We cannot conventionally afford the huge funds needed to resolve climate change in time. Europe has an opportunity to be unconventional.
Recent events have proven conventional economics cannot even fund "as we are"; funding massive climate change adaptation on top won't happen. A new way is needed, now.
Europe stands to be severely impacted by climate change; not so much directly, as NOAA data for Jan-March 2015 shows, but by imported food shortages and the immigration pressures of forced migration from areas more directly affected. It is much in Europe's interests to act strongly and cohesively to mitigate these effects and secure its culture and future.
No entity on Earth – nation, union or alliance - can conventionally afford to take large or fast enough action to avert or adequately mitigate the climate change science is predicting. But unless such large-scale and rapid action IS taken we can confidently expect sea level rise, resource conflict, mass population displacement and shortages of food and water. Ocean acidification and ocean circulation changes will have long-term irreversible impacts.
Because we cannot act in time, the costs of relief and relocation will be many, many trillions of dollars of “bad” expense, ON TOP OF the “good” expense of climate change mitigation needed anyway to prevent or slow further deterioration.
The present "market forces" driven model will result in “bad” PLUS “good” – FAR more than “good” alone. Absurd by any rational standard.
SO: logically, accepting our planet will have to spend vast amounts globally ANYWAY, why not “create” funds NOW to take the actions needed in green energy, flood defense, novel agriculture etc TODAY, massively mitigating harm to humanity and other species AND saving a large part of those future “bad” costs?
Money "creation" - AKA "quantitative easing" or QE - poses some economic, but not existential, risk. In stark contrast climate change poses very real existential risk. Intelligent weighing of the two options has only one sane outcome.
QE has already “created” trillions of dollars to resolve the economic crisis of 2007-2010; climate change represents a threat orders of magnitude greater.
Nations, unions and alliances cannot fund enough without borrowing from other creditors, so don’t for fear of budget deficit. Even were that not the case, many nations do not have sufficiently sophisticated financial systems to mitigate the massive scope for corruption such funding would offer.
Europe however does - generally - do so, and recent lessons will strengthen this.
By using QE to "create" a "virtual" European fund - controlled by Europe's financial and technical sophistication - to address climate change mitigating technologies at a continental scale, we free-up will and resources to act effectively, immediately, and at a sufficiently large scale to make a real difference to Earth's future.
- stabilized climate
- boosted economic activity
- boosted employment
- boosted tax take
- food security
- energy security
- reduced conflict drivers (poverty, resources, land)
- improved population health
- accelerated research
The downside is…?
Which proposals are included in your plan and how do they fit together?
I don't have the expertise to select optimal candidates; this submission is intended to be a continental framework and not a detailed strategy.
The goal is to provide a funding framework within which the best technologies and approaches can be delivered at a scale large enough to make a difference to the future, and do so in time.
I cannot here lay out in detail the proposals needed; these will emerge from the strategy as it develops and I believe it premature to assume any particular direction(s) at this point.
A high-level approach is described, from which detailed strategy will evolve of its own accord as discussions proceed. For the same reasons the proposal does not cite other proposals, it being left to Action 1 below to identify what of these is an effective contributor.
The proposal is at a continental level, and considers building consensus and delivery at that level. The difficulties of achieving this are recognized, but ultimately climate pressures will force governments to accept that the “global” in “global warming” means precisely that. It may yet prove to be the greatest factor in history in uniting Earth’s people. Unfortunately Earth's governments are too adversarial for a "global" solution, however badly needed; Europe has however demonstrated that it can work as one, and needs to do so here.
It must be recognized at the outset that the project will not – and cannot – deliver The Best Solution for mitigating climate change. There are too many variables (including unknown ones), and technology is progressing constantly meaning that today’s Best will be tomorrow’s Outdated.
We cannot wait for a perfect solution; we must instead seek an adequate one, deliverable within a short enough timescale, that will adequately mitigate climate change and adequately adapt to the change that does occur. This will need to combine various technologies and approaches and will cut across political and geophysical boundaries. It is very likely it will also have to address religious and philosophical aspects, such as limiting human reproduction to foster our limited resources.
Suggested overall project Goal is then “Were money immaterial, what actions by Europe with what technologies would best contribute to limiting global warming to 2ºC by [year] and would best address the consequences to the planet”.
