According to climate scientists, we have little time left to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and stop propelling various natural self-accelerating feedbacks expected to trigger “runaway” global warming. Exceeding these ill-charted “tipping points” means fating large swaths of the planet to become uninhabitable and much of the rest insufferable, with vast collapses of human and species populations.
Such is the likely fate now programmed after a quarter of a century of “free GHG pollution” policies, largely ratified in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was meant mostly for public relations and to slow pollution rates, not to dispel major risk of suicidal emission levels.
There is one simple response to the devastation of the future that policy keeps fueling: a “safe carbon* budget” —or, technically put, a limit to cumulative GHG emissions at expectedly non-self-accelerating levels, as best estimated by scientists given politically defined risks, with at least moderate confidence under conditions of uncertainty.
They will most likely conclude that this budget is negative: that we have already exceeded key tipping points, never mind that we keep fueling the self-accelerated global warming expected to devastate civilization. Fortunately, things are not so simple. A tipping point is still not a point of no return, that is reached only if a temporary overshoot is not rolled back soon.
Fortunately, just as the scale of the climate threat has been underestimated (and thus the scale of the reorganizational challenge), so have available solutions. For the “miraculous” technologies that can extract carbon from the atmosphere are not hypothetical, expensive and distant infrastructures that corporations can build and run. They are existing practices of organic agriculture and agroecology generally, that are typically run on a small scale. Their unrecognized capacity to absorb CO2 and store carbon (some 50 ppm ? +) in the soil is now dangling the possibility of removing vast amounts of the atmospheric carbon that climate stability will require in addition to drastic emission reductions.
There are few areas of R&D that are more important —and indeed potentially more fruitful— than such “technology.” It has been neglected largely because for modern culture it is, well, “primitive” —which is of course anathema to progress. As modernity enters its terminal phase, however, such humble methods turn out to be …fantastically “resource-efficient.” And the “impact per dollar” of R&D on its (agricultural) generalizability and (“economic”) generalization would dwarf that of the fortunes squandered in CSS technologies (and even in “clean” energy, now that this is in a phase of diminishing returns). Except perhaps for R&D in “institutional engineering” —that seems necessary (before any “policy design”) to clarify the (legal and other) conditions for it to flourish— there may be no better “climate technology”.
Of course, expect them to flourish only in “full green spectrum” societies (to evoke them only by reference to their most elementary technical feature).
Both emission reductions —forsaking conventional polluting technologies and ways— and carbon removal —by invigorated alternative livelihoods and ways— will be catalyzed by a carbon budget, once its carbon management implications have worked themselves out through the policy and price system, to coordinate a regreening of the Earth’s surface.
A Safe Carbon* Budget is the trigger and the hinge of a transition to a safe future.
And this is the awareness-raising campaign, political goal and legal tool to enact it.
* shorthand, throughout this website, for “greenhouse gases".
Climate awareness, politics and policy remain dangerously absent, hushed or compassless, when not misleading and impotent, in relation to the scale and urgency of the challenge.
While fossil fuel interests, by investing a few billion dollars, have effectively occupied mainstream media, political talk, and even legislative authority at the core of global power, social activists remain distracted and dispersed in dozens of local or sectoral causes, and responsible political actors —even when fully aware of the stakes— largely handcuffed or overwhelmed by social inertia, vested interests and institutional constraints.
For beyond inspired speeches that raise awareness, identify “solutions” and promise a “transition” to sustainability; beyond educating the public, “engaging the youth” and “empowering communities” to “solve the climate crisis,” we can actually come up with a myriad “climate solutions” that cut energy consumption or switch us all to electric cars and “clean energy”; and even with a “green new deal” to fully decarbonize the energy infrastructure while creating a zillion green jobs —indeed, we can even go as far as agreeing on a full decarbonisation schedule, on putting the hefty “price on carbon” needed to most efficiently catalyze the reconversion, and drastically reduce carbon emissions
…and still trigger the “runaway” global warming that is feared to devastate civilization.
The planet doesn’t care about our economic calculations, political quarrels and cultural inertia, or even our technical creativity: for the Earth, one thing matters above all: chemistry.
