Clean Energy will not save Humanity, But a New Economic System Might

Jon Capistrano
Jon Capistrano
August 26, 2016

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that  media outlets around the world announced that global temperature records were broken in February and March by a huge amount. In June, TV screens were covered with images of floods in Paris, London, China and the Philippines.

With such extreme events becoming more common, there are still some people denying climate change. Climate change is happening; the earth’s climate and weather cycles are changing as a result. Finally, a consensus is going around one all-important fact that fossil fuels are killing us and we need to switch to clean energy fast. This growing awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels represents a crucial shift in people’s awareness. But according to Jason Hickel, we’re missing the point. As important as clean energy may be, the science behind it is not clear and it won’t ultimately save us from climate change.

Let’s consider Hickel’s argument. Imagine that we’re able to stop relying on fossil fuels and switch to 100% clean energy. There is no question this would be an important step in the right direction, but even this best-case scenario would not be enough to prevent climate change. Why? According to Hickel, burning fossil fuels only accounts for about 70% of all anthropogenic greenhouse emissions. The remaining 30% comes from other sources. Deforestation is a big factor, industrial agriculture also degrades the spoils to the point that they

Why? According to Hickel, burning fossil fuels only accounts for about 70% of all anthropogenic greenhouse emissions. The remaining 30% comes from other sources. Deforestation is a big factor, industrial agriculture also degrades the spoils to the point that they leach CO2. Livestock farming contributes more global warming than all the cars, planes, locomotives and ships in the world. Industrial production of cement, steel and plastic forms another major source of greenhouse

Livestock farming contributes more global warming than all the cars, planes, locomotives and ships in the world. Industrial production of cement, steel and plastic forms another major source of greenhouse gases and the landfills that release huge amounts of methane (16% of the world’s total).

The issue when it comes to climate change is not just the type of energy we’re using but what people are doing with it. What would people do with 100% clean energy? Mr. Hickel said that the 30% of greenhouse gases that come from non-fuel sources is not static. He said that it’s actually adding to the atmosphere every year. Many scientists have projected that tropical forests will be completely destroyed by the year 2050, which will release 200 billion

He said that it’s actually adding to the atmosphere every year. Many scientists have projected that tropical forests will be completely destroyed by the year 2050, which will release 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. The earth’s topsoil could be depleted within 60 years which will release more.

The very root of the issue is the fact that many of the world’s economic systems – specifically first world countries – are demanding ever-increasing extraction, production, and consumption. Many politicians tell people that they need to keep the global economy growing by more than 3% every year. So this means that for every 20 years, we need to double the size of the global economy.

Clean energy is important but it won’t save us all the way; rethinking worldwide economy might. GDP growth and capitalism have been sold to people as the only way to create a better world, but there is solid evidence that it doesn’t decrease poverty, it doesn’t make people really happy and creates all sorts of social illnesses. People need to abandon GDP growth as the primary measure of progress and pour the creative power into creating a new global economy. A global economy that takes advantage and maximises humanity’s well-being and actively decreases the ecological footprint. This is according to Hickel’s valid argument

Click here to read the full story on The Guardian

Featured Image Credit: Alberto Garcia

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