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Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Enrich Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis

By Carroll Muffett and Steven Felt - Center for International Environmental Law, February 2019

The present report investigates the early, ongoing, and often surprising role of the fossil fuel industry in developing, patenting, and promoting key geoengineering technologies. It examines how the most heavily promoted strategies for carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification depend on the continued production and combustion of carbon-intensive fuels for their viability.

It analyzes how the hypothetical promise of future geoengineering is already being used by major fossil fuel producers to justify the continued production and use of oil, gas, and coal for decades to come. It exposes the stark contrast between the emerging narrative that geoengineering is a morally necessary adjunct to dramatic climate action, and the commercial arguments of key proponents that geoengineering is simply a way of avoiding or reducing the need for true systemic change, even as converging science and technologies demonstrate that shift is both urgently needed and increasingly feasible. Finally, it highlights the growing incoherence of advocating for reliance on speculative and risky geoengineering technologies in the face of mounting evidence that addressing the climate crisis is less about technology than about political will.

Read the report (Link).

We Need to Talk About Technology

By Simon Pirani  - The Ecologist, October 5, 2018

Housing for working people is becoming as central an issue for labour and social movements in the twenty first century as it was in the nineteenth and twentieth. And not just decent housing, but housing that is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing – and, crucially, low energy, zero energy or even energy positive. 

Here is a wonderful opportunity for our movement to get a grip on technology. We can and should find ways to bring the experience of architects and energy conservation engineers into discussions about housing among community activists and building workers.

A good example of how not to do this is the call for mass installation of air conditioners, made by Leigh Phillips in his article, In Defense of Air Conditioning published by Jacobin

Improved design

The problem that Phillips purports to address – the cruel effect of heat on millions of urban residents, during summers such as 2018’s – is real enough.

The need to provide ourselves with homes that shelter us from extreme heat as well as colder weather – something ruling classes down the ages have never done for working people – is indisputable. 

But Phillips’s techno-fix – mass AC installation, supported by a grand expansion of nuclear and hydro power – is not the answer. He sounds like someone proposing the state-funded distribution of armour-plated BMWs to parents demanding safe cycle routes to school for their children.

Better temperature control can and should be achieved not in the first place by AC, but mainly by better building design, better insulation and better urban planning, in the context of better ways of living generally.

This ABC of AC is widely understood by three groups of people, ignored in Phillips’s article, who spend time thinking about our homes: community groups organising on housing issues; building workers and architects; and energy conservation researchers. 

Radical Realism for Climate Justice

By Lili Fuhr and Linda Schneider - P2P Foundation, October 4, 2018

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial is feasible, and it is our best hope of achieving environmental and social justice, of containing the impacts of a global crisis that was born out of historical injustice and highly unequal responsibility.

To do so will require a radical shift away from resource-intensive and wasteful production and consumption patterns and a deep transformation towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Demanding this transformation is not ‘naïve’ or ‘politically unfeasible’, it is radically realistic.

This publication is a civil society response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while also paving the way for climate justice. It brings together the knowledge and experience of a range of international groups, networks and organisations the Heinrich Böll Foundation has worked with over the past years, who in their political work, research and practice have developed the radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas political change we need across various sectors.

Download a complete PDF of this collection of documents.

Hands Off Mother Earth! Manifesto Against Geoengineering

By various - GeoEngineering Monitor, October 2018

We, civil society organizations, popular movements, Indigenous Peoples, peasant organizations, academics, intellectuals, writers, workers, artists and other concerned citizens from around the world, oppose geoengineering as a dangerous, unnecessary and unjust proposal to tackle climate change. Geoengineering refers to large-scale technological interventions in the Earth’s oceans, soils and atmosphere with the aim of weakening some of the symptoms of climate change.

Geoengineering perpetuates the false belief that today ’s unjust, ecologically- and socially-devastating industrial model of production and consumption cannot be changed and that we therefore need techno-fixes to tame its effects. However, the shifts and transformations we really need to face the climate crisis are fundamentally economic, political, social and cultural.

Mother Earth is our common home and its integrity must not be violated by geoengineering experimentation and deployment.

We are committed to protecting Mother Earth and defending our rights, territories and peoples against anyone attempting to take control of the global thermostat or the vital natural cycles of planetary functions and ecosystems.

Healthy ecosystems and cultural and biological diversity are crucial to the well-being of all people, societies and economies. Geoengineering, whether on land, in the oceans or in the atmosphere, puts ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at risk of potentially devastating impacts and side effects.

We reject any further entrenchment of fossil fuel economies. We reject geoengineering as an attempt to uphold a failed status quo and divert attention from emissions reductions and the real solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More - Download PDF.

The State Against Climate Change: Response to Christian Parenti

By BRRN Radical Ecology Committee - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, July 3, 2018

A response to Christian Parenti’s assertion that the state is the only way to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

In the concluding chapter of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2012), author Christian Parenti suggests that those seeking to mitigate and adapt to the disastrous effects of global warming can do so best by taking power of the State to implement the necessary changes to bring about a transition to a post-capitalist global society powered by renewable energies. In an address to the 2013 Left Forum, “What Climate Change Implies for the State,” in which he develops these ideas, Parenti asserts that the Left should adopt a strategy of recovering and reclaiming the territory of the State, “reshaping” it toward the end of an all-out short-term mobilization to resolve the impending threat of climate destruction. Though Parenti recognizes that the State’s primary role within the rise of capitalism to have been to facilitate the exploitation and destruction of nature, he somehow believes that this same mechanism could now serve the opposite end. He claims that climate change can be resolved simply through fiat by the Environmental Protection Agency: “we’re [just] waiting for numerous rules from the EPA.” He insists that the Left desperately needs to come up with “realistic solutions” to the gravity of the climate crisis, and that any strategy of merely “being outraged” or “invoking the righteousness of our cause” will utterly fail. [1]

What Is the State, and Is It Neutral? 

