Friday, March 31, 2017

2589. A Roadmap for Rapid Decarbonization

By Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney, Joeri Roglj, Malte Meinshausen, Nebojsa Makicnovic, Hans-Joachim Schellnhuberer, Science, March 24, 2017
Photo: GFC Collection/Alamy Stock Photo
Although the Paris Agreement's goals (1) are aligned with science (2) and can, in principle, be technically and economically achieved (3), alarming inconsistencies remain between science-based targets and national commitments. Despite progress during the 2016 Marrakech climate negotiations, long-term goals can be trumped by political short-termism. Following the Agreement, which became international law earlier than expected, several countries published mid-century decarbonization strategies, with more due soon. Model-based decarbonization assessments (4) and scenarios often struggle to capture transformative change and the dynamics associated with it: disruption, innovation, and nonlinear change in human behavior. For example, in just 2 years, China's coal use swung from 3.7% growth in 2013 to a decline of 3.7% in 2015 (5). To harness these dynamics and to calibrate for short-term realpolitik, we propose framing the decarbonization challenge in terms of a global decadal roadmap based on a simple heuristic—a “carbon law”—of halving gross anthropogenic carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions every decade. Complemented by immediately instigated, scalable carbon removal and efforts to ramp down land-use CO2 emissions, this can lead to net-zero emissions around mid-century, a path necessary to limit warming to well below 2°C.
The Paris goal translates into a finite planetary carbon budget: a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2100 and a >66% probability of meeting the 2°C target imply that global CO2 emissions peak no later than 2020, and gross emissions decline from ∼40 gigatons (metric) of carbon dioxide (GtCO2)/year in 2020, to ∼24 by 2030, ∼14 by 2040, and ∼5 by 2050 (3) (see the figure, top). Risks could be further reduced by moderately increasing ambition to halve emissions every decade (see the figure, bottom right). Following such a global carbon law means at least limiting cumulative total CO2 emissions from 2017 until the end of the century to ∼700 GtCO2, which allows for a small but essential contingency (∼125 GtCO2 less compared with total CO2emissions in the pathway in the figure, top) for risks of biosphere carbon feedbacks (6) or delay in ramping up CO2-removal technologies.
A carbon law applies to all sectors and countries at all scales and encourages bold action in the short term. It means, for example, doubling of zero-carbon shares in the energy system every 5 to 7 years, a rate consistent with the trajectory of the past decade (see the figure, bottom left). All sectors (e.g., agriculture, construction, finance, manufacturing, transport) need comparable transformation pathways. In addition, in the absence of viable alternatives, the world must aim at rapidly scaling up CO2 removal by technical means from zero to at least 0.5 GtCO2/year by 2030, 2.5 by 2040, and 5 by 2050. CO2 emissions from land-use must decrease along a nonlinear trajectory from 4 GtCO2/year in 2010, to 2 by 2030, 1 by 2040, and 0 by 2050 (see the figure, bottom right). The endgame is for cumulative CO2 emissions since 2017 to be brought back from around 700 GtCO2 to below 200 GtCO2 by the end of the century (see the figure, top) and atmospheric CO2 concentrations to return to 380 ppm by 2100 (currently at 400 ppm).
Roadmaps are planning instruments, linking shorter-term targets to longer-term goals. They help align actors and organizations to instigate technological and institutional breakthroughs to meet a collective challenge. An explicit carbon roadmap for halving anthropogenic emissions every decade, codesigned by and for all industry sectors, could help promote disruptive, nonlinear technological advances toward a zero-emissions world. The key to such a carbon law will be a dual strategy that pushes renewables and other zeroemissions technologies up the creation and dissemination trajectory, while simultaneously pulling fossil-based value propositions from the market. Thus, the transformation unfolds at a pace governed by novel schemes rather than by inertia imposed by incumbent technologies (see the figure, bottom left).
We sketch out a broad decadal decarbonization narrative in four dimensions—innovation, institutions, infrastructures, and investment—to provide evidence of feasibility and depth of transformation for economies to stay on a carbon-law trajectory. The narrative provides no guarantees but identifies crucial steps, grounded in published scenarios combined with expert judgment. Each step has two parts: actions for rapid near-term emissions reductions, and actions for systemic and long-term impact, creating the basis for the next steps. Such a narrative, specifically designed with decadal targets and incentives, could provide key elements for national and international climate strategies.

