries of southern Europe (Italy, Portugal, Greece, etc …) the same thing happens. This desertification is progressing at an accelerated pace towards northern Europe
3.- University of Santiago de Compostela. Galicia, a region of Atlantic climate, to the northwest of Spain will be in a few decades in Mediterranean climate.
4- In Galicia until 5 years ago you only went to the beach in July, August and September. Now you can do it in November.
Do state administrations, which are only governed today by Liberal or socio-liberal parties and by climate denials, and neo-fascists, (D.Trump) falsify the reality of the climate with pseudo-scientific reports knowing that their current governments can fire them and / or reduce your charges and salaries?
You are joking, sure. Or they are dedicated to professional humor. Professional video humor.
Michael, your comment namely:
“And I know there are even some on the left in the labour movement who are sceptical at least or outright deniers, seeing it as either mistaken science or a scientific establishment conspiracy for grants and careers.”
.. omits one other major cause for concern (on the left) among unionists, namely the loss of well paid employment in the coal (and fossil) industry.
MMT has the funding issue (including transition of jobs from fossil to green) fully covered.
The claim is 97% to these to questions. Is global warming occurring? Does man-made CO2 have anything to do with it? Just yes/no answers with no quantification. Climate skeptics/deniers would also answer yes to these. Moreover, science isn’t a popularity contest. All this has been pointed out many times before. You can hear it even from world renowned climate scientists that these type of questions are almost nonsense and basically serve a political purpose. I can provide you with all the links to videos. It is actually quite shocking.
The Russian model INM-CM4 is the only one the predicts the satellite and high altitude ballon data when it comes to global warming. None of the IPCC models do.
I think the debate on the climate question lacks in both ends. First it lacks an answer to the question: Who can (is able to) believe that a social revolution is neccessary for any reason?
And can the ruling class and their ideologues be expected act for their own extinction?
I think that revolutionary ideas like the idea of a coming climate catastrophe will be used in the internal struggle among the rulers. More and more as their internal contradictions is growing. But only as long as the resulting popular movement can be contained.
The other end of the climate question is how and when the climate crisis can be expected to cause some sort of action among the ruled classes even though the rulers (and their ideologues of course) will unite against any sort of social revolution.
I think that it will take large negative – life threatening – experiences that can only be the result of of climate change to get some big part of the population to act for revolution.
A third question which should be raised is how far we can trust official statistics on the development of the climate. There is discrepancies between the emission of CO2e as computed from economics and the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere.
And statistics is a part of infowars
There doesnt seem to be any evidence of absolute decoupling (growth from ghg emissions etc), only relative decoupling. So I think that this probably means that a planned economy would need to consider steady state/degrowth ideas in the plan. Is Richard Smiths eco-socialism sufficient then?
It is painful to listen to liberals and others on the Left talk about “green capitalism” and how social justice is compatible with capitalism. That is nonsense. The steps that must be taken to save the planet and to redress political inequality *will* damage capitalism and will *not* be compatible with its continuation. Much as I hope Sanders or Warren wins, I do not hold out hope that they will be radical enough to save the day.
As for “no growth”, capitalist growth means the growth of *capital*, not production per se. An increase in the amount of goods produced is not incompatible with ecological health and social justice. An increase in production for the purpose of increasing profits absolutely is incompatible with those goals.
It does not seem to be a problem that there are profits (profitability, surplus) in an economy. Nor growth. If we grow, if we produce goods and services, it must be for profit. Profit, in itself, is an absolutely necessary economic concept. It cannot be produced, it cannot be lived, ‘to losses’, or to zero growth or to decreasing growth. Living that way, nature, powerful, wild and, also destructive, would end man easily and at any time. Man lacks too much dominion over nature to decide whether or not growth can stop. The benefits are not the problem, the problem is only the PRIVATE benefits and growth … Private productive benefits equal to capitalism. In that productive model the capitalists ask themselves an unanswered question: if I spend to curb climate change, so do my competitors? How much should I spend? Who controls and orders that equitable expenditure among all? Yes, the State should do it. But, ahyy, that capitalist state today is dominated by those who pollute and do not want to spend a single euro to decontaminate it. Or they want to spend less than they should. Volkswagen, eg, I thought so and did. A socialist state with workers democracy, with command and control of all its citizens if it would spend on controlling pollution. That scenario is not a utopian future. That is a fact already happened. The socialism of the twentieth century (that is, “real” socialism and the Western Welfare State) until the 1980s if it controlled pollution. A proof of that conclusive: in the graphs of evolution of the climatic damages it is observed that the data only gets worse from the eighties. That is, the data only gets worse after the socialist impulse of the twentieth century stepped back, receded. The second socialist impulse must come to mitigate and eliminate climate change.
Antonio: You say: “If we grow, if we produce goods and services, it must be for profit. Profit, in itself, is an absolutely necessary economic concept.” I must disagree. Any productive enterprise can be run as “not-for-profit”. In a capitalist economy this is limited to organizations that do not compete with for-profit organizations, of course, but there is nothing that says that all production of goods and services must be done for the sake of profit.
I do not think 20th century really-existing socialist countries were paragons of environmental protection, they were competing against capitalist economies and had to play by essentially the same rules as those economies. But I agree that a socialist/non-capitalist economy can certainly have increased production along with decreased pollution — precisely because it can account for the control of pollution as a cost of production rather than ignoring it in order to maximize profit.
Your claim is easily falsified by historical evidence. Civilized humanity has produced its means of life, and produced a surplus product, without need of a profit motive. Profit is not a universal necessity at all.
Profit is a powerful motivator for *some* people, among whom will be particularly inventive people; best not to exclude these people from your economic system, as did communism
Neil, you said “Profit is a powerful motivator for *some* people, among whom will be particularly inventive people.” Are you suggesting that people motivated by greed are more inventive than people who want to give better lives to their community? I don’t think so.
Perhaps the greedy merely =seem= more inventive, because their inventiveness is less hampered by concerns about how their invention might have side effects that are harmful to the local community. With fewer restrictions, they can come up with more inventions. That does not seem a plus to me.
When talking about profit, we are referring to the income equation – expenses necessary to obtain it. If deducting the necessary expenses (including personal consumption of the human factor) there is no benefit left, it implies that there is no saving. If there is no savings left, you cannot invest. If you don’t invest, you don’t grow. Countries will not grow, nor companies … nor people. And even, without any investment, you can not replace what wears out (by use, weather, etc …) in the means of production (machinery, tools, etc …). If the means of production are not replenished … we sink! Yes, I fear, that the benefit is a universal economic constant. If it were not so, I believe that there will really be nothing on this planet. Yes, it is true as Ron Rice says that there are non-profit (profit) societies but that is another matter.
