[Marxism] Until We Confront Capitalism, We Will Not Solve the Climate Crisis
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 17 06:03:50 MST 2018
Simon Pirani interview.
Q: You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy
technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and
economic systems in which they function. What is the significance of
this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological
fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?
A: The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of
technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control
them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war;
and of government complicity.
Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late
19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less
direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations
and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive
manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture. The technologies
of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and
communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not
helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things
worse. The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for
everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but
because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective
network, loaded with commercial content. By contrast, networked
technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more
efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized
renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.
Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part
in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective
way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption. Enthusiasm for geoengineering
is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies.
Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.
Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I
know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these
techniques with huge concern. I recently went to a seminar with
researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global
warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. With
reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one
participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the
phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar
radiation modification.” Someone wants to make it sound less like the
giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is!
Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these
technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they
are embedded. Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking
about such deep-going change.
More information about the Marxism