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(crossposted at Humanitarian Left and at Firedoglake)

When I see headlines like this on my Facebook feed:

"Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we're fucked," he told me. What alarmed him was that "the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles," he said.
What comes to mind, for me here, is the issue of argumentative appeal.  Should we be trying hard to get everyone's attention merely by producing ever-scarier stories about global warming?  Separate this, if you will, from the actual and ongoing catastrophe of climate change, which merits our full attention.  The truth may be scary.  But is that all we've got?

My question, more exactly, is pointed at those who would continue to scare us without proposing anything radically new.  See for instance "Climate Tipping Requires Precautionary Accumulation of Capital and an Additional Price for Carbon Emissions," as posted on Naked Capitalism yesterday.  Its initial analysis wrong-foots the whole idea:

Climate policy aims to internalise the social cost of carbon by means of a carbon tax or a system of tradable permits such as the Emissions Trading System set up in the EU. But how do we determine the social cost of carbon?
Answer: we don't.  Climate change is not going to be solved by further entrapping people in a system of "costs," i.e. commodities exchange.  

Moreover climate change is not going to be mitigated if you place all of the onus for "doing something" (i.e. doing something effective -- there are plenty of Panicky Petes out there shouting "DO SOMETHING!!!" without having anything effective in mind to do) upon wealthy and powerful capitalists, who are still not likely to care.  Capitalists don't care about the social cost of carbon, and more panic won't make them do so.  Capitalists don't care about some ostensibly "far off" future (and that future will remain "far off" until it actually happens!) in which the social cost of carbon shows up on their balance sheets.  Capitalists live in an extremely attenuated time horizon.  The future is the next quarterly report, and the next interoffice memo.  Capitalists struggle with questions like: should I sell today?

Talk about ending capitalism doesn't change this reality either: the capitalists' standard reaction to that kind of talk is "omigod my current privileges!"  That would of course explain one important thing: why you aren't going to get the capitalists (and their clients in government) to care about the future.  You aren't, at any rate not to the extent you want.  This of course explains the current dilemma.  I'm imagining a roundtable meeting in a corporate office, with the climatologists on one side and the business leaders and their officials-in-tow on the other.  Here's the deal, explain the business leaders: first you guarantee us a profit rate, and then we'll "do something" about your whatever it was.  'Kay?

No wonder things have gotten so much worse.  This thinking goes all the way down to James Hansen, whose populist attitudes are otherwise admirable.  John Bellamy Foster argues:

Hansen’s climate-change exit strategy thus has definite limitations. Despite its progressive features it is mostly a top-down, elite-based strategy of implementing a carbon tax with the hope that this will spur the introduction of necessary technological changes by corporations. To be sure, Hansen stresses the democratic nature of the plan, and has argued that Obama could have mobilized the population around such a tax at the height of his popularity in his first term through a series of fireside chats.  He also suggests that the 100 percent redistribution element in the fee-and-dividend strategy must be backed up by the threat of the wider public to “fight” if this is interfered with. And he has himself joined in mass mobilizations against coal and tar sands oil. Yet, his plan includes no call for a general ecological-cultural revolution against the U.S. power structure
In other words, Hansen's idea looks nice on paper but it should be pretty easy to shut down unless the public can be roused to support something even more radical.  When we debate Hansen we are still in the paradigm that asks us to plead our cases before people who aren't likely to mitigate climate change.  What is the alternative?

The climate change debate has not achieved popular traction for the idea of mitigation so far.  It doesn't persuade because the proposals for "what to do" aren't persuasive.  Here are some of the attempts:

"The Earth's human population is too high."

This slogan is based on a false equivalence: the Earth's population all cause climate change in some "equal" way, so we can put all people under the category of "population."  What's distinctive about the capitalist world-system is that it busies itself with this enormous productive apparatus, regarding both society and nature as "free gifts," to dominate the planet with the circulation of commodities while separating planetary geography (as Paul Prew pointed out) into zones of accumulation and zones of extraction.  When dedicated to profit, this apparatus is called "capital."  "Population" does not cause "capital" in any automatic, nor in any equal, way.

"Humanity's ecological footprint is too high."  

By this measure the function of the human race is to create an ecological footprint, without consideration for the good things we can do.  Au contraire, if we are to solve the problem of climate change, we're going to have to use our versatile brains to figure out how to allow people to become proper ecological stewards, managing the planet for long-term sustainability.  Now, one might be able to show as an arithmetical calculation that "humanity's ecological footprint is too high."  But this calculation would itself show us nothing about how to "reduce the footprint" -- and we'll still be stuck with the knowledge that we'll have to do a lot more "footprinting," still, before we figure out how to be proper ecological stewards.

"We need to reduce consumption."

This is, once again, more arithmetic leading to a dead end.  The consumer is not to be blamed for consumption -- the fact of consumers depends upon the enormous productive apparatus I've described above.  Consumer society was an industrial artifact from the get-go -- industrialists created the manufacturing apparatus, the agricultural apparatus, the proletarian workforces, and the suburbs.  We are to blame mere consumers for the "ecological footprint" behind all this?  

Foster, Clark and York's book "The Ecological Rift" is pretty good in dealing with this argument -- productive consumption is the prerequisite of, and far outpaces, consumptive consumption.  It's the whole system that needs a change, not just the part we see in the supermarket.  Our planet has enough for humanity, but not for a world-system based on capital accumulation.

"We need more alternative energy."

Alternative energy will only supplement fossil-fuel energy unless fossil-fuel energy is curbed, which means stopping its production.  And, as Bill McKibben pointed out, this means reducing the commodity-value of fossil-fuel reserves to zero.  Will capital ever allow that to happen?  Even if we say "pretty please with sugar on top"?  Buying a solar panel or two makes us well-off solar panel owners in a world-system still controlled by fossil energy.

***

As an alternative to all of these argumentative dead-ends, let me suggest a singular slogan:

"Capitalism causes climate change."

