Why climate change is a convenient excuse to justify economic stagnation

8 12 2009

Dictatorial African leaders such as Meles Zenawi from Ethiopia have been quick to take advantage of the Copenhagen talks to argue that climate change is the cause of their countries’ problems. This has rightly provoked an acid response from oppositionists in  Africa who say the problem is more lack of regime change than climate change.

The climate change debate has been honey in the mouths of forked tongue African dictators. It has provided them the perfect foil to avoid detection and accountability for their corruption and mismanagement of their societies, and a convenient opportunity to divert attention from their criminal state enterprises. Global warming has proven to be the perfect substitute for the old Bogeymen of Africa– colonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism and poverty. Why is Africa reduced to becoming the “beggar continent of the planet”? Global warming! Why are millions starving (euphemistically referred to as “severe food shortages” by officials) to death in Ethiopia? Climate change. African dictators are using global warming as their new preferred ideology behind which they can hide and ply their trade of corruption while expanding their thriving kleptocracies.

The same leaders are looking for more aid from the west in order to ‘introduce anti climate change policies’, the latest euphemism for bigger cars and fatter Swiss bank accounts. Climate change is the latest convenient tag to avoid their own share of responsibility for the poverty and desperation of many of their countries.

So much for the rather transparent attempts of failing third world leaders to exploit climate change. But let us also consider how convenient it is for western politicians that climate change is at the top of the agenda. Western economies have suffered for years from stagnating growth. After the current recession there is a palpable fear that the future offers even slower growth, permanent high unemployment and a shift in the economic balance of the world from west to east.

The consensus response to the threat of climate change is that we need moderation in economic growth  and redistributionist rather than developmental economic policies.  These calls for sustainable growth fit very nicely with the lack of dynamism that infects western economies. How convenient that there is now a compelling reason why seemingly intractable economic stagnation can be turned into a virtue. Even a mainstream pro market economist like Martin Wolf puts reducing demand at the top of his list of ways to tackle climate change.

It is also very convenient  that the same climate change agenda points the finger at the fastest developing countries, such as China,  and leads to calls for them to slow down. Not because they represent a major threat to the strategic and economic power of the west, perish the thought, but because they are threatening the planet of course.

I am not proposing a conspiracy theory here by the way. It is more that the western elites  have lost belief in their ability to be dynamic and to lead economic growth and development. This lack of belief is built into reality, it is evident all around us in the decaying infrastructure and failing public services that we all experience. How comforting it must be in that situation to be told that this kind of stagnation is a virtuous thing rather than a sign of political and economic bankruptcy.

The climate change issue does represent a crisis, but not the one that is commonly understood. The real crisis lies in the loss of a belief in human progress and our collective ability to continue down the path of economic development. It represents collective exhaustion in the political and intellectual classes and needs to be thoroughly confronted by any of us who retain belief in the unlimited potential of humanity.

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7 responses

8 12 2009
Tim B.

Rob,

Along with others, I don’t know where you get this idea from. Who is suggesting we destroy our economy? Who is suggesting the we compromise our way of life? If we leave the extreme-greenie-hippy-back-to-nature-groups out of this who is suggesting it?

What most people who recognise the dangers in what we are doing to the planet (even putting “Global Warming” to one side) is that we must change what we are doing to preserve our environment. This is obviously in danger of deteriorating to a point where it can’t support us all. We can’t ALL do this by living in tents and caravans and harvesting berries, there are just too many of us. We will need high technology to change the current balance from taking too much from our surroundings to putting something back , or at least, leaving what is there for the next generation to use. This seems to me just simple common sense.

What seems blatantly obvious to me should happen is that having invested umpteen billions in the financial system – when it is taken back (For the money to be vaporised back to where it came from – thin air.) We DO NOT vaporise it but we start the biggest rebuilding of our transportation system, our industrial base, our scientific community and our personal living conditions since the start of the original industrial revolution. If we can create £500 Billion to give to banks and survive virtually unpunished on the world stage we can do it again to secure our environmental and energy future. We DO NOT wait for the rest of the world, we lead, we invent, we demonstrate as we have in the past.

We get people working, DOING STUFF that benefits us all, Building, Insulating – tear down the worst – whole towns if we have too – and rebuild using 21st century knowledge and technology. Gut the petrol and diesel cars and retro fit electric propulsion – don’t tell me it can’t be done. Why waste what is already there?

Invent, Design and build the electrical networks and switching mechanisms that are required to handle disparate, differently sized intermittent AC and DC power and base load generation. Get the farms working again get PEOPLE back to farming and being interactive with the land – our farms are dying – the soil is dying from over fertilisation and over mono-cropping (is that a word?). Did you know that birds no longer follow tractors to get the bugs and worms turned up by the ploughing? Why – there are none to get – the birds have given it up as a bad source of food – that worries me that one fact! Get rid of SOME of the problems – Investigate and fix the problem with the Bees – Surely we could do that?

We are a small enough, densely populated enough country to make it all viable as an experiment. We do not have the vast distances that need covering in the US, China, Canada or Africa. We are small enough to be the experiment.

Then we sell our newly gained knowledge and our experience to rest of the world. They are going to need it after peak oil/gas if they don’t start now. This is the type of “New world” that we can create – get a jump on the competition. This is the type of vision that the UK people need – something to strive for – something that has underlying good at its heart, something to be proud of as a nation. Some thing that will actually pay back to the people not to global banks, businesses and as you mentioned it, dictators.