2017–2020: No-Brainers

Annual emissions from fossil fuels must start falling by 2020. Well-proven (and ideally income-neutral) policy instruments such as carbon tax schemes, cap-and-trade systems, feed-in tariffs, and quota approaches should roll out at wide scale. Even these will be challenging in the emerging global political climate. The European Union emissions-trading scheme requires kick-starting through an appropriate floor price (>$50/metric ton CO2).

A global carbon law and roadmap to make Paris goals a reality
(Top) A deep decarbonization scenario scientifically consistent with the Paris Agreement (3) and its associated carbon fluxes as computed with a simple carbon cycle and climate model (13). The “carbon law” scenario of halving emissions every decade is marginally more ambitious than the scenario presented. Meeting the Paris Agreement goals will require bending the global curve of CO2 emissions by 2020 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. It furthermore depends on rising anthropogenic carbon sinks, from bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) engineering (yellow) and land use (orange), as well as sustained natural sinks, to stabilize global temperatures. This scenario is broadly consistent with a 75% probability of limiting warming to below 2°C; a median temperature increase of 1.5°C by 2100; estimated peak median temperature increase of 1.7°C; a 50% probability of limiting warming to below 1.5°C by 2100; and CO2 concentrations of 380 ppm in 2100. See supplementary materials (SM). (Bottom left) Nonlinear renewable energy expansion trajectories based on 2005–2015 global trends (13). Keeping the historical doubling times of around 5.5 years constant in the next three decades would yield full decarbonization (blue area) in the entire energy sector by ∼2040, with coal use ending around 2030–2035 and oil use, 2040–2045. Calculations, based on (5), are detailed in SM. (Bottom right) Decadal staircase following a global carbon law of halving emissions every decade, a complementary fall in land-use emissions, plus ramping up CO2 removal technologies.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should transform into a vanguard forum where nations, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and scientific communities meet to refine the roadmap. It is evident that the current national commitments under the Paris Agreement must be strongly enhanced at the first ratcheting-up cycle in 2018 to 2020.
Fossil-fuel subsidies, currently $500 billion to $600 billion per annum, must be eliminated by 2020, not 2025 as agreed by the Group of Seven (G7) nations in 2016. An immediate moratorium on investment in new unabated coal-based energy would minimize future stranded assets. China's greenhouse gas (GHG) output must continue to decrease over the coming years, through aggressive funding of renewables, by abandoning coal expansion, and by closing mines. The richer coal-intensive countries must spearhead the coal exit, and countries like India and Indonesia must follow suit.
By 2020, all cities and major corporations in the industrialized world should have decarbonization strategies in place. The 49 countries already committed to be carbon neutral by 2050 should have expanded to >100 countries by that time, and implementation should be under way. The gravest risk is that emerging economies, such as South Africa, are driven down the conventional growth path by sheer inertia. International efforts must incentivize low-carbon development as a priority.
Food production contributes to >10% of global GHG emissions (4) and weakens natural carbon sinks yet has vast potential for biological carbon removal. Innovative financial mechanisms are needed to incentivize carbon management in the food system. Agro-industries, farms, and civil society should develop a worldwide strategy for sustainable food systems to drive healthier, low-meat diets (7) and reduce food waste (8). Health and sustainability cobenefits—such as obesity and disease abatement, pollution reduction, and ecosystems preservation—should spur action.

2020–2030: Herculean Efforts
Economies must implement the no-brainer mitigation measures plus the first wave of smart and disruptive action. Improving energy efficiency alone would reduce emissions 40 to 50% by around 2030 in many domestic and industrial cases (9).
In the 2020s, carbon pricing across the world must expand to cover all GHG emissions, starting at $50 per metric ton at least and exceeding $400 per ton by mid-century. By the end of that decade, coal will be about to exit the global energy mix, cities like Copenhagen and Hamburg will be fossil-fuel free, and cap-and-trade regimes should be firmly established across national and regional economic zones along with adequate carbon taxes on air transport and shipping. Countries should follow Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands and announce the phase-out of internal combustion engines in new cars by 2030 at the latest. Decarbonizing long-distance transport will be key, through renewable fuels, electrification, and replacing shorter-haul air traffic by rapid rail. These commitments will signal that the conventional model of reinvesting fossil-fuel revenues into exploration is obsolete.
Public and private investment in research and development (R&D) for climate solutions should increase by an order of magnitude between now and 2030. Substantial resources must be directed toward more efficient modes of industrial production; battery-life extension and improved energy storage solutions; schemes that greatly reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within 10 years; alternative aircraft propulsion systems; super-smart power grids; and sustainable urbanization everywhere.
We need urgent research to ascertain the resilience of remaining biosphere carbon sinks (10). Strong financial impetus must be provided for afforestation of degraded land and for establishment of no-regret approaches to net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere—such as the combination of second- and third-generation bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) or direct air CCS (DACCS). Trials of sustainable sequestration schemes of the order of 100 to 500 MtCO2/year should be well under way to resolve deployment issues relating to food security, biodiversity preservation, indigenous rights, and societal acceptance.

