Corporate executives and climate skeptics that mobilise against strong international climate change agreements have rightly been the focus of attention of many people concerned about the climate crisis. But another group of elites—those who actually believe in climate change —may paradoxically have done more to block effective solutions to the crisis.
“The object is to change the heart and soul.” – Margaret Thatcher
The COP21 Paris Climate Conference has, as expected, led to an agreement. It will come into effect from 2020 if it is ratified by 55 of the countries which are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and these 55 countries account for at least 55% of global emissions of greenhouse gases. In the light of the positions taken in Paris, this dual condition should not raise any difficulty (although the non-ratification of Kyoto by the United States shows that surprises are always possible).
Humanity today is confronted with what might be called the Great Capitalist Climacteric. In the standard definition, a climacteric (from the Greek klimaktēr or rung on the ladder) is a period of critical transition or a turning point in the life of an individual or a whole society.
We are now officially living amid the sixth great extinction, according to scientists, but the global economy has still not shifted to prevent climate change's existential threat to human civilization and much of the biosphere.
(Contrary view, but worth the read - see critique of Jeremy Rifkin: Digital ridesharing centers, which turn all of us into taxi drivers, advertise with appeals to community, too. But it is mistaken to claim — as Jeremy Rifkin does in his newest book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society — that the sharing economy has sounded the end of capitalism and inaugurated a communally-oriented society in which sharing is valued more highly than owning. The opposite is the case: the sharing economy ultimately leads to the total commercialization of life.)
In April 2014, two different teams of American glaciologists, specialists in the Antarctic, reached - by different methods, based on observation - the same conclusion: because of global warming, a portion of the ice sheet has begun to dislocate, and this dislocation is irreversible.
The crisis of capitalism isn’t just about the gap between rich and poor. It’s about the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.
By now, it’s no secret that French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality. His exhaustive, improbably popular opus of economic history—the 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century—sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Some have called it the most important study of inequality in over 50 years.
The word Anthropocene, unknown twenty years ago, now appears in the titles of three academic journals, dozens of books, and hundreds of academic papers, not to mention innumerable articles in newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs. There are exhibitions about art in the Anthropocene, conferences about the humanities in the Anthropocene, and novels about love in the Anthropocene. There is even a heavy metal album called The Anthropocene Extinction. Rarely has a scientific term moved so quickly into wide acceptance and general use.