The advantage of this proposition is that, besides it being true, that it cuts through all of the exclusive appeals to the wrong set of people, through the marshaling of fear resources, and through the attempts to blame the masses for what is in essence a problem of people-power and social design.  To change the climate change situation, we need to change capitalism.  With the human race caught in an indefinite yet always immediate struggle to produce commodities and market labor-power for a manifestly-wasteful "global market," with world hunger at monstrous proportions, and with vast global disparities in wealth and power, climate change will persist as a low-priority afterthought until it wipes us out.

Now, of course, the competing reality has yet to be created.  Perhaps we can see it in what Jason W. Moore calls "food sovereignty" -- if you want to hear it explained out loud, Moore did a wonderful recent interview with Sasha Lilley on KPFA which merits your attention -- "food sovereignty" is explained at about 18:25.  Or there's this essay, in which "food sovereignty" is discussed on page 49, with approving reference to the organization Via Campesina.

Here I would add that, beyond "food sovereignty," we need a whole raft of other sovereignties, "sleep sovereignty" (meaning the right to sleep at night without paying someone for the right to do so) and so on.  At any rate, sovereignty -- local and autonomous -- as a solution to the world-problem.  Kees van der Pijl suggests something along these lines in his book Nomads, Empires, States as well.

Now of course when we open this discussion along the lines of "capitalism causes climate change," we can expect in response a whole raft of arguments in favor of capitalism.  What to do?  As Immanuel Wallerstein points out:

The question before the world today is not in what way governments can reform the capitalist system such that it can renew its ability to pursue effectively the endless accumulation of capital.  There is no way to do this.  The question therefore has become what will replace this system.  (32)
The likelihood, I believe, is that for some time we will struggle along with a system which will pretend to be capitalism in much the same way in which "Communism" pretended to be communal.  The more fervently we believe in capitalism, the more likely a system of faux-capitalism will continue.  Our obligation in this light is to continue to suggest that such a system is not all its advertisers have promised it would be.  It's becoming easier, now, to see that four decades of declining global growth are going to culminate in the end of the bubble economy.

So certainly we can do better.  New ways of life need not follow old models.  Once capitalism is in the rear-view mirror we start to create a new infrastructure, one not so predatory.

Originally posted to Postcapitalism on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Changing the Scrip, Political Language and Messaging, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Are you familiar with... (11+ / 0-)

    ...Daniel Quinn's neglected book, "Beyond Civilization"?  These questions are very much part of his thinking.

    I am sorry to say that I think the only way for a new economic model to arise is for the old model to collapse first...and that's going to be very painful for a lot of people.  I honestly don't know if we have the time for that to happen before the greenhouse effect takes over.

    I am also in conflict about the role that our current civilizational infrastructure must play in carbon/methane mitigation technologies.  It seems to me that we are likely to need a technological fix that can buy us the survival time we need to allow capitalism to finally die and be replaced.

    Yick.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:33:53 AM PDT

    •  Check out the Jason W. Moore interview link (5+ / 0-)

      Moore's most important point is that the conditions for the persistence of capitalism, such as it is the cause of our climate change problem, are not arbitrary.  Capitalism depends upon cheapness -- and cheapness is receding.

      Besides, Sasha Lilley is such an excellent interviewer on these recordings!

      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:56:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Capital depends on Externalizing Costs.. (7+ / 0-)

        along with Unpaid Productivity Increases by Labor. These are the two primary methods which Capital has gained the upper hand in the last 30 years, according to Stiglitz and others.

        NOT paying for Carbon Dumping in the atmosphere is the primary use of Externalizing Costs by the biggest Capital Aggregators. Therefore, the way to reduce the power of these aggregators in the political realm is to Re-Internalize the Costs.

        This will require some deal-making extraordinare, but as in everything, there is a deal that can be reached. We need to start with this: What do the biggest Capital Aggregators fear the most? How can we assure them that the worst will not happen to them if they agree to Re-Internalize the costs of Carbon Dumping? This is the basis for a deal.

        They will have to organize themselves into a Negotiating Front. We will do the same. This is required, or else the Worst Will Happen to them. They have a time limit on coming to an agreement. This is required, or else the Worst Will Happen to them. We will as well. Then, the two must begin a negotiation. This has a time limit, or the Worst Will Happen to them.

        This can all be done. As people see and feel the effects of drought, decreasing water supply, heat, destructive weather and ominous signs, the ability to Require grows daily. Let us use Democratic Means to do this. We will force Democracy on the planet, even if self-interest currently rules.

        Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

        by OregonOak on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 11:54:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't forget unpaid labor itself. (6+ / 0-)

          Capital benefits from enormous reserves of unpaid labor (e.g. home-making and, generally, the sum of reproductive and maintenance activity performed by the working class including the infrastructure which (as I point out) ties labor to capital).  Jason W. Moore points this out in the audio recordings above.  Cheapness is the basis for profit.  Making things expensive for capital will, then, be a deal-breaker.

          Look, I live in southern California.  Enormous numbers of workers commute into Los Angeles and into Orange County each workday, usually between 5am and 8am, to return to their suburban homes in the evenings.  They consume a lot of gasoline.  Who is to pay the "cost of carbon dumping" in my neighborhood?  Capital?  The working class?

          So, OK, let's go back to what I said at the top of my diary.  Why is it that we need to tie the working class to another calculation of costs in order to solve the climate change problem?

          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:07:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is unfair to do so...charge the Working Class (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            linkage, AuroraDawn, ozsea1, marina, Sunspots

            the cost of damages gained at the expense of the working class and the free unpaid benefits of the environment.

            That being said, there is no change in the Oligarchy which is a voluntary change. Every change must be forced. Here, the threat of labor withdrawing from participation is reduced since capital now mostly make money from "others" outside the US, and from money itself.  BUT.. workers here can start to force change by saying, ok, we are ready to make a deal, because we dont want to go to Part B. We will, reluctantly, but we would prefer to get this done in a calm and disruption-free way.

            What we fear is loss of a relatively convenient First World life without backbreaking physical labor and some excess leisure time. What they fear is loss of control of the capital they have amassed. Both sides here in the US are in a relatively privileged position, so we can start by saying.. ok, is there a way both sides avoid what they fear most, and keep what they value most? I think that although on the face of it, this is an unfair place to start, it is true that the Working Class in America does have more access to the benefits of capital than in most places, even if we do not have control of capital.

