Monday, September 23, 2019

Take Your Pick of Left Wing Climate Change Narratives: Green Abundance or Righteous Austerity

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?

13 comments: said...

Well, there is the whole matter of whether one is talking about growth strictly in material throughput terms of allows for growth of quality of services. This is a point I have long debated with Herman Daly.

Anonymous said...

This is an important post; please remove the horrid, degrading spam comment.

2slugbaits said...

What if saving the planet requires a "noble lie"?

Anonymous said...

(different anonymous) or horrid, degrading spam comments?

Anonymous said...

Still another Anonymlus

Which side are you on, Boys? Which side are you on?
# 1 or # 2?

# 1 ia absurd, so I'm going, advocating, # 2. I don't see redistribution as Austerity. People can't get by on $350,000 in my neighborhood but living on $300,00 for a while is not"Austerity." Of course when they are laterr cut to $250,00, that might sting.

Why do you feel left out? Where are you if not here?

Anonymous said...

It is very easy to come to the conclusion of #2 due to the insane consumption that the West has become accustomed to. It is also largely a solution driven by anger and frustration after years of inaction and suppression.

Anonymous said...

This is horrid spam that should have been removed:

"baby NAgaQQ said..."

Calgacus said...

Those who adopt 1 and 2 take the prize for silly self-contradiction. But #2 is close behind.

For what on Earth is wrong with #1? The Green New Deal
What on Earth was wrong with the New Deal's CCC, planting 3 billion trees? And horrors, actually paying people real money to do it? For American Indians, as Vine Deloria Jr. relates, it was often the most money they and their family had ever seen. But on View #2, Righteous Austerity, Degrowth it was an Ultimate Horror: This added to the demon "Growth".

If one wanders through the blogosphere, supporters of #1 are the ones who will feel left out. Not the 2's and the non-1, non-2 like Peter Dorman - whose point and position is obscure to me. One cannot underestimate the desire to suffer for no purpose. To put on a hair shirt, to demonstrate one's sanctity by mortifying the flesh - and making sure everyone else gets mortified too.
Doesn't matter that it's the only thing that might work and might actually happen. We gotta knee-jerk criticize it as absurdity, as not enough, as a capitalist plot, whatever because it interrupts our collapse porn and comfortable, but unserious and skin-deep despair.

Peter Dorman said...

Slightly adapted from comments I posted at Naked Capitalism:

Why didn’t I express my own views at the end? (1) I’ve already written quite a bit of commentary on both narratives. (2) My alternative position doesn’t boil down to a narrative. (3) I was in a hurry for other, unrelated reasons. This last reason is probably the main one.

What I think. At this late hour, coming in under a 2/3 chance of a 2 degree warming carbon budget (stabilization around 450 ppm) is going to be extremely difficult, politically and economically. The core task is suppression of the use of fossil fuels, especially since we’re in a world of expanding energy demand. (More renewables alone won’t cut it because it’s too late to fully substitute, and because investment in renewables without measures to suppress fossil fuels just means more of both.) This will entail substantial shortages in the short to medium run, which means immense and unavoidable energy price increases. Politically and ethically, these prices—carbon revenues—need to be used primarily to defray the costs to the majority of the population that isn’t rich enough to ignore them, at an international level as well as a national one. Doing this will take a lot more maturity and steadfastness than we’ve seen in our lifetime. Meanwhile, the massive dislocations associated with a crash program of decarbonization will result in many trillions of dollars in stranded assets beyond the unburnable fossil fuels themselves. If Boeing survives its current scandal, how will it cope with jet fuel prices ten or more times what they are now? What about the massive investments in commercial and residential real estate that depend on inexpensive automobility? If you think the rich will take this lying down, you’re on a different planet than me.

It’s still barely possible, but it will take a popular mobilization around the world that is massive, disruptive and astute. We’ve got a start on the first, maybe a glimmer of the second, but a lot of ground to cover on the third.

As I said, my position doesn’t work well as a narrative. I don’t see the climate crisis as demonstrating any particular political, social or spiritual commitment. It derives strictly from the arithmetic of the carbon cycle and the way humans have intervened in it. I would certainly be happy if it followed a more congenial script, but it doesn’t.

