Yves here. Since we don’t consider this site to be left wing (we regularly get in arguments with the orthodox types), it shouldn’t be surprising that like Dorman, we aren’t comfortable with what he depicts as the two acceptable views of goodthinking lefties on climate change. I can’t speak for Lambert or Jerri-Lynn, but my position is probably more like: “Too late, the Jackpot is coming. Responses will be erratic and not well coordinated.”
And in case you have not read Gibson’s book The Peripheral, the Jackpot is a roughly 40 year period in the 21st Century in which most people die due to climate change and pestilence. It is still optimistic given his givens. We’ve quoted this passage before, of a character from the future, Wilf, telling the heroine Flynn what is to come:
[The Jackpot] was androgenic, [Wilf] said, and [Flynn] knew from Ciencia Loca and National Geographic that meant because of people. Not that they’d known what they were doing, had meant to make problems, but they’d caused it anyway. And in fact the actual climate, the weather, caused by there being too much carbon, had been the driver for a lot of other things. How that got worse and never better, and was just expected to, ongoing. Because people in the past, clueless as to how that worked, had fucked it all up, then not been able to get it together to do anything about it, even after they knew, and now it was too late.
So now, in her day, he said, they were headed into androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad sh*t, like she sort of already knew, figured everybody did, except for people who still said it wasn’t happening, and those people were mostly expecting the Second Coming anyway. She’d looked across the silver lawn, that Leon had cut with the push-mower whose cast-iron frame was held together with actual baling wire, to where moon shadows lay, past stunted boxwoods and the stump of a concrete birdbath they’d pretened was a dragon’s castle, while Wilf told her [the Jackpot] killed 80 percent of every last person alive, over about forty years. ….
No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there. ….
But science, he said, had been the wild card, the twist. With everything stumbling deeper into a ditch of sh*t, history itself become a slaughterhouse, science had started popping. Not all at once, no one big heroic thing, but there were cleaner, cheaper energy sources, more effective ways to get carbon out of the air, new drugs that did what antibiotics had done before…. Ways to print food that required much less in the way of actual food to begin with. So everything, however deeply fucked in general, was lit increasingly by the new, by things that made people blink and sit up, but then the rest of it would just go on, deeper into the ditch. A progress accompanied by constant violence, he said, by sufferings unimaginable. ….
None of that, he said, had necessarily been as bad for very rich people. The richest had gotten richer, there being fewer to own whatever there was. Constant crisis bad provided constant opportunity. That was where his world had come from, he said. At the deepest point of everything going to sh*t, population radically reduced, the survivors saw less carbon being dumped into the system, with what was still being produced being eaten by those towers they’d built… And seeing that, for them, the survivors, was like seeing the bullet dodged..
“The bullet was the eighty percent, who died?”
Needless to say, we’re not betting on the “rescued by science” part.
By Peter Dorman, professor of economics at The Evergreen State College. Originally published at Econospeak
While I was preoccupied with other things, the US left settled on a pair of competing climate change narratives. By the time I looked, the choice was down to just these two, and no other views could be considered.
View #1, Green Abundance, is that combating climate change means unleashing the power of renewable energy. Fortunately, according to this story, renewables are already the cheapest way to go, or if not quite, they will be once they are scaled up through a massive infusion of public investment. And this investment is a golden opportunity to ameliorate other problems like anemic economic growth, un- and underemployment, and sluggish incomes. We will provide green jobs at union wages for everyone who wants one, with special opportunities for workers in the fossil fuel sector. We will do for this generation what FDR’s original New Deal did for our grandparents, restoring prosperity and a building a vibrant middle class. We’ll do it even better this time, because we will design our programs to fight racism, sexism, and the oppression of LGBTQ people, immigrants and indigenous nations, along with every other impediment to social justice. Meanwhile, we will tax the handful of giant corporations that are responsible for most of the carbon emissions, using their ill-gotten gains to finance an environment that’s healthy for people and other living things. Climate change will turn out to be a godsend, because the struggle against it will unite us around an all-inclusive economic, ecological and social agenda.
View #2, Righteous Austerity, is that the root cause of the ecological crisis is capitalism’s incessant drive to expand, which has fostered the toxic ideology of economic growth. We can’t have endless growth on a finite planet, so growth has to end right now. We don’t need a bigger economy, because we can be happier and live more meaningful lives by shifting away from the false god of consumption. Another benefit of a non-growing economy is that it will force us to undertake redistribution, since that will then be the only way the poor the can advance. Of course, by curtailing economic growth we will also be overturning capitalism, which means that all the other ills caused by this irrational, outmoded system will diminish or disappear altogether. We can then finally say goodbye to our political overlords who have forced us to endure economic growth whether we wanted it or not. Ultimately, climate change is a message delivered to the human race from a beleaguered planet that can’t absorb any more of our exploitation. We must heed this message and radically change what we value and how we live, abandoning excessive material desires for the deeper pleasures of community and spirituality.
And then there are those on the left who adopt both views: they are for ending economic growth and producing an abundance of green, well-paying jobs for all. They want to eat their cake and not have it too.
As far as I can see, that’s the progressive political landscape on climate change. Anyone else besides me feel left out?