One factor and only one factor
determines climate —and will thereby
define the basic shape of the future :
carbon* concentration in the atmosphere.
Short of a rapid and drastic decarbonisation
of the global economy, and particularly of
the economies of the most polluting countries,
greenhouse gas emissions will simply doom us.
But a safe future can be secured with
a formal cap on cumulative human emissions :
a “carbon budget,” which is best stipulated
by an independent scientific panel.
Cumulative human emissions are both the
environmentally and the managerially decisive factor.
But it can only be controlled if it acquires
(global and national) political expression
Although atmospheric carbon will define the future
of life in the planet, it has been ignored.
But capping it only takes a standard institutional
mechanism, that is perfectly within political grasp.
So a drive is on for a tweak to the Paris Agreement
to insert a geophysical security clause that protects
the continuity of civilization: by setting up
An Independent Scientific Panel on a Safe Carbon Budget.
One problem, one determinant factor, one solution.
Adoption of a carbon budget is the socially
most consequentialclimate policy: step 1 of the
historic reconversion and transition needed :
to turn the catastrophe now programed for our children
and grandchildren into a full regreening of the world.
By defining our goal more clearly, by making
it seem more manageable and less remote,
we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it,
and to move irresistibly towards it. John F Kennedy
An ominous new idea is already stalking the political landscape:
a “transition” —another word for passage to a new system.
So even officialdom is by now implicitly (if often still unwittingly)
recognizing that we need to “ change the system, not the climate”.
That this happens progressively is no less revolutionary.
But a new “system” can only emerge if a new hinge for social
organization defines its structure: when a coordinating goal is
available to clarify how policy, action and culture need to be
(re)aligned to control the one factor that will preserve a stable climate.
A new social mantra —a safe global carbon budget—
changes the future because it defines
the managerially decisive goal: the first feature of the
“ carbon-constrained, carbon-equitableand carbon-neutral”
policy framework (the standard prescript of ecological economics),
that can preside over, and catalyze, the transition into a
carbon-constrained, carbon-equitable and carbon-neutral world.
This will be kick-started when a critical mass of people
manifest the common norm needed to dispel the historic threat:
a “ safe global carbon budget”. This will raise
a host of legal, economic and political questions.
As we answer them, the organizational implications of an
effective and even exciting transition will become obvious.
A carbon budget will thus give responsible but impotent political actors
the popular and scientific mandate they need to overcome social
and institutional inertia, and interests vested in the carbon economy,
to beat their adversaries and begin securing a livable future
in which the full diversity of life can at last flourish
This website shows why.
The December 2015 climate accord that resulted from COP21
negotiations in Paris has created the vague impression that we
are now somehow “on course” to avert radical climate disruption.
That is a delusion that threatens the very continuity of civilization.
For besides and beyond its well-recognized inadequacies
(regarded as temporary by what is seen as a “framework” for
future greenhouse gas emissions limits), the Paris Agreement
in effect enshrines a dramatic but unrecognized threat
that is only recently coming into view: not only are
its “Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions” to pollution
way beyond the accord's philosophical and aspirational targets.
Even if these goals are achieved, they ignore
the “tipping points” of natural self-reinforcing feedback
processes expected to trigger “ runaway" global warming,
which would no less than devastate civilization,
but have been ignored in most standard scenarios.
This prospect introduces a new, and so far unreckoned, urgency:
for avoiding it means keeping emissions within “safe”
(i.e. non-self-accelerating) cumulativelevels
(which are what determines climate).
That is the operative word: cumulative.
And this puts us before a momentous choice: between
1) what can only be concisely described as “ climate apocalypse.”
2) future radical dislocationand repression of social organization,
3) rapid and drastic managedreductions of carbon emissions,
It means that, barring a functional correction of the Paris Agreement’s
pollution allowances, political representatives unwittingly signed,
on April 22 2016, in grand celebration and to general applause,
precisely the “suicide pact” of which Ban Ki-moon once warnedus.
A major information, PR and political campaign is needed to expose this.
But here's the good news: averting catastrophe begins with
a couple of simple amendmentsthat could be included in, say, COP22.
