‘Blocka­dia’ – and how you and I are chang­ing the world

In the past, ac­tion on cli­mate change has been stymied by the dom­i­nant sys­tem of ne­olib­eral cap­i­tal­ism. In con­trast to end­less eco­nomic growth, the so­lu­tion is likely to lie in the de-growth move­ment and re-lo­cal­i­sa­tion.

Living Now - - Sustainable Energy - By Martin Oliver

Across the globe, many com­mu­ni­ties are en­gaged in strug­gles to de­fend them­selves from the in­cur­sion of in­creas­ingly en­vi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing fos­sil fuel projects, against a back­drop of sci­en­tific ev­i­dence de­mand­ing an ur­gent tran­si­tion to re­new­able en­ergy. Par­al­lel with this is the need to re­think the con­sumer econ­omy, shift to a more fru­gal ex­is­tence, and build a sus­tain­able and so­cially just world.

UNBURNABLE FUELS

At­mo­spheric car­bon diox­ide is now at 402 parts per mil­lion (ppm), and ris­ing by about 2 ppm an­nu­ally. The av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture has spiked up­wards to 1.3 de­grees warmer than the late 19th cen­tury level. Risks for Aus­tralia in­clude fur­ther loss of Great Bar­rier Reef coral, and a fu­ture where se­vere droughts are more likely.

In Novem­ber, 2016, world lead­ers her­alded the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Paris cli­mate treaty, which as­pires to keep the tem­per­a­ture rise un­der 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius. Its im­pli­ca­tions are mo­men­tous, and rep­re­sent a global com­mit­ment to usher in a post-fos­sil-fuel era. De­spite this, many coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, are yet to sig­nif­i­cantly slow down their ex­pan­sion of fos­sil fuel re­sources. Among G20 na­tions, Aus­tralia was ranked the worst in 2016 for ac­tion on cli­mate change, and is push­ing for the ex­pan­sion of coal, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ment of the mas­sive Carmichael coal mine in Queens­land.

The sci­ence is clear. A 2015 study in Na­ture chose to fo­cus on the con­cept of ‘unburnable’ known fos­sil fuel re­serves that would have to be kept in the ground if the global tem­per­a­ture rise is to stay un­der a tar­get of 2 de­grees. These are 82 per­cent of coal (in­clud­ing 90 per­cent of Aus­tralian coal), 49 per­cent of gas, 33 per­cent of oil, and 99 per­cent of oil from the Cana­dian tar sands.

More im­por­tant is a mora­to­rium date for the con­struc­tion of new fos­sil fuel in­fra­struc­ture. A 2016 Ox­ford Univer­sity study con­cluded that this would have to cease by the end of 2017 for a re­al­is­tic chance of achiev­ing a 2-de­gree limit, if all associated life­time emis­sions are taken into ac­count. To meet the 1.5-de­gree tar­get, this dead­line would have to be brought for­ward.

EX­TREME EN­ERGY

Sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists had long spec­u­lated that fos­sil fuels would

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