I would like to announce the publication of a book, which deals with the world's failure to adequately address the existential danger of catastrophic climate change. The book consists mainly of book chapters and articles that I have previously published, although a considerable amount of new material has been added. It can be freely downloaded and circulated from the following link.
Greta Thunberg's speeches at Davos, 2020
Speaking fearlessly to billionaires and heads of state like a new Joan of Arc, Greta said:
One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I've been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don't worry. It's fine. Trust me, I've done this before and I assure you it doesn't lead to anything.
And for the record, when we children tell you to panic, we're not telling you to go on like before.
We're not telling you to rely on technologies that don't even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will. We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching “net-zero emissions” or 'carbon neutrality' by cheating and fiddling around with numbers.
We are not telling you to 'offset your emissions' by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.
Planting trees is good, of course, but it's nowhere near enough of what needs to be done, and it cannot replace real mitigation or rewilding nature.
Let's be clear. We don't need a 'low-carbon economy.' We don't need to 'lower emissions.' Our emissions have to stop to stay if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5 degrees target. And until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus then we must forget about net zero - we need real zero.
Because distant net zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget - which applies for today, not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.
The fact that the U.S.A. is leaving the Paris accord seems to outrage and worry everyone, and it should.
But the fact that we're all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn't seem to bother the people in power even the least.
Any plan or policy of yours that doesn't include radical emission cuts at the source starting today is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5-degree or well-below-2-degrees commitments of the Paris Agreement.
And again - this is not about right or left. We couldn't care less about your party politics.
From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left, as well as the center, have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because that world, in case you haven't noticed, is currently on fire.
You say children shouldn't worry. You say: 'Just leave this to us. We will fix this, we promise we won't let you down. Don't be so pessimistic.'
And then - nothing. Silence. Or something worse than silence. Empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken.
All the solutions are obviously not available within today's societies. Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions.
So, of course, the transition isn't going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won't be able to solve this in time.
In the days running up to the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of climate activists who are demanding that you, the world's most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed.
We demand that at this year's World Economic Forum participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments: Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies. And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.
We don't want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now...
Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.”
The world is on fire!
“Our house is on fire!” says Greta Thunberg, and she is right. The year 2019 saw a rise in wildfires across the globe. Bush fires in Australia are threatening Sydney and have caused the Australian government to declare a state of emergency. But Australia's politicians continue the policies that have made their nation a climate change criminal, exporting vast quantities of coal and beef. The Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, of the fire victims: “They don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes.” In other words, let's not talk about climate change.
In the Arctic, wildfires raged, producing plumes of smoke the size of the European continent. In the Amazon, fires were deliberately set by greedy mining interests and beef farmers, illegally, but condoned by the government of Jair Bolsinaro, the “Trump of the Tropics”. In Indonesia, plumes of smoke from burning forests darkened the skies over many nearby countries. Again, the deliberately set fires were illegal, but they were condoned by corrupt politicians, receiving money from the hugely profitable palm oil business.
Extraction of fossil fuels must stop!
A United Nations report released Wednesday, 20 November, 2019, warned that worldwide projections for fossil fuel production over the next decade indicate that the international community is on track to fail to rein in planet-heating emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.
The Production Gap is an 80 page report produced by a collaboration between the UN Environmental Programme and a number of academic institutions. It examines the discrepancy between countries' planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C or 2 degrees C, and concludes that the necessary policy changes are currently not being made.
The famous economist, Lord Nicholas Stern, has stated that “This important report shows that governments' projected and planned levels of coal, oil, and gas production are dangerously out of step with the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change. It illustrates the many ways in which governments subsidize and otherwise support the expansion of such production. Instead, governments should implement policies that ensure existing production peaks soon and then falls very rapidly.”
COP25 was sabotaged by greed
At the COP25 in Madrid, delegations from the United States, Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia worked actively to prevent meaningful progress, and they prevented it. In the words of Alden Meyer, director of strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, “I've been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991, but never have I seen the almost total disconnect we've seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action”.
We need a new economic system
Economists are not used to thinking of the long-term future. We can see this in their attitude to economic growth, a concept which mainstream economists support with almost-religious fervor. But the unlimited growth of anything physical on a physically finite planet is a logical impossibility. To avoid this logic, mainstream economists, with self-imposed shortsightedness, willfully limit their view of the future to a few decades. However, the climate crisis is a long-term multi-generational issue. Young people throughout the world are rightly protesting that their long-term future is being blighted by today's greed.
A few far-sighted economists outside the mainstream, for example Herman Daly, have made extensive studies of Steady-State Economics. Logic tells us that this must become the economics of the future, replacing the growth-worshiping and greed-sanctioning economics of today.
New global ethics to match our technology
Humans are capable of tribalistic inter-group atrocities such as genocides and wars, but they also have a genius for cooperation. Cultural evolution implies inter-group exchange of ideas and techniques. It is a cooperative enterprise in which all humans participate. It is cultural evolution that has given our special dominance. But cultural evolution depends on overwriting destructive tribalism with the principles of law, ethics and politeness. The success of human cultural evolution demonstrates that this is possible. Ethics can overwrite tribalism!
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Human society is a superorganism, far greater than any individual in history or in the present. The human superorganism has a supermind, a collective consciousness far greater than the consciousness of individuals. Each individual contributes a stone to the cairn of civilization, but our astonishing understanding of the universe is a collective achievement.
Science derives its great power from the concentration of enormous resources on a tiny fragment of reality. It would make no sense to proceed in this way if knowledge were not permanent and if information were not shared globally. But scientists of all nations pool their knowledge at international conferences and through international publications. Scientists stand on each other's shoulders. Their shared knowledge is far greater than the fragments that each contributes.
Other aspects of culture are also cooperative and global. For example, Japanese woodblock printers influenced the French Impressionists. The nonviolent tradition of Shelly, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela is international. Culture is cooperative. It is not competitive. Global cultural cooperation can lead us to a sustainable and peaceful society. Our almost miraculous modern communications media, if properly used, can give us a stable, prosperous and cooperative future society.