            It is arguably a place to start. We can then gauge whether or not they see the need to negotiate. If they do not, then we go to Part B. The Required Part. There are things which can be done which can bring them to the understanding that Not Negotiating is fatal in the long run, and we will do it.

            Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

            by OregonOak on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:39:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Indeed it is unfair (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AuroraDawn, ozsea1, marina, Sunspots

              It's part of the general unfairness that is capitalism -- that expenses are pushed onto the working class time after time.

              If "not negotiating is fatal" to capital, then let capital die.

              "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

              by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 05:03:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Their plan includes survival... or... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ozsea1

                if the death of the system is imminent, they intend to make sure we all go down with them. If they sense that our starting position is to seek the demise of the system, they know we have the manpower to do it, and they will simply pull the plug on the whole earth by one of many means currently availaible. We lose anyway.

                Our problem is more difficult than theirs. We have to save ourselves, the planet and modify or regulate Capitalism's worst effects all at the same time. That is why I suggested the strategy of positioned negotiations. We must start so that both sides, or all sides are clear on who are on which side, and what our positions are.

                Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

                by OregonOak on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 05:58:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The few who rule have no real power (0+ / 0-)

                  without a working class who obeys their every command.

                  "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

                  by Cassiodorus on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 08:47:14 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Unless it is power UnExercized... (0+ / 0-)

                    and that is our challenge. To figure out the ways to use the new levers of power and influence, to change the systems in favor of the environment and working people.

                    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

                    by OregonOak on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:40:19 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  Coincidentally (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sunspots, OregonOak, qofdisks

            I happened upon this essay recently that speaks to the issues you address, from a slightly different angle:The Paradox of Wealth: Capitalism and Ecological Destruction

            The ecological contradictions of the prevailing economic ideology are best explained in terms of what is known in the history of economics as the “Lauderdale Paradox.” James Maitland, the eighth Earl of Lauderdale (1759-1839), was the author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth and into the Means and Causes of its Increase (1804). In the paradox with which his name came to be associated, Lauderdale argued that there was an inverse correlation between public wealth and private riches such that an increase in the latter often served to diminish the former.
            (My emphasis)
        •  I totally love this comment. nt (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AuroraDawn, TakeSake

          "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

          by NWTerriD on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 02:06:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Externalized costs... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sunspots

          are partially theft, and the rest is vandalism.

          The United States for All Americans

          by TakeSake on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 07:01:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I just bought two of this author's books (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS

      thanks to you.

  •  This is Really No Different Than Anyone Else's (11+ / 0-)

    prescriptions, ranging from better attempts to persuade the existing system to replacing it with anarchy or free love.

    Once capitalism is in the rear-view mirror we start to create a new infrastructure,
    Every prescription including this diary begins with the problem already solved.

    As far as I know, I've offered the only practical major step available to humanity:

    A science strike.

    Science is the last essential cog on the wheel of the machine that owes no allegiance to it in its present destructive form. Science better than all else knows the state of crisis and the consequences of avoiding action.

    And science alone is a small enough and essential enough community to enable prompt action, disruptive enough to force the machine to consider fundamental change. Civilization has spent half a century so thoroughly distributing its other assets that there's no long any other non-ownership force capable of rapid organizing and dramatic action.

    For every alternative we need indefinite amounts of time and infrastructure resources that aren't available. The time allotted by science is approximately one decade, the economic scale is at least into the 10's of $ trillions.

    * Population reduction requires most of a century.
    * Consumer or citizen action requires informing the masses when the organs of society lock them in silence. It could take generations to build actionable consensus via back channels.
    * Radical economic reform requires economic conquest at least on the scale of our greatest world wars, by forces presently nonexistent.
    * Market evolution to replace carbon for energy, even accelerated by the most aggressive propaganda presently possible, will take generations.

    A science strike however leaves the machine without creative resources essential in the medium term but startling to global finance instantly.

    I'm not an aficionado of alternative economic systems so I can't speculate on the path between disruption and replacement. But I have built enough information systems to realize we need a starting point that is closer to the beginning than the finale is.

    Even the United States did not start by evicting the Crown; it had a home rule government in place well before independence was declared. My offering of a way to start leaves us with a system in control but probably not collapse, yet aware that it must and will change radically, directly.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:52:23 AM PDT

    •  I think we need to ... (5+ / 0-)

      side step Capital by creating alternative economic systems.

      I'm not sure of your reservations with alternative economic systems, but I see the problem as how to create and enforce an alternative economy script orthogonal to the existing dollar.  

      Currently, until this problem is solved, the global extraction economy will crush and consume any attempts to create alternative economic systems.

      Your science strike reminds me of strange tail about some guy going Galt.

      JON

      "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

      by linkage on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:14:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Idle chatter (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, hmi

      That isn't going to happen, and you know it. The structure of your fantasies is interesting, and might serve you well if you went into writing fantasy novels. For anything else, it is useless.

      This is the landscape that we understand, -
      And till the principle of things takes root,
      How shall examples move us from our calm?

      (Mary Oliver, "Beyond the Snow Belt.")

      by sagesource on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:57:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  bitch, bitch, bitch (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        any ideas of your own?

        Snark is cheap.

        "As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce." - Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

        by ozsea1 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 06:35:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I recall an article by Digby (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sunspots

      who pointed out how organization is vital, to have a structure ready to step into place when another one falls or is taken down. To fail to have a system ready would mean chaos and a chance for unsavory or unprepared elements to step into the breach.

    •  This ought to be a diary. But I know you... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus

      ...won't write it. More's the pity.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 10:02:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was at a party a few months ago, hosted by... (12+ / 0-)

    ...someone who's living with a guy who works for one of the most notorious hedge funds in the U.S.  I had a conversation with him that night where we got into climate change, etc., etc. His rationalized synopsis: "Every once in awhile it's good to have an 'event' that 'thins out the population.'"

    These days, advocacy of the U.S. "brand" of capitalism (as personified by the person with whom I was having a conversation) brings with it a kind of literal definition to the word: "Sheeple."

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 11:12:23 AM PDT

  •  There are many options (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, sagesource, Calamity Jean, marina

    People could do a lot more to push green technology and actions forward.  It's not clear that the problem is insoluble even within the framework of capitalism.

