Thursday, July 27, 2017

Paradigm Shift in Climate Change Policy

In the news, Caroline Lucas, in The Guardian says one good policy isn't enough; we need a paradigm shift:
"Rather than simply looking for one headline-grabbing policy, the government should be embarking on a paradigm shift when it comes to how we get about in this country. ...Ultimately we need a green transport revolution, not another tinker with a transport system that’s creaking. Let’s aim for towns and cities that are easily navigable by foot and bike, a fully electric and publicly owned train system that covers the country, and local public transport that’s a joy to use – rather than the overpriced, unreliable service that’s currently on offer in so many places."
And Brad Plumer, in the NYTimes, says California is making that shift:
"The state plans to rethink every corner of its economy, from urban planning to dairy farms....If California prevails, it could provide a model for other policy makers, even as President Trump scales back the federal government’s efforts on climate change. The state may also develop new technologies that the rest of the world can use to cut emissions....The state’s emissions are nearly back to 1990 levels... and it has installed as many solar panels as the rest of the country combined....The board envisioned the number of electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles on California’s roads rising to 4.2 million by 2030 from 250,000 today. Freight trucks would have to become more efficient or electrified, while cities would need to adopt far-reaching strategies to promote mass transit, biking and walking."
I love that they both mention cycling. I'm not convinced cap and trade will save us, as Plumer suggests, but it's all a start. We're not at that paradigm moment yet, but at least our heads are turned in the right direction:
"There may well be an art whose aim would be to effect this very thing, the conversion of the soul, in the readiest way; not to put the power of sight into the soul's eye, which already has it, but to ensure that, instead of looking in the wrong direction, it is turned the way it ought to be." - Plato's Republic, book 7


The Mound of Sound said...

If only we hadn't built our cities with expressways, suburbs and ex-urbs. If only. Yet we did.That pretty much rules out bicycle commuting. I moved to London in 1969 and was amazed at the convenience and efficiency of what was then Brit Rail to get people from the outer boroughs into the heart of the city and the subways. The trains ran like clockwork. They were safe and affordable. Most people in the working class neighbourhoods didn't have much option. Automobiles were a rarity where I lived. It was train, subway and bus instead. I commuted by BSA motorcycle.

A common feature of many train stations was that they were elevated. When you came home you went down a flight of stairs and there, beneath the platform, were a butcher and a greengrocer. You could buy fresh food for your dinner which was great given that few had refrigerators.

Looking back how times have changed. We're accustomed to all the "mod-cons" including a personal motor vehicle. Most would find giving up on those things heretical.

At last leading climate scientists are beginning to see our challenge as multi-faceted. It's not merely climate change/global warming. That is merely and tightly interwoven with overpopulation and rapacious over-consumption of natural resources. Not only do the major polluters need to slash their emissions but the most heavily populated states need to sharply reduce their numbers while the affluent but less populated countries need to sharply reduce their demand on world resources. If we don't find the will to do all three of those things we don't stand a chance although, eventually, nature will yield the same outcomes as it must.

These scientists speak of "radical" change but there's not a hint of alarmism in that. We do need radical change, including a retreat from the worst of neoliberalism such as our obsession with perpetual exponential growth, and we haven't the luxury of much time to achieve it. At the Paris climate summit, Schellnhuber warned that our only hope of avoiding runaway climate change depended on the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. See any sign of that? I don't think it's in our nature to sacrifice gratuitously. Our leaders know it.

Marie Snyder said...

The dismantling of VIA Rail and the rise of suburbia has taken its toll, absolutely. We've made a mess of things, and it'll be hard to pull any of it back. I can only celebrate that some people are doing some thing in some places. That might be the best we ever get here regardless how vigilantly our little voices demand for more.