The possibility of profit, for an individual, is a powerful motivator, but not the only one. [The lack of possibility of personal profit is one element in the failure of communism].
Ron, a socialist planned economy will have to take into consideration the limits on the planet. All growth in production appears to consume the worlds resources, and emit CO2. Green energy like wind consumes a huge amount of concrete and steel. At the moment there appears to be no sector that has decoupled.
Jon: All production consumes resources, that is certainly true, and production will never be so perfectly efficient that it creates absolutely no pollution. However, that does not mean that it is not possible to increase the amount of goods produced without increasing pollution. The levels of pollution involved in producing goods can be reduced by improvements to the efficiency of the methods of production. Those improvements are part of the growth of technological sophistication, even under capitalism. It is a question of diverting more resources toward improvement in the efficiency of the production for the sake of reducing pollution rather than for the sake of saving labor. That can be done, but not if the goal remains monetary profitability.
If Sanders and Warren understood Professor Stephanie Kelton’s macroeconomics (MMT), then capitalism could still play a (curtailed) role in the production of goods and services, as part of a sustainable economy including transition to clean green, and universal above poverty participation by all working age citizens.
Mr. Roberts has successfully debunked so-called “Modern” Monetary Theory, I think. See “MMT 3 – a backstop to capitalism”: “The Marxist view is that MMT and higher wages will not work to achieve full employment under capitalism because it will impair profitability and under a capitalist economy, that is what matters for investment, output, employment and wage incomes – not the other way round.”
I would think Mr. Sanders would be aware of Ms. Kelton’s views, given that she was his economic advisor in 2016. In any case, she said this recently: “Really, the only potential risk with the national debt increasing over time is inflation …”. Indeed!
Ron Rice: I read that article of Mr Roberts. I don’t believe he has understood MMT. eg central bank creation of fiat money during a downturn need not cause inflation, if countercyclical fiscal policy is well managed, for the simple reason there are *unused* resources, including labour, available for purchase by the currency issuing government (in the downturn).
Stephanie Kelton is correct: the only *risk* of government debt increasing over time is inflation, but a risk does not mean a certainty, and is easily managed if inflation does arise.
[Notice inflation is dead everywhere at present, despite interest rates everywhere near zero, AND large public and private debt everywhere.
Where’s the risk of inflation in this environment, eg, in eliminating (via fiscal policy) high *underemployment* in many countries, including even the US at 7.3%, a recession level…
Nonsense abounds and chaos ensues. Read at a minimum Dahr Jamail’s “The End of Ice” and David Wallace-Wells’s “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,” two who recognize that even IPCC’s projections are conservative, mainly because they are consensus conclusions that an array of often far too conservatively-oriented scientists sign off on. They also have done the essential investigative reporter’s legwork in chasing down those who are seeing this with their own eyes in their fields of expertise (not the line-up of nut case deniers) and who know that the trends in climate deterioration have zoomed in the past few years of unprecedented capitalist growth and corresponding skyrocketing employment of fossil fuels and other climate-destroying practices. How irresponsible these dismissive comments on Michael’s article appear in this time of deep looming crisis.
There is no crisis. The nonsense is there is and it’s man made. Let’s start exposing this some more since i promised i would provide links to people who actually know what they are talking about.
A climate scientist and the other a head of SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator). One on the details of climate science the other on the difference between science and pseudo-science (i.e. IPCC).
Next is Princeton’s physicist Prof. Harper and what the expose of this fraud means. We will see more of him in a debate which i will post later this week.
Climate scientist Tim Ball exposing what’s been going on. He was sued by Michael Mann. Mann dragged this through the courts for years, refusing to show his data. Ball finally won this year.
Prof. Richard Lindzen climate scientist from MIT exposes more ridiculous claims of the IPCC and talks about climate sensitivity to CO2 emmissions.
What the IPCC continuously does not investigate but is the likely elephant in the room driving normal changes to global temperature.
and another scientist investigating this
Former chair of the IPCC commity for sea level changes and a world recognized expert on this topic resigns in disgust.
Another world recognized expert that developed the methods and collected more data than all other doing the same work combined was fired by his university for exposing lies about climate change and coral formations. He also recently won his law suit against the university.
There is more to come …..
”There is more to come …..” Indeed, there is; it is called ”apocalypse”!
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Portents of 21st Century Global Warming
Extreme GHG and temperature rise rates question linear climate projections
By Dr. Andrew Glikson
Global Research, September 07, 2019
In-depth Report: Climate Change
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Global Research has decided to publish different perspectives and competing viewpoints regarding Climate Change, with a view to promoting debate and critical analysis.
“We will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it”…
“Now we probably don’t even have a future anymore, because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once. You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.” Greta Thunberg
The extreme GHG and temperature rise rates since the mid-1970th raise questions over linear climate projections for the 21st century and beyond. Under a rise of CO2- equivalent reaching +500 ppm and 3.0Wm-2 relative to 1750, the current rise rates of CO2 by 2.86 ppm per and recent global temperature rise rate (0.15-0.20°C per decade) since 1975 are leading to an abrupt shift in state of the terrestrial climate and the biosphere. By mid-21st century at >750 ppm CO-e climate tipping points indicated by Lenton et al. 2008 and Schellnhuber 2009 are likely to be crossed. Melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has increased by a factor of more than 5 since 1979–1990. As the ice sheets and sea ice melt the albedo flip between reflective ice surfaces and dark infrared-absorbing water results in significant increase of radiative forcing and complete removal of Arctic sea ice would result in a forcing of about 0.7 Wm−2 (Hudson, 2011). The confluence of climate events, including a breach of the circum-Arctic jet stream boundary and a polar-ward migration of climate zones at a rate of 56-111 km per decade, induce world-wide extreme weather events including bushfires, methane release from Arctic permafrost and sediments. For a climate sensitivity of 3±1.5°C per doubling of atmospheric CO2, global warming has potentially reached between +2oC to +3oC above mean pre-industrial temperatures at a rate exceeding the fastest growth rate over the last 55 million years. As ice melt water flow into the oceans temperature polarities between warming continents and cooling tracts of ocean would further intensify extreme weather events under non-linear climate trajectories. The enrichment of the atmosphere in GHG, constituting a shift in state of the terrestrial climate, is predicted to delay the onset of the next glacial state by some 50,000 years.
