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Climate Change in 2012: Still No Escaping BAU

By Bill Henderson

01 January, 2013

"Humankind's greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that man-made climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it. "

George Monbiot has the 2012 climate quote of the year. After a year to awaken even Americans, now when climate change denial is only taken seriously by government and business, and now when every reasonable person knows that burning fossil fuels leads to increased extreme weather, emissions continue to soar and effective climate change mitigation is even more impossible.

Neo-liberalism is the prevailing ideological orthodoxy.  Governments must put on a Golden Straitjacket and downsize through de-regulation. Government's purpose is limited to nurturing the local economy in the determining globalized economy. Global economic competition is everything.

In this ideology climate change is at best a distraction. The shallowest denial aligns with self-interest to ensure that no effective mitigation is possible. The more certain the science the more marginalizing the denial because even consideration of effective mitigation might get in the way of needed economic growth today - like expansion of Canada's tarsands or the global auto industry.

Earlier in the year British carbon budget scientist Kevin Anderson (with Alice Bows) wrote a provocative paper A new paradigm for climate change. Incremental adjustments in economic incentives, "a carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure" won't deliver the necessary reductions in emissions. So change of economies was necessary. Heretically brilliant. A shot across the neo-lib bow and preparation for an economic sea change that must come.

Fittingly David Spratt wrote the climate blog post of the year uniting Anderson and Monbiot with links to the most important science of the year:

 "It is now obvious to Blind Freedy that our society's structures are incapable of facing and resolving the climate threat. The problem is now so big, and the scale and urgency of the solutions required so great, that it is impossible to talk about them within the current public policy frame. The business and political spheres have horizons too narrow and too limited in time to be able to deal with the challenges and complexities of global warming.

"We have achieved a collective cognitive dissonance where the real challenge we face is excluded from discourse."

Spratt is co-author of Climate Code Red which, five years ago, was a reasonable, science-based attempt to make the case that climate change is an emergency. A healthy planet for humans had an Arctic icecap; because it was disappearing a rapid reduction to zero emissions was necessary; there was no possibility of effective mitigation of this scale inside political and economic Business As Usual (BAU) which was too slow and path dependent. Escaping BAU with emergency legislation and wartime-style mobilization was necessary.

What was true in 2007 - before fear of economical instability really set in - should be the big story at the end of 2012. The Arctic melt this year exceeded 2007; soon large portions of the Arctic ocean will be icefree during maximum sunlight in summer. This is not just the big 2012 'climate change' story but hugely important for everybody on the planet - but in 2012 climate change is perversely even further down the list of what is considered important.

As the global economy becomes increasingly unstable, the neo-libs in charge double down in trying to promote growth to protect their local economies and their own political power. It's all about the economy all of the time.

What can we do in 2013 to escape this extreme ideological stupidity? We benefit greatly from the production and use of fossil fuels; the potentially catastrophic consequences will fall on innocents in the future. It is probably too late to keep under 2C even with emergency action that we presently can't even discuss and 2C is now known to be deep into dangerous climate change. How do we escape BAU?

Each passing, wasted, year makes the pace and scale of needed emission reduction that much more difficult , which in turn makes acceptance of mitigation an even more difficult sell to governments and business preoccupied with keeping their economy's head above water. The Arctic warms; the icecap melts; the permafrost releases methane and the powers that be begin to fight for oil production rights.

Climate Science article of the year: ' Arctic Sea Ice: What, Why and What Next ' by Ramez Naam

Climate activist of the year: Bill McKibben

Climate monster of the year: Canadian PM Stephen Harper

Climate losers of the year: our children

Bill (at) pacificfringe.net

Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on Climate Change . He can be reached at
bill (at) pacificfringe.net



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