‘We could still prevent climate change’

Today New Scientist published seven reasons Climate Change is worse than we thought. It makes depressing reading. Most of us want to believe that humanity has the capacity to fix the problems we created and put our civilization on a sustainable footing; yet it is increasingly clear that our democratic, capitalist processes, so adept at producing economic growth, are completely incapable of meeting this challenge.

In theory, I think the human race could save its civilization, but we’d have to start now. We have newly appointed leaders in the US and China so maybe now’s our chance. Here’s my manifesto for what they’d need to do:

1. All human rights to remain respected at all times during this process, with the single exception of the temporary suspension of democratic processes.

2. For five years from today, the leaders of China, USA, EU, India and Brazil, African states and other countries as appropriate to form a united `climate cabinet’ to restructure the global economy on a sustainable footing. Democratic processes will be suspended for this period. Opposition to this process will be illegal, and persistent objectors may be humanely detained.

3. All fossil fuel supplies to be requisitioned by the climate cabinet and distributed as necessary until transition to a fossil-free economy is complete.

4. Armed forces to protect forests and other natural areas from black-market exploitation.

5. The global construction industry to be conscripted to:
a. convert global housing stock to be carbon neutral and electricity generating.
b. install desert solar panels and a network under-sea cables sufficient to meet global electricity needs.

6. Global food production to be requisitioned and fairly distributed by rationing. Individuals to be encouraged to supplement supplies by growing their own.

7. Global medical resources to be requisitioned to provide immediate and comprehensive contraception and family planning advice to every woman in the world.

8. A global `land army’ to implement a comprehensive programme of habitat restoration, tree planting etc.

9. Safe methods of carbon capture and storage to be implemented.

10. On 20 November 2022 existing constitutional law to be restored and all detainees released.

11. Capitalist economics will thereafter be allowed to develop the re-structured economy (for example, to complete the electrification of transport which will be required following the ban on fossil fuels), although certain regulations will remain in place including:
a. A global ban (cf. CFCs) on the burning of fossil fuels; their other uses to be carefully regulated.
b. Protected natural areas to remain unexploited.
A United Nations environmental police force to remain in place to enforce these regulations.

Well, you say, that will never happen! You will give me twenty good political and economic reasons why such a programme is unfeasible, impractical and impossible. You may be right: in that case I’d say we have perhaps ten to twenty years of this global civilization of ours left; in which case, seize the day, put your trust in God, and spend your pension.

By all means let us keep our faith in humanity, let’s discuss what we must do, and let’s work out how we can do it. But let’s do it honestly, using the facts at our command truthfully, and being honest about what a `massive global effort’ really means. The time for vague talk of `political will’ and `technological solutions soon to be developed’ is long past, and it would be a shame if we wasted the last years of our history in such discussions.