A. GHG and temperature rise
The paleoclimate record suggests that no event since 55 million years ago, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when global temperatures rose by more than +5 to +8oC over a period of ~20,000 years, with a subsequent warming period of up to 200,000 years, has been as extreme as atmospheric disruption since the onset of the industrial age about 1750 AD (the Anthropocene), accelerating since 1975. During this period greenhouse gas levels have risen from ~280 ppm to above >410 ppm and to 496ppm CO2-equivalent (Figure 1), the increase of CO2 reaching near-47 percent above the original atmospheric concentration. However linear climate change projections are rare in the recent climate history (Figure 2) and linear future climate projections may not account for the effects of amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans. Given an Anthropocene warming rate faster by ~X200 times than the PETM (Figure 3), linear warming trajectories such as are projected by the IPCC may overlook punctuated tipping points, transient reversals and stadial events.
Figure 1. Growth of CO2-equivalent level and the annual greenhouse gas Index (AGGI). Measurements of CO2to the 1950s are from (Keeling et al., 2008) and from air trapped in ice and snow above glaciers. Equivalent CO2amounts (in ppm) are derived from the relationship between CO2concentrations and radiative forcing from all long-lived greenhouse gases.
According to NOAA GHG forcing in 2018 has reached 3.101 Wm-2 relative to 1750 (CO2=2.044Wm-2; CH4= 0.512 Wm-2; N2O = 0.199Wm-2; CFCs = 0.219Wm-2) with a CO2-equivalent of 492 ppm (Figure 1). The rise in GHG forcing during the Anthropocene since about 1800 AD, intensifying since 1900 AD and sharply accelerating since about 1975, has induced a mean of ~1.5oC over the continents above pre-industrial temperature, or >2.0oC when the masking role of aerosols is discounted, implying further warming is still in store.
According to Hansen et al. 2008 the rise in radiative forcing during the Last Glacial Termination (LGT –18,000 -11,000 years BP), associated with enhancing feedbacks, has driven GHG radiative forcing by approximately ~3.0 Wm-2 and a mean global temperature rise of ~4.50C (Figure 2), or, i.e. of similar order as the Anthropocene rise since about 1900. However the latter has been reached within a time frame at least X30 times shorter than the LGT, underpinning the extreme nature of current global warming.
Figure 2 (Hansen et al. 2008). Glacial-temperature and GHG forcing for the last 420,000 years based on the Vostok ice core, with the time scale expanded for the Anthropocoene. The ratio of temperature and forcing scales is 1.5°C per 1 W/m2. The temperature scale gives the expected equilibrium response to GHG change including slow feedback surface albedo change. Modern forcings include human-made aerosols, volcanic aerosols and solar irradiance.
The CO2- equivalent levels and radiative forcing levels constitute a rise from Holocene levels (~280 ppm CO2) to >410 ppm compared with Miocene-like levels (300-600 ppm CO2), at a rate reaching 2 to 3 ppm/year, within a century or so, driving the fastest temperature rise rate recorded since 55 million years ago (Figure 3).
Figure 3. A comparison between rates of mean global temperature rise during: (1) the last Glacial Termination (after Shakun et al. 2012); (2) the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, after Kump 2011); (3) the late Anthropocene (1750–2016), and (4) an asteroid impact. In the latter instance temperature due to CO2 rise would lag by some weeks or months behind aerosol-induced cooling
Considering the transient mitigating albedo effects of clouds, seasonal land surface albedo, ice albedo, atmospheric aerosols including sulphur dioxide and nitrate, the potential rise of land temperature could have reached -0.4 to -0.9 Wm-2 in 2018, masking approximately 0.6 to 1.3oC potential warming once the short lived aerosol effect is abruptly reduced.
B. Accelerated melting of the ice sheets
The fast rate of the Anthropocoene temperature rise compared to the LGT and PETM (Figure 3) ensues in differences in terms of the adaptation of flora and fauna to new conditions. The shift in state of the Earth’s climate is most acutely manifested in the poles, where warming leads to weakening of the jet stream boundaries which are breached by outflow of cold air fronts, such as the recent “Beast from the East” event,and penetration of warm air masses.
As the poles keep warming, to date by a mean of ~2.3oC, the shrinking of the ice sheets per year has accelerated by a factor of more than six fold (Figure 4). Warming of the Arctic is driven by the ice-water albedo flip, where dark sea-water absorbing solar energy alternates with high-albedo ice and snow, and by the weakening of the polar boundary and jet stream.
Greenland. The threshold of collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, retarded by hysteresis, is estimated in the range of 400-560 ppm CO2, already transgressed at the current 496 ppm CO2equivalent (Figure 4). The Greenland mass loss increased from 41 ± 17 Gt/yr in 1990–2000, to 187 ± 17 Gt/yr in 2000–2010, to 286 ± 20 Gt/yr in 2010–2018, or six fold since the 1980s, or 80 ± 6 Gt/yr per decade, on average.
Antarctica. The greenhouse gas level and temperature conditions under which the East Antarctic ice sheet formed during the late Eocene 45-34 million years ago are estimated as ~800–2000 ppm andup to 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial values, whereas the threshold of collapse is estimated as 600 ppm CO2 or even lower. The total mass loss from the Antarctic ice sheet increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/yr in 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/yr in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/yr in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/yr in 2009–2017. Based on satellite gravity data the East Antarctic ice sheet is beginning to breakdown in places (Jones 2019), notably the Totten Glacier (Rignot et al., 2019), which may be irreversible. According to Mengel and Levermann (2014) the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 3–4 meters.