    Charging Scarcity Holding Back EV Growth

    Tech firms in Silicon Valley, where EV adoption can range as high as 25% of the workforce, clearly see huge benefits in FreeWire’s solution. Not surprisingly, the startup’s recent announcement of a limited availability pilot program has stirred up strong demand among potential corporate customers.
    How would things be different if 25% of all Americans owned EVs, not just tech workers in CA?  We need to break transportation out of the fossil fuel mode.  The easiest way to do that is with some good examples.

    Every publicly traded company is a takeover target.  So take them over and run them better.  As an activist shareholder, you could force a company to stop lobbying against disruptive technology, you could even demand accountability for lame policies.

    We need a survey of renewable mandates for state energy production.  What states have met their mandates and exceeded them?

    With more than 10,000 MW of renewable capacity on-line by 2009, the state actually achieved the 10,000 MW goal set by the Texas Legislature more than 15 years ahead of its 2025 target.
    What would it take to raise those renewable mandates?  Is anyone canvassing legislatures?

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 11:53:40 AM PDT

    •  From my diary: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage
      Alternative energy will only supplement fossil-fuel energy unless fossil-fuel energy is curbed, which means stopping its production.  And, as Bill McKibben pointed out, this means reducing the commodity-value of fossil-fuel reserves to zero.  Will capital ever allow that to happen?  Even if we say "pretty please with sugar on top"?  Buying a solar panel or two makes us well-off solar panel owners in a world-system still controlled by fossil energy.
      Did you read this?  Can you address it?

      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:09:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I partially did. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        linkage, ozsea1
        How would things be different if 25% of all Americans owned EVs, not just tech workers in CA?  We need to break transportation out of the fossil fuel mode.
        We've got workable solutions for how to get electricity from renewable sources.  We need a lot more of them, but the tech exists and is proven.

        We have no proven solutions for how to eliminate fossil fuels from transportation.  SundayTrain regularly advocates electrifying rail, and it's well known that rail is significantly more carbon efficient than long haul trucking.  That's even made it's way into broadcast advertisements.

        Trying to eliminate irreplaceable commodities both should and will produce a vicious backlash.

        And again - every publicly traded company is a takeover target.  Consolidated Energy, a coal producer, has a $9B market cap.  Peabody Energy has a $4B market cap.  Alpha Natural Resources has a 750M market cap.  Arch Coal has a 625M market cap.  I suspect that for less than $100B you could outright buy all US coal production.  Then you can play as much hardball as you want with supply.

        Oil is a much larger scale.  XOM alone was recently the world's largest company.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 01:08:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It is idle rubbish. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        To begin with, you talk of "capital" as if it were a single, unitary force with a united will. You go further than that, in fact: you personify it. If "capital" is one, and so obsessively single-minded, then it can only work towards one end. You have created your consequences by your definitions, and neatly eliminated, by a rhetorical trick, any chance that some "capital" may see alternative energy as a way to advance itself and its ends.

        Second, McKibben's assertion is gibberish. Under no circumstances will the commodity-value of existing fossil-fuel resources be reduced to zero. Have you ever encountered the word "petrochemicals"? Are you aware of the place they hold in modern life? One excellent reason quite independent of climate change for reducing the amount of fossil fuel that is burned for a temporary advantage and long-term harm is that we will be needing those resources later for things more permanent than lighting fires. It is flatly impossible for oil and coal to lose all value, even if not a single gram of them is burned, so the absolute loss faced by your mythical unitary "capital" is itself an illusion.

        Again, "buying a solar panel or two" is a farcical denigration of the spread of renewable energy. My first reaction was that efficiencies must have gone up quite a bit if "a solar panel or two" was able to supply half the power being used in major European countries, even momentarily. "Capital" has not crippled the growth of solar power in Germany, for instance, because that united and suicidal "capital" does not exist outside of your overheated imagination. In any country that does not have its own oil and coal resources, such as Germany, "capital" has a very lively interest in generating renewable power locally: such generation makes "capital" less vulnerable and more powerful. But to conceive of that situation, you have to let go of the idea of "capital" as one single Godzilla and be able to conceive of different capitalist systems as having differing interests.

        And replace capitalism... with what? You have no idea. "Er, something else that does all good things" is a hell of a poor banner to fight under. But understandable, in a way, from a country where the Left has been so spectacularly incompetent at getting and holding power.

        You are not permitted to deal with difficult problems by putting forward impossible solutions. This is no more than intellectual onanism. It makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution. It is perhaps understandable from an American, since the Left in America is weaker and more detached from reality than it is anywhere else in the developed world. But as a universal remedy, it is a farce.

        This is the landscape that we understand, -
        And till the principle of things takes root,
        How shall examples move us from our calm?

        (Mary Oliver, "Beyond the Snow Belt.")

        by sagesource on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 01:37:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then let's all die. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1

          That's pretty realistic.  Just like pissing on people who have suggested ways out and are working on bigger solutions is the realistic thing to do.

          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 01:57:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And point-by-point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1
          To begin with, you talk of "capital" as if it were a single, unitary force with a united will. You go further than that, in fact: you personify it. If "capital" is one, and so obsessively single-minded, then it can only work towards one end. You have created your consequences by your definitions, and neatly eliminated, by a rhetorical trick, any chance that some "capital" may see alternative energy as a way to advance itself and its ends.
          1.  Capital does have a united will -- the will to make a profit.  Do you think we're stupid?

          2.  Capital does see alternative energy as one of its ends -- as a SUPPLEMENT for fossil energy.  I said this.

          Second, McKibben's assertion is gibberish. Under no circumstances will the commodity-value of existing fossil-fuel resources be reduced to zero. Have you ever encountered the word "petrochemicals"? Are you aware of the place they hold in modern life? One excellent reason quite independent of climate change for reducing the amount of fossil fuel that is burned for a temporary advantage and long-term harm is that we will be needing those resources later for things more permanent than lighting fires.
          Then we substitute for petrochemicals.
          It is flatly impossible for oil and coal to lose all value, even if not a single gram of them is burned
          Here you're just confused.  Exchange-value is always dependent upon use value.  Nobody will buy oil reserves unless they plan to harvest and burn them.
          Again, "buying a solar panel or two" is a farcical denigration of the spread of renewable energy.
          Actually, it's ridicule of your bourgeois pompous-assery.  Do you think your solar panel has saved the world?
          And replace capitalism... with what? You have no idea.
          Clairvoyance is not a prerequisite for understanding the finite nature of capitalism, nor is it a prerequisite for participating in the struggle for a post-capitalist, post-commodity (start with the commie Apostles in Acts 4: 32-35 and work forward from there) way of life.

