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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Open letter to Chris Huhne on the eve of the Durban Climate change talks

Dear Chris,

In common with your predecessors and opposites in other countries you offer false hope in your Telegraph article that we can make progress towards tackling climate change in the next round of climate change talks due to start next week.

To properly tackle climate change, we must accept it is the culmination of all the problems that humanity has inflicted on this planet.  The corollary of this is that to tackle climate change we must challenge all the fundamental concepts that underpin our economic development. To challenge these problems, we must first understand them.

The trajectory of the CO2 increase is so rapid the planet will exceed 450 ppm by 2030. At this point we will be committed to runway climate change with catastrophic temperature increases that will potentially wipe out all life on the planet. To avoid this fate and because of the cumulative damage that we have already done to the planet, we must immediately move towards a zero carbon economy.

It is impossible to move to a zero carbon economy whilst maintaining the same growth based economic system we have today. Renewable energy sources will not be able to do anything more than scratch the surface of our growing energy demands.  Even a mass expansion of nuclear will be unable to meet our requirements in the time frame we have.

We therefore have no option but to implement an economic system based on contraction, not growth. To do this in a way that avoids war and mass civil unrest requires the courage to co-operate in ways that are completely counter to the competition based society we have inherited and with which we have been indoctrinated on since birth to believe is unassailable.  If we fail to rise to the challenge, war and mass civil unrest are inevitable.

The ultimate statement of our competition-based economy is the structure of the nation state. It is this that forms the basis of the forthcoming climate change negotiations. However, the nation state structure simultaneously forces all nations to compete with each other for resources and markets. Interstate competition is either economic or military and there is a symbiotic relationship between these two approaches. This competitive framework is incompatible with the objectives of the climate change agreements, which is to co-operate fully.

To make maters worse, the nation state has become subservient to the “market-state.” One example is the worldwide aviation industry. Though comprised of competing corporations, it musters a collective international voice and acts as a borderless state to protect its own interests above all others. This is evidenced by its successful efforts to stop nation states from limiting environmentally destructive growth.  In recent weeks the competing governments of the USA, Russia, China and India all collaborated together to ignore climate change following concerted lobbying by the aviation industry to support its collective demand that international aviation should not be included in the EU-ETS.

The ultimate manifestation of this combined market state and nation state competition is the possession of nuclear arms. In the UK we are sliding towards the replacement of Trident at a cost of £100billion. This decision will also require us to generate another  £300bn in economic activity to raise the necessary taxation.

This is the antithesis of what we need to do, which is to reduce economic activity in the face of climate change, peak oil and other resource shortages. These factors are already destabilizing the planet and resource wars have started. The replacement of Trident accentuates these problems.

There is no military requirement to replace Trident as it is impossible to use in anyway that can defend our nation-state without simultaneously destroying it, so we need to consider the rationales that are leading us to its replacement.  There are two.

The first rational is to jointly keep alive the submarine building capabilities of the military industrial complex in this country and in our competitors. Thus, the nation state is subservient to market state of the arms industry, in the same way as it is subservient to the aviation industry.

The second rational is to preserve our ego as a pre-eminent nation-state and a Permanent Five member of the UN.  Preservation of ego is an inevitable consequence of a competitive system of engagement. It is completely counter to the requirement to make mutual sacrifices to tackle climate change and avoid total war.

Progress can only be achieved with radically different approaches to negotiations. That radically different approach must start by nuclear weapons being placed on the climate change negotiation table.

By eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons we simultaneously allow nation states to co-operate on saving what is left our planet while making the nation state subservient to the people rather than destructive market states. Elimination of nuclear weapons also makes the clear statement that we are more concerned about collectively tackling global threats rather than the destructive preservation of national borders.

We must recognize our failure to agree to nuclear disarmament is intimately linked to our failure to achieve climate change agreements. If we do not link these crises, we will not address climate change and so we must accept that we will continue our actions until we extinguish life on the planet.

The nightmare scenario is that by 2050 when our planet is no longer habitable through climate change, and our Trident replacements submarines are only half way through their operating life, that the only survivors on the planet will be the crews of the various nuclear ballistic submarines silently cruising the depths of the polluted and lifeless oceans.  Trident is set to be the ultimate modern day Easter Island statue.
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