With the stroke of a pen, the Paris Suicide Pact can be transformed
into the embryo of a genuine Climate Security Accord.
It is obvious that a legal stipulation will never suffice to meet
the historic challenge —even if proclaimed in solemn pronouncements.
But it is not supposed to be a sufficient, only a necessarycondition:
there is no way we can organize to meet a condition of survival
if we don’t know what it is. “ If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
But the logic also works in reverse.
Only a cap on global cumulative emissions —a “carbon budget”:
the geophysically and managerially decisive factor—
will preserve the future by avoiding the unmanageable.
( Managing the unavoidableis another
—equally indispensable but different— priority).
After a naturally long gestation, the Safe Carbon Budget was
politically born on Earth Day 2016, Montreal from awareness of
the common threat, of the dangerous delusions and confusion
that still prevail —and of the simple instrument that allows us
to contemplate a safe future. This turns Earth Day 2016 from
a day of obfuscation into a day of awareness and response :
a new milestone in the climate's slow-motion irruption into history,
as the defining issue of the 21st Century
forces itself into everyday politics and life.
Most significantly, it is a politician-empoweringtool. *
Politicians are no more “corrupt” today than they have always been.
The problem is that even when they are awareof the scale of the threat,
of the speed of actionit summons, and concerned with
protecting society, even the principled ones are impotent
in the face of a historical challenge of unprecedented scope.
For the climate threat represents no less than
“a crisis of civilization that dares not speak its name,”
as François Hollande once whispered. The translation is not difficult:
Governance, above all, is overwhelmed by 1) the scaleof a transition that
requires rapidly abandoning over 80% of the energy that fuels modern
civilization, 2) the weight of social inertiadue to public unawareness,
3) the interests vestedin the fossil fuels that survival requires abandoning.
It should be obvious by now that the continuity of civilization presumes
systemic change. We know that a historic “transition” is required.
And that any transition presumes a clear understanding of,
first, “where” we want to go, and then, “how” to get there.
But this much is also clear: we need to move
rapidlyto a radically
carbon-constrained, carbon-equitable and carbon-neutral world,
and this will be catalyzed less by techno-fixes than by appropriate
—carbon-constrained, carbon-equitable and carbon-neutral—
institutional frameworks, at both the global and national levels,
that can coordinate the reconversion, over the next generation,
of technologies, production methods and ways.
The first goal that the new institutional architecture
needs to ensure is a carbon-constrained global economy:
one that climate scientists can confidently expect to
dispel undue risk of triggering “runaway global warming.”
Any policy that achieves this goal must first specify it.
2) …AND A SOCIO-ECONOMICALLY CONSEQUENTIAL GOAL
The most effective political action is that
which aims at, and furthers, the most consequentialgoals.
Many causes and proposals now pursuing various partial corrections of
today’s system can be shown to follow inexorably from adoption of a
carbon budget, especially as this prompts the concomitant definition of its
carbon-equitable and carbon-neutral allocation, globally and nationally:
First and foremost, preservation of a livable future, protection of
biodiversityand of the lives of the poor, who will be most impacted
by global warming even though they are least responsible for it;
by ensuring that civilization-threatening fossil fuels stay in the ground;
the resulting divestment from carbon-dependant infrastructure,
such as oil pipelinesor environmentally and socially poisoning fracking; but also
other investments in energy-intensive methods (lest they become stranded assets)
thanks to a “price on carbon” that is high enough to reduce emissions
to safe levels; full application of the polluter-pays principle;
reinforced citizen economic securitythrough “systemic safety nets”
(such as “basic income” mechanisms), without which a geophysically adequate
carbon tax would lead to vast social dislocation; ...and of the consequences
ensuing from such combinations of “flexible security” policies: development
and dissemination of “clean energy” technologies and methods,
as these become micro-economically profitable as rapidly as alternative ways
become viable: “post-consumerist” livelihoods and lifestyles;
food securitythanks to small-scale organic agricultureand
agro-ecologygenerally, that remove CO2 from the atmosphere
and strengthen resilienceby recarbonizing the soil;
mass empowerment of sustainable ways—and perhaps above all,
circumventing Big Carbon's strangleholdon the political process.
