Proposes effective means to peacefully impose emissions reductions, democracy on both dictatorships and fossil fuel-owning western elites.
- Climate change is a threat to the quality of human life globally. People have a natural right to take collective action to protect themselves.
- The majority of carbon-based fossil fuel reserves that cause climate change are owned by non-democratic elites. Non-democratic elites will not voluntarily give up on value in these resources without strong regulation, backed by the police power of the state or the threat of military action.
- Simultaneous action to reduce emissions and strengthen democracy is therefore required. You can't do one without the other, or you won't be able to do either. Democracies must also remain economically and militarily stronger than non-democracies.
- There's no way forward in the short term without capitalism. In the wake of the demise of communism, weakening of democratic socialism, currently no alternative socio-economic-political theory can win a western election in time to achieve climate emissions reductions.
- Capitalist-militarist democracy is a second- or third best solution, but one we have to learn to live with and exploit in aid of climate policy. Success will require continued economic growth in the democracies.
- Stage One: Green Keynesianism: A concerted attempt by the democracies to gain control of this combined climate-democracy problem: a growth-oriented, moderately pro-capitalist climate policy using government interventions, stimulus, tax, and subsidy, essentially a Green Keynesianism.
- Stage Two: Green Protectionism: Spread the benefits of Green Keynesian growth to the democratic developing nations, deliberately isolating non-democratic regimes, using a global green free trade area, and associated tariff barriers for continued polluters and oppressors.
- Stage Three: Ecological Economics: Even green growth is not permanently possible on a finite planet.
- Stage Four: Vigilance: Even at this point, great care must be taken to prevent the rise of non-democratic regimes. Democracies must unite wherever possible.
Category of the action
Changing public perceptions on climate change
What actions do you propose?
Premises, to be understood before action taken:
- Climate change is a threat to the quality of human life globally. People have a natural right to take collective action to protect themselves. It is fully a geopolitical, not a national political threat, although many if not most advocates are arguing for national-level action, such as carbon taxation, or cap-and-trade. Such action will be inadequate. Even if successful, emissions would continue to rise in developing nations, especially non-democratic ones. Success effectively means abolishing partial ownership rights or value in fossil fuel reserves globally.
- The majority of carbon-based fossil fuel reserves that cause climate change are owned by non-democratic elites. Non-democratic elites will not voluntarily give up on value in these resources without strong regulation, backed by the police power of the state or the threat of military action. At the same time that we are threatened by climate change, democracies are simultaneously threatened militarily by various forms of aggressive Islamic fundamentalism, by the rise of China, a new world power that is not a democracy and has no plans to become one, and by various other rogue states and dictatorships. Any combination could be fatal or weakening to democracy globally, resulting in further inability to require emissions reductions. It is neither moral nor likely effective in the long run to gain the participation of developing countries in climate mitigation, if this is achieved at the expense of stalled progress in human rights and freedom through climate-deal cutting with dictatorships that prolongs their existence. A fourth source of anti-democratic power is western individualist and corporate elitism, which leads to inequality and neoliberal cuts to education, producing uneducated, unreasonable western electorates. Many western elites also hold vast carbon assets and intend to use them.
- Simultaneous action to reduce emissions and strengthen democracy is therefore required. The problem of sustaining and growing democracy has to be addressed using some effective global approach at the same time we address climate change. Existing democracies must be strengthened to empower the right of collective action of people to protect themselves from climate change. Democracies must also remain economically and militarily stronger than non-democracies. Idealism does not necessarily aid in this project. Undemocratic regimes with vast weaponry led by one-party states, dictatorships, and juntas crowd every continent except Europe and North America. Some have weapons of mass destruction. Their subjects depend on democracies, particularly the western ones, for salvation. Our institutions, particularly the Internet, are often the only sources of political and/or religious freedom. In otherwise democratic or other developing countries, insurgencies and brigandage also prevent the spread of democracy. The democracies must lead. Dictatorships currently recognized globally as legitimate governments must be given incentives to change, brigands must be confronted and made to surrender. Western elites must have their value in fossil fuel ownership confiscated, with or without compensation. Accordingly, the democracies need an economic and military advantage over the non-democratic states and non-state actors, as well as police and regulatory power over our own fossil-fuel owning elites, and must be willing to use these powers. The alternative is to cede ground, year after year, as more and more countries and territory fall to anti-democratic forces and/or chaos, particularly in Africa and south Asia, or in our own territories, as our own electorates become yet more ignorant. Currently democratic power worldwide is confused with western militarism. This is confusing, but the situation likely cannot be reformed in time to require emissions reductions on a global scale sufficient to reduce the threat of climate change. We must recognize that western militarism is capable of great evil, but also that it is capable of great good. A reasoned pragmatic understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses is required, one that mitigates against excesses such as the permanent detention camp at Guantanamo Bay or the use of torture, but does not deny the need for a strong western military arm, and is willing to use that arm in defense of democracy even when it may be electorally unpopular (for instance in stemming current high levels of brigandage in sub-Saharan Africa).
