Monbiot: “a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means”

Still at the Guardian. Monbiot’s latest article is, as ever, entirely worth your time.

In the new summary published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you will find a table that links different cuts to likely temperatures. It suggests that to prevent global warming from eventually exceeding 2C, by 2050 the world will need to cut its emissions to roughly 15% of the volume in 2000.

I looked up the global figures for carbon dioxide production in 2000 and divided it by the current population. This gives a baseline figure of 3.58 tonnes of CO2 per person. An 85% cut means that (if the population remains constant) the global output per head should be reduced to 0.537 tonnes by 2050. The UK currently produces 9.6 tonnes per head and the US 23.6 tonnes. Reducing these figures to 0.537 means a 94.4% cut in the UK and a 97.7% cut in the US. But the world population will rise in the same period. If we assume a population of 9 billion, the cuts rise to 95.9% in the UK and 98.3% in the US.

It is more than a series of miserable numbers, of course. He certainly returns to the themes for which he will most likely be stoned, only to be hailed a visionary (if only we survive): specifically, electricity; maybe cars, no more aeroplanes.

Is it doable? Maybe, but. Remember Clare Short’s argument, neatly held together by a column in the Independent.

Ultimately, it comes down to persuading rich countries to reduce their standard of living – less air transport, processed food, air conditioning and fewer cars. But what western government – especially that of the USA – is prepared to put such proposals to their voters?

His (the author’s) reference to the US had a context: no suggestion exists that any rich country is any more prepared to make the necessary sacrifices – and every rich country needs to make great ones, indeed. Hence the so-called Johannesburg Conundrum: save the world, or save the world’s poor? Even at merely saving the world, one need not be Jim Kunstler to see that we just aren’t prepared to sacrifice the comforts that sustain us, but which we, in turn, simply cannot sustain.

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