2021-07-01-16 Wallace-Wells on reducing fossil fuel use

David Wallace-Wells (@dwallacewells): "The conclusion is unavoidable: If there is to be a stabilization of global emissions it will involve a U-turn in the trajectory of consumption, particularly amongst the top 10% in North America, the Arab world and Asia." The great @adam_tooze (1/x) https://adamtooze.substack.com/p/chartbook-newsletter-24

"Social hierarchy, inequality and class structure shape the way that we use fossil fuels. They will also shape the energy transition."

"This aspect of the crisis was somewhat obscured by the way in which the problem of climate justice was framed in the 1990s. For obvious reasons attention was focused on the huge gulf in emissions between rich countries and the developing world."

"Over the last few decades, as @BrankoMilan has illustrated so powerfully, we have moved towards a world in which the gap between 'emerging markets' and the advanced economies has closed – above all as a result of the spectacular growth of several Asian economies, led by China."

@BrankoMilan "At the same time, inequality within many countries has become more extreme. Today, the main growth markets for cars and aviation are in Asia. The future pattern of consumer demand will be defined by the emerging 'global middle class.'"

"The result is a pattern of emissions that is still characterized by huge disparities. But these disparities no longer neatly align with national boundaries or the North-South divide."

"Within a giant country like India, a substantial upper class enjoys Western elite standards of consumption and global mobility, whilst hundreds of millions struggle to get by with limited access to electricity and clean means of cooking."

"Treating all consumers in countries of the 'global North' as essentially similar, ignored huge disparities in consumption and emissions."

"Why should working-class Europeans, whose emissions were no greater than the global average, be asked to make sacrifices on the same terms as super-consuming Americans or Singaporeans? Why should emerging market millionaires not be called upon to make proportionate reductions?"

"Between 1990 and 2015 emissions rose across the curve of global incomes with a particular bulge around the global middle class, but the really striking feature of is the huge surge in the emissions of the top 10% and within that privileged group the surge by the top 1%."

"As Oxfam emphasizes, the idea that 'global population growth' is a significant contributor to the climate crisis is utterly tendentious. Population growth in sub Saharan Africa and latin America or amongst the poor in Asia has a minimal impact on the global emissions balance."

"Nor would it make much difference if the bottom billion were provided with basic electricity connections, as is demanded by the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the volume of energy consumption that matters and that is dominated by the top half of the income distribution."

"It is not the development aspirations of the global poor that are driving the climate crisis, but the relentless increase in the already excessive consumption of the more affluent half of the world's population and particularly that of the top 10 and top 1 percent."

"Just shy of half the increase between 1990 and 2015 is attributable to the top 10 percent, amongst which a large part of the European and North American population are fortunate to count themselves."

"But, as is also clear from the Oxfam data, Europe was not the main driver of the surge in global emissions after 1990. Even the most affluent Europeans only increased their emissions by 5 percent over this period."

"Of the increase in global emissions between 1990 and 2015 half is accounted for by China. Two thirds of that is due to the Chinese middle class. One third down to the Chinese top 10 percent. Those are by far the most dynamic elements in the global emissions map."

"The conclusion is unavoidable: If there is to be a stabilization of global emissions it will involve a U-turn in the trajectory of consumption, particularly amongst the top ten percent of households in North America, the Arab world and Asia."

"This involves new lifestyle choices. But, viewing the problem in terms of individual choices only goes so far. Consumer choices are constrained by the range of goods and services on offer and the type of infrastructure that is installed."

"But rather than simply juxtaposing individual consumption and societal infrastructure decision, we need to ask: who makes infrastructure decisions? Who is it who frames policy options and shapes public opinion, whether in the national media or the social networks?"

"Who is it who legislates? Who governs? Who is it who engineers technical solutions? Who leads businesses, small and large to buy into the trajectory of decarbonization?"

"From the manager of a utility to the electrical contractor who decides to propose new solar solutions to clients, it is, when it comes down to it, the same group highlighted by the consumption data—the folks in the top 10%—who drive development of infrastructure."

"Viewed in these terms the distinction between individual consumption choices and the structures that guide and constrain those individual choices, is blurred. Both are the result of action by the same minority."

"We can hardly avoid the conclusion that if there is to be an energy transition, under prevailing conditions (an assumption some may wish to challenge), it is this social class that must make it, simultaneously as decision-makers, consumers and investors."

"And it must be made across the entire world. It is a challenge of a kind that the global bourgeoisie has never faced before, and which puts in question the cohesion and collective intelligence of that group—which, as history tells us, can hardly be taken for granted." (X/x)

#thread #cllimate

Pages that link to this page