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?