Lessons for the Climate Emergency

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1854 ... June 27, 2019

Lessons for the Climate Emergency:
Rationing, Moratoriums, Ending War

Judith Deutsch

"The bad news is that if history teaches us one thing, it is that there never has been an energy transition… The history of energy is not one of transitions, but rather of successive additions…" Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene.

The New Deal and World War II are reminders of past transformative times, reverberating in current severe hardships and extreme dangers. Emergencies can bring clarity and reason about what to do, though at the opposite end, crises can elicit the worst outcomes, such as outlined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. There are historical precedents for rational and responsible responses to emergencies, yet a range of measures that could immediately cut emissions, including non-tradable rationing of de-commodified energy and moratoriums on specific high-emitting sectors, are largely ignored in climate policy, including the Green New Deal and other climate justice platforms.

Is it accurate to call climate change an ‘emergency’? Fascism was seen as an emergency requiring urgent systemic changes, and... it is arguable that climate change, caused and driven by capitalism (and its elaboration under neoliberalism), threatens far more lives than fascism. The careful research of historians Jason Moore, Andreas Malm, and others, show that modernity could have taken a very different path in terms of social organization and sources of energy.

Is it clarifying to understand global capitalism as a totalitarian organization in which the ‘full spectrum’ of Earth and its atmosphere are privatized, in which reductionistic science characterizes humans as genetically capitalistic and incapable of socially responsible behavior, and in which public knowledge about the unprecedented perils to human beings is systemically blocked?

The following article first focuses on the climate and on the underestimations of the magnitude of climate change mechanisms and its human impacts. Rationing and moratoriums are then discussed as strategies for immediate substantial reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG). The last section focuses on political action and implementation.

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