          On the other hand, maybe we can all be happy with your explanation of how capitalism will last forever.  Do you have one?

          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 02:09:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent post, Cassi. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, linkage, Words In Action

    Thanks very much.

  •  If you lay a social cost on carbon, won't industry (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, linkage, NoMoreLies

    just find ways to reduce the effective costs of that carbon?

    I mean we have a hundred years of schemes to hide the true cost of things. Insurance pools, good old fashioned price fixing, tax policy - isn't this just going to result in large carbon players gaming that system and externalizing the cost where they can and using some of our 20th century corporate finance wizardry to ameliorate the effects of the cost of carbon?

    Markets are a stupid way to get rid of or reduce carbon. Cap and trade and other market gimmicks are the corporate fall back position.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:25:35 PM PDT

  •  You can't negotiate with psychopaths. (5+ / 0-)
    Here's the deal, explain the business leaders: first you guarantee us a profit rate, and then we'll "do something" about your whatever it was.  'Kay?

    The 99% are watching.

    by unclejohn on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:32:23 PM PDT

  •  Interesting post. There is no doubt economics is (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, DWG, kamarvt, linkage, marina

    the key to unlocking effective action on climate change.  We need to come to terms with the reality we can no longer produce and buy everything and anything which can be marketed and people can be convinced to want and buy.  

    We need to redefine wealth away from consumptive measurements and according to non-polluting renewable energy measurements.  Consumption is the dissipation of wealth not its creation.  Highest and best use is still dissipation of wealth.  

    People will always act in ways they perceive to be in their personal best interest.  They will change when convinced it benefits them and their families.  

    We are reaching the carrying capacity for the planet in a number of areas.  Systems collapse will result in many areas before significant economic changes take place.  Wars and mass migrations from uninhabitable areas, starvation on a massive scale, collapse in the world order as we currently know it is all on the horizon.  

    We will have a "significant weeding out of the population" and a siginificant nature mandated reduction in our concumption forcing us to make changes for self-preservation.  

    When I met Bill McKibben back in June while attending a fundraising luncheon he made a statement that he didn't believe we needed a strong central leader or leaders to emerge.  I went up to him afterwards and told him I disagreed.  We need a Roosevelt or a Churchill to emerge and convince us that we need to endure relatively short-term sacrifice and band togeter for large-scale long term change
    for our survival.  

    I see no one of the sort emerging yet.  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 02:07:44 PM PDT

  •  Immoral unregulated GREED causes it! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, marina
  •  our solution may not be 'new' (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, linkage, NoMoreLies, marina

    there was a time in our past when we did not value the accumulation of symbolic wealth. It was probably the introduction of agriculture that brought about the first fortunes, and we have been on that trajectory ever since. But prior to that development there was a much more shared economy, where the survival of the family/tribe/town was the paramount concern. Native cultures in many places exhibit a caretaking approach to nature's resources, and a reverence for same. It's a smart survival strategy, and one our species has used often, when we knew our place.
    We know how to be this way, if there is such a thing as race memory. It's a matter of bringing it back.
    No, I don't have the answer either.

    Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

    by kamarvt on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 04:38:21 PM PDT

  •  80% of the World's Energy Comes from Hydrocarbons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    Worldwide expansion of coal-based energy (especially in China and India) currently exceeds world renewable expansion.

    Alternative energy will only supplement fossil-fuel energy unless fossil-fuel energy is curbed, which means stopping its production.
    Given the degree of hydrocarbon use, there is a rather large imperative placed upon those who cavalierly posit stopping hydrocarbon use to explain how they intend to keep the world operating - things such as political blogs, etc. - without massive energy inequalities and/or neocolonialist straightjackets placed upon developing nations.
    •  First world bias (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, NoMoreLies, Calamity Jean, mkor7
      Given the degree of hydrocarbon use, there is a rather large imperative placed upon those who cavalierly posit stopping hydrocarbon use to explain how they intend to keep the world operating - things such as political blogs, etc. - without massive energy inequalities and/or neocolonialist straightjackets placed upon developing nations.
      Why? Why do you assume that every nation should do evil because the wealthy countries have? Is it neocolonial to urge nations not to hunt whales? The United States got its head start on Sperm Whale oil, so every other nation should hunt those whales.

      In fact, China recognizes the evils inherent in a coal economy. They can quite literally see it, thanks to continental weather patterns.

      Hydrocarbons are not plentiful: they're dense. They're not the best: they're densest. It is nationalism and classism to say that China and India should pollute as much now as the U.S. does. It perpetuates the problem of seeing the earth as a series of tribes in perpetual war against one another for single generations.

      "for all the murders, rapes, and thefts,/ Committed in the horrid lust of war,/ He that unjustly caus'd it first proceed,/ Shall find it in his grave and in his seed." -- Webster, "The White Devil," IV i 8-12.

      by The Geogre on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 06:02:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Capital must have everything cheap. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn

      As I said in the diary (which I hope you actually read), there is enough energy in the world for people -- just not enough for capital.

      The problem is not that we can't just "keep the world operating" on alternative energy.  We can.  What we can't do is to continue capitalism while getting out of the fossil fuel business.  So this is what must happen: the world must give up on specifically capitalist expansion.

      NB: "Massive energy inequalities" and "neocolonialist straitjackets" are problems of capitalism, past, present, and future.  They won't go away under capitalism.  The problem, then, is one of hegemonic change -- solving problems doesn't mean tiptoeing around existing power structures or while pretending to be mere solar power sales reps or technocratic reps of the existing system, but rather in changing power structures so that autonomy away from capitalism is possible for more people.  When we achieve critical mass, the oil wells and coal mines shut down.