8 12 2009
Michele

Tim B.. – WAKE UP!!

If you truly believe carbon swaps will help the planet, sorry – you’ve been a victim of the world’s greatest con.

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/05/30/lawrence-solomon-enron-s-other-secret.aspx

Al Gore is lying to keep his con game (which makes Maddoff’s look like child’s play) going – the scientific climate debate is not closed:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/post.aspx?bid=354&bpid=24483

Even this AP (GW hysteria story reveals how the world leaders want to distribute wealth and create a “triage system” for deciding what living things will survive, and which won’t.

If none of this convinces you that carbon swap (and what’s going on in Copenhagen) is not about cleaning the air but re-aligning money amongst corporations and world leaders, then do your own research. But stop parroting the UN, CRU, IPCC, Gore – they’re all crooks.

PS – the media is simply an Orwellian propaganda machine. No? Then why haven’t you ever heard about Gore’s connection w/ Enron?

Open your eyes.

For years, I’ve thought people who spoke of the New World Order were crack pots. I now know who the crack pots are and unfortunately they’re the ones with all the power.

8 12 2009
Book by Blog » Blog Archive » Climate change is NOT a convenient excuse to justify economic stagnation

[…] to Rob Killick’s article of a similar name but opposite […]

8 12 2009
Michele

Oops… Forgot to mention Goldman Sachs involvement (see link below) & referrence the C-SPAN video above, where a US congressman Steve Scalise grills Al Gore about his involvement with Goldman Sachs.

http://www.examiner.com/x-431-SF-Politics-Examiner~y2009m7d1-Rolling-Stone-exposes-Goldman-Sachs-and-the-carbon-credit-scam?cid=email-this-article

Spread the word – if you REALLY care about the planet and humanity fight the Orwellian propaganda spread by all those now partying in Copehagen. The media is not your friend (except a few stand up journalists); you’ve got to find info yourself.

8 12 2009
Tim B.

Hi Michelle, did you read what I wrote? Where do I mention Carbon swaps? I don’t think Rob mentioned them either… as you have, I think James Hansen’s ideas are probably nearer the mark. Tax and dividend. Google it.

I also said “even putting “Global Warming” to one side” which you seem to have missed. So where did I state “Global warning science settled”? Forget “Global Warming” look at the reports on the rest of our environment. There are too many for me to mention. There is too much going on that is to the detriment of our overall well being. On the energy front: Oil is finite. Gas is finite. Coal is finite. I have not even directly advocated any particular preference for other sources although I favour “replaceables” if you want a word. But the three mentioned sources just will not do any more.

“stop parroting the UN, CRU, IPCC, Gore” did I mention them? at all? What I said or tried to, was, let’s DO something that negates the need for the mega-corporation. You need to realise – their time is over – they just don’t know it yet. They will kick, scream, collude and connive to survive, but their clock is ticking. Change is coming, whether you, Exxon, or AL Gore want it or not, is irrelevant.

9 12 2009
Ben Pile

I am not sure Tim’s comment isn’t a parody. But here goes anyway…

There is a tension in Tim’s comment that is hard to ignore.

First he says, “we must change what we are doing to preserve our environment. This is obviously in danger of deteriorating to a point where it can’t support us all.”

Then he says,

“We get people working, DOING STUFF that benefits us all, Building, Insulating – tear down the worst – whole towns if we have too – and rebuild using 21st century knowledge and technology. Gut the petrol and diesel cars and retro fit electric propulsion”

It seems odd that an argument for progress takes the form of an idea about building what we already have. If I understand Tim correctly, he is asking us to demolish and rebuild within environmental limits to make the same product again, but this time so that the same things are ‘sustainable’.

Even more curiously, this idea about rebuilding what we already have is seemingly offered to counter Rob’s argument that climate change is an excuse for stagnation. Tim’s plan looks to me like planned stagnation, on an industrial scale. We might just as well ‘build’ our way out of stagnation by setting one half the workforce digging holes, and set the other filling them in.

Even stranger, then, that Tim’s proposition seems to be about addressing the dearth of meaning in contemporary life.

Ultimately, Tim’s proposition isn’t really about ‘doing stuff that benefits us all’. It merely offers to mitigate a disaster. So there is nothing as such to be *gained* by being green; there is just a putative loss that is avoided. But it is no more meaningful to organise life around the possibility of life ending than it is productive to organise your life around the idea of not hitting your own head with a hammer. It’s only advantageous to not hit your head with a hammer when it is compared with the outcome of hitting your head with a hammer. But who needs to make an ethic out of not hitting themselves?

At issue, I think is Tim’s desire for a vision of a “‘New world’ that we can create – get a jump on the competition.” What is the purpose of this “new world”? Mere subsistence, it seems. He continues,

“This is the type of vision that the UK people need – something to strive for – something that has underlying good at its heart, something to be proud of as a nation.”

So the vision is mere existence. The transcendental project is mere survival. We can be proud of rebuilding what we already have.

That isn’t vision, Tim. It is just stagnation.

18 12 2009
George Monbiot is right about one thing-we should draw the election battle lines around economic growth « UK After The Recession

[…] the kind of people Saatchi was describing and those who believe in sustainable growth. As I have argued before, it is convenient that climate change offers both a justification for accepting what Saatchi calls […]

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