Kim Stanley Robinson Bears Witness to Our Climate Futures

“The central banks have been creating money out of nothing with quantitative easing, but what if that was directed not to private banks to do their usual stupid thing of profit-making but to do useful work that the central banks designate by some simple rubric of carbon sequestration. When I read it, I thought, maybe that’s a way forward: using an existing system but more intelligently, a long-term biosphere, survivalist-type method.”

Kim Stanley Robinson Bears Witness to Our Climate Futures via Instapaper


Once confined to the margins, the ecological critique of economic growth has gained widespread attention. At a United Nations climate-change summit in September, the teen-age Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg declared, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” The degrowth movement has its own academic journals and conferences. Some of its adherents favor dismantling the entirety of global capitalism, not just the fossil-fuel industry. Others envisage “post-growth capitalism,” in which production for profit would continue, but the economy would be reorganized along very different lines. In the influential book “Prosperity Without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow,” Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey, in England, calls on Western countries to shift their economies from mass-market production to local services—such as nursing, teaching, and handicrafts—that could be less resource-intensive. Jackson doesn’t underestimate the scale of the changes, in social values as well as in production patterns, that such a transformation would entail, but he sounds an optimistic note: “People can flourish without endlessly accumulating more stuff. Another world is possible.”


That, ultimately, for degrowth to work, 86% of people living in the richer world would need to see their standard of living decline for a decade or more. This would be politically unacceptable or as Milanovic says “now, the relevance of moral preaching of abstinence is close to zero.” It is a thought-provoking essay. (See also: An exemplary overview of the degrowth movement, read John Cassidy in The New Yorker.)

Peak populism

Extremist leaders remain in power in some of the world’s most populous democracies. But even some of those strongmen are now starting to face a real reversal of fortune.

Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain known for his extremist rhetoric and open nostalgia for Brazil’s departed military dictatorship, unexpectedly assumed the country’s presidency in 2019. But he is now in deep political trouble. Lacking loyal allies in the country’s Congress, Bolsonaro has so far proved unable to concentrate power and, thanks to his disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, his popularity has plummeted. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former president better known simply as Lula, is likely to beat Bolsonaro in an upcoming election.

The global carbon incentive idea

The economic solution is simple: a global carbon incentive (GCI). Every country that emits more than the global average of around five tons per capita would pay annually into a global incentive fund, with the amount calculated by multiplying the excess emissions per capita by the population and the GCI. If the GCI started at $10 per ton, the US would pay around $36 billion, and Saudi Arabia would pay $4.6 billion.

Gerd Leonhard  (personal)  (business)
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‘Change is Coming.’ Activists Just Scored Big Wins Against ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell

“And while many energy companies have been willing to reduce emissions in their own operations, they have avoided committing to reducing Scope 3 emissions because it could one day ultimately meaning selling less of their core product rather than just producing it more efficiently.”

‘Change is Coming.’ Activists Just Scored Big Wins Against ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell
via Instapaper