If you do not have time to watch this 55 minute talk by Jeremy Rifkin, you’re really not entitled to have an opinion on the issue of climate change.
In my opinion, he is far too optimistic about the possibilities of technology and he could have questioned the need for economic growth and talked about Degrowth. However, he is right about the fact that we are facing a revolutionary transformation of business and society. Old business models simply do not work anymore.
What Mr Rifkin misses
I have recently proposed Global Climate Compensation as a way to solve the climate crises. It is interesting to compare it with the lecture given by Jeremy Rifkin above. Here is my perspective:
- Rifkin is right about the seriousness of the Climate Crises and the need to act now.
- He is also right about the need for a fundamental transformation of technology and that digitalization and information are important.
- One problem is that ICT is currently a main driver of environmental destruction. Currently, data centers consume enormous amounts of power worldwide, even though they try to run in an optimal fashion. Distributed data centers will be less efficient and use more resources.
- Mr Rifkin wants to finance the transition by allowing governments to borrow more money, which is essentially equivalent to printing money. In other words, he wants to inflate and already inflated economy with more cheap money. Since global debt is already at a record level, this is probably not a good idea.
- He is not talking about a carbon tax, meaning that there will be no incentive to use less energy under his plan. By making energy even cheaper, it is unlikely that energy demand will decrease. We will only use renewable energy in addition to oil, coal, and gas.
- Even though he talks about unequal wealth distribution in this introduction, he fails to address this in his plan, which contains nothing about climate justice.
Obviously, Mr. Rifkin believes that economic growth will fix problems all. His views on technology and the environment are reasonably modern – albeit slightly naïve – but his economic ideas are still firmly rooted in the 19th century.
In contrast, Global Carbon Compensation takes money out of the fossil sector and uses it for the energy transition. This increases the price of fossil fuel and provides the necessary funds without further increasing global debt. In other words, it slowly deflates the carbon bubble and uses the money to deflate the debt bubble. Seems like a good idea.