Beyond Climate Tipping Points: Greenhouse Gas Levels Exceed the Stability Limit of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets
Figure 4. (A) New elevation showing the Greenland and Antarctic current state of the ice sheets accurate to a few meters in height, with elevation changes indicating melting at record pace, losing some 500 km3of ice per-year into the oceans; (B) Ice anomaly relative to the 2002-2016 mean for the Greenland ice sheet (magenta) and Antarctic ice sheet (cyan). Data are from GRACE; (C) the melting of sea ice 1978-2017, National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NCIDC)
C. Migration of climate zones
The expansion of warm tropical zones and the polar-ward migration of subtropical and temperate climate zones are leading to a change in state in the global climate pattern. The migration of arid subtropical zones, such as the Sahara, Kalahari and central Australian deserts into temperate climate zones ensues in large scale droughts, such in inland Australia and southern Africa. In the northern hemisphere expansion of the Sahara desert northward, manifested by heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe (Figure 5)
Figure 5 (A) Migration of the subtropical Sahara climate zone (red spots) northward into the Mediterranean climate zone leads to warming, drying and fires over extensive parts of Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, and to melting of glaciers in the Alps. Migration, Environment and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration Geneva – Switzerland (GMT +1); https://environmentalmigration.iom.int/maps
Figure 5 (B) Southward encroachment of Kalahari Desert conditions (vertical lines and red spots) leading to warming and drying of parts of southern Africa. https://environmentalmigration.iom.int/maps
D. Climate extremes
Since the bulk of terrestrial vegetation has evolved under glacial-interglacial climate conditions, where GHG range between 180 – 300 ppm CO2, Global warming is turning large parts of Earth into a tinderbox, ignited by natural and human agents. By July and August 2019, as fires rage across large territories, including the Amazon forest, dubbed the Planet’s lungs as it enriches the atmosphere in oxygen. When burnt the rainforest becomes of source of a large amount of CO2(Figure 6B), with some 72,843 fires in Brazil this year and extensive bushfires through Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, southern Europe, parts of Australia and elsewhere, the planet’s biosphere is progressively transformed. As reported:
‘Climate change is making dry seasons longer and forests more flammable. Increased temperatures are also resulting in more frequent tropical forest fires in non-drought years. And climate change may also be driving the increasing frequency and intensity of climate anomalies, such as El Niño events that affect fire season intensity across Amazonia.’
Extensive cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and fires (Figure 6B) increasingly ravage large tracts of Earth. However, despite its foundation in the basic laws of physics (the black body radiation laws of Planck, Kirchhoff’ and Stefan Boltzmann), as well as empirical observations around the world by major climate research bodies (NOAA, NASA, NSIDC, IPCC, World Meteorological Organization, Hadley-Met, Tindale, Potsdam, BOM, CSIRO and others), the anthropogenic origin, scale and pace of climate change remain subject to extensively propagated denial and untruths.
Figure 6.(A) Extreme weather events around the world 1980-2018, including earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts. Munich Re-insurance. (B) A satellite infrared image of South America fires (red dots) during July and August, 2019, NASA.
E. An uncharted climate territory
Whereas strict analogies between Quaternary and Anthropocene climate developments is not possible, elements of the glacial-interglacial history are relevant for an understanding of current and future climate events. The rise of total greenhouse gas (GHG), expressed as CO2–equivalents, to 496 ppm CO2-e (Figure 1),within lessthan a century represents an extreme atmospheric event. It raised GHG concentrations from Holocene levels to the range of the Miocene (34–23 Ma) when CO2level was between 300 and 530 ppm. As the glacial sheets disintegrate, cold ice-melt water flowing into the ocean ensue in large cold water pools, a pattern recorded following peak interglacial phases over thelast 450,000 years, currently manifested by the growth of cold regions in north Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and in the Southern Ocean fringing Antarctica (Figure 7).
Warming of +3oC to +4oC above pre-industrial levels, leading to enhanced ice-sheet melt, would raise sea levels by at least 2 to 5 meters toward the end of the century and, delayed by hysteresis, likely by 25 meters in the longer term. Golledge et al. (2019) show meltwater from Greenland will lead to substantial slowing of the Atlantic overturning circulation, while meltwater from Antarctica will trap warm water below the sea surface, increasing Antarctic ice loss. Whereas the effect of low-density ice melt water on the surrounding oceans is generally not included in many models, depending on amplifying feedbacks, prolonged Greenland and Antarctic melting and consequent cooling of surrounding ocean sectors as well as penetration of freezing air masses through weakened polar boundaries may have profound effect on future climate change trajectories (Figure 8).
Figure 7(A)Global warming map (NASA 2018). Note the cool ocean regions south of Greenland and along the Antarctic. Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center; (B) 2012 Ocean temperatures around Antarctica (NASA 2012).
Climate projections for 2100-2300 by the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report, 2014 portray predominantly linear to curved models of greenhouse gas, global temperatures and sea level changes. These models however appear to take limited account of amplifying feedbacks from land and ocean and of the effects of cold ice-melt on the oceans. According to Steffen et al. (2018)
“self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold” and “would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene”.
Amplifying feedbacks of global warming include:A.
A. The albedo-flip of melting sea ice and ice sheets and the increase of the water surface area and thereby sequestration of CO2. Hudson (2011) estimates a rise in radiative forcing due to removal of Arctic summer sea ice as 0.7 Watt/m2, a value close to the total of methane release since 1750.
B. Reduced ocean CO2 intake due to lesser solubility of the gas with higher temperatures.
C. Vegetation desiccation and burning in some regions, and thereby released CO2 and reduced evaporation and its cooling effect. This factor and the increase of precipitation in other regions lead to differential feedbacks from vegetation as the globe warms (Notaro et al. 2007).
D. An increase in wildfires, releasing greenhouse gases (Figure 6).
E. Release of methane from permafrost, bogs and sediments and other factors.
Linear temperature models appear to take limited account of the effects on the oceans of ice melt water derived from the large ice sheets, including the possibility of a significant stadial event such as already started in oceanic tracts fringing Greenland and Antarctica (Figure 7) and modelled by Hansen et al, (2016). In the shorter to medium term sea level rises would ensue from the Greenland ice sheet (6-7 meter sea level rise) and West Antarctic ice sheet melt (4.8 meter sea level rise). Referring to major past stadial events, including the 8200 years-old Laurentian melt and the 12.7-11.9 younger dry as event, a protracted breakdown of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet could result in major sea level rise and extensive cooling of southern latitudes and beyond, parallel with warming of tropical and mid-latitudes (Figure 8) (Hansen et al.. 2016). The temperature contrast between polar-derived cold fronts and tropical air masses is bound to lead to extreme weather events, echoed among other in Storms of my grandchildren (Hansen, 2010).
Figure 8. (A) Model Surface-air temperature (oC) for 2096 relative to 1880–1920 (Hansen et al 201 6). The projection betrays major cooling of the North Atlantic Ocean, cooling of the circum-Antarctic Ocean and further warming in the tropics, subtropics and the interior of continents; (B) Modeled surface-air temperatures (°C) to 2300 AD relative to 1880–1920 for several ice melt rate scenarios, displaying a stadial cooling event at a time dependent on the ice melt doubling time (Hansen et al., 2016). Courtesy Prof James Hansen.