The discussion below is around this Goal and considers the (high-level) actions needed. These are not sequential and will occur with varying degrees of overlap and pauses, and there is extensive interaction.
ACTION 1: ACHIEVING INTERNATIONAL BUY-IN
Nations are reluctant to cooperate on climate change for a number of reasons, but the largest single factor appears to be ability to afford it; all are constrained by budgets, the economic needs of current citizens who vote being seen as outweighing those of future citizens who don't.
Since this proposal bypasses that constraint, funding today’s investment in climate change mitigation from future savings we will make by not having to fund climate-caused harm in the future, it seems rational that sophisticated European governments will be willing to cooperate in developing these solutions.
For the first time progress will be independent of a nation’s wealth or size; actions will be implemented purely on the priority of “greatest global benefit” Nowhere on earth is immune to rising temperatures and seas, and every human everywhere will feel the effects. Europe is already struggling to deal with the earliest effects of mass migration, and that will intensify massively as climate change really kicks in. Only very rapid, highest-level and joint action can provide a solution.
The EU will have to launch the program “gloves off” in terms of available data and predictions; this is not the time to reassure the public, but the time to ensure that all - particularly "conventional" economists and capital markets - understand the imperative and the urgency. Working at a European level means the potentially most difficult nations to onboard - Russia, China, US and Africa - will not be in a position to block action.
Obviously not every nation may buy-in initially, and the project may well launch with only key players.
ACTION 2: DEFINING TECHNICAL ROADMAP
What do we need to achieve to deliver “adequate” technical solutions to the Goal? And how?
This action needs to establish the technical factors to be addressed to move forward, which will require expertise drawn from many sectors and disciplines. There is an obvious risk that such a committee is likely to be quite partisan to their own pet solutions, and will need pragmatic and strong leadership to obtain an optimal – or good sub-optimal – outcome.
We must recognize there will always be better technology over the hill. However, climate science is making it very clear that we have pretty immovable deadlines by which to act if we are not to enter potentially deadly levels of temperature rise.
Therefore it is suggested our technical strategy must be based on technology we have now, and be one that can only be revised by emerging technologies where a) the benefits of these are indisputable and b) they can be implemented to the required extent within the fixed timescale. We cannot afford to deviate from, for example, a PV-based solution that will achieve the goal in time, on the basis of an emerging nuclear technology which will be cheaper and less intrusive but will miss the deadline by 10 years.
It is suggested that some factors to be considered in Step 1 (this list is far from exhaustive) would be to identify:
- What suitable technologies are available NOW;
- What could be the potential global contribution to the Goal of each technology, evaluated from a range of extent/location scenarios
- What limiting factors exist (maturity, manufacturing capacity, raw materials, social acceptability, skillset shortages…)
- The extent of any negative effects of these technologies, globally and locally
- How quickly these technologies could be implemented and where
From this it would be logical to pick a “top 5” or “top 10” to pursue, with multiple models being run to identify the resulting benefits and costs of various options and combinations. Does massive-scale wind energy with capacitative storage outperform massive PV installation? In what location(s) and under what future weather scenarios? How resilient in fact are the solutions to climate change?
Repeated optimizing runs and scenarios should yield a global plan of technical action for implementation.
ACTION 3: MODEL AND PARAMETER DEVELOPMENT
A lot of our modeling techniques today are quite limited. To be able to reliably model the different scenarios, considerable effort also must go into designing and proving adequate modeling capability to provide the optimization modeling at Action 2.
Alongside this will need to be the provision of appropriate supercomputing capacity to allow models to be run in sufficient number and at sufficient speed to generate a reliable solution.
ACTION 4: DEFINING SOCIAL AND OTHER FACTORS
Not every factor in climate change is technical. For example, a key factor in CO2 levels is reduced carbon sequestration in forest, driven to a considerable extent by the amount of forest cleared to feed/house growing numbers of people. There are various reasons populations continue to grow; however, this growth is increasingly unsustainable. Population control presents significant religious and ethical difficulties, but ignoring this major lever in climate change is not an option.
The project should consider these other factors alongside the technical aspects, and the make-up of the team should include expertise in these aspects.
