Chapter 9: Power in a Future World
Scenarios Dark, Light and Grey
The authors outline that this chapter will consist of various possible futures, and what each of those futures will hold. Chief among the concerns of humanity is the need to switch to a renewable source of energy. In addition, there are many factors that could influence these possible futures, and the authors particularly note that the U.S.’s role (whether determined by leadership or dwindling global influence) will have large-scale ramifications on the global environmental scene. Through this and several other factors noted (such as carbon emission growth and China’s global involvement), the authors have come up with six different scenarios that are to be outlined throughout the chapter. In order to help simplify these myriad possibilities, there is a table provided that outlines the various factors that would comprise each future. These potential futures all all very interesting, although it is clear that the authors are very skeptical with their faith in humanity to achieve the best possible outcome.
The first scenario outlined is the worst among them, which was humorously referred to as the “Mad Max” scenario. In the event that any and all negotiations over climate reform fail, the worst-case scenario might result in a global free-for-all wherein the wealthiest and strongest nations hoard resources from one another. On a particularly morbid note, the authors also state that this is the scenario likely to be reached if there is not a great enough push for reform, which may be especially difficult given that it would likely push against capitalistic tendencies of growth. If no action is taken, then this is the current trajectory civilization is on, which would also have massive, global effects on temperature and weather patterns. Despite this being the most negative outcome, it also seems as though there is still a legitimate possibility this may come to light.
The second scenario outlined covers what should happen if the UN loses its legitimacy as a regulatory body on global scene. In such an event, the authors posit that the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) group, created by Bush and furthered by Obama, would become the new authority on such matters. Unsurprisingly, this group does not include many of the planet’s poorest developing countries, who would likely be excluded or be held at the mercy of the larger nations in matters of reform. This would give certain nations an opportunity to invest in smaller, more developing countries, for better or worse.
If the world’s fossil fuel epidemic is not rectified with great enough haste, then there will have to be great technological gains made in order to counteract any and all damages that may be iccured as a result. Chiefly listed among solutions is that of “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) and the development of new biofuels. CCS means to essentially extract carbon dioxide from the atmostphere and inject it into the ground or some other kind of repository. CCS has already received billions of dollars in funding, but also poses some new risks itself, with carbon leakage being a potential health/environmental problem. The ability to do this effectively and efficiantly is doubted by the authors, however.
Switching completely to renewable energy sources is something that is certainly possible, but it would take a great deal of work from all involved parties in order to become a reality. The authors of this book speculate that a large renewable revolution would not take place unless great advances in technology were made, such as mass-storage of wind or water-generated electricity. A more likely scenario is one involving a co-evolution of renewable energy and fossil fuels, with greater strides being made in order to increase the fuel efficiency of devices reliant upon fossil fuels.
In opposition to large-scale political reform, there is also the possibility of smaller, more community based ecological reform. In this scenario, tighter knit communities would focus on becoming energy-independent, and form networks of green and renewable energy. If done on a wide-enough scale, this could even bypass the need for any executive reform, although such a thing occuring is noted to be highly unlikely. Naturally, these types of reforms would be opposed by large, invested corporations, and would be impossible for poorer communities, meaning there would be a high degree of disparity in this future. These types of reforms may be taken by more environmentally conscious groups with the means to do so, but they are also highly unlikely to solve the greater problems that face the planet.
Global Climate Justice
This future is by far the most positive of all outlined, and may be a far cry from what is to actually to come. Nevertheless, the authors outline what exactly would need to transpire in order for something as transformative as this to occur. Such processes would require massive redefinition of many climate-based policies. Examples given include mass-scale debunking of climate deniers and mass-accumulation of renewable resources. There would also need to be a strong push for motivated countries to influence the less motivated to take similar approaches. These types of reforms would only be successful in the even that every large player take similar precautions.
Chapter 10: Linking Movements for Justice
Action Among the Ruins?
How much disasters needs to happen in order for any action to be taken regarding climate change? Hurricane Sandy is cited as a prime example of an instance that caused unrest among communities that traditionally viewed climate change as a myth. In the wake of such terrible tragedies, perhaps there is opportunity for much-needed change. While a grim notion, it is apparently one that may be an unfortunate necessity.
Out of Order
The post Copenhagen world is an interesting one, and one that serves as a perfect emblem for the democratic injustices that can still occur in the 21st century. As the world currently exists, those who have the least to do with global climate change are also the ones being most negatively affected by it, due to their location or their relative lack of resources. The mad dash for fossil fuels is also unlikely to change without great reform, given how many billions of dollars have already been sunk into it by the various worlds’ governments.
Like a Pillow
While it might initially seem that smaller, less-developed countries are at the mercy of their larger counterparts, they do have some ability to exert some influence through the organization of committees and the partial capitation of the demands of larger countries. Similarly, we have also seen BASIC allying itself with the EU as a means of gaining more say on such matters, which only further serves to undermine the legitimacy of UN sanctions that the authors have discussed. Of course, this does not mean that laws and regulations should be passed that further exacerbate the discrepancies in policy between wealthier and poorer nations.
While there have definitely been efforts to curtail the massive power and influence of fossil fuel megacorps, there has been little actual effect on the power of these organizations. Many efforts at reducing the emission of fossil fuel related waste never actually targets the companies themselves, which are able to find a wide variety of workarounds to the restrictions imposed upon them. In order to truly combat these powers, there needs to be an empowering of organizations dedicated to reforming and holding accountable those who continue to invest billions in the mass-extraction of fossil fuels.