Das Offensichtliche

Ein Teil der Bevölkerung lässt sich immer täuschen und die gesamte Bevölkerung für eine gewisse Zeit. Es ist aber unmöglich, die gesamte Bevölkerung immer zu täuschen.

Wird häufig Abraham Lincoln zugeschrieben

Es ist bemerkenswert, wie lange offensichtliche Wahrheiten auch in einer Demokratie mit einer vermeintlich freien Presse unterdrückt werden können. Die Methoden sind ein wenig raffinierter als in totalitären Staaten, aber das Ergebnis ist das gleiche: Eine gefügige Bevölkerung, die sich nur um das eigene Wohlergehen kümmert und keine unbequemen Fragen stellt. Um mit Dürrenmatt zu sprechen: «Es gibt nur eine Schwierigkeit für dieses Gefängnis, nämlich die, zu beweisen, dass es kein Gefängnis ist, sondern ein Hort der Freiheit.»

Irgendwann wird aber jede Gesellschaft, deren staatstragende Ideologie auf Unwahrheiten basiert, von der Realität eingeholt. Zu viele Menschen haben inzwischen die Endlichkeit des Planeten und die daraus resultierenden Grenzen des Wachstums verstanden, um den Durchhalteparolen der Politik Glauben zu schenken. Das «weiter so» ist keine Zukunftsvision, sondern eine Bankrotterklärung unserer Gesellschaft.

Ein wichtiges Zeichen der Veränderung ist, dass das Offensichtliche plötzlich ausgesprochen werden darf. Im September letzten Jahres durfte ich meinen Klimavortrag zweimal vor einem eher traditionell wirtschaftsliberalen Publikum halten und die Rückmeldungen waren sehr positiv. Offensichtlich wollen die Menschen nicht mehr angelogen werden, was sicher als Zeichen der Genesung interpretiert werden kann.

Das Ganze erinnert ein wenig an die Reformation und die wissenschaftliche Revolution. Es ist kein Zufall, dass diese mit der europäischen Expansion zusammenfielen, denn mit dem Weltbild von Aristoteles wäre der Globus nicht zu erobern gewesen. Wenn der staatstragende Mythos in zu krassem Widerspruch zur Realität steht, muss er abgeschafft werden. Ein Wirtschaftssystem, das auf unendlichem Wachstum basiert, hat nie wirklich Sinn gemacht. Heute ist es nicht nur sinnlos, sondern suizidal.

Es stellt sich somit die Frage, wie wir die Revolution und den damit verbundenen Systemwandel möglichst gewaltfrei gestalten können. Dazu habe ich einen konkreten Vorschlag, der kürzlich auf higgs.ch veröffentlicht wurde: Globale Klimakompensation.

Ich werde von März bis Ende August im Sabbatical sein und werde somit die Möglichkeit haben, 100% meiner Zeit für die Rettung des Planeten einzusetzen. Die Klimakompensation (Global Climate Compensation) wird Teil meiner Aktivitäten sein. Wer mehr darüber erfahren möchte, findet meinen Blog dazu unter www.global-climate-compensation.org (in English).

Sonst bin sehr offen für weitere Ideen und Aktivitäten. Wir haben nur einen Planeten, wenig Zeit, und viel zu tun. Wer Angst hat, dreckige Hände zu bekommen, hat den Ernst der Lage nicht verstanden.

Wir können uns das Zeitalter nicht aussuchen, in dem wir geboren werden. Wir können nur entscheiden, wie wir die Zeit nutzen, die uns gegeben wird.

Nach J. R. R. Tolkien

Can humanity solve climate change, and if so, how?

by Bernice Maxton-Lee

It’s a few seconds to midnight, and the climate clock is ticking. Some say it’s already too late to stop climate change, that no matter what we do now, the emissions already in the system have kicked off chain reactions that will take us to 450 parts per million (ppm). That’s the tipping point of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations that will trigger runaway climate change. That means Game Over.

Patrick Chappatte (There’s no way back | Chappatte.com)

But if you aren’t ready to give up all hope, buy a Ferrari, and party like it’s 1913, what kind of solutions might actually help? What can humanity do, in the scant 8-10 years left to prevent runaway climate change?

Here are some brief ideas, which are discussed more at length here and here.

  1. The approach needs to be radical, but also simple enough (without being simplistic) that people can get behind it.
  2. It needs to address the whole system, not individual elements of it.
  3. It needs to strike at the heart of the problem: fossil fuel combustion.
  4. It needs to take care of the human realities: first and foremost, livelihoods.

Radical but simple: think ‘fish and loaves’

Innovative ideas like bitcoin for Brazilian coffee farmers sound sexy, but extends the complexity way beyond what is helpful or necessary. But working out how to scale up a fossil free energy source for German farmers, who are deeply dependent on vast amounts of diesel to plough, seed, fertilize and harvest their fields, take animals to market, anesthetize the animals before slaughter, process the meat…. that’s an immediate fossil-based problem that needs a solution. It also needs governments to support farmers while they make those expensive and uncertain transitions. Funky financing and new currencies won’t solve climate change, and they also aren’t necessary. There’s plenty of money out there – we just need to change our ideas about who gets it, and how. You don’t divide up a cake by hiring a private equity manager. Jesus didn’t have bitcoin, but I’m told those fish and loaves got shared out just fine.

Think of the whole system

What if I ride my bike to work? Or stop using plastic bags? How about solving deforestation in Indonesia and Brazil? It’s true that many tiny trickles, coming together, make a deluge. But if dams, and destruction, and extraction are allowed to go unchecked, those tiny trickles dry up before they have a chance to grow. That’s the problem with putting too much focus on individual elements of the global system, while ignoring the phenomenal weight on the other side of the ecological scales. And while all those individual elements are important, they are tiny in comparison to the megalithic industrial activities of energy production, global transportation, or construction.

