A fundamental obstacle to intelligent development, purposeful evolution and future-oriented action lies in the past itself. By this I do not mean the ballast of history, or the lethargy of nostalgia, but the shackles of the traditional institutions that construct societal reality through language, culture, focus and framing. In this sense the greatest adventure, the greatest pioneering work, the most daunting frontier and steepest challenge of humanity lies in overcoming the ways of thinking that were formed in the past, and are being perpetuated into the future – almost automatically.
Of the entire history of the planet ours is an era of one of the greatest of all ruptures: a time in which discontinuity of the immediate future with the recent past has become inevitable. The greatest and most rapid discontinuity of all – abrupt climate collapse – is now virtually pre-programmed by humanity’s inability to rid itself of the institutional, financial and energetic ballast of fossil fuels – coupled with the short-term mind-set of a mechanical and omnivorous economic reward system, sheathed in the media constructed illusion of fossil technological security. Can humanity and its remaining fellow terrestrial species still make it? I have to think so, but certainly not with the means or even the targets that prevail today.
The gap between real challenge and targeted measures could not be larger. For a million years, the concentration level of CO2 gas in the atmosphere was 0.028% – 280 parts of carbon dioxide gas per million units of air. Now it has risen to 0.042% – 420 ppm. Tera tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases – GHG – have been pumped into our air supply from the burning of oil, coal and gas – blowing away the entire period in which advanced human civilization formed: the last 10 000 years, the Holocene. This time emerged as a remarkable, miraculous era of life in harmony: Earth’s stabilization in temperature and ordered climates, as well as a reasonably predictable weather system, systemic ocean currents, and stable water as well as carbon cycles. One can easily assign to this time the true meaning of paradise in the biblical – and collective – sense of memory and interpretation.
The Holocene describes the 10 000 year long, highly stable climate in which the advanced civilization of mankind could first develop. A humanity blinded by modern, dominant monetary systems and glorifying market ideologies of wealth creation and accumulation stumbled onto an oil patch – and got marooned in the sticky allure of its moral morass. The Fossil-Anthropocene – the Fossilocene – destroys the holocenic stability in front of our very eyes. Shockingly – but not surprisingly, over the last 15 years the energy imbalance of the earth doubled, as a NASA/NOAA study released mid-June 2021 documents. At current GHG concentration level the system becomes unstable – especially if at the same time the balancing capacity of the biosphere is being compromised: destroyed in a rapacious frenzy of profit maximization. Fossil and nuclear energies are perfect channels for profit maximization, through their concentrating power, and affinity to monopole structures.
A golden light has risen on this dark horizon: the strengthening reality of renewable energy. The power of solar resources to sustain humanity energetically ubiquitously – at a low cost, and accessible to all, is gaining ground everywhere. But to fully grasp the rescue potential of renewables, some uncomfortable truths have to be confronted. Despite a manifest, highly explosive emergency, long reflected in burning forests, melting glaciers, evaporating rivers, the real risk of collapsing global food production, and most visibly threatening in an increasingly warm, eventually ice-free Arctic with massive methane plumes waiting to be released – despite all this, governments, international organizations, and even climate movements still speak of surreally soft demands such as climate neutrality and net zero emissions by 2050. They speak of the Paris Agreement as a cure, even though its ill-defined demands and targets were already a weak compromise: 1.5 degrees above zero – in pre-industrial temperature terms – is already 1.5 degrees too much: and ‘climate neutrality by 2050′ only fixes a catastrophic, unstable level of 450-500 ppm by 2050. And even if current ‚best practices’ could make the reduction of emissions in 10 years possible in such a way that a fictitious 1.5 degree ’emission budget’ of 400 GT could be maintained, this would still be based on an unacceptably high 33% probability of exceeding the 1.5 degree limit. All the while, the Paris Agreement failed to even define a precise baseline for performance. It was and is a public relations exercise, exhorting all to do better, but not to actually confront the concrete reality of the threat.
The climate abyss is thus met with clearly inadequate targets that are set far too high, and far too far away – to 2050. The challenge, however, is not the rather comfortable ‘climate protection measures’ of the 80’s and 90’s – but that of the existential threat in which mankind currently finds itself. Instead, it is time to recognize that society as well as the economy must be mobilized for the ultimate battle: a peaceful and peacefully united war against the common threat of climate destabilization: prompted by our own values, tools, mechanisms and choices. This is about climate mobilization – not entirely unlike F. D. Roosevelt’s mobilization for WW2: setting a central and supremely prioritized framework for society and its economy: industry, agriculture, construction, transport – and above all, the energy industry, infrastructure and systems. This is an international threat and defence case of the highest order – the highest ever in the history of humankind.
The common public enemy is the climate crash triggered by a hydrocarbon drenched global economy: fossil energy dependence literally drives humanity into the void. 100% renewable energy is no longer the only ultimate goal, as it was 20 years ago, but is now only a minimal requirement, a conditio sine qua non in the struggle to stabilize the climate. Climate defence does not stop at energy supply; on the contrary, it only begins here. The entire economy, financial systems, transportation systems, food security, and agriculture are called upon: in the general, global mobilization for a stable climate.
And here the thinking and the program of a circular economy finds its true meaning and purpose: in the avoidance and recycling of surplus greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, tending e.g. to lower CO2 concentrations back to 65% of the present values. At the same time, the time has come to discard the millennia-old tradition of diplomacy as a milder form of warfare and war as a continuation of diplomacy in view of the collective planet-killer threat. Several trillion euros are spent annually on armaments and wars around the world that are desperately needed for climate defence budgets. More importantly, wars and conventional diplomacy get in the way of our survival, focusing attention on fellow adversaries – instead of the common adversaries of liveability, the drivers of climate destabilization. A comprehensive re-dedication of international diplomacy is called for, whose central purpose is climate stabilization – along with the other eight demands of our Regenerative Decade.
Therefore, in the very beginning of 2020, EUROSOLAR began to call for the Regenerative Earth Decade. Its demands are:
1 Setting climate defence budgets
2 Embracing climate peace diplomacy
3 Restructuring the fossil fuel industry
4 Building equitable and fair regenerative employment programs
5 Implementing a fundamental redefinition of emissions targets to 0 degree temperature rise
6 Focusing on fossil fuel source taxation and urgent phase-out
7 Seizing the power of bio-sequestration of atmospheric carbon surplus
8 Implementing the full-cycle industrial sequestration of atmospheric carbon surplus
9 Expanding regenerative economies for the planned absorption of inexorable mass migration flows
10 Enact regenerative finance and long-term beneficial monetary transactions
Please join in and donate what you can afford to EUROSOLAR’s www.earthdecade.org campaign.
Peter Droege is President of EUROSOLAR.