Posted 6 months ago on Jan. 15, 2014, 5:38 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:09 By Richard Smith, Truthout | News Analysis
This article is a lightly revised and updated version of the article originally published as "Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?" in Real-World Economics Review, issue 53, June 26, 2010, pages 28-42. Also See: Green Capitalism: The God That Failed, by Richard Smith.
Given the relentless growth of global GHG emissions (currently growing at 2 percent per year, up 70 percent from 1990) and ever-higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere (currently at 400 parts per million, up 30 percent from 1990), climate scientist Kevin Anderson at the Radical Emissions Reduction Conference (December 10-11, 2013, at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom) concluded that "Today, in 2013, we face an unavoidably radical future." The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that "the current state of affairs is unacceptable. ... Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs" and emission trends are "perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet." In similar vein, PricewaterhouseCooper, the UK government chief scientist, and a growing body of academics and researchers are allying current emission trends with 4-degree Celsius to 6-degree Celsius futures.1 Tyndall scientists drew the only possible conclusion:
We either continue with rising emissions and reap the radical repercussions of severe climate change, or we acknowledge that we have a choice and pursue radical emission reductions: No longer is there a non-radical option. Moreover, low-carbon supply technologies cannot deliver the necessary rate of emission reductions - they need to be complemented with rapid, deep and early reductions in energy consumption - the rationale for this conference.2
How much do we need to cut and how quickly to prevent runaway warming? With the declared aim of keeping average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the Kyoto Protocol required industrialized countries to cut their average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 5.2 percent below average 1990 levels. For the biggest emitters, this would require cuts on the order of 80 percent to 95 percent by 2050.3 But we have blown right past the Kyoto targets. Instead of falling, developed country emissions have grown, some sharply. One study shows that from 1990 to 2008, emissions from developed country grew 7 percent, led by the United States, whose emissions grew by a whopping 25 percent in just 18 years.4 Meanwhile, China's emissions have doubled in just the past decade, and China is now the world's leading GHG polluter, in large measure because it's producing stuff Americans and Europeans used to produce for themselves - but under less salubrious environmental standards. So we're farther behind than ever, global emissions are soaring and, if we continue on this business-as-usual trajectory, we're headed for that "4 degrees Celsius world" before the end of this century.5 That's why James Hansen, the world's leading climate scientist, quit his job at NASA to devote himself full time to activism, education and getting himself arrested in front of the White House trying to impress the president and the public at large that we need "radical," "deep" GHG emissions cuts - "urgently" because we face a climate emergency.