      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 07:08:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Did Read the Entire Article - (0+ / 0-)

        That's why I stalled towards the end.

        I agree that a significant portion of energy use is capitalist waste, but to get from A to B both in terms of energy and of assets simply cannot be accomplished by divesting of hydrocarbon energy sources. In fact, I would argue that the most likely outcome would be greater inequality.

        •  Right -- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          johnnygunn

          If everything else remains the same, changing the energy mix will still give us the economy we have now ("greater inequality").

          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 09:32:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Since we're being rhetorical (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    It might be interesting to consider the statement: “Capitalism causes climate change” in terms of Aristotle’s “4 causes.”

    Material? Is capitalism the “material” out of which climate change is made? Climate change is made up of greenhouse gases – such as CO2, water vapor, methane, etc. Not capitalism. Capitalism is not the material cause of climate change.

    Formal? The “form” of climate change, the pattern which gives climate change it’s particular form? Long before capitalism the venting of volcanic gases over millions of years gave this thing we call “climate change” the same form we see today. Those gases in the material cause were formed in such a way – excess concentrations – as to lead to a great extinction of life on earth. Capitalism is not the formal cause of climate change.

    Efficient? As in a painter painting a house, the painter is the efficient cause of a painted house. Here we might have something. Capitalism, like our house painter, might be seen as an “efficient cause” of climate change in that it is actively bringing about the burning of fossil fuels that add those gases to the atmosphere. But when we talk of “Capitalism” we are talking about a system of organizing people’s actions. It is like saying the painter’s union is the efficient cause of the painted house. This is not the case. Non-union painters can also be efficient causes of painted houses. Non capitalists countries – like say the old Soviet Union – can also cause climate change. It’s like the NRA says about guns, “Capitalism doesn’t cause climate change, people cause climate change.” So, although efficient cause may be in the ballpark, I still think it’s safe to say capitalism is not the efficient cause of climate change.

    Final? Is climate change the end goal of capitalism? No. Profit is. Capitalism is not the final cause of  climate change.

    The statement “Capitalism causes climate change” therefore cannot be said to be a correct statement.

    But then talk is cheap.  

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 07:14:19 PM PDT

    •  Profit depends upon cheap energy. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      Cheap energy in this era means burning fossil energy.  Therefore profit, which motivates capitalism, depends upon the burning of energy and the creation of climate change.

      Here is what you missed.

      But when we talk of “Capitalism” we are talking about a system of organizing people’s actions. It is like saying the painter’s union is the efficient cause of the painted house.
      The painter's union is not the system for organizing the actions of the painter.  The economy is.

      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 07:42:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not anymore. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, ozsea1
        Cheap energy in this era means burning fossil energy.
        Wind electricity is now marginally cheaper than coal (or nuclear) electricity.  The cost of both wind and photovoltaic solar is falling, so wind's advantage over coal will continue to increase, and solar will soon also be cheaper than coal.  If coal burning power plants can't compete with renewables and lose money year after year, they will eventually close.  When they do, the value of unmined coal to the coal plants' suppliers is at least sharply reduced, if not eliminated.  

        Whether this change will happen fast enough to put a dent in global warming is a question, but it will happen just from economic forces.  A carbon tax will make it happen faster.

        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

        by Calamity Jean on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:13:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who's losing money? (0+ / 0-)

          And the discussion here was about cheapness, not about relative cheapness.  I keep repeating that the alternative energies are about supplementing fossil energies under capitalism.  

          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

          by Cassiodorus on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:36:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What do you mean by that though? (0+ / 0-)

            Is it really true that alternative energies are strictly a suppplement to fossile energies? Obviously they have not at this point completely replaced fossil energy, but are you arguing they have not replaced any fossil energy usage? That we use just as much fossil fuel as we would if no alternative energies were used?
            If not, isn't any replacement, using any less fossil fuel than we would have otherwise, a good thing, even if it isn't sufficient? Isn't further expansion of alternate energy thus a path forward?

            The Empire never ended.

            by thejeff on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 08:29:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Alternative energy" under capitalism (0+ / 0-)

              does not replace fossil energy.  Demand simply expands to encompass both "alternative" and fossil energies.

              "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

              by Cassiodorus on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 08:44:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So you are saying that (0+ / 0-)

                there is strictly no reduction in fossil energy usage due to alternative energy use? That fossil energy use follows exactly the same path that it would have if no alternative sources were developed.
                That if renewable sources were supplying ~10% of the world's power, without those sources, we'd simply be using 90% of the energy we're using now.

                I don't buy it. It's a bit more complicated than a one-to-one replacement, since adding more energy into the market lowers prices and thus increases demand, but I'd need some serious evidence that it's strictly a supplement.

                The Empire never ended.

                by thejeff on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 09:25:57 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  You are mistaken. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JeffW
                "Alternative energy" under capitalism does not replace fossil energy.
                The transition from fossil energy to renewable energy has only just begun.  Think about this analogy: In 1913 Henry Ford established the first assembly line, and in 1915 sold over 500,000 Model T cars.  Does this mean that the horse had been replaced?  No, the transition from horse to motor transport had only just begun.  Freight that wasn't going by rail was moved by horse wagon well into the '20s, and ordinary people mostly got around by streetcar, not automobile, until after WWII.  

                Sources of electricity in the US, in order from most to least expensive, are nuclear, oil (rare), coal, natural gas, solar, and wind.  (In Europe, natural gas and coal are reversed.)  Price competition from the latter three are making nuclear and coal much less profitable; in fact some coal and nuclear operators are complaining that they are losing money selling their power.  The cost of wind is now (marginally) cheaper than coal, and the cost of both solar and wind is falling and is expected to continue to fall.  Owners of wind farms are making good money and because of that are inspired to build more of them.  When coal and nuclear power plants need extensive repair and renovation, their owners often decide to shut them down permanently rather than "throw good money after bad" by fixing an insufficiently profitable business.  This is more obvious with nuclear power because the price advantage of wind over nukes is larger than for wind over coal.  But it's happening with old coal plants also.  As the cost of wind power continues to fall, it will happen faster.

