I was thinking a little more about why I haven’t embraced the ideas behind the Ecomodernism Manifesto. It’s a positive message, and it’s promoting innovation and technology development; all things that I would regard as crucial parts of what we should be doing to address the risks associated with climate change. So, why haven’t I simply accepted that this is the way forward?
One reason is simply the tone. It’s a bit antagonistic and rather dismissive of other ideas. That’s fine, but it doesn’t really give the impression that those involved are actually interested in a genuine discussion. Putting that to one side, though, there is – in my view – a more fundamental issue. I get a bit of flack if I don’t properly recognise that ultimately we should be aiming to balance the risks associated with climate change with the risks associated with the various future pathways. It’s clearly not easy, but I do agree that this is what we should be aiming to do, even if we can’t do it in some kind of exact way. I don’t, however, see much evidence for anything like this in the Ecomodernist Manifesto. It really just seems to be a description of their preferred future pathway (be positive, innovation, technology).
To be fair, they do acknowledge the risks associated with climate change, but then seem to effectively ignore them. For example, a number of those associated with Ecomodernism seem to be promoting the view that we cannot achieve a 2oC limit, that we should therefore accept this, and – given this – simply do the best we can; the “good Anthropocene”. The problem is that the 2oC limit is not some kind of boundary; there’s a continuum. Whether or not having such a limit was a good idea, it was simply intended as a target, rather than as some kind of divider between “good” and “bad”. Even if we are going to miss this target, there is still a vast difference between missing it by a lot and missing it by a little.
So, the impression I have is that part of the justification for the Ecomodernist idea is that because we’re going to miss this target, we should now ignore targets, and simply focus on how best to develop technologies for the future (a variant of the “no regrets” idea, I think). In a sense, ignore the risks associated with climate change because we can’t avoid them, and focus – instead – on technology that will let us deal with this. Of course, I agree with the general idea of technology development, but how much we priortise this, how we do it, what we actually focus on, and how quickly we change our energy sources is still relevant. Broadly speaking, how much we warm will depend only on how much we emit. The more we emit, the more we will warm and the more likely it will be that the impacts of climate change will be more severe. Implying that it’s somehow binary (we’re going to miss the target, move on) seems to ignore that it’s still likely to be better to miss it by 0.5oC than to miss it by 1.5oC.
To be fair, this idea seems quite new and maybe there is more to it than I appreciate. If anyone knows of any other documentation that explains it in more detail, feel free to point that out. Similarly, if anyone wants to explain it in more detail in the comments, go ahead. However, while it appears to be more a mechanism for justifying a preferred pathway, than something based on a genuine analysis of the various risks, I suspect it will remain something that is largely accepted by those who find these ideas particularly appealing.