Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Total Decarbonization

Total decarbonization... That's a catchy phrase. George Monbiot used in in a 4 DEC 07 article in the Guardian Unlimited, This crisis demands a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means.

The crux of the issue of quite simple, though the solution is anything but.

In the new summary published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you will find a table that links different cuts to likely temperatures. It suggests that to prevent global warming from eventually exceeding 2C, by 2050 the world will need to cut its emissions to roughly 15% of the volume in 2000.

There are more facts and figures, but it boils down to the need for generating a global cut in CO2 emissions of more than 90% by 2050 to avoid dire repercussions of global warming. And to stabilize temperatures globally at a level consistent with the pre-industrial period will require a global cut of nearly 100%.

To most humans, this would be cause for complete despair and inaction, but Monboit is optimistic that there remains a path to circumvent disaster.

But I am not advocating despair. We must confront a challenge that is as great and as pressing as the rise of the Axis powers. Had we thrown up our hands then, as many people are tempted to do today, you would be reading this paper in German. Though the war often seemed impossible to win, when the political will was mobilised strange and implausible things began to happen. The US economy was spun round on a dime in 1942 as civilian manufacturing was switched to military production. The state took on greater powers than it had exercised before. Impossible policies suddenly became achievable.

The real issues in Bali are not technical or economic. The crisis we face demands a profound philosophical discussion, a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means. Debating these matters makes us neither saints nor communists; it shows only that we have understood the science.

Deep ecology is one place to start. Deep Economy (as described in Bill McKibben's recent book) is a way to continue (as are the steps outlined in his more recent book, Fight Global Warming Now). It's time for us collectively as a species to wake up and take action if we want to be around to celebrate the next millennium.