                Demand simply expands to encompass both "alternative" and fossil energies.
                People don't want "energy".  They want what energy will do for them; lights, ventilation, cooking, heating, cooling, transportation, etc.  Nobody wants an infinte amount of heat; just the right amount to be comfortable.  If I trade in a car that gets 15 MPG for one that gets 30 MPG, am I going to drive twice as many miles?  No, I'm going to go where I need to go, and be happy to spend less doing it.  If an African village woman who has been cooking over an open wood fire is given an efficient stove that cooks the same amount of food using 1/4 the wood, is she going to cook four times the food?  No, she's going to cook the right amount of food for her family, and be happy to spend less time gathering and transporting wood.  

                "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                by Calamity Jean on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 02:28:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You are predicting, then -- (0+ / 0-)

                  that alternative energy will become so cheap that the marketers of oil/ natural gas/ coal will no longer have a market for their product.  The problem is that the "need" for energy under capitalism is so vast that this is very unlikely to happen, even if a few countries can produce wind energy cheaply or something like that.

                  "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

                  by Cassiodorus on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 08:17:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    JeffW
                    You are predicting, then[,] that alternative energy will become so cheap that the marketers of oil/ natural gas/ coal will no longer have a market for their product.
                    That's what I'm saying.  It is starting to happen.  I'm not the only one saying it, either.  See this comment, third paragraph: http://www.dailykos.com/... .  Electrical system operators buy all the wind power they can get, because it's a penny per kWh cheaper than coal, and two or three pennies cheaper than nuclear.  That may not sound like much, but when a company handles multiple megawatthours, it adds up.  Because wind farm operators can sell every Watthour they make at a profit, they build more wind farms.  Wind power has been on average doubling every three years.  As wind turbines get more improvements that allow them to make more and more power per dollar, their price advantage over coal and nuclear will increase.  Natural gas, for now, is only a fraction of a penny more expensive than wind, but as the fracked gas wells give out, the price of gas will rise and wind will compete with gas also.  
                    The problem is that the "need" for energy under capitalism is so vast that this is very unlikely to happen, even if a few countries can produce wind energy cheaply or something like that.
                    I don't think you realize  how much  potential power there is out there.  From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences http://www.pnas.org/... :
                    The potential of wind power as a global source of electricity is assessed by using winds derived through assimilation of data from a variety of meteorological sources. The analysis indicates that a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >5 times total global use of energy in all forms. Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States.
                    And that's just wind power!  The article was published in 2009; turbines have gotten better since then.  Do you really think that the nation could get 16 times it's current electrical supply, and still want more?  

                    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                    by Calamity Jean on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 01:29:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  More power -- (0+ / 0-)

                      will only be greeted by capital as a supplement to fossil fuel power, as an opportunity to expand further.  So far, I don't see the fossil fuel interests "starting" to give up the trade out of an appeal to conscience.  Have they stopped mining the Alberta tar sands veins yet?

                      Do you really think that the nation could get 16 times it's current electrical supply, and still want more?  
                      It isn't "the nation" that wants boundlessly cheap resources -- it's CAPITAL.  This isn't an appeal to pessimism, but rather an appeal to postcapitalism.  But you'd actually have to read my diary to recognize that that's my argument.

                      (NB: your text currently reads "Do you really think that the nation could get 16 times it is current electrical supply."  You wanted ITS, not "it's.")

                      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

                      by Cassiodorus on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 05:02:58 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Electric companies don't want to generate (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JeffW

                        electric power they can't sell.  Do you really think the nation will want to buy 16 times the current supply?  

                        Electric companies don't want to build or refurbish power plants they can't make a profit on.  Capital exists to provide a return on investment.  

                        Have they stopped mining the Alberta tar sands veins yet?
                        No, of course not.  The energy transition has only just begun.  Not enough electric cars have been built yet, not enough wind turbines and solar panels have been built yet.  But it's coming.

                        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                        by Calamity Jean on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:12:52 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I am skeptical of advertising hype (0+ / 0-)

                          1) "Electricity" is not the only use for fossil fuel burning our civilization has

                          2) How much do you want to bet that your "16 times" is never achieved?  "Cheaper than coal" doesn't mean infinitely cheap.  As with all advertising hype -- I'll believe it when I see it.

                          3) You seem to have no argument to contradict mine.  Capital is not going to restrain itself.

                          "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

                          by Cassiodorus on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 12:36:12 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  What advertising? Seriously, what "advertising" (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            JeffW

                            are you talking about?  

                            Regarding your other points:

                            1) No, but it's a big one, it's easy to replace with renewables, and electricity can replace some of the other things that fossil fuels are now used for directly, such as electric cars instead of gasoline or diesel, or electrical heat pumps instead of natural gas or oil furnaces.

                            2)  I don't expect that the US will ever produce 16 times as much electricity as it does now, because I don't expect that the nation will ever need that much.

                            "Cheaper than coal" doesn't mean infinitely cheap.
                            What needs to be "infinitely cheap"?  The winning horse in a race doesn't need to run infinitely fast, it just needs to run faster than the other entered horses.  Renewables don't need to be infinitely cheap, they just need to be cheaper than fossil fuels.  

                            3)  "Capital" is an abstract concept.  If you mean that capitalists will look for a better return on their investment, you're right.  And renewable energy recently started giving a better return on investment than fossil fuels do for generating electricity.  

                            "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                            by Calamity Jean on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 11:43:43 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Minor nitpick (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Calamity Jean

                      Just because a turbine sells all of its power it produces doesn't mean it's a profitable investment. Think of it this way, if you had a little black box that cost a billion dollars to produce and it yielded a milliwatt of free energy all the time, do you think it'd ever be profitable? Wind turbines still have to justify their capital costs.

                      That said, you touched upon an important point. While wind turbine operators face some small degree of uncertainty on how much total power they'll generate during a farm's lifespan due to the average of weather fluctuations, they know that they'll sell all of it. If you make a coal plant, you can guess at what capacity factor your plant is going to be run at over the next 40 years, but you really don't know, if the market drops out, you could be selling far less. So that has to be a nice selling point to investors in wind farms.