Strike at the heart of the problem

What about offsetting carbon emissions? This is the idea that planting trees, increasing wetlands, or reducing emissions in one area, can essentially buy credits somewhere else, balancing out the global carbon budget. But like many supposed solutions cooked up by economists to problems of physics, the maths doesn’t add up. Global construction is a fossil fuel nightmare – all that concrete, steel, and glass produce terrifyingly large volumes of greenhouse gases. Cement, iron, and steel produced 10% of global emissions all on their own in 2016. Manufacturing and construction added in another 12% of total global emissions. No amount of offsetting can negate those carbon emissions – and remember we have 8-10 years to reduce emissions by 60%, and 18-20 years to come to a full stop.

Take care of the human realities

So should we be heading down to the Ferrari dealership, or lying in a darkened room, waiting for the end to come? It’s tempting at times to feel despair, but there is still hope – if we stop wasting energy and empathy on ‘solutions’ that will only delay our dwindling chances of success. We don’t need to reinvent finance, or relocate to Mars, or help some cool start-ups invent an app-based carbon neutralizer that will allow us all to go on burning fossil fuels and poisoning the biosphere. We need to face reality, and start making fundamental changes to our societies, economies, political structures, and ultimately our value-systems. That sounds like a lot, but it starts at the basic level of livelihoods. And that needs to start with humanity – seeing people not as expendable economic inputs, but, well, as humans.

And from a position of humanity and of empathy for the biosphere, basic solutions need to be found to shut down construction and all the sectors and functions that feed into it, from low-cost labourers on building sites in Indonesia, to fabulously well-paid executives in powerful cement companies in Switzerland. Oil and gas extraction, processing, and combustion needs to stop, completely. Manufacturing of short-life consumer products, the kind that are designed to break or become obsolete within a few years, must stop. All the people who work in those sectors will need financial and emotional support, and alternative positions that make them feel okay about their lives.

None of this needs to happen through the market. Actually, it cannot happen through the market, just like a fox cannot run a care home for senior chickens. The market is geared to maximise profit. Trying to change that incentive to make it more responsible, with all the powerful vested interests that don’t want it to change, will take far longer than the 8-10 years we have to stop atmospheric carbon emissions reaching 450ppm.

It does not require 7.7 billion consumers to consciously buy-in as informed decision-makers. Most ‘ordinary’ people are too busy and distracted just trying to get on with their lives, make a living, stay alive in many cases, and get through every day in one piece with a little dignity. If solutions can be created that don’t seem to add complexity or burden, or require them to make informed decisions, that support them in those lives they’re trying to live, that will make for a smoother and more successful transition. It would require a small number of very determined, visionary change-makers who fully understand the problem and who are not motivated by financial profit.

This will sound terrifyingly Marxist to those raised in the post-1980s free market world. More terrifying, even, than a world of wildfires, killer heatwaves, and regular pandemics? Is it more terrifying than melting ice caps, disappearing winters, droughts in the tropics, wave after wave of migration, and water wars? Perhaps. We will see. The jury is out.

The specific steps needed to cut emissions. What societies need to do (www.graememaxton.com)

What different groups should do: How to save the world – To Do List (www.graememaxton.com)

Bernice Maxton-Lee is co-author of A Chicken Can’t Lay a Duck Egg: How Covid-19 can solve the climate crisis and author of Forest Conservation and Sustainability in Indonesia: A Political Economy Study of International Governance Failure.

Truth is Incontrovertible

United wishes and good will cannot overcome brute facts. Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it. Ignorance may deride it. Malice may distort it. But there it is.

Winston Churchill

Here is an interesting graph from September 2020 to start the new year.

https://climateactiontracker.org/global/cat-emissions-gaps

Obviously, the world is not even close to having an idea about a plan for preventing catastrophic climate change. It is a bit worrying when the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases are either “highly” or “critically” insufficient in meeting their climate protection goals.

There are two reasons for this sad state of affairs:

  1. By sticking to the idea of economic growth, governments have essentially been trying to square the circle by accomplishing something which is physically impossible.
  2. There is no incentive for politicians to admit their own inadequacy. When was the last time you heard about a politician who resigned because he realized that he was not up to the job?

This leaves us in a precarious situation, where the people entrusted with climate policy are either unable or unwilling to do what is required to prevent catastrophic climate change. Instead, they put on a charade of pretending to be concerned to appease the masses. If the last four years have taught us anything, it is that “telling the people the lies they want to hear” can be a successful and dangerous strategy.

The incontrovertible fact is that our current approach to tackling the climate crisis has failed and that the people in charge have no idea what to do next. It is therefore not enough to demand that our politicians do something. We need to tell them what to do!

Global Climate Compensation (GCC) offers a simple solution based on the idea that the people responsible for destroying the climate should pay for the damage done. It will not solve all our problems, but it would be a huge step in the direction. It is also completely risk-free and could be implemented immediately. It is a lot better than doing nothing

I am actively trying to promote GCC. Please let me know if you like the idea and believe that you can help.

On Swedish Zebras and AI

I was preparing a presentation on climate change some weeks ago and wanted to include a picture showing the effects of the drought in Sweden last summer. As you might know, PowerPoint now uses artificial intelligence to suggest an alternative text for each picture. This is what came out:

Swedish Zebras

The world is clearly going mad! We are terribly excited about AI, although its cognitive abilities are worse than that of a small child. Simultaneously, we do not mind destroying natural ecosystems far more complex than anything humanity has ever designed. The example also shows that we cannot use past experience to predict the future of the planet. AI works by comparing the picture to a database of old classified pictures. Apparently, the majority of the pictures in the database showing black-and-white animals and dry grass contained zebras. This does not mean that it always has to be like that.