2030–2040: Many Breakthroughs
By 2040, oil will be about to exit the global energy mix. Several vanguard countries (such as Norway, Denmark, and Sweden) should have completed electrification of all sectors and be entirely emissions-free or close to it. Internal combustion engines for personal transport will have become rare on roads worldwide. Aircraft fuel should be entirely carbon neutral. Synthesized fuels, bio-methane, and hydrogen are established alternatives.
After 2030, all building construction must be carbon-neutral or carbon-negative. The construction industry must either use emissions-free concrete and steel or replace those materials with zero- or negative-emissions substances such as wood, stone, and carbon fiber.
BECCS schemes totaling 1 to 2 GtCO2/year would roll out, and R&D should focus on doubling the annual rate of CO2 removal. We can expect that polycentric power grids using supraconductive cables will start supplying energy in developing countries, and radical new energy generation solutions will enter the market.
Promising financial mechanisms to foster investments in necessary breakthroughs include sovereign wealth funds designed for transformation; effective international corporation tax regimes (11); and inheritance reforms that account for historical wealth generated by fossil fuels without compensation of externalities (12).

2040–2050: Revise, Reinforce
Building on successes and learning from failures of previous stages, certain mitigation strategies will be abandoned and others refined and amplified. All major European countries become close to net-zero carbon states early in the 2040s; market dynamics push North and South America and most of Asia and Africa to this goal by the end of the decade. Natural gas still provides some backup energy, but CCS ensures its carbon footprint is limited. Modular nuclear reactors may contribute to the energy mix in places.
By 2050, the world will have reached netzero CO2 emissions, with a global economy powered by carbon-free energy and fed from carbon-sequestering sustainable agriculture. Meanwhile, BECCS schemes have been scaled up and draw down >5 GtCO2/year. Alternatively, concerns may rule out such scale-up. Only deep emission reductions during 2020–2030 can enable BECCS to be scaled back or abandoned, while efforts to increase energy efficiency and DACCS continue.

Stability and Resilience
We cannot predict where civilization will be mid-century, but a decadal staircase based on a carbon law, if adopted broadly, may provide essential economic boundary conditions to make a zero-emissions future an inevitability rather than wishful thinking. The very nature of disruptive progress requires revising the narrative of a detailed roadmap every 2 years, correcting near-term targets to reach the ultimate goal by evolutionary management.
Although signs are positive that the world is on track to rapidly transform to a net-zero–emissions global economy, contagion dynamics cut both ways. If political signals do not support a rapid transition, for example, by a failure to implement worldwide financial and regulatory reform that places a cost on carbon, then it is difficult to imagine keeping warming at “well below 2°C.” However, the scale of momentum toward clean energy in the past decade suggests that it would seem foolish to try to halt the trend, given the growing evidence that decarbonization can be a major progrowth strategy.
In global governance, climate stabilization must be placed on par with economic development, human rights, democracy, and peace. The design and implementation of the carbon roadmap should therefore take center stage at the UN Security Council, as these quintessential objectives increasingly interact, influencing the stability and resilience of societies and the Earth system.

Supplementary Materials

References Notes

2588. Don't Just Defend Obama's Legacy; Fight for Radical Climate Action

By Kate Aronoff, The Guardian, March 27, 2017

The fossil fuel industry is rejoicing. Donald Trump issued an executive order on Tuesday that would tear up many of the so-called burdensome climate protections – those regulating things like power plant emissions and leasing to coal companies – put in place by the Obama administration. Horrified by this move, many have vowed to jump to their defense.
That’s not enough.

The clean power plan, perhaps the biggest target of today’s executive order, is far from perfect. It’s a parallel of sorts to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. Both policies – however flawed – address deeply pressing crises that will kill millions if left unaddressed. Each are far preferable to nothing, of course. But they were each crafted to appease Republicans, many of whom are funded by the industries (insurance and fossil fuels, namely) that the measures set out to curtail.

