Climate Solutions Need Scientific AND Social Feasibility
At a recent online meeting of HPAC (the Healthy Planet Action Coalition), Dr. Ye Tao of MEER (Mirrors for Earth's Energy Rebalancing) delivered an excellent presentation on the feasibility of various global cooling methods