To begin to respond to Parenti, we first have to ask, what is the State? Peter Kropotkin distinguishes between the State as bureaucratic despotism imposed from above and collective self-governance from below, otherwise known as self-organization or self-management. [2] Examples of the latter can be seen in the soldiers’, peasants’, and workers’ councils of the Russian Revolution; indigenous Latin American assemblies; the Paris Commune of 1871; the Gwanju Commune of 1980; the cooperatives, communes, and free cities of medieval Europe and today’s Rojava Revolution; and the Local Coordinating Councils of the Syrian Revolution, among other examples. Therefore, when we mention “the State,” all that is meant on the philosophical level—leaving aside for a moment the very real physical presence of the State, as embodied in militarism, prisons, and the police—is just centralism, or the concentration of decision-making power, whether that be a monarch, emperor, One-Party State, or modern multi-party western democracies.

In terms of ecology, it is clear that the State is not a “neutral” arbiter but rather, as Parenti argues, the facilitator of ecocides global and local. The EPA’s laws and regulations are often not enforced, even when the ruling class believes they should at least be on the books, and are currently being decimated due to the Trump Regime’s affinity for fossil capital. If enforced, these standards are too-often observed along a racial-territorial basis, exacerbating environmental racism. Centralism in practice leads to bureaucratic lack of accountability and popular dis-empowerment, among other problems, as Kropotkin specified. So then the question becomes, do we need centralism for a successful transition to a post-capitalist, “ecological” future? The answer to this is of course not.

Memo to Jacobin: Ecomodernism is not ecosocialism

By Ian Angus - Climate and Capitalism, September 25, 2017

This summer, the left-wing magazine Jacobin published a special issue on climate change. The lead article declares that “climate change … has to be at the center of how we mobilize and organize going forward. From now on, every issue is a climate issue.”

That’s excellent news: a magazine that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” ought to be a leader in the fight against capitalism’s deadly assault on the earth’s life-support systems.

Unfortunately, if the special issue is any indication, Jacobin is heading in the wrong direction. Although the term eco-socialism appears from time to time (always with a hyphen, which may indicate some uneasiness with the combination) there is nothing in this issue resembling an ecosocialist analysis or program. There’s not a word about stopping coal or tar sands mining, and no mention of shutting down the world’s biggest polluter, the US military. Instead we are offered paeans to technology in articles that advocate nuclear power, geoengineering, new power grids, electric cars and the like.

But despite their technophilia, the authors display little understanding of the technologies they support. Take, for example, the piece by Christian Parenti. He has written elsewhere that the U S government can resolve the climate crisis without system change by supporting clean technologies, so “realistic climate politics are reformist politics.” This article says much the same, that “state action and the public sector” can solve climate change by implementing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). He tells us that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is “fairly simple,” because it has been done in submarines for years, and because Icelandic scientists recently developed a safe method of injecting CO2 into underground basalt, where it becomes a limestone-like solid within two years.

That sounds impressive, but is it credible?

Green Capitalism: the God That Failed

By Richard Smith - World Economics Association - 2015

This book is a collection of five essays that deal with the prime threat to human life on Earth: the tendency of global capitalist economic development to develop us to death, to drive us off the cliff to ecological collapse. It begins with a review of the origins of this economic dynamic in the transition to capitalism in England and Europe and with an analysis of the ecological implications of capitalist economics as revealed in the work of its founding theorist – Adam Smith. I argue that, once installed, the requirements of reproduction under capitalism – the pressure of competition, the imperative need to innovate and develop the forces of production to beat the competition, the need to constantly grow production and expand the market and so on, induced an expansive logic that has driven economic development and overdevelopment, down to the present day.

In successive essays I explicate and criticize the two leading mainstream approaches to dealing with the ecological consequences of this over-developmental dynamic – décroisance or “degrowth”, and “green capitalism”. I show that the theorists and proponents of no-growth or de-growth – like Herman Daly or Tim Jackson – are correct in arguing that infinite economic growth is not possible on a finite planet, but that they’re wrong to imagine that capitalism can be refashioned as a kind of “steady state” economy, let alone actually “degrow” without precipitating economic collapse. There are further problems with this model, which I also investigate. I show that the theorists and proponents of “green capitalism” such as Paul Hawkin, Lester Brown and Frances Cairncross are wrong to think that tech miracles, “dematerialization”, new efficiencies, recycling and the like, will permit us to grow the global economy – more or less forever – without consuming and polluting ourselves to death. I show that while we’re all better off with organic groceries, energy-efficient light bulbs and so on, such developments do not fundamentally reverse the eco-suicidal tendencies of capitalist development, because in any capitalist economy the environment has to be subordinated to maximizing growth and sales, or companies can’t survive in the marketplace. Yet infinite growth, even green growth, is impossible on a finite planet.

In the final essays I argue that since capitalism can only drive us to ecological collapse, we have no choice but to try to cashier this system and replace it with an entirely different economy and mode of life based on: minimizing not maximizing resource consumption; public ownership of most, though not necessarily all, of the economy; large-scale economic planning and international coordination; and a global “contraction and convergence” between the North and the South around a lower but hopefully satisfactory level of material consumption for all the world’s peoples. Whether we can pull off such a transition is another question. We may very well fail to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a viable alternative. That may be our fate. But around the world, in thousands of locations, people are organizing and fighting against corporate power, against land grabs, against extreme extraction, against the incessant commodification of our lives. Here and there, as in Greece and China, ruling classes are on the defensive. All these fights have a common demand: bottom-up democracy, popular power. In this lies our best hope. This little book is intended as more ammunition for that fight.

Read the report (Link).

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