So while the clean power plan was not a result of the kind of legislative sausage-making that birthed Obamacare, it still bears the trademark of the Democratic establishment’s politics of compromise. That’s why we must do more than simply defending existing policies: now is the moment to fight for something better.

Like the ACA, the clean power plan is wildly complicated, creating a patchwork of regulations alongside a vast and incomprehensible new marketplace. States who don’t comply in creating their own plans would be automatically entered into a national emissions trading scheme.

Unlike the ACA, the clean power plan has yet to save any lives. It’s also horrendously difficult to explain – let alone appeal – to ordinary Americans. Given all this, its gutting is unlikely to provoke the same kind of public outcry that helped saved the ACA.

Defending the clean power plan shouldn’t obscure the fact that we need so much more. A 2013 study in Nature, co-authored by 14 climate scientists, predicts that, left unchecked, warming will reach a “point of no return” by 2020 in the tropics, triggering still more disastrous impacts in a part of the world already dealing with climactic fallout.

The global north could experience similarly “unprecedented warming” by 2047. To put that in perspective, when the proverbial shit really starts hitting the fan, vis-a-vis climate in the US, I’ll still be seven years away from being able to collect Social Security. “Within my generation,” lead author Camilo Mora told Bloomberg, “whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.”

A new and slightly more hopeful study in the journal Science outlines a roadmapto keeping warming below 2C (3.6F), the target set out by world leaders in the Paris climate deal. Chief among the researchers’ recommendations is cutting global emission in half every decade from the 2020s to the 2040s, with the most rapid decarbonization occurring in wealthy nations like the US – a far cry from the just over 30% cuts to one sector outlined by the clean power plan.

“By 2020, all cities and major corporations in the industrialized world should have decarbonization strategies in place,” the papers authors write, adding that industrialized countries should stop selling gas-powered cars in the next 10 years. Any earnest attempt at staying below 2C, then, means a head-on collision with oil, coal and natural gas executives. It also presents a chance to upend who holds power in our economy.

Mustering anywhere near the political will necessary to enact changes as ambitious as the ones science demands means giving working people a stake in the climate fight and the policies it’s pushing for.

Technocratic jargon won’t cut it, but the silver lining of the climate crisis careening toward us is that the solutions to it lend themselves to populist times. In addition to taking on a fossil-fueled 1%, curbing greenhouse gas emissions also means fueling job creation in everything from clean energy to insulation to grid electrification to already low-carbon parts of our economy, such as nursing and healthcare.

In this vein, greens should take a page from those who fought to defend the ACA, itself a horrifically insufficient program. While the Republican’s doomed replacement would have left 52 million people uninsured by 2026, the ACA itself stands to leave 28 million uninsured along the same timeline.

Neither figure is acceptable in a society which claims to care about keeping people healthy and alive. That’s why several unions – joined by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders – have used the opportunity provided by the Republicans’ “Trumpcare” debacle to push for single-payer healthcare, or “Medicare for All”, and to extend healthcare to all Americans.

A livable planet is no less of a right than healthcare, and climate policy should treat it as such. So defend the clean power plan from Trump’s attacks, because God knows we need it. But don’t forget to demand the changes we really need along the way.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

2587. March for Climate, Justice and Jobs on April 29, 2017

By Peoples Climate Movement, March 29, 2017
People's Climate March in New York City, September 21, 2014.

WASHINGTON - A month before a massive crowd hits the streets of Washington, DC to resist the Trump administration’s continued attacks on workers, families, communities and the planet, the Peoples Climate Movement March for Climate, Jobs and Justice released additional information about the March route.

On Saturday, April 29, the March will begin near the United States Capitol, march to and surround the White House for a collective action and then meet at the Washington Monument to share solutions amid an afternoon of art and music.

“The Trump administration continues to push an agenda that endangers our jobs, our health and our planet,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator, Peoples Climate Movement. “Just yesterday, the President continued to dismantle the progress of the last Administration made on combating climate change under the guise of creating jobs. He is wrong. The path to creating good paying jobs is by rapidly investing in clean and renewable energy infrastructure. This will protect the climate and provide family sustaining jobs.  That is why we need every person who cares about jobs and the planet to march in Washington, DC on April 29.”

The plan for April 29 include:
  • Morning press conference featuring coalition leaders and other notables
  • March begins near the Capitol
  • Participants surround the White House for a collective action to show their strength
  • March ends at the Washington Monument grounds for opportunities to connect, partake in art and music and hear from people around the country
“On April 29th, people around the country will show this administration and Congress that our families, our communities and our planet cannot be sacrificed so that the richest 1 percent can continue to make a profit.”