- There's no way forward in the short term without capitalism. In the wake of the demise of communism, weakening of democratic socialism, currently no alternative socio-economic-political theory can win a western election in time to achieve climate emissions reductions.To the extent that any climate policy induces low or negative economic growth in the democracies, relative to economic and military growth in China and Russia, and to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and other forms of theocracy and dictatorship, the democracies will be weakened, as we were by the recession that began in 2007, which resulted in cuts to military expenditure and political instability in almost all the western democracies (until addressed by Keynesian policies). Our bargaining position vis-a-vis China was also weakened. This kind of process, if resumed, can't be expected to have a good outcome for either climate or democracy. It would be far better to strengthen the democracies economically, not weaken them, at this juncture, since our police power will be required to control carbon reserves. Any theory that strength can be maintained in the short term without corporate capitalism must also have a means and system to replace capitalism economically, including an understanding of how this system might be achieved through the ballot box. No such theory with such means currently exists. As a result, it hardly seems worth debating the issue, especially given the decadal time-frame of climate mitigation needs. Capitalism seems therefore a necessary evil, if temporarily. But green Keynesian approaches can mitigate its worst effects in the short and medium term, just as regular or "brown" fossil-fuel based Keynsianism formerly mitigated capitalist excesses during the "Great Prosperity" in western nations (roughly between World War II and the rise of Reaganism/Thatcherism in the west).
- Capitalist-militarist democracy is a second- or third- best solution, but one we have to learn to live with and exploit in aid of climate policy. Success will require continued economic growth in the democracies. The first best solution, that all nations quickly adopt an ecological economics as well as democracy, is not likely. Neither is it likely that western or democratic nations will adopt emissions reductions without an international understanding with the developing nations, including the dictatorships, i.e., the current stalled Copenhagen process. Green Keynesianism is more do-able, if seemingly inconsistent. The original spread of democracy in the west was not without conflict and internal inconsistency, most particularly in that a non-democratic economic system, capitalism, has been used to economically support western democracy, which itself has maintained western militarism. This is particularly apparent in one of the weakest of western democratic political systems, the Anglo-American one. Horrific western betrayals of western democratic ideals are easy to find in 20th century history. But it required two world wars and a Cold War to get us even to the level of weak democracy we have in the world right now, at great cost to western blood and treasure. No-one will benefit, and many will be harmed, if we lose all or some of what we have gained because we do not have a clear-eyed analysis of the situation.
Given all the above premises, we need a moderately pro-capitalist solution to climate change that also advances democracy, provided below:
- Stage One: Green Keynesianism: The first stage in a concerted attempt by the democracies to gain control of this combined climate-democracy problem is a populist, growth-oriented, moderately pro-capitalist climate policy, essentially a Green Keynesianism, whereby the developed democratic nations and important developing democratic allies (India, Brazil, others) attempt to regain economic supremacy by stimulating their internal economies using the inherent Keynesian economic multipliers that are intrinsic to the development and deployment of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency measures, as well as related carbon fees, green energy subsidies, and direct government stimulus. Green Keynesian multipliers intrinsically result from reducing fossil energy expenses and replacing them with renewable energy and energy efficiency capital, which increases returns over time and denies revenue to non-democratic elites, both internally and externally. Re-capitalizing with renewable energy has a secondary effect of reducing global energy prices overall, stimulating the economy in developing countries, making renewable capital equipment yet cheaper. Domestic supplies of the lower-carbon forms of conventional energy such as natural gas or nuclear power may have a short-term part to play in this process because they provide back-up for intermittent renewable supplies, because they too have powerful inherent multipliers, and because they can be used in the short term to weaken some dictatorships (such as Vladimir Putin's Russia).
- Stage Two: Green Protectionism: The second stage is to spread the benefits of Green Keynesian growth to the democratic developing nations, trying deliberately to isolate non-democratic regimes. We develop a global green free trade area within which green protectionism is practiced on the basis of compliance with carbon emissions reductions and democratization milestones. The goal is to stimulate democracy and climate emissions reductions at the same time, by requiring both as a condition of full untrammeled access to world trade. Only nations that are compliant with democratization and climate mitigation milestones determined collectively by the democracies will be allowed to trade without tariff barriers. This approach works. We know this because it is essentially how the EU currently spreads better environmental regulation and human rights, by requiring reform on the part of candidate countries, such as Turkey, as a prerequisite to access to the very prosperous European free trade area.
- Stage Three: Ecological Economics: Even green growth is not permanently possible on a finite planet. Once stages 1 and 2 above have been largely achieved, once democracy is spreading and emissions reductions are working, a transition to a third stage is then (and only then) possible, the shift away from green Keynesian capitalism to a fully ecological economics in which overall biophysical economic growth itself is deliberately stabilized or reduced on the basis of a more complete economic calculus, a gross national happiness or sustainable economic welfare approach. Such a stage will inevitably result in the eventual trammeling of capitalism. But by then we may not need it. (And then again, we might. But capitalism, like all other ideologies, has to prove itself by its usefulness -- a point ignored routinely by those who wish us to take capitalism's helpfulness as a matter of faith.)
