Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Hope for a Climate Change Solution in the Wake of Copenhagen

Question: How do you get world leaders to commit to lowering and stabilizing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm by 2020? Answer: you probably can’t. Which means you’ll have to do it yourself.

David Gershon doesn’t want to wait for governments to get their act together. Not when the collective will of billions of people, properly harnessed, could do the job better and faster. The only question remaining is: how do you mobilize them?

From The Huffington Post:

The political leaders of the world that gathered in Copenhagen had the unenviable responsibility of forging a strategy to pull humankind back from the brink of a dire future. What ultimately will come from this meeting is uncertain, but whatever occurs, the challenge ahead is immense. According to conservative climate change science, we need to stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide at 400 ppm and then begin reducing it to 350 ppm to avoid triggering a cascading set of irreversible tipping points. To be successful in this task requires us to develop a solution to achieve by 2020 what the current treaty being negotiated hopes to achieve by 2050 — an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions.

The scale and speed of change required goes well beyond anything political leaders have ever had to contemplate, much less achieve. And even if the political will were there to achieve this level and speed of carbon reduction, the social change 1.0 tools at their disposal — command and control, and financial incentives — are not designed for this type of rapid, transformative change. They were purposely designed over two centuries ago for gradual, incremental change.

Putting aside the issues of speed and magnitude of change for the moment, passing a law that commands us to adopt new behaviors, and then penalizes us if we don’t, is not politically feasible. And although offering us financial incentives to change is sending the right signal, we are still free not to avail ourselves of these incentives. When we are not already predisposed to changing, financial incentives have a limited effect. Even when we are amenable to changing, financial incentives are very slow moving and cumbersome to implement.

If command and control and financial incentives are not enough to turn the tide in the necessary timeframe, can renewable energy and new breakthrough technologies come to the rescue of humankind? While a low-carbon future critically depends on new technologies, there is no credible scenario by which they can be brought to scale in the ten-year window within which our scientists tell us we must make major carbon reductions.

The dilemma we face is what systems theory calls second order change — or change that requires a system to transform and reorganize at a higher level of performance. When the easier-to-implement solutions prove inadequate for the speed and magnitude of change required, the system goes into stress and must evolve, or it will break down.

Read the whole article here.

 

Related Articles:


The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the Limits to Growth model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century? Author Ugo Bardi (Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet) examines the correlation between what is unfolding between Greece […] Read More..

Wild Edibles: 5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

Ever spotted a dandelion growing in your backyard and wondered, can I eat that? According to wild plants expert Katrina Blair, the answer is a resounding yes. And there are plenty of other commonly found weeds that fall into this category as well. In her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Blair introduces readers to […] Read More..

10 Books to Celebrate the International Year of Soils

Beneath our feet lies a resource that is critical to our future. It’s the first thing we think about when it comes to farming and gardening – and yet, one of the last things considered when thinking about the long-term preservation of our earth. It’s the basis for healthy food production, is a crucial tool […] Read More..

5 Shareable Strategies for Creating Climate Action

Frustrated about climate change? You’re not alone. Most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the spectrum of depressed about our climate situation to flat-out denying that it exists. In fact, the more information about global warming that piles up, the less we seem to do to combat it. What is the reason for this […] Read More..

A Permaculture Approach to Managing Hedge Bindweed

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. In the below Q&A, Tao Orion, author of the new book Beyond the War on Invasive Species, discusses how she approaches weed management. Orion believes invasive species are good ecological […] Read More..