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I was very proud of my home city, Montreal, last March. After determined organizing efforts, 150,000 people, roughly 8.5% of the island’s population, marched through the streets to condemn dissatisfactory climate policy.
One popular sign read, “If our climate was a bank it would have already been saved.” Another poster had the illustration of a tree and money, asking “which green is more important to you?” Another placard encouraged, “Save a tree, EAT A LOBBYIST.”
Despite the energy of these mass mobilizations, in the way of substantial changes, we can quote Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN. Guterres concluded Tuesday that “far more ambitious plans and accelerated action is needed.” The “existential threat” of climate change requires radical efforts that governments have still not implemented.
Guterres’ damning remarks follow a common thread among climate warnings, easy enough to detect. Take, for instance, the international 2018 IPCC report, which was reviewed by thousands of experts—scientists and economists alike.
The study demanded “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all of society”—very radical demands from a heavily-reviewed document directed towards policy makers. Like Gutteres, the suggestion is one of danger that must be met with a heavy hand.
However, it is as though many political powers neglect the professional capacity in which these scientists and officials are writing, and rather prefer to see them as a sort of enfants-terrible academic class.
There is widespread fear, that in heeding scientists’ radical demands we will not respect the much more serious concern of profit and corporate free reign.
Leaked comments of US diplomats on the IPCC report, shows exactly such an official concern. The diplomats complained that the climate study “fail[ed] to communicate the scale of the global technological and economic challenge” required to meet the report’s demands.
The Pope once addressed this “mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” that would require “change, real change.”
Of course, there is no sharp divide with extreme attempts to better the environment on one side and efforts to strengthen the economy on the other. I believe it would be worthwhile given the radical demands of scientists, that we peer closer into this relationship between climate and capital.
Again, we can look at the climate science literature where we find a relevant but quiet report released earlier this month.
The study titled “Working on a warmer planet,” issued by the International Labour Organization, understands that as heat waves increase—and temperatures rise with increasing regularity above 35 C—some workers will feel too hot to work.
According to conservative estimates, the ILO concludes global economic losses will total $2,400 billion by 2030.
It is as though, the authors say, 80 million jobs were to disappear in little more than a decade.
These are the “conservative” estimates. As the writers admit, they had to assume employers would allow workers to labour in the shade, or at least at cooler hours in the day. Expectations for temperature increase are limited to 1.5 C by 2100, which is unlikely, unless countries manage to meet IPCC expectations.
Heat stress and its cost to productivity is only one of the many climate change-related factors that promises to subvert the economy. We can look at environmental dangers and then assume their economic effects.
What’s there to say about the economy when a major review calls climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century?” The Lancet had recorded a massive sum of information on the potential effects of climate change-related natural disasters.
These disasters include water rises that threaten the water supplies of hundreds of millions, floods that may inundate the land of 130 million, and drought that make climate refugees out of the world’s poorest populations. Economies have trouble performing in these conditions.
It should not need noting that economies function off of and for people. Therefore, when politicians avoid radical changes—building pipelines, announcing assaults on carbon taxes—putting very illusory and fleeting profits over people…
Then we are right to hit the streets in even larger numbers, at least as a symbol of sanity against a very mislead logic.