The global carbon budget catalyzes all these goals:
because energy runs through everything we do,
it is the cause that underpins a thousand causes,
the factorand goal that triggers a thousand possibilities.
All will follow from a formal limit to cumulative carbon emissions.
Only this can ensure that
a formal limit to manmade cumulative emissions
is informed by the best available knowledge(+),
to meet the survival imperative now before us.
And this standard institutional tool, perfectly within reach,
needed to secure an unobjectionable survival imperative,
spells the beginning of the full transition
to which History now summons Humanity.
The tipping-point territory into which free pollution policies are driving social organization can only be avoided with a limit to atmospheric carbon.
But we don’t have a minimally workable idea of this “safe carbon budget” because pollution limits have been chosen politically. (by actors focused on protecting industrial economic interests, and according to what is imagined to be technically possible, economically convenient or strategically feasible), not according to the geophysical. processes bearing on the runaway dynamics that will determine future climate.
Although scientists can assess this limit, it can hardly emerge from the IPCC, if only because it is a politically. framed body of scientists. Thus, as its analyses had developed, following usage, around politically given norms, the IPCC suddenly found its scenarios out of sync with the 1.5°C target that replaced the 2°C that had presided over the definition of its emissions scenarios. [nota a pie de página=popover con el texto] Neither do its standard cost-benefit analyses. of human impacts vs mitigation costs bear any relationship with the threat of runaway global warming. And even its geophysics has proved wanting. Not only because its certainty bias —that limits conclusions to predictions supported by robust evidence— has led it to consistently underestimate the strength and speed of climate change: to Erring on the Side of Less Drama., as a study confirmed. Given the uncertainties involved, it has also ignored the incomplete knowledge available about the self-accelerating feedbacks: the known unknowns that are feared to doom us, and about which scientists can mostly speculate given the paucity of robust evidence, have been completely ignored in its main scenarios.
There is only one way to incorporate dangerous known unknowns into the assessment of the factors that must be brought under control, as we routinely do in everyday life decisions: free the scientists —from 1) the political norms that distort their analysis of geophysical processes, and 2) from the certainty bias that excludes the known unknowns from the picture.
One thing, however, is clear. It is not politicians —as ignorant of climate dynamics as the rest of us, and with a solid history of venality, myopia or pusillanimity— who can determine a safe carbon budget. Under conditions of uncertainty, only an independent. panel of scientists is equipped with the full range of knowledge available to inform the educated guestimates of the guardrails of a safe future.
By targeting even minimal political action to the most consequential
“climate policy,” climate-aware citizens will make it happen:
as their clamor manifests the awareness needed to enact it,
until political leadership emerges from our day's
“political polls followership” to drive it into the global agenda.
However long it takes. But the sooner the message attains
the necessary critical mass, the sooner it will be catalyzed.
The five years stipulated for revisions of emission commitments
in the Paris Agreement now program five years of minimal mitigation.
That’s a precious 35.9 gigatons of CO2 of the carbon budget that can be saved
for every year that the beginning of serious emission reductions is advanced.
But we already know one thing:
history will remember the Paris Agreement as the Paris Suicide Pact.
Unless it is corrected.
1) making your voice heard
2) boosting the loudspeaker: by relaying the news
( ), and
3) equipping us with a bigger loudspeaker (“Donations”,
pending procurement of proper financial sponsorship,
to follow after the Global Carbon Initiative.'s formal launch).
but, beyond click activism.
(if you are fully aware of the climate threat,
and of the centrality of a carbon budget to dispel it):
4) convince two friends or acquaintances
to sign on and to convince two others..
Do the math: in no time, the millions
who want climate action now
will give all responsible political actors
the popular and scientific benchmark they need to
begin ensuring the continuity of civilization.
Already, the industrial economic order is
is increasingly entangled in systemic debt imbalances,
exhausted policy recipes, and secular stagnation.
As it disintegrates in historical slow motion, a green shift
will become the obvious alternative to spreading chaos.
This awareness-raising. campaign and legal tool. of geophysical safety
will be born by well-informed citizens, thinkers and political actors
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