Pick a Number – Any Number

Worldwatch, which aims to ’empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs’ have upped the stakes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – To avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, world carbon emissions will have to drop to near zero by 2050…

The increase now being demanded by Worldwatch pretends to have a rational, scientific basis…

“Global warming needs to be reduced from peak levels to 1 degree (Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) as fast as possible,” co-author William Hare said at a briefing on the “State of the World 2009” report. “At this level you can see some of the risks fade into the background.”

… but a far more likely explanation for the new figure is the need of huge eco-NGOs to have some kind of leverage over governments. After all, if Governments began to comply with the demands of these organisations, it would undermine their raison d’etre. What would be the point of a $multi-multi-multi million NGO, if its campaigning didn’t need to extend much beyond commissioning dark imaginations to draft its reports? 

Kyoto aimed for a 60% cut, apparently based on the IPCC’s reports. The UK Government has committed itself to an 80% cut. Obama has made noises about his intentions to see the USA meet the demands of environmentalists. With the USA and Australia now seemingly aboard the ship of carbon-reducing fools, the eco-NGOs have to move the goal posts, or fade into obscurity. 

This is the logic of crisis politics, which we pointed out right back when this blog began. Our second post – In Crisis Politics, the Only Way is UP – discussed the UK Conservatives trumping Labour’s commitment to a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, by announcing their plans to set a target of 80%. In response, the Liberal Democrats later said they thought the figure ought to be 100%. And here we see exactly the same thing happening: posturing by numbers. The world’s governments began to commit itself to 60%, some to 80%, and Worldwatch up the figure. 16 months ago, we speculated that the only next step would be for parties to start claiming that they would deliver a carbon negative Britain. And that’s pretty much what Worldwatch have done.

Hare said that global greenhouse gas emissions would need to hit their peak by 2020 and drop 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and keep dropping after that. He said carbon dioxide emissions would have to “go negative,” with more being absorbed than emitted, in the second half of this century.

The scare stories stay the same, while only the numbers change. 

“However this turns out, we still have some precious time and a clear shot at safely managing human-induced climate change,” Engelman said. “What’s at stake is not just nature as we’ve always known it, but quite possibly the survival of our civilization. It’s going to be a really interesting year.”

The survival Engelman is worried about is not the survival of civilisation, but the survival of the bizarre political structure – insitutions, NGOs, ethics, economics, ideology – that has established itself on the prospect of imminent global catastrophe.