Within and beyond 2100-2300 projections (Figure 8A, B) lies an uncharted climate territory, where continuing melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, further cooling of neighboring sectors of the oceans and climate contrasts with GHG-induced warming of land areas (Figure 8A), ensue in chaotic climate disruptions (Figure 8B). Given the thousands to tens of thousands years longevity of atmospheric greenhouse gases (Solomon et al., 2009; Eby et al 2009), the onset of the next ice age is likely to be delayed on the scale of tens of thousands of years (Berger and Loutre, 2002) through an exceptionally long interglacial period (Figure 9).
These authors state:
‘The present day CO2 concentration (now >410 ppm) is already well above typical interglacial values of ~290 ppmv. This study models increases to up to 750 ppmv over the next 200 years, returning to natural levels by 1000 years. The results suggest that, under very small insolation variations, there is a threshold value of value of CO2 above which the Greenland Ice Sheet disappears. The climate system may take 50,000 years to assimilate the impacts of human activities during the early third millennium. In this case, an “irreversible greenhouse effect” could become the most likely future climate. If the Greenland and west Antarctic Ice Sheets disappear completely, then today’s “Anthropocene” may only be a transition between the Quaternary and the next geological period.’
Figure 9. Simulated Northern Hemisphere ice volume (increasing downward) for the period 200,000 years BP to 130,000 years in the future, modified after a part of Berger and Loutre 2002. Time is negative in the past and positive in the future. For the future, three CO2scenarios were used: last glacial-interglacial values (solid line), a human-induced concentration of 750 ppm (dashed line), and a constant concentration of 210 ppm inducing a return to a glacial state (dotted line).
As conveyed by leading scientists “Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences” (Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber)…“We’ve reached a point where we have a crisis, an emergency, but people don’t know that … There’s a big gap between what’s understood about global warming by the scientific community and what is known by the public and policymakers”( James Hansen).
Climate scientists find themselves in a quandary similar to medical doctors, committed to help the ill yet need to communicate grave diagnoses. How do scientists tell people the current spate of extreme weather events, including cyclones, devastating islands from the Caribbean to the Philippine, floods devastating coastal regions and river valleys from Mozambique to Kerala, Pakistan and Townsville, and fires burning extensive tracts of the living world can only intensify in a rapidly warming world? How do scientists tell the people that their children are growing into a world where survival under a mean temperatures higher than +2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial temperatures) is likely to be painful and, in some parts of the world, impossible, let alone under +4 degrees Celsius projected by the IPCC?
F. Summary and conclusions
The current growth rate of atmospheric greenhouse gas is the fastest recorded for the last 55 million years.
By the mid-21st century, at the current CO2 rise rates of 2 to 3 ppm/year, a CO-e level of >750 ppm is likely to transcend the climate tipping points indicated by Lenton et al. 2008 and Schellnhuber 2009.
The current extreme rise rates of GHG (2.86 ppm CO2/year) and temperature (0.15-0.20°C per decade since 1975) raise doubt with regard to linear future climate projections.
Global greenhouse gases have reached a level exceeding the stability threshold of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which are melting at an accelerated rate.
Allowing for the transient albedo-enhancing effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols, mean global temperature has reached approximately 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Due to hysteresis the large ice sheets would outlast their melting temperatures.
Land areas would be markedly reduced due to a rise to Miocene-like sea levels of approximately 40±15 meters above pre-industrial levels.
Cold ice melt water flowing from the ice sheets into the oceans at an accelerated rate is reducing temperatures in large tracts in the North Atlantic and circum-Antarctic.
Strong temperature contrasts between cold polar-derived and warm tropical air and water masses are likely to result in extreme weather events, retarding habitats and agriculture over coastal regions and other parts of the world.
In the wake of partial melting of the large ice sheets, the Earth climate zones would continue to shift polar-ward, expanding tropical to super-tropical regions such as existed in the Miocene (5.3-23 million years ago) and reducing temperate climate zones and polar ice sheets.
Current greenhouse gas forcing and global mean temperature are approaching Miocene Optimum-like composition, bar the hysteresis effects of reduced ice sheets (Figure 4A).
The effect of high atmospheric greenhouse gas levels would be for the next ice age to be delayed on a scale of tens of thousands of years, during which chaotic tropical to hyperthermal conditions would persist until solar radiation and atmospheric CO2 subsided below ~300 ppm.
Humans will survive in relatively favorable parts of Earth, such as sub-polar regions and sheltered mountain valleys, where gathering of flora and hunting of remaining fauna may be possible.
Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.
Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleo-climate science, Australia National University (ANU) School of Anthropology and Archaeology, ANU Planetary Science Institute, ANU Climate Change Institute, Honorary Associate Professor, Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, University of Queensland. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
 The index uses 1990 as a baseline year with a value of 1. The index increased every year since 1979. https://www.co2.earth/annual-ghg-index-aggi
 where a physical property lags behind changes in the effect causing it
The original source of this article is Global Research
So you’ve linked a lot of videos from Nigel Lawson’s GWPF. This isn’t the time or place for a debate on whether capitalgenic climate change / global heating is real. That time has long gone.
There is scope for critique of IPCC for a) its discounting in the IAMs of climate change in the future (as Michael explored in a previous post), b) its failure to model degrowth scenarios ( though apparently that will change with the next assessment report, and c) under estimation of positive system feedbacks.
The time is never ripe to stop in trying to falsify scientific claims of a general sort. However, with politics and business there are always calls and actions to silence critics. Since climate is a physical and scientific issue I will stick to the former especially if there is good reason to thinks an area is actually masquerading as science and publishing 100’s if not 1000’s of incompetent or purposefully bogus papers. Has climate “science” become like alternative medicine (i.e, chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, psychic healing, etc)? This pseudoscience aspect has been said in different ways by some scientists including climate scientists before and now just by chance a physical chemist from SLAC has published a review demonstrating the sheer incompetence of so many climate science papers. Here is a link of his informal comments which has links to his paper that was finally published in a climate science journal. Basically these IPCC type models have zero predictive value:
Mark S: Your anti “man-made climate change” crusade is irrelevant.
Why not transition from filthy fossil to clean, green energy if it’s affordable (which it is, see MMT).
Nations without the required resources can be assisted by an international body set up for that purpose.
YouTube, the go-to resource for informed analysis.
It’s only natural for economists to disagree with prognoses, as prognoses in economics often fails. Especially prognoses that a majority of the well established economists in the world agree on.
The curves concerning emissions of CO2e from burning of oil etc. and the resulting growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is an example on different results between economic prognoses and the result according to climate science.
It’s a small detail in the chain of evidence on climate crisis, but one that ought to be noticed and maybe even can be explained by sceptical economists.
For anyone interested in common denier attacks, as well as answers to questions asked in good faith, refer to the full list at https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php.
