Cassandra on Climate Change
Jun 15, 2019Posted by on
This week on Facebook: I think that action on climate change (which I have been writing about) is a euphemism that enables people to write about the effects of Mathusianism, particularly when comparing economic growth and climate change. Not only is Malthusianism influencing world populations, it is increasingingly being used as a political weapon. A Malthusian catastrophe (in this case) precipitated by an Anthropocene Epoch which not even Thomas Malthus foresaw — a Malthusian world tied together more by individual concerns over economic growth of their State, rather than the ideology of climate change.
Today, our society can only be effectively analysed at the global level, not the national level, and at our currently very intensive level of exploitation, the “resources” being depleted — like arable farm land and fossil fuels — simply cannot recover at a rate anything like what they would need to in order to allow recovery within the timeframe of human civilisation. About the Malthusian Catastrophe
Populations in the developed world now find themselves with increasingly high levels of unemployment, ever shifting population growth and social welfare programmes that rely on economic growth to meet the ever increasing demands made upon them. The internet, now globally enables others to literally be aware of how the social welfare programmes enjoyed by those in the developed world enhances their quality of life. The increase in global awareness brings with it a global desire to share in both State and global social welfare programmes.
The EU accounts for just 7% of the world’s population and a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) but as much as half of its welfare spending. Can EU countries still afford their welfare states?
Not only has the world changed since the time of Malthus, it has changed considerably since World War II and not only in what was then seen as the developed world. The end of WWII saw developed nations trying to maintain the hegemony over global Empires that had made them wealthy. However, post WWII, developing nations have seen the hegemony of empire give way to a global competition for economic growth as they now competed with developed nations.
Naturally they are all competing with each other for economic growth and market dominance. In terms of GDP, global leaders in the developing world have shifting eastwards with nations now free of Empire (such as India). An economically expanding China is now competing with the United States for global economic dominance¹ and market leadership.
Since initiating market reforms in 1978, China has shifted from a centrally planned to a more market-based economy and has experienced rapid economic and social development. GDP growth has averaged nearly 10% a year—the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history—and more than 850 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. The World Bank In China
The article at (1) challenges the choice between economic growth and climate change, while that at (2) posits the solution to climate change as de-growth². Both articles essentially write the same thing with both, apparently, offering the curbing of economic growth. Curbing of economic growth being, globally, a politically unacceptable solution to what may be an impending Malthusian catastrophe.
Article (3) is about GDP³. Complaining about ‘unhinged growth’ simply makes it a question of semantics, but may well lead wars between those States that have economic growth and market dominance as currently measured by GDP. Wars that may well turn into global warfare.
Article (4) States that at global summits on climate change different strategies are negotiated, since major contributors and those countries most vulnerable follow very different national interests.
Article (5) claims that the biggest obstacle to climate change is political. The economics of climate change may be true, as may its causes, but the politics around these issue is moot.
1. The False Choice Between Economic Growth And Combatting Climate Change: Historically, emissions have aligned with the ebb and flow of the economy. In 2018, economic growth was driven by a higher demand for energy, trucking and air travel, and industrial activity. Companies were manufacturing more stuff, including steel, cement, and chemicals. The carbon intensity of the power sector, meanwhile, did not decline fast enough to offset all those demand increases.
3. Unhinged Gdp Growth Could Actually Destroy The Economy, Economists Find For decades scientists have warned of the pending crisis for the planet and humanity in the event of runaway climate change. But a new paper from prominent economists frames the situation in language that people might actually understand: Not addressing climate change, they conclude, will lead inevitably to “worldwide economic collapse.” Researchers also have a warning for renewable energy evangelists and techno-optimists, concluding that it is a fantasy to believe that the economy can grow at a torrid pace — as measured by GDP — while simultaneously reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas.
4. Unchanging Politics of Climate Change: Disagreements circle around the question of how to reduce CO2 emissions as a major contributor to the underlying environmental problems. Strategies of mitigation as well as adaptation to the negative consequences of climate change are eventually a task for national politics. Since climate change itself is a global phenomenon, mere national interventions are not sufficient in tackling the effects of climate change. At global summits these different strategies are negotiated, since major contributors and those countries most vulnerable follow very different national interests.
5. Politics remains the biggest obstacle to climate change action: The technology challenge, however, may be the easier part of the problem to solve. The harder part relates to the political complexities, which are considerable. In the developed world it can be hard to persuade current generations to make drastic changes, particularly if these threaten jobs, for benefits they are unlikely to see in their lifetime. No politician in a developing country can pursue policies that threaten economic growth and the fight against poverty.
Referenced Articles & Books:
- A text subscript above and preceding the title here, refers to a book, pdf, podcast, video, slide show and a download that is usually free.
- Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) are used above to reference a particular article (1-5).
- Links (without superscript) reference a source.
- Links may be in italics to indicate the (context).
- A long read url* (included below) is followed by an asterisk.
- Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
- JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹Eclipse (pdf/book):The message for the United States is that rising economic and currency dominance of China might well be determined to a greater extent by Chinese policy and performance than by US actions. Dominance might be more China’s to lose than America’s to retain. America cannot escape the inexorable logic of demography and the phenomenon of “economic convergence,” the process by which hitherto poor countries, and especially China, catch up with their richer counterparts. A country that is four times as populous as the United States will be bigger in overall economic size, once its standard of living exceeds a quarter of that of the United States.
²Consequences of Paris Protocol — Devastating Economic Costs, Essentially Zero Environmental Benefits (url/download): The general consensus from the summit was that the use of natural resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas—which provide 80 percent of the world’s energy needs—should be avoided. Furthermore, industrialized, rich countries should pay for poor countries to build more renewable power and address climate change.
³Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (pdf): The standard measures may suggest, for instance that there is less inflation or more growth than individuals perceive to be the case, and the gap is so large and so universal that it cannot be explained by reference to money illusion or to human psychology. In some countries, this gap has undermined confidence in official statistics (for example, in France and in the United Kingdom. Only one third of citizens trust official figures, and these countries are not exceptions), with a clear impact on the way in which public discourse about the conditions of the economy and necessary policies takes place.