ACTION 5: PLANNING
A vast amount of material will need to be extracted, transported, processed and installed and it will be essential that the capacity to do so exist in appropriate time. As soon as possible in the modelling stages, once clear winners start to emerge but probably before details of the volumes of each are apparent, planning will need to commence on these aspects and scalable solutions developed. These will need to be “scalable” in the sense that once volumes needed of each option are clarified, the capacity to deliver these is able to be quickly implemented.
ACTION 6: IMPLEMENTATION
Other than in terms of scale, this phase of the project is similar to any large international challenge. The tools and expertise already exist and Action 5 should have enabled the infrastructure needed to be planned ready for building.
Since time is of the essence for Actions 1 – 5 a 5-year timescale is suggested. The project is based on existing or imminently-available technology so there should be no other holds on progress. Action 6 will be ongoing thereafter.
Explanation of the emissions scenario calculated in the Impact tab
For the reasons above, this section cannot be completed. It is however apparent that once financial constraints are removed, the scope for dramatically reducing emissions - in a sufficiently short timescale to hopefully keep emissions within acceptable limits - is vast.
What are the plan’s key benefits?
Even excluding climate change effects, our world is already seriously stressed for food and other resources and with growing population is extremely vulnerable to other - inevitable - perturbations such as volcanic activity, earthquake or more “out there” events such as asteroid strike or solar flare. The actions funded will greatly strengthen the ability of Earth to continue to support our survival should one or more of these other events occur.
The proposal not only helps us to overcome climate change, but massively reinforces our survivability into the future on this much wider front.
Acting and controlled at European level, the proposal also moves much power out of the hands of global corporations and the mega-wealthy and into the control of Europe's governance, for the greater good. In so doing it frees-up the resources of those corporations to explore wider-reaching technologies that we cannot otherwise afford, such as medicine and space/ocean research.
What are the plan’s costs?
Almost certainly negative within the next 100 years, outlay being far more than recovered by savings of “bad” costs identified in the Summary. Taking into account much greater planetary resilience to future disasters the picture becomes even more convincing.
Natural disaster related costs rose from $50 billion a year in the 80s to $200 billion in last decade and will continue to rise due to extreme weather; Hurricane Katrina “could cost Gulf Coast states … estimated $125 billion”. The impact California’s economy of drought is “is estimated at $2.2 billion”, and “with climate change, the entire US will likely face ...drought”. By 2030 researchers estimate cost of climate change and air pollution will reach 3.2% of global GDP - in 2013 US$ 75,621,858 million; 3.2% is US$ 2.419.899 million, EVERY year.
Spending now, to save far more then, is simple logic.
What are the key challenges to enacting this plan?
The greatest barrier will be perceived economic "good practice". However, the world has already used Quantitative Easing to stave off economic collapse and the world still seems to be turning; while there is debate over whether it is ultimately good or bad, it does present a way - probably the only way - to spend what we need to save ourselves.
By continuing to straight-jacket ourselves into conventional economic wisdom we doom ourselves to massive and devastating climate change, at huge cost to humanity and most other species; a cost we should be able to greatly mitigate through adopting a view of "economics" that addresses our true wealth - our planet - instead of just our money..
No-one asked if we could "afford" to take on Nazism or the global financial crash, neither of which posed anything remotely approaching the level of existential threat that climate change does.
What the hell are we thinking?
We have much of the technology to mitigate climate change available now, but lack the will and resources to implement it. This proposal will free up both resources and will.
If we then allow 5 years to figure out the model, process, financial security measures etc – which shouldn’t be an impossible timescale – we can start massive investment in 2020. Allowing 5-10 years for planning and construction of the facilities, we should start to see significant emission reductions by 2025-30.
A number of ideas potentially link to this proposal. Future-proofing our agriculture is key, ensuring that we can feed ourselves while dramatically reducing water and land demand, and at the same time proofing crops against disease, pests and climate effects while preventing the environmental damage current open-field approaches produce. Ocean farming, novel energy generation such as this, population education, massive-scale energy efficiency, and many others, all have roles to play.
None however will have the opportunity to do so without a major re-think of what really matters. It's time to re-invent economics, to ensure we continue to have a world in which everyone - including economists - can live.