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Carbon Reduction Related Discussions amd Debate
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TOPIC: Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron?

Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron? 2 years, 1 month ago #1

If Economy is seen as the 'mainframe' around which we organise our system of exchange and if this system of exchange has at its heart the idea of profit, then the whole way the whole system reproduces itself uses more basic materials i.e. increases in production. Even if the things we use are much lower carbon - even if they are much much lower carbon, the ideology of consumption remains unchanged and unchallenged, and we all know that the possibility of having a carbon free commodities world is actually well...impossible. If this is all true, and I think most of us would recognise it’s basically sound, then the ideas of 'low carbon' and 'economic growth' simply do not gel. As our carbon usage increases year on year, the disparity between low carbon and economic growth grows even larger. The concept of a low carbon economy is immersed with the ideology of Sustainable Development which arguably was an approach that could have got us out of the climate problem had we adopted it properly following Rio 92. But we didn’t, not even slightly, and now we are left with the question of weather the strategy of sustainable development and its low carbon economy bedfellow is fit for purpose at all? Limits to Growth anyone?

Re: Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron? 1 year, 5 months ago #2

Traditional/neo-classic economics has been increasingly confrunted with evolutionary and institutional economics, which place the 'survival of the fit', rather than maximising profit, as the 'raison d'etre' of the firm. In other terms, its ability to adapt to continuously changing patterns of consumption and wider societal values. A lower carbon economy is mainly about qualitative change in demand, rather than consuming less of the same, it is about enhancing and promoting innovation in low carbon technologies, as a response to consumers' environmental concerns. The need is present, there are promising technologies, but a greater support should come from the regulatory side. Among energy policy academics there is a consensus that the investment portfolio is extremly biased at the cost of energy efficiency. While huge amounts of money are devoted to green energy production etc, little is done in promoting user-end energy savings.
When discussing strictly electricity technologies, decentralised, community based systems is said to have a significant impact on consumer awareness. That's a hypothesis to be tested in the UK.

Re: Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron? 1 year, 3 months ago #3

"Oxymoronic"? No. However it is a loaded concept and we all bring along whatever ideology we have lying around. I write these words as someone who has been active in the Transition Towns movement for over 4 years. This means I have been exposed to public expectations more than many. There seems to be a broad split between the majority of the public who just assume it is someone else's problem, ie, they don't care, and a small handfull of activists who do care. Of the latter they are working hard towards an unrealistic utopia born of wishful thinking. Just my opinion - don't wish to upset anyone. Few of the deeper greens seem interested in what the public wants or even how they think. They are endlessly repeating the same old truths and flashing the same old pictures up of Polar Bears. In between the two camps are a small minority who realise that the Cornutopias of the political right is as much a fantasy as the Ecotopias of the greens. This post-modern view is increasingley exemplified by the likes of the diverse talents of the Breakthrough Institute, Jeremy Rifkin and Jorgen Randers. Randers was a co-author of "The Limits to Growth" and in his latest book "2052 - A Global Forecast for the next forty years" (ISBN 978-1-60358-467-8 Chelsea Green Publishing 2012) he projects the future consequence business-as-usual. It is frightening but not armaggeddon. The world will keep spinning and progress towards that necessary post-carbon community will continue at the pace it has been for the last forty years. Not quick enough for what e would like - but maybe enough for what we need... The more I read it the more I realised that this is probably right. We will muddle through. Randers' hope is that by mid-century that enough climate damage will be done in order to cajole the masses to finally vote for political change. The problem needs to be demonstrated very explicitly. This will pan-out over the next 100 years. I think therefore, that the way the Transition MOvement has back-casted from 2030 is probably shortsighted. It will only lead to disillusionment. This is a generational Transition so we will be forgiven for thinking that it isn't happening quickly enough.

Re: Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron? 1 year, 3 months ago #4

To address the first response. Classic economics tends to focuses on the mode and the means of production. Whilst I think both still have a lot to offer to both the Post and even the non Marxist contemporary economics in terms of 'low carbon', growth has to focus four square on the 'method' of production. the really really basic detail of how stuff gets made and used and then chucked away. My initial argument is based around the planet being a finite system where within many modern economies are often judged about 'how many earths they use' I believe Blighty uses about 3 earths worth of resources per year. Whilst I concede that human invention could come up with products that use few natural resources in their production and distribution and get the UK to use less resources that the planet can re-produce, to actually do this would require a massive ideological shift. So no more seeing ourselves us as consumers. Instead the language of Guardian (or something like this) must take over. And my question is, where are the signs that this is happening?

Martin you quote Jorgen Randers "hope...that by mid-century...enough climate damage will be done in order to cajole the masses to finally vote for political change". My first thought on this is that it fails to grasp a very basic tenant of human agency - that we are an immensely adaptable animal and that rather than vote for change, we will simply deal with and carry on on regardless. Have we seen a major abandonment of New Orleans poat Katrina? Do we see the mass evacuation of Istanbul, despite seismologists stating that a massive earthquake will hit there at any time? No because people adapt and make good. People will not start to vote on mass for a new politics of the climate even when the drought and flood kills them. And if the sea levels do start to rise and threaten the billions of coastal inhabitants with permanently soggy feet, it will be too late for change.

My point is this. Until we change the ideology of people from consumers to enviro champions, making changes to low energy homes, cars etc means nothing. What we need to see at this point, is a mass movement against over lit cities at night, real respect for other lifeforms that means there's is no room for whalers, shark finners, sport hunters and on and on. Pushing people towards this will require difficult decisions like pushing most people into fuel poverty, in order that they save energy, not trying to lift them out of it. Hard choices, but climate change is not and environmental issue, its a political one and Mother Nature does not recognise the scheming ways of mice and men. She is nasty, brutish, cruel and short, not fluffy and cuddly. She demands that we work within her confines and no politics on earth can transcend that.

Re: Is Transition to a Low Carbon Economy an Oxymoron? 3 months, 2 weeks ago #5

I am no economist but I tend to agree with James Lovelock who suggested that 'sustainable economic growth' was an Oxymoron. How can we have increased economic growth year on year with increasing population whilst the 'ecological carrying capacity' of the earth is being depleted? We need a steady state economy where we can manage our energy and resources within a finite carbon budget - only then can we meaningfully be talking about sustainable development. If government and society as a whole continue to ignore this issue, we're all guilty of burying our heads in the sand.
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