There’s a high correlation between global warming denialism and capitalism for obvious reasons. If humans, by nature, are fundamentally driven by individual self-interest, capitalism represents the best possible social system to achieve the most good for the most people. If climate science, or science in general, challenges this assertion, then the science must be flawed because it contradicts the “natural” laws of the free-market ideology.
As climate science on anthropogenic global warming emerged in the 60’s, the reactionary response emerged alongside it even though most scientists didn’t outright criticize the capitalist mode of production. The machinery of this counter-movement really took off after the fall of the USSR as the resources dedicated to anti-communism could focus on undermining climate science. It still lingers with us today often under the guise of “environmental scepticism”. The anti-communist movements and the climate denialist movements share the same origin: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09644010802055576. None of this is news to most readers here, yet it can be difficult to distinguish between those trying to improve the science and those trying to undermine its underlying logic that points to laws of capitalism being the ultimate drivers of ecological collapse.
Along with Richard Smith, Ian Angus (climateandcapitalism.com) also focuses on the imperative to bridge the gap between environmentalists and socialists, trying to get both on the same page regarding the ecological basis on which society must be based upon. Eco-socialism should be a redundant term. The only path to communism is through establishing an understanding that exchange between human society and nature is fundamental, rather than the false elevation of exchange between human classes over and at the expense of nature (and therefore ourselves).
The Fourth National Climate Assessment report to Congress, 2017 and 2018, came out and strongly affirmed the dangers from the “human caused” increase in global temperatures. Volume two is over 1,500 pages, the list of contributors extends into the hundreds maybe the thousands, and it is unequivocal. “The global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has now passed 400 parts per million (ppm), a level that last occurred about 3 million years ago, when both global average temperature and sea level were significantly higher than today. Continued growth in CO2 emissions over this century and beyond would lead to an atmospheric concentration not experienced in tens to hundreds of millions of years. There is broad consensus that the further and the faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of unanticipated changes and impacts, some of which are potentially large and irreversible.”
Good to point out to Richard Smith. I’ve recently published a value-form-based critique (on Marx’s theory of value), criticizing the debate between Richard Smith and the former World Bank’s economist (and godfather of ecological economics) Herman Daly, which argues that accumulation would necessarily happen even under his “sustainable economy”: https://www.academia.edu/37931981/_No_Magic_Bullets_The_Lawn-Smith_Debate_or_Why_Degrowth_Cannot_Be_Understood_without_a_Value-Theory_of_Imperialism
MMT by-passes all the internal contradictions of this “steady state” economic theory.
The *resources* exist to achieve universal, continuous and sustainable development, by money creation in the ‘government’s bank’ (central bank), alongside money creation in the private banking system, so long as the public sector is the final arbiter.
[I presume people on this board are not still equating ‘money’ with resources+labour+education wherein lies real ‘wealth’.]
Thanks for linking your article Aleksandar. It would be worth developing the argument, not just in relation to the Lawn/Daly debate, but for its direct relevance to understanding the driving forces behind capital accumulation/growth and their impacts on the ecosystem.
Thanks Mark! I agree, but was very limited in the paper, as I couldn’t use empirical material for that particular journal for reasons of space. But, I have just published here an empirical analysis of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement and how it relates to the Amazon fires, here on my blog. Needles to say, I will greatly appreciate any critiques or feedback and debate. (Also, I’ve included a link to Michael’s critique of the IMF papers in my post) https://aleksandarmatkovic.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/climate-change-and-imperialism-what-connects-the-amazon-fires-and-the-eu-mercosur-agreement/
Aleksandar. Good piece
As a long time reader and lurker I have to say holy sh*t did this piece get linked to some right wing blog/social media platform or something?
To even think any lefts would openly express climate change denialism is appalling.
Honestly Mr Roberts should swiftly ban any such comments, it realy only serves to reduce the quality of your blog and make you guilty by association, really don’t need the blog of one of the most renowned Marxist economists to be trifling with climate change denialists.
And no I am not interested in some fallacious “freedom of expression” or such nonsense non-argument. There is as much value in discussing climate change denial claims as discussing whether or not you should burn Jews alive with a Nazi.
This Mark S person is nothing but a climate denialist lunatic and he is ruining the reputation of your blog.
I know you want to keep your blog lightly moderated, but if I know the next time you write about controversial subjects we will get these lunatics on the comment section then I’ll realy just never bother again.
Nutek I appreciate your frustration but as you say this blog is lightly moderated. I follow a policy of no abuse, no swearing, no racism and sometimes being upset at comments that are longer than my posts! But otherwise I dont block a comment, even if it is clearly bonkers.
BTW Mr Roberts, like it or not Google indexes your comment section, because this person is linking climate change denial stuff(8 videos?) from your blog it is more likely your blog will show up on google searches of the related terms, and it will drive more such types to your blog.
Don’t take my word for it, just research what SEO is and how it works.
The more it persists in the future the more google will link your blog to those comments and related search terms.
Just something for you to consider.
Nutek I take your point and removed your swearing.
If we (the left or marxist economists or whatever we are) agree on that the prognoses that predict climate crisis are mostly right, the really big question is: How can we (humans together, proletarians or at least the afore mentioned we) avoid the worst case scenarios?
There is globalized capitalism building up to WW3 out there, and fossil fuels are central to every sort of industrial build-up – including weapons industries. And taxes to build-up weapons industry was the method to end the long depression in the late 19:th century. The weapons and -industries came to be used in WW1. And in todays long recession (or whatever yo prefer to call it) the bastard keynsianism – the welfare – warfare model – is more and more seen as a solution…
Climate mitigation will – as far as I understand anything – take total global cooperation. And the only situation when capitalist and capitalist states could be described as cooperative was when they existed under common threat of proletarian revolution, during the cold war. But today capitalism is more totally globalized than it was before WW1 and WW2.
Its socialism or barbarism with a vengeance, but where is the big revolution? How can we make it in time? Globally?
Answer is found in MMT; it expands the public sector to whatever size is needed to deal with whatever problems are at hand, be it underemployment, below poverty minimum wage, or necessity for maximum achievable rate of transition from filthy fossil.
Better than MMT is a income based consumption tax. MMT will be inflationary while the tax ring fenced to be spent on green policies would redistributive while reducing the grotesque pollution carried out by the rich. Finally as I have pointed out it is transitional because it begins to break down the barrier between paid costs to the capitalist and the actual cost to society.
