by Kevin Moore
No sane person would dispute the need for urgent debate on abrupt climate change; the Stern Report to the British Government, made available to the public in late October of 2006, triggered debate.
The Stern Report correctly highlights the fact that we cannot continue [collectively] as we have, without destroying the habitability of the greater portion of the Earth. However, the Stern Report is in many respects simply a continuation of the politics of failure:
It talks in terms of effect on GDP, when we should have abandoned GDP years ago and adopted GPI (the Genuine Progress Index); perpetuation of GDP will simply continue to make matters worse.
It talks in terms of stabilising the carbon dioxide level at 450 to 550 ppm, when there is no evidence whatsoever that such stabilisation can be achieved. Positive feedback mechanisms are already being triggered that are releasing trapped carbon dioxide and methane at historically unprecedented rates: they could easily take the carbon dioxide equivalent level to a 1,000ppm or more.
Evidence already surrounds us (repeated droughts in the Amazon, extended drought in Australia, catastrophic hurricane and typhoon activity) that even the current level of carbon dioxide is beyond the limit of sustainability for much human activity.
The Stern Report fails to deliver the necessary sense of urgency. Numerous previous studies have suggested that 400ppm is the critical tipping point at which runaway emissions lead to totally uncontrollable abrupt climate change. We currently stand at around 383ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and are adding more than 2ppm every year.
The Stern Report understates the seriousness of the situation we now face and presents a modified business-as-usual approach, when nothing short of radical change will address the potentially catastrophic meltdown of the planet that is occurring now.
The decline of oil extraction will generate radical change (probably from around 2009 onwards), but it is also likely to stimulate desperate attempts to maintain business as usual via greater use of coal, which will have immediately catastrophic consequences for the planet.