We published Roy Wilkes’ article Is ‘Contraction and Convergence’ the Answer to Climate Change? on March 30. Here’s a reply from Aubrey Meyer, the original developer of the Contraction and Convergence model, and a response from Roy Wilkes.
Aubrey Meyer said…
The challenge of human causation of climate change has raised the stakes in questions of human destiny. The issue of where we came from is now rather pointededly over-taken by the issue of where we are going to.
The prognosis is not reassuring. What we would regard as ‘catastrophe’ with rapid non-linear climate change does have precedents (see e.g. Permian Extinction 251MBP – Benton).
Answering questions of any kind requires judgement, and the climate-question is no exception.
Doing the right things for the wrong reasons is as futile now as doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Tougher still – doing the right thing for the right reasons is as elusive as ever.
Engaging with this invites a deepening understanding of ‘self’ (collective and individual) and puts on trial questions and judgements about identity and motivation for all of us – i.e. who is asking: what questions: for what reasons; for whose benefit; with what expectations; and so on and so –
Just like the right, leftist role-play is roll-play until the unitary structure of the dice is understood.
To ask the right questions for the right reasons and then (more difficult) give the right answers for the right reasons is a challenge to us all.
Here clearly it remains a challenge to which the author of this article (by Mr Roy Wilkes of the Socialist Resistance) has not yet in my judgement convincingly risen.
There is no numbers-based assessment in this critique that indicates how the author thinks about organizing and quantifying what needs to be done in the small time-space left to us all (humanity), if dangerous rates of climate change (runaway) is to be avoided.
It is disappointing to see that, while analysis from the left tends to be correctly focused by and critical of reactionary behaviour – i.e. behaviour focused more on effect than on cause, more on profit than capital – this article mimics the very thing of which it is so critical – the randomness and inequity of ‘markets’.
Frequently – and certainly here – the policy analysis and the policy demands lack coherent rationale and are just that, reactionary.
A look at GCI’s C&C reference material (we are the origin of this position – www.gci.org.uk/links/detail.pdf) — rather than the trivia circulated about it (CornerHouse) will reveal the source of the argumentation and in turn the source of the reasoning.
When more attention is paid to this and the rates of change and the rising risks of *everything* being destroyed by climate change, it is obvious that Capitalism no less than the Socialist Resistance, will be destroyed by unless fundamental change in human structures is organised by humans.
The problem is unfettered growth, not ideology and capitalism per se. The solution (if there is one) requires numeracy about limits and sharing under limits.
C&C in this article in the author’s phrase-of-error is – ‘based on trade’. This is untrue and is not said or even suggested in the GCI references for C&C he cites at the GCI website. www.gci.org.uk/briefings/ICE.pdf.
C&C is a mooted framework-based constitutional structure rooted in the science of climate change and limits in which and subject to a market could operate if necessary.
The latter depends on the former (not vice versa) – in other words the market depends on the framework and is meaningless without it (which is what Mr Wilkes has presumed in error). Please think about this before you respond.
The file below works in an MS Web Browser (Logos touch-sensitive to advance through scenes) http://www.gci.org.uk/images/CandC_model_context_animation.swf
Mr Wilkes and his colleagues will be more effective in their engagement, if avoiding dangerous rates of climate change is the ‘success’ he seeks, if they subject themselves to a little more discipline and a less error.
This will come more from identity with rationale than with the comfort-zone of reactionary rhetoric and decoys resistance.
As is, this piece simply projects powerlessness and wastes opportunity and talent.
Aubrey Meyer, GCI
Roy Wilkes responds: Mr Meyer goes to extraordinary lengths to downplay the role of the market in his Contraction and Convergence schema, yet the evidence is there for all to see. From Point 2 paragraph 5 of the GCI’s own briefing:
“…the tradeability of these entitlements in an appropriate currency such as Energy Backed Currency Units should be encouraged” and from Point 5: “C&C enables international pre-distribution of these tradeable and therefore valuable future entitlements to emit GHGs…”
Mr Meyer might claim that the market depends on the framework and not vice versa, but such distinctions are irrelevant. Rights to pollute are traded and therefore C&C explicitly accepts the market imperative and the commodification of GHG emissions.
Mr Meyer criticises me for having ‘no numbers based assessment about organising and quantifying what needs to be done.’ But the numbers aren’t the problem, Mr Meyer, nor is it primarily a problem of technology. (There is, for example, no technical or scientific reason why we can’t achieve at least a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions within 10 years. The numbers add up and the technology already exists.) The problem isn’t one of numbers but of politics i.e. of power. Put simply, the capitalist class has the power to destroy the planet but it does not have the power to save it.
There is a very simple reason for this: capitalism cannot survive without accumulation (and hence unfettered growth,) just as surely as a fish cannot survive without water. We can appeal until we are blue in the face for the fish to leave the ocean and live on the land but it simply cannot do so, however many treaties, equations, graphs and numbers we wave before it.
Why cannot the capitalist class accede to Mr Meyer’s perfectly reasonable request to abandon unfettered growth? The answer to this dilemma is explained more fully elsewhere in this blogspot, but in a nutshell: the capitalist economy consists of individual corporations each competing, one with another, for sufficient market share to enable its own profits to be maximized. That, Mr Meyer, is their primary goal, indeed it is their very raison d’etre, and not a single board of directors on the planet would dispute this.
And the capitalist governments that serve those corporations? Their openly stated economic goal, which again not one of them will dispute, can be summarized in a single word: GROWTH. The most powerful ones, including our own, hope to buy their way out of this problem of climate change through all manner of schemas and sleights of hand; but one thing they will never do is to sacrifice the very thing which you correctly identify as the root cause of the problem: the drive for unfettered growth.
But all is not lost, Mr Meyer. For there is a class which does have the potential to reorganise production in a rational and sustainable manner – the class of workers, those of us whose labour produces all of the wealth of society. Unlike the capitalist class, our class has no interest either in chasing markets for profit or in unfettered growth. We have within our ranks the capacity and the intelligence to ‘organize and quantify what needs to be done’; what we currently lack is the power to do so. Recognizing that we don’t yet have the power to save the planet is not ‘projecting powerless’ but simply facing up to reality, a reality that we need to work together to change.
The struggle for a sustainable and rationally planned economy, for the survival of our ecosystem and of our planet, ultimately boils down to the struggle of the working class for power. But just as workers need to understand their historic responsibility to act in the interest not only of humanity but of the entire ecosystem, so too do the environmentalists need to look not to the capitalist corporations and governments for solutions, but to the labour movements and in particular to the youth.