- Stage Four: Vigilance: Even at this point, great care must be taken to prevent the rise of non-democratic regimes. The democracies must unite wherever possible. Democracy must expand wherever possible. The united democracies must retain a military arm that is larger than the next two or three non-democratic competitors combined. The development of global policing and conflict resolution systems must continue, as must the education of electorates in all countries.
Who will take these actions?
Who? The electorate and politicians in the democracies.
This "shifted perception" of "Green Keynesianism" first needs to be introduced to the public dialogue in western/democratic countries. That should be achieved by a "win" or even a runner-up position in Climate Colab.
The idea ought then be taken up by the electorate and politicians and political parties. This seems likely, if given publicity. It will appeal to both sides of the political calculus within the democracies, i.e., to the "left": liberals, democratic socialists, unionists (because of protectionism), moderate environmentalists, and the moderate right: moderate conservatives, moderate capitalists, and democracy advocates. It won't appeal to dictators and supporters, nor to fossil fuel-owning elites within democracies, (such as the Koch brothers in the USA). Some political backlash in the USA and elsewhere is to be expected from the far right, should this idea succeed in Climate CoLab.
As the comments already provided have shown, my idea does not appeal to climate activists and/or scientists who have unrealistic ideas about the need for strong policing or a strong western/democratic military to protect democracy. This is an unfortunate result of the backlash produced by the invasion of Iraq and other excesses of the GW Bush presidential administration in the USA. Again, some political backlash is to be expected from the left, and has already occurred to some mild extent in the comments.
Ultimately, since this idea offers effective means to solve two massive and pressing global problems simultaneously, given publicity and some debate, it will be implemented by western/democratic governments, and related super-governmental bodies such as the EU or NATO, who understand their own enlightened self-interest in the light of current geopolitical events and climate change.
Where will these actions be taken?
Where?: In a growing global democratic/climate compliant free trade bloc
Action will first take place in the public dialogue about climate change in western and democratic countries, by shifting the perception of climate change to link it in the public mind to the advance of democracy. Then political action will be taken in parliaments and legislatures throughout the democratic world, and allied developing democracies, in the EU, NAFTA, and North Atlantic Free Trade Areas, eventually at the UN and WTO, to reduce emissions and create the green free trade area. Because of Keynesian feedback (multipliers) it will be economically successful, and success will feed on success. The green free trade bloc will grow, perhaps eventually admitting a democratic China and a (much more) democratic Russia, whose elites will by then be properly motivated to allow the kind of change required to both reduce emissions and extend democracy..
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
Eventually, enough to meet IPCC 2050 emissions goals. This proposal does not detail emissions goals or methods except to propose the general advance of energy efficiency and renewable energy through Green Keynesian stimulus and protection. Instead it details an effective political and geopolitical approach that will allow the most effective and cost-effective mitigation methods to work.
What are other key benefits?
The enhancement and spread of democracy globally, using coordinated western/democratic economic power to achieve that goal.
(Commentators who are willing to advance climate controls at the expense of, or in the absence of, democracy, i.e., through continuing the Copenhagen process of negotiating with dictatorships such as China and with non-democratic fossil-fuel owning western elites, fail to understand that democracy is likely a precondition for anyone's ability to even have such thoughts or to express them. This is an immoral and hypocritical position.)
What are the proposal’s costs?
Far less than the alternatives (climate chaos and the resultant destabilization of existing democracies).
- Stage One: Green Keynesianism: What remains of the current decade and the decade of the 2020s.
- Stage Two: Green Protectionism: Begins as soon as is practicable.
- Stage Three: Ecological Economics: By the 2030s or later, if stages 1 and 2 are successful.
- Stage Four: Vigilance: Ongoing, continual
- The overall geopolitical and economic thought of John Maynard Keynes, particularly in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, the General Theory and in How to Pay for the War. Few commentators who read Keynes understand his geopolitical thought, but he believed in (an admittedly elitist version of) democracy and the ultimate goodness of the west (particularly Anglo-America and the former Dominions), and was prepared to cede limited rights to capitalism in order to provide the growth needed to protect that democracy. He also realized that economic growth is essential to military power in any country. Keynesian theory has to be seen in the historical context of the rise of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the non-democratic slave empires that Keynesian theory ultimately defeated, in 1945 and 1989, respectively.
- The ecological economic thought of Herman E. Daly, in Steady State Economics (1977) and For the Common Good (1989 and 1994, co-authored with John Cobb). Daly, and his mentor Nicholas Georgescu-Reogen, provide the general theory by which we can understand the human economy as a biophysical entity. Daly does not, however, provide a means by which we could establish his theory as policy through the ballot box. Nor does he detail how we might stage into an ecological economic geopolitics. That is what I attempt to do here.
- The term "Great Prosperity" is taken from the work of former US Secretary of Labor and economist Robert Reich.