The 08 Challenge
By Bill Henderson

02 January, 2008


If you understand that climate change is an emergency then the challenge in 08 becomes winning a mandate for almost impossible systemic change in a United States still in ideological thrall to failing markets.

If you understand the dangers of non-linear climate change - how close we could be to one of several thresholds to runaway climate change - then you recognize the imperative of significant greenhouse gas (GHGs) emission reduction immediately. Climate change is a global-scale problem requiring a global emission reduction solution. Because America is the world's dominant economic and military power and model and leader in economic development, any reasonable mitigation strategy must begin and be led by the United States.

But after two decades of failed attempts at mitigation there is abundant evidence that emission reduction - let alone emission reduction of a scale necessary - isn't possible within our American-model, presently configured socio-economies. Service sector dominated economies require a growing dynamic stability which does not allow for any constraints on the expansion of fossil fuel use within the continuing expansion of the economy.

So although there is now acceptance within the US and globally that climate change is human caused and a danger, and although most of the candidates for president have hopeful, nuanced climate change mitigation strategies in their platforms, the track record over two failed decades of mitigation attempts is no shortage of words and plans, intentions and instruments, but no real end to the accelerating increase in fossil fuel use and subsequent GHG emissions - so don't count on serious mitigation even after the Bush Admin debacle years are over.

The challenge of 08 isn't the election of Clinton or Obama, or even of a strong, enlightened and activist Congress. The challenge for climate change activists is the election window of opportunity for building a consensus amongst Americans, all Americans, that climate change is an emergency that requires massive reconfiguration of the US and global economy so that emission reduction of a scale necessary becomes possible.

The challenge becomes making climate change THE 08 campaign issue and, even more improbably, winning a mandate for government action equivalent to WW2 government power for economic reconfiguration.

Americans must be educated/forced out of denial about the humanity threatening dangers of climate change, convinced of the need for immediate, emergency action, and informed about the limitations of market mechanisms in our overshoot context. More generally, Americans must accept the need for a much more disciplined, ethical management of man, of themselves, to protect our common future.

The science community must become much more innovative in educating the American public about climate change danger. A much more robust consensus about the immediacy and humanity threatening nature of the climate change danger must be built quickly, hopefully before the election.

The emerging vision of a new alternative economy based upon quality with a greatly diminished material throughput must become reachable: a bridge must be designed to carry us from our economy today to an economy where sustainability is possible. Presently impossible systemic change - relocalization, powering down, etc. - will require governance innovation with a bridging, stabilizing plan clear and acceptable to the majority of Americans and not vetoable by the present powerful interests.

Necessity is the mother of invention; the hardest part is recognizing the need for change and escaping BAU.

Climate change is now acknowledged as the biggest market failure ever. The inability of markets to develop alternative energy sources while oil was cheap, leading to an unplanned for and therefor much more painful peak oil, has to be the second biggest example of market failure. Americans are also awakening to the scourge of Affluenza: it seems that markets just weigh volumes not quality: an American Nightmare of obese, unsatisfiable consumers mindlessly shopping in sprawling, soulless wastelands with no future wasn't anybody's intention was it? And questionable banking creativity in an America drowning in debt after decades of greedy bubble blowing has grievously undermined trust, the underlying foundation of trade and markets themselves.

Hopefully, in 08 Americans will awaken to the emergency and pragmatic, scientifically based innovation and action will push aside the residue of failing ideology and needed change will become possible.


Green Thoughts


Sustained Yield