LibreServer Blog / The Long Climate Crisis

There have been children protesting today in London as part of the Extinction Rebellion movement. I've been plotting climate change related data for a long time now and indeed there will be trouble ahead. What I think is going to happen in the next few decades isn't going to be a sudden catastrophe but instead is going to resemble what KMO once called The Sucky Collapse.

In the sucky collapse nothing spectacular happens. It's like a no-frills version of austerity. The quality of life just deteriorates slowly over a long period of time. It gets harder to grow crops. Heat waves and other extreme weather events become more common. Food, and consequently everything else, becomes more expensive and a bigger percentage of the population are living in poverty. There will be events which look like tsunamis but where the waters don't subsequently return to previous levels, leaving some areas permanently flooded. Issues resulting from that will affect a significant fraction of the world's population.

Since it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism things like the following are predictable:

Bioengineering of crops to better handle more arid or salt marsh growing conditions

The air conditioning industry booms Maybe there are air conditioning tycoons. Places like England where air conditioning was uncommon become growth areas.

Average food production moves northwards out of equatorial regions

Attempts to grow crops at sea on floating platforms. probably with mixed success because it's a very harsh environment. Maybe bioengineered seaweed becomes a more common type of food, comparable to corn or rice today.

Resource wars over access to water and arable land

Migrations to higher ground This will further embolden anti-immigrant political parties and "fortress Europe" style mentality. "I've got mine".

What should we do about climate change? Will climate strikes and rebellions work?

Strikes and rebellions are an attempt to put pressure on governments. Previous attempts to get governments to agree to anti-pollution policies in the 1990s and 2000s didn't work. The agreements were not legally binding and the biggest polluters carried on regardless, often explicitly with government support. So the rebellion represents an attempt to increase the pressure level. Whether this will work remains to be seen, but we already know roughly what needs to take place. Carbon dioxide pollution needs to fall towards net zero within a couple of decades if the worst of the damage to the planet is to be avoided. Coal fired electricity production needs to either be phased out or there needs to be 100% "carbon capture" and storage. The last time I checked, electricity production is about 20% of all CO2 pollution.

I'm sure that many people won't want to hear it but we can't capitalism our way out of this by selling more stuff to more people. "Cap and trade" didn't work and also doesn't seem like a project which can be revived. The era of endless economic "growth" on a finite planet needs to end. In addition to decreasing pollution we also need to decrease consumption and that necessarily also means decrease in inequality. We can't afford to have ridiculously rich people squandering vast amounts of resources. They will have to live more modestly, like everyone else.

And what, you may enquire, are you doing? I don't have much influence over anything or anyone and I already live "basically like a student" with minimal consumption, but this year I've also reduced my electricity use. I no longer run the traditional desktop computer which takes 200W and instead replaced it with a 10W single board computer. My personal electricity use is now within the range where if I had the money and the realestate I could probably suffice on solar panels.