                      One potential issue running counter to this is that while a farm operator knows that they'll sell everything, they don't know what sort of rate they'll get for it. Rates for sale of electricity vary widely. Solar farm owners at least have some greater degree of reliability in knowing what sort of rates they'll get paid at, since they know they're going to be generating daytime peaking and thus get predominantly peaking rates.

                      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

                      by Rei on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 05:55:02 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  True, but not a big deal. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JeffW
                        ...while a [wind] farm operator knows that they'll sell everything, they don't know what sort of rate they'll get for it. Rates for sale of electricity vary widely. Solar farm owners at least have some greater degree of reliability in knowing what sort of rates they'll get paid at, since they know they're going to be generating daytime peaking and thus get predominantly peaking rates.
                        Different fossil fuel electrical generating methods vary in their ability to shut down when they aren't needed.  Coal (and nuclear) will only shut down in emergencies, because it's hard on their machinery and restarting is a difficult process that can take days (or weeks for nukes).  That's why they're called "baseload".  Natural gas turbines can be stopped by just turning off the gas, and can restart in minutes to hours depending on the type of turbine.  

                        So if electrical prices go low, coal generators can lose money even if they are getting some price for their power, because they still have to buy the coal.  Wind (and solar) farms are hurt less by low prices, because the "fuel" is free.  And when electrical prices go high, wind farms get the same high prices as everyone else.  If the capital costs of coal and wind are similar for similar power outputs, wind beats coal on operating expenses.  The price of electricity just needs to go high enough often enough to cover the wind farm's capital cost.  Which, fortunately, it does.

                        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                        by Calamity Jean on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 11:13:09 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sorry, but blaming "capitalism" is a crock. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socrates shoes

    Sure, capitalism has created the most successful economies on Earth, and so uses more energy, per capita. But it varies wildly from country to country. Capitalism doesn't explain those differences, so something else must. And whats more, emissions in capitalist countries are often quite low per unit of GDP.

    But chopping down forests and burning coal predates capitalism. Moreover, communist states were, if anything, even more wasteful in their use of hydrocarbons.

    The word you are looking for is industrialization. That gave humanity a far bigger influence over the planet. Chopping down forests took weeks, not decades. Making a million widgets became commonplace, not a Pharaonic wonder. But telling folks they have to go back to the pre-industrial times, isn't going to fly, of course.

    And how you can suggest that consumers who want their airco, gas-guzzling SUVs and 68" tvs, etc. etc. are not to blame for their greed is really beyond me. No, it's capitalisms fault... sigh.

    I'd also add that non-industrialized places - like Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Easter Island before the Europeans arrived, though having low per capita carbon emissions have had their own environmental disasters.

    I ride the wild horse .

    by BelgianBastard on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:05:35 PM PDT

    •  I'll add, and should have in my post above, (0+ / 0-)

      That doesn't mean capitalism is the right tool to use in the struggle against global warming.

      Maybe "cap and trade" is a good solution, maybe not. But banning burning hydrocarbons, for example, would not mean the end of capitalism either.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 10:11:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You might try addressing my points. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mkor7

      The main point here is that the capitalist world-system's productive/ distributive apparatus consumes far more than is necessary for human needs but, rather, forms a basis for capital accumulation and its need for "cheap" resources.  

      Capitalism doesn't explain those differences, so something else must.
      What are you talking about?
      But chopping down forests and burning coal predates capitalism.
      Burning coal in industrial quantities doesn't predate capitalism, and consuming 89 million bbls./day of crude oil and an equal carbon equivalent of coal definitely doesn't.  Nobody in the scientific world is worried about the sort of "global warming" which produced the 10th-century CE warmup.
      The word you are looking for is industrialization.
      No, the word I'm looking for is capitalism.  The growing world-system is motivated in its globe-ruling core nations by the forces of capital accumulation.  To change the momentum of the system we address its primary motivation.

      The standard counter-argument usually appeals to "communism," a temporary phenomenon involving the mercantilistic semi-withdrawal of contender states within the capitalist world-system in the era of 20th-century adolescent capitalism.

      And how you can suggest that consumers who want their airco, gas-guzzling SUVs and 68" tvs, etc. etc. are not to blame for their greed is really beyond me.
      Did the consumers create the global apparatus of extraction, distribution, and transportation, or were they merely inserted into the process after those things were complete?  Go back to read my argument.

      "Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines." -- Barack Obama

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:55:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Earth's Human Population Is Too High (0+ / 0-)

    Different humans with different lifestyles cause more climate change in different ways. But every additional human causes some additional climate change.

    It's a simple fact that the Earth's human population is too high. Here's how you know that your country has too many people:

    If your country has engaged in a war during your own personal memory, then your country has too many humans. If you can personally remember two or more wars, it's way overpopulated.

    If your country has experienced any kind of plague where some dread disease has been killing off people willy-nilly, then your country has too many humans.

    If your country has seen basic food stuffs suffer enormous losses or if the price of a commodity like gasoline skyrockets, then your country has too many humans. For example, if the place you grow the bulk of your food suffers a severe, years-long drought or if your fisheries suddenly collapse, you have overpopulation.

    The sensible response to these signs is to think strongly about population and take action to ease off the population pressure. The best way to handle this is for humans to look around and do the right thing. It's enormously better for us to do it than for nature to do it too us.

    We won't solve climate change by stopping population growth. But we can lessen its effects. It's not a panacea, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. And, for what it's worth, it shows we're serious about the issue.

    •  either we deal with overpopulation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      on our own initiative, or Mother Nature will do it for us.

      And She can be a real cruel bitch when crossed.

      "As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce." - Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

      by ozsea1 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 12:18:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Other countries that are somewhat capitalist (0+ / 0-)

    (though not as capitalist as the U.S.) are making a lot of progress in developing alternative energy sources.  I'm thinking of countries like Germany and Denmark.  

    I am not a big fan of capitalism, but I think it would be a lot easier to go the way of Germany and Denmark than to try to replace capitalism with something totallly new.

  •  Not only capitalism wrecks the environment. (0+ / 0-)

    The Soviet Union destroyed the Aral Sea. And still-Communist China isn't exactly an example of great environmental policies either.

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