Saturday, November 17, 2012

What do We Have to Lose, Other than Illusions?

Yes, the most effective way to slow climate change is to shrink the economy. That statement is inconvenient as hell, but it’s true. Sure, efficiency and renewable energy can nibble around the edges of our carbon emissions, but just three or four percent economic growth per year would be sufficient to cancel out any gains we’d be likely to achieve with solar panels and electric cars. Understandably, this makes the post-carbon transition a tough sell.
So the real trade-off, the real choice we face, is not between climate protection on one hand and economic growth on the other. It’s between planned economic contraction (with government managing the post-carbon transition through infrastructure investment and useful make-work programs) as a possible but unlikely strategy, and unplanned, unmanaged economic and environmental collapse as our default scenario.

Mainstream environmental organizations don’t want to mention any of this because they don’t want to be pilloried as “anti-growth” or “socialist” by right-wing politicians and powerful free-market think tanks. The president won’t touch it with a forty-foot pole, for the same reasons.

Some of us are under no such constraint. We can tell it like it is—and we might as well do so. What do we have to lose, other than illusions? Richard Heinberg

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