Calgacus said...

I have no time to continue now and can't even promise I will. Travelling. But my view is that the views you express are wrong and unrealistic compared to the GND, but rather than "left out" are everywhere, extremely popular to the point of drowning out support for #1 / GND / genuine action that might happen - at least among older people, on blogs etc.

Both unrealistically pessimistic and grossly overstating all obstacles for humanity as a whole. We aren't trying AT ALL now. Nobody knows how hard anything is until they try. And as I have noted here earlier, very unrealistically optimistic about the impact of climate change on the wealthy. Curiously certain that whatever happens, the rich will be with us and will not suffer. Which leads to extremely bad political strategy.

Again, thank God for the GND. Somehow formal politics is proposing something much better than this and other popular viewpoints, which I am very tired of having to counter.

AXEC / E.K-H said...


MMT/GND: Another case of bad people capturing a good cause
Comment on Nathan Tankus/Andrés Bernal/Raúl Carrillo on ‘The Green New Deal will be tremendously expensive. Every penny should go on the government’s tab.’*

It cannot be otherwise, bad people always and everywhere claim to promote the good cause. This is rather old stuff: “Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are; and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.” (Machiavelli) This is why corruption comes in the garb of philanthropy and ruin comes in the garb of salvation. As a rule of thumb, public opinion is upside down: “Fair is foul, foul is fair.” (Shakespeare)

A new version of political deception is MMT’s promotion of environmental protection. The communicative fact of the matter is that nobody can argue against environmental protection just as nobody can argue against peace, freedom, wealth, love, solidarity, motherhood, equity, and the welfare of humankind.

The economic fact of the matter is that MMT is a program for the permanent enrichment of the Oligarchy. This is impossible to sell to the general public, therefore, MMT has to be repackaged as a program for the benefit of WeThePeople. Luckily, this is not very hard: “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” (Machiavelli)

Accordingly, Nathan Tankus/Andrés Bernal/Raúl Carrillo argue: “The Green New Deal is a vital way to address the social threat of climate change. Some GND advocates want to make the idea more palatable by relying on indirect financing like public-private partnerships or loans to private companies. While the ideas are designed to make the Green New Deal more politically palatable, indirect financing will also blunt the changes made by the GND. … Accordingly, people who truly want to see a GND in our time should fully embrace the power of the public purse.”

Economically, the “power of the public purse” works via the macroeconomic Profit Law which says Q=Yd+(I−S)+(G−T)+(X−M) with Q as macroeconomic profit. The Law boils down to Public Deficit (G−T>0) = Private Profit Q which means that the Oligarchy’s financial wealth and public debt grow in lockstep. It is the very characteristic of the free-market economy that it is already for a long time on the life support of the State. Profit is produced by the government through deficit-spending/money-creation. The Oligarchy, in turn, uses the opulent free lunches to corrupt what remains of the State’s legislative, executive, judiciary institutions, including academia.

As a matter of principle, any GND measure can be realized with a balanced budget. NO MMTer will ever propose that. The message of the MMT do-gooders is deficit-spending/money-creation.

MMT is not only bad science and bad policy but MMTers are also bad people. How can we know this? Quite easy, Nathan Tankus/Andrés Bernal/Raúl Carrillo is an #EconBlocker.#1 Genuine scientists do NOT block their critics but try to refute them yet for stupid/corrupt agenda pushers it is second nature.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* Business Insider

#1 Economists/MMTers: agenda pushers, distractors, blockers, muters, censors

Owen Paine said...

Cap and Ration carbon emitting products

The cap set to squeeze out step by step
all carbon emitting products by year n

Pricing all CE products
at the margin
Ie above ration quantities
All9cated/ distribution
with the ration price charge
Rations markets allowed of course

This structure may be inevitable
Implemented sooner then later
Might be preferred

Owen Paine said...

Of course this is a global system

And even so unauthorized markets will shoot big holes
Thru any ration system

Carbon emitting products
can and are produced
everywhere on earth

Prepare for the worst
It's a solid bet