The Peoples Climate Movement’s March for Climate, Jobs and Justice is being led by a groundbreaking coalition of climate and environmental justice groups, labor unions, faith, students, indigenous peoples and civil rights groups working to build bold solutions to tackle the climate crisis, rooted in economic and racial justice.  

For more details regarding the April  29th March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, visit

Sharon Singh, ; 202.499.9565; @spksingh

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2586. Marxism, Ecology and the Anthropocene: A Discussion

By,  March 26, 2017 editor’s note: Last week, Ecologise carried the well-known Marxist scholar John Bellamy Foster’s foreword to a new book, Facing the Anthropocene. In response, noted eco-socialist writer Saral Sarkar posted a comment questioning the usefulness of Marxist analysis in understanding the global ecological crisis. This short piece, first published on Ecologise, is Foster’s reply to Sarkar.
Questions for John Bellamy Foster
By Saral Sarkar
Prof. Bellamy Foster is a renowned scholar. If his scholarship is also meant to serve the cause he espouses, he may be requested to please reply to the following questions/comments of a reader of this article:
Of what use is it to replace the commonly used and well understood term “great ecological crisis” through the hardly known and not well understood long Marxian term “metabolic rift in the human relation to the earth”?
There are some more statements/phrases in the article that throw up critical comments: e.g.”Creating a world of sustainable human development …”. This caused me to raise my eyebrows. “Sustainable development” has since the 1980s been the buzzword of capitalist development economics. But the term meant nothing new. It was like dehydrated pure drinking water. Of course, Bellamy Foster is using the additional attribute “human”. But “human development” has also been around for long. Doesn’t it mean in plain English sustainable economic growth?
A straightforward question: Doesn’t Bellamy Foster think that Eco-Socialism’s immediate goal should be to initiate a policy of de-growth, a contracting economy, and a contracting population? And the long-term goal a socialist steady-state economy at a low level?
We know how much ecological havoc the socialist Soviet Union and other “socialist” countries of Eastern Europe wreaked. It is therefore not right to say, I think, “It is capitalism … that constitutes our “burning house”. Isn’t it better, because truer, that it is industrialism that constitutes for the last two hundred years our burning house, capitalism and “socialism” being merely two political variants of the same industrial way of living?
This comment was posted in response to John Bellamy Foster’s foreword to the book Facing the Anthropocenepublished earlier on Ecologise.

