Sure and it’s fine to be thinking about climate change. It’s also just copacetic to ponder whether we should be a more socialist, more capitalist, more social democratic and so on economy. I’ve got my answers there as no doubt you have. But as we wander along through these arguments it does aid, just a tad, in taking account of what people have already pondered on these very points. We might, for example, take account of the scientific consensus on the economics of climate change. We might even go and look at the IPCC output on this very subject.
You know, what is it that the people who say we must do something about climate change say it is that we must do about climate change?
That being what Phil McDuff determinedly doesn’t do here in The Guardian. But then when did the G ever let petty things like reality change the demand for a radical restructuring of society?
Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism. Have we got the stomach for it?
Well, no, that’s not the outcome all the specialists and scientists say is necessary.
The criticism feels ridiculous. Partly because the GND is far from truly radical and already represents a compromise solution, but mainly because the radical economics isn’t a hidden clause, but a headline feature. Climate change is the result of our current economic and industrial system. GND-style proposals marry sweeping environmental policy changes with broader socialist reforms because the level of disruption required to keep us at a temperature anywhere below “absolutely catastrophic” is fundamentally, on a deep structural level, incompatible with the status quo.
No, that’s not what the scientists say at all.
We will simply have to throw the kitchen sink at this. Policy tweaks such as a carbon tax won’t do it.
Nope. Economists such as Nick Stern point out that we must use the most efficient method to deal with climate change. Partly, obviously, because we’d like to do whatever as cheaply as possible. But there’s a more important reason to prefer efficiency. There’s only so much pain and expense we’re prepared to suffer as either people or as a society of people. Using the most efficient method means we’ll do more of dealing with climate change than doing it the bad way will. The carbon tax is the most efficient answer therefore we should and must be using it. Simply because if we do then we’ll do more about climate change.
We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work and capital.
We can, of course, do all the thinking and re-evaluation we want. Fortunately, this has already been done for us. By the IPCC themselves in fact. Back when they started even. For to work out how much climate change there’s going to be you need to have an idea of what emissions will be. That means knowing how many people there will be, how rich they’ll be and which technologies – emitting or non- – they’ll be using to be that rich for so many of them.
This is called the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. The basic finding? Capitalism, globalisation and fossil fuel intensive production methods (A1FI) doesn’t work out well. Capitalism, globalisation and technological advance to non-fossil intensive production methods (A1T) – essentially, clean up energy generation – and there’s not actually a problem at all.
They also study other alternatives
Something more like social democracy, perhaps more socialism in that radical transformation of society thing, (B1) with globalisation gives us an outcome in temperature rather like that capitalism without fossil fuels. Social democracy without globalisation (B2) is horrendous, so too is capitalism, fossil fuels and no globalisation (A2, the one Stern used).
So, we can see immediately that globalisation is part of the cure. Technological advance to have non-emitting energy generation, yep, sure, that works. And then we add in our final bit, how well do the people live? Those social democracy ones, the B1 and B2, have people living considerably poorer lives. Like half the living standard of the capitalism ones. Seems reasonable enough, we’ve not ever noted a rich socialist society as yet anywhere, have we?
That is, the IPCC itself says that the cure for climate change is globalised capitalism along with technological advance on renewables. That’s the settled science of the economics of climate change – and the carbon tax is the efficient handmaiden.
Or, as we should put it, Phil McDuff’s call for the abolition of capitalism to beat climate change it twaddle. Twaddle informed by ignorance we must suppose for surely no one who understands would get it this wrong.