Monday, July 3, 2017

The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth

When Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate deal, the world reacted with outrage. And rightly so: the agreement represents a remarkable achievement in international diplomacy – a breakthrough after 20 years of failed climate negotiations. But as we rally to defend the Paris deal against the onslaught of an ill-informed bully, we need to resist the temptation to cast the agreement as some kind of saviour. It is not. Its purpose is right and noble, but its substance is nothing short of dangerous.

Malcolm Turnbull's platform is about jobs and
growth, when what need is de-growth.
If you look closely at the Paris agreement, you’ll notice a curious contradiction. The text commits the world’s governments to limiting global warming to no more than 2C above preindustrial levels. But, strangely enough, the emissions reductions it lays out don’t actually get us there. Far from it. Even if all the world’s countries meet their targets (which is very unlikely, since the targets are non-binding) if we do nothing else we’ll still be hurtling toward more than 3C of global warming, and possibly as high as 4.4C. Way over the threshold.

What might our planet look like if it warms by 4C? No one can say for certain, but projections show that this level of warming is likely to bring about heatwaves not seen on Earth for 5m years. Southern Europe could dry up into a desert. Sea levels could rise by 1.2 meters before the century is out, drowning cities like Amsterdam and New York. Furthermore, 40% of species will be at risk of extinction. Most of our rainforests will wither away. Crop yields could collapse by 35%, destabilising the world’s food system and triggering widespread famine. In short, a 4C world looks very bleak indeed.

Read Jason Hickel’s story on The Guardian - “The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth.”

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