Against the expropriation of the earth: A response to Saral Sarkar

By John Bellamy Foster
I appreciate Saral Sarkar’s questions regarding my foreword to Ian Angus’s Facing the Anthropocene. I will attempt to answer his queries as briefly as I can and in the order in which they were asked. I have numbered my responses for the convenience of the reader.
1. There is no sense in which Marx’s concept of an “irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism” (or metabolic rift), as this concept is employed by ecosocialists today, can be seen as a substitute for the notion of global ecological crisis. Marx’s development of a socioecological systems approach (rooted in the notion of metabolism) grew out of the natural-scientific discussions of his time and prefigured the rise of the ecosystem concept and later Earth System analysis. It is closely connected to our current scientific understanding.
Thus, an article in the March 2017 issue of Scientific Reports refers to the “metabolic rift,” citing Marx’s Capital, in an attempt to address some of our contemporary human-ecological problems. Similarly, scientists in the Anthropocene Working Group define the Anthropocene as an “anthropogenic rift” in the Earth System (or Earth metabolism). Indeed, rather than displacing the notion of global ecological crisis, Marx’s metabolic rift can be seen as adding clarity to our understanding of that very real crisis, and particularly the dialectical interconnections between its social and ecological aspects.
2. The concept of “sustainable human development” was highlighted in Paul Burkett’s now classic essay, “Marx’s Vision of Sustainable Human Development,” published in the October 2005 issue of Monthly Review. Marx in volume 3 of Capital presented what is undoubtedly the most radical conception of sustainability ever introduced, arguing that individuals don’t own the earth; that even all the people in all the countries of the world don’t own the earth, but that they simply hold it in trust for future generations and must maintain it and even improve it as good heads of the household. He defined socialism as a social formation in which the associated producers rationally regulate their metabolism with the earth in such a way as to promote genuine human needs, while at the same time economizing on the expenditure of energy.
It is certainly possible, therefore, on the basis of classical historical materialism, to develop a revolutionary conception of“sustainable human development”—one which is radically opposed to “sustainable development” as defined by neoclassical economics. Sustainable human development, cannot be taken as meaning sustainable economic growth—a term which from an Earth system perspective is a contradictio in adjecto. Surely it would be a fatal error for the left to disarm itself intellectually by abandoning contested concepts like sustainability and ecology—or, for that matter, equality, democracy, and freedom—simply because they have been appropriated and distorted in various ways by the dominant ideology. We need to fight for our own perspectives.
3. Degrowth, in the form in which it is usually presented today, cannot be the principal organizing objective of the ecosocialist movement, since it neither addresses the immediate ecological threat nor engages with the need for structural change in the capital system. Given the planetary emergency, the ecological movement’s primary goal at present has to be one of mitigating climate change, which however cannot be separated from a host of other social and ecological problems.
In the Anthropocene, we are faced with the eventual prospect, if society continues to follow the path of business as usual, of the end of civilization (in the sense of organized human society) and even potentially of the human species itself. But well before that hundreds of millions of people will be affected by increasing droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events of all kinds. This requires a radical change in the “political and economic hegemony,” as Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research puts it. Anderson also insists on an immediate moratorium on economic growth and on all attempts to spur growth at the expense of the environment. Conservation is needed as well as shifts in resource use, technology, and use values. Fossil fuels have to be kept in the ground.
All of this is in line with what is argued by degrowth theorists. But the whole concept of degrowth has been distorted by the fact that it is generally used to put the dominant concept of economic growth on its head, arguing simply for downsizing the system, or putting it in reverse, without engaging in a full critique of capitalism or the promotion of the revolutionary structural changes that would be needed in confronting the capital system. There is certainly no question that we need to move toward a steady-state economy in Herman Daly’s sense of no net capital formation.
The weight of the economy in the rich countries of the advanced capitalist world needs to be reduced. But we should not make the error of seeing this as just an issue of scale as degrowth theorists commonly do. The entire structure of the capital system itself needs to be overcome and replaced by a society of substantive equality and ecological sustainability. Failure to address revolutionary structural change is the main weakness of the degrowth perspective, which has not yet escaped the ideology of capital. Thus, leading degrowth thinkers like Serge Latouche insist that degrowth in their terms is somehow compatible with capitalism.
4. It is true that all other things being equal increased population places more burdens on the carrying capacity of the earth. But crude Malthusian perspectives are not at all useful in addressing the ecological problem. It is capital accumulation, not population increase, that is the major factor in climate change. Although carbon emissions have to cease everywhere on earth within the next few decades—i.e., the world has to reach zero net emissions by 2050—the biggest reductions in emissions will necessarily have to occur in the rich countries, where per capita carbon emissions are highest.
It hardly needs to be pointed out that the wealthy countries, which have the highest per capita carbon emissions, are not those countries with the highest rates of population growth. Indeed, the poorest countries with the highest population growth rates tend to be those countries with the least per capita impact on the climate. Population growth in capitalism is a dependent variable. It is dependent on conditions of capitalism and imperialism in a given state or region, and on such factors as employment, health, education, women’s rights, etc. An excellent book on this topic is Ian Angus and Simon Butler, Too Many People?
5. The question of whether it is industrialism rather than capitalism that is the source of our “burning house” is an odd one for someone with a connection to ecosocialism to ask. The argument that Sarkar presents here is that because the Soviet Union too did damage to its environment, and it was industrialized but non-capitalist, that we should therefore move away from analysis of historically specific social formations, like capitalism (or formerly “actually existing socialism”), and instead we should just attribute the whole problem to the more general, abstract notion of industrialization.
The same logic if carried farther would lead one to argue that, since pre-industrial societies also destroyed their environments, industrialization is not a sufficient explanation. We should therefore attribute the environmental problem to human society in general. And, then, since humans are social animals, society itself can be considered an insufficient explanation, so we should attribute the ecological problem to the very existence of human beings. Ergo there are simply too many people.
Such an approach is not very helpful in that it removes all the crucial historical elements of the problem, and also our ability to act in rational ways. What is beyond question is that capitalism is a system dedicated to capital accumulation above all. As Marx put it, the capitalist only knows “Go on, Go on” (Grow, Grow), i.e., M-C-M´…M-C-M´´…M-C-M´´´, ad infinitum. In its increasingly irrational attempts to expand, capital (the capitalist, corporations) commodifies everything in existence, endangering humanity and the entire planet. In less than a generation under business as usual this process will take us over the climate cliff. There is only one possible conclusion: System Change, Not Climate Change!