One of the motivations behind yesterday’s post was the sense that we will start to see people, who might be regarded as contrarians (or mitigation skeptics, as Victor might say), starting to adjust their views to be more consistent with that of those who’ve been arguing for action. I suspect, however, that if they do so, they will not acknowledge the role that they may have played in delaying action, will attempt to portray these ideas as new and their’s, and will probably do so with the goal of controlling the narrative and marginalising those who’ve already been speaking in favour of action.
However, I do think climate change is a serious issue and that there does come a time when you should forget past infractions, and try to start again. A time when we should assume that those with whom we might have disagreed do have good intentions, and that not all that they say is without merit. Forgive and forget, maybe, although that does sound a little trite. With that in mind, I wondered if others had had a chance to have a look at the newly released Ecomodernist manifesto?
There’s a very strong Breakthrough Institute influence and a number of those involved are people who – unfortunately – make me automatically suspicious. On the other hand, the document itself seems at least superficially reasonable. It starts with
In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.
I certainly agree with the first point, maybe less so with the second, but I can see that it is likely true: we probably don’t need to harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse. My personal preference would be that we do to try to harmonize with nature as much as is possible, but I can see that it isn’t required so as to avoid economic catastrophe. I’m also assuming that harmonize has a much more specific meaning than shrinking impact.
It also says
There remain, however, serious long-term environmental threats to human well-being, such as anthropogenic climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and ocean acidification.
which seems quite reasonable. Furthermore
Nations have also been slowly decarbonizing …. But they have not been doing so at a rate consistent with keeping cumulative carbon emissions low enough to reliably stay below the international target of less than 2 degrees Centigrade of global warming. Significant climate mitigation, therefore, will require that humans rapidly accelerate existing processes of decarbonization.
which, again, seems true. And then
Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge. ….. Absent profound technological change there is no credible path to meaningful climate mitigation. While advocates differ in the particular mix of technologies they favor, we are aware of no quantified climate mitigation scenario in which technological change is not responsible for the vast majority of emissions cuts.
which is probably true, but may suggest one issue with what is presented in the manifesto; it has a hint of the pragmatic climate policy that seems to be preferred by organisations like the Breakthrough Insitute. Let’s not focus too much on the science, let’s just be pragmatic and work on technology development, since that is going to be the best route forward anyway. Kind of true, but if you don’t have some kind of stimulus for doing so, how can we optimise our chances of developing suitable technology?
So, I would really like to embrace this kind of endeavour and the document itself seems superficially alright; it seems to say many of the right kind of things. On the other hand, I’m still a little cynical and have a suspicion that this is a manifesto that acknowledges the problems we might face, but that is still really just proposing that we don’t do anything specifically to address them; we simply rely on our inate ingenuity to find solutions that will be ready when we need them. I’m all for technology development and have no doubt that it will play a crucial role in addressing climate change. I would, however, prefer that we actively tried to address it, rather than assuming that we’ll address it in the natural course of our, supposedly automatic, advancement.