I’m certain that human society can create more efficient methods for production distribution and rationing of the means for survival and pleasure. The difficult question is how to stop the climate destroying global capitalist and imperialistic system before it puts an end to the possibilities for human civilization. The most important to save the climate for human civilization in the future is probably to prevent WW3 – can more militant solidarity with for example Venezuela cool down the hawks? or must we prepare to use WW3 as Lenin and the Bolsheviks used WW1?
The capitalist class rules the world and social revolution is not on their agenda. The ideology of ruling classes that reaches the end of their rule is Après nous, le déluge.
Answer ’Answer is found in MMT; it expands the public sector to whatever size is needed to deal with whatever problems are at hand ’’
Well, you can call MMT “ it expands the public sector to whatever size is needed ”, or give it any other name, but that, in reality, and based on the real socialist theory and praxis already happened, that is SOCIALISM . Socialism was, is and will be an expanded social property (public sector) and nothing else. It was real ’real socialism’ ’with a single-party dictatorship and its bureaucracy in the twentieth century, and, we hope and fight for it, it will be a socialism with workers democracy in the 21st century. In other words, the MMT is only a monetary technique of socialism. And, in addition, in case it serves as a reflection, I can indicate that this MMT is already happening ‘de facto’ today in capitalism: the public sector, banking and large capitalist companies, all of them in permanent refinancing, and with Q.E. etc .., About 50% of the world’s population ALREADY BENEFIT TODAY from it. They already benefit today from socialism! It is not necessary to explain it further. Shocking right ?. Of course, what happens today is an MMT and a socialism without command, control and control (workers democracy) of the workers. MMT And socialism are now at the service of elites. For that reason, and only for that reason, in my opinion, these problems persist: underemployment, poverty, climate change, etc.
in MMT the public sector expands (during a downturn) and contracts (during an upturn). If the economy is sustainably employing all available resources including labour, near the peak of the cycle, then the public sector will be small relative to the private sector.
That’s not socialism, and certainly not dictatorship, though it is a synthesis of capitalism and socialism.
“Tail risk” is a grave misnomer, a colossal understatement. Feedback loops cause exponential growth and runaway warming. That won’t be stopped by the collapse of civilization, because some of the feedbacks (e.g., albedo loss) do not even depend on human activity. We must reverse climate change quickly, or Earth will soon be as barren as Mars and Venus.
Thanks for linking our New Left Review piece: “Degrowth, a defence” (not our original nor preferred title since this defensiveness is unwarranted). However, you also link to an article by Leigh Philips that repeats a series of misconceptions and misrepresentations of what degrowth actually is. There will of course be a number of replies to this piece forthcoming but this piece from Kallis and Bliss on this strange anti-environmentalist ecomodernism deals with much of it: https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/JPE/article/view/23238
You pose the question: “… under democratic global planning of the commonly owned resources of the world, we can phase out fossil fuel energy and still expand production to meet the needs of the many. Is this utopian or a practical possibility?” (after asserting that failure to keep on expanding “the economy”, i.e. the totality of exchange value, would mean falling living standards.
Firstly, as Marxists understand, the inexorable process of capitalist accumulation creates impoverishment just as it produces riches, and while surplus value continues to be extracted (in a mixed economy for example), this will continue. Secondly, there is no evidence that production can be expanded without also expanding the material flows that it depends on. This is a physical constraint, not one that only exists under the capitalist mode of production. Those material flows extend all over the world – increasing production means more mines, more plantations, more shipping, more roads, and more waste products into the planet’s ecological sinks. Thirdly, the Richard Smith sources you cite are pretty much within the ecosocialist tendency in degrowth theory. Fourthly, there are real constraints on non-renewable energy substitution: deployability, mineral and materials constraints, and low energy return on investment to name but three. An energy descent is implied: the revolution will be low powered. (El socialismo sólo lllegará en bicicleta”).
So to answer your question, non-fossil based expansion of production under socialism is a utopian idea. Instead, socialists need to emphasise production for need and fair shares (the need for redistribution having been eclipsed under the mirage of an expanding cake and all boats lifting with a rising tide – unfortunate metaphor in a warming planet).
Just what an eco-marxist degrowth could and would look like needs more exploration but so far as I can see it is the only way to go.
But thanks for the piece and for your other work which is a great resource for understanding the workings and contradictions of capitalism.
PS – I’ve made a couple of previous attempts to post this but for some reason it isn’t showing. Hope it goes up this time!
Hi Mark Thanks for your comment. It helps explain that ecosocialism and degrowth are not very far apart, i think. I am not sure why previous ones failed but apologies for that.
Climate change deniers need to be executed.
Capitalism is an environmental disaster, no question.
If global warming is anthropogenic, then unless there is a profit in it, expecting serious attempts at mitigation from within the system is simply naive.
On the other hand, to believe that the “science” on the issue is settled is also equally naive.
Others have already provided this thread with serious countervailing evidence and expertise against the so-called “certainty of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.” I want to add one more name to that list, that of Dr. Judith Curry.
It is simply not true that a) there is a 95% consensus among experts in the field of climatology or that b) if such a consensus were indeed a fact, as purported by the mainstream press, that it would in itself be anything like a clinching ‘truth’ about the ‘fact of the matter.’
Consensus by itself does not make for scientific proof, nor does it necessarily invalidate scientific critiques of that so-called consensus, of which in fact, as it happens, there are many.
Science is not about ‘consensus building,’ but about empirical data and the rational analysis of that data.
See Dr. Judith Curry’s website, a woman who also happens to be one of the actual experts on climate: Climate Etc..
Among other things, you can and should search her blog on the issue of the so-called ‘scientific consensus’ on climate change.
She has written much that is of interest on that issue, providing sound research and analysis for her claims.
I am not persuaded by the 95% consensus. I believe that global warming is much WORSE than the 95% consensus is telling us. My expertise is in mathematics, not in climate, but I can understand feedback loops and exponential growth, which are being understated by the climatologists. The 95% consensus tells us that climate change will kill millions of people and cost trillions of dollars by century’s end. It looks to me more like killing EVERYONE (and thus costing the entire economy) by 2035, unless we change course in a big way very quickly. For people who do not already see the patterns, the first blatant symptom will be huge famines due to crop failures, due to more frequent “extreme” weather. We need a global ecosocialist revolution.
We should socially own and democratically control what wealth we produce and distribute it on the basis of need in order to have the power to live in harmony with nature.
Agree or disagree?
The left morphed into a more or less purely civil rights movement. It has won gay marriage and gays openly in the military and, the Civil Rights Act, but lost the notion of who produces the wealth. Social and political amnesia started setting in with the death of Engels in 1896. The rot can now be seen in the struggle against “classism”.
“I think what we should do as individuals is to use the power of democracy to make our voices heard and to make sure that the people in power actually cannot continue to ignore this.” Greta Thunberg on “The Daily Show” recently.
Michael Ballard, I suppose that depends on what you mean by “the left.” Some of us are still concerned about other things besides identity politics. For instance, Here is the leaflet that I try to hand out when reformists have a rally related to climate: [https://leftymathprof.wordpress.com/climate-havent-learned/]. It’s titled “What climate activists still haven’t learned.” It is summarized by its second sentence: “It appears to me that both the dangers we face from climate change and the remedies we need are far bigger than acknowledged by most climate activists.” Basically, the essay says that we’re going extinct quite soon if we don’t end capitalism.
Renewables cannot power modern civilization.
Serious issues, negated in the whole discussion on climate change, whether or not anthropogenic:
(1) Science, even physics, is increasingly subjugated by the interests of capital. There are factions of capital that thrive on the IPCC reports and this must be taken into account. Thunberg is a good illustration of how these interests are promoted.
(2) Population policy, the cancerous growth of the human species, can’t be seen separate from capitalist growth. It is quite clear that the best, and maybe the only way to mitigate climate change is a drastic cut in the number of human beings on this planet. Sadly we are passed the point this can be achieved in a human way.
Specifically for Marxists who still think revolutionary: A world government (socialist planned economy on a global scale) is a total illusion that is nog going to happen. Read Gramsci.
Victor, I have to partially disagree with three different points you’ve made.
(1) Yes, I agree, science is getting co-opted by capital. “Green capitalism” is a dangerous myth. But I do NOT think Thunberg is as good illustration of that. Thunberg has motivated many thousands, perhaps millions, of new political activists. Thunberg herself may be delivering a message of green capitalism, but the activists she is awakening are not carbon copies of her. Once awakened, most of them will think for themselves. The message against green capitalism is spreading, and Thunberg is actually creating a larger and more receptive audience for that message.
(2) Yes, it would be good to reduce human population, or at least to slow its growth. But population has received more blame than it deserves for the world’s problems. I would like to point out that the highest per capita carbon footprint is coming from the countries where the birth rate is slowest.
(That’s not because of a direct connection between carbon emission and low birth rate. Rather, affluence brings education, which brings low birth rate; but in the world’s present culture, affluence also brings high consumer consumption and consequently high carbon emissions.)
(3) I am not convinced that a worldwide socialist revolution is not going to happen. The world is getting nearer to total ecosystem collapse, and that makes all sorts of things possible, and actually I think the extremes are becoming the most likely scenarios: The world might die, or the world might wake up and change enormously.
Admittedly, I have not read Gramsci. Is there a particularly relevant place where you would recommend that I start? Preferably something fairly short, and available free online.
(>2) Population growth was made possible and stimulated by the capitalist mode of production and consumption. No wonder the advanced capitalist country’s have a large footprint and the population of those countries have no choice in this. Reduction of the world population would seriously reduce CO2 emission, no matter where the reduction took place.
(>3) The world is near a collapse, though the ecosystem is only one possible cause and maybe not the most important. As there is no sign of a socialist vanguard capable of government, not local (national) let alone on a worldscale the collapse will result in chaos and dictatorship on a large scale. In any case a (world)state planned economy would be a disaster and is virtually impossible. Abolishing private ownership of the (larger) means of production is necessary but should not result in state-ownership.
I have written an introduction to Gramsci in Dutch: https://hardewoorden.nl/2015/05/gramsci-een-anti-revolutionaire-marxist/ , you might try Google translate.
It is based on a thorough new study of Peter D Thomas (book). On academia.edu you can find other publications for free.
nog = not
The great debate!
I’m listening to it as I write.
But why would you not transition from an industry that pollutes the air with poisonous gases and carcinogenic particulates?
So the main issue is the ‘cost’ of transition, not whether ‘warming’ is real or not, or caused by humans or not.
Now Mr. Roberts has said the GND will not bring about the required transition quickly enough.
I say: UNGA directs all nations to begin constructing solar and wind farms backed by pumped-hydro ASAP…..funded by central bank money creation, without causing excessive demand on available resources.
Obviously both labour and existing education infrastructure are underutilised at present, and additional resources can be transferred progressively from the fossil industry (as it is closed) to green industry.
On the debate now, I’m hearing them talking about ‘costs’ etc etc and whose is going to pay the bill. MMT tells us such concerns about ‘money’ are invalid – the only concern is the availability of resources.
Meanwhile, in the debate they are banging on about green house gases.. totally boring.
We CAN transit from filthy fossil to clean green without crippling costs. The bill can be sent to the IMF, and they can pin this bill to the wall and contemplate for eternity .
Now more garbage in the debate: “governments like control” which is why they are adopting the “alarmist GW stance”. Absolute Libertarian nonsense…..governments have enough problems without being alarmist about climate change.
Now more garbage about how much damage is being caused by storms, and how much it’s costing insurance companies. They think money has intrinsic value. They need to study MMT immediately.
I’m turning off the debate now – it’s irrelevant to sustainable development of the world as we go forward.
[Now the Asian guy is talking about ice ages…gimme a break)
What clean energy? It’s not solar or wind bc they cannot do the job and are dirty anyways. If you mean nuclear then yeah I am all for those.
Clean energy? You know…after the solar panels or wind turbines have been built, and backed by pumped hydro (sufficient sites have already been identified in Australia, to exit filthy fossil entirely), then we have free, clean energy. ie no poisonous gases or carcinogenic particulates, smog and acid rain spewing into the air
Nuclear is also an engineering task *during the build phase* – no different to solar and wind with pumped hydro backup.
But nuclear has massive decommissioning costs at end of life. Otherwise I’m happy with nuclear.
So it’s a matter of comparing costs of nuclear with costs of solar/wind/pumped hydro.
Either way, it’s time to close filthy fossil.
Those who are really scientists they can understand that climate change and global warming at their summit now and due to climate change world’s people are facing difficulties arising out of sea level rise, extreme ambient temperature, bush fires, typhoons, cyclones , floods, droughts, crop production loss, melting of ice caps from poles/glaciers from high mountain ranges and last but not the least the corona virus that is killing millions people across the globe. There are certain paid group news agents and reporters having no sense and knowledge of science went on publishing fake information relating and nicely describing as no global warming seen and felt by them.
Someone has reviewed some of the arguments in Bill Gates’ book.