Tuesday, October 04, 2016

That's not how any of this works

Here's a pretty scary Vox article about the "lack of political will" to do anything significant about climate change. 
In Paris, in 2015, the countries of the world agreed (again) on the moral imperative to hold the rise in global average temperature to under 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue "efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees." To date, 62 countries, including the United States, China, and India, have ratified the agreement.

Are any of the countries that signed the Paris agreement taking the actions necessary to achieve that target?

No. The US is not. Nor is the world as a whole.

The actions necessary to hold to 2 degrees, much less 1.5 degrees, are simply outside the bounds of conventional politics in most countries. Anyone who proposed them would sound crazy, like they were proposing, I don’t know, a war or something.

So we say 2 degrees is unacceptable. But we don’t act like it is.
And that is legitimately worrisome. Read through the rest of that if you don't believe me. Global temperature are now the warmest they've been in 115,000 years. What Dr. Vox there is terming a failure of "political will" is likely to result in catastrophe after catastrophe over the course of the next century.   It's a systemic disaster and a moral outrage.

But is it a surprise? It shouldn't be. That is, it can only surprise you if your concept of politics adheres to the notion that "political will" can be applied to bring forth universally beneficial solutions.  But despite what someone like...say Clancy DuBos would have you believe, politics isn't about "both sides" coming together to find The Good Policy That Works For Everyone.

Instead it is about conflict. Conflict exists, not because "partisans" are cranky or tribal, but because they represent disparate and irreconcilable interests.  Politics is the process of fighting out who takes the brunt of each policy decision. In this context, climate change isn't one problem everyone will agree to solve.  It is a scenario under which we fight over who gets hurt most in which specific ways.

I've written about this before, most recently here where I argue Louisiana's coastal master plan will never be about "saving the coast" as much as it will be about figuring out who endures the heaviest cost of the retreat. In any case, there's never going to be a moment where "the political will" materializes to bring us all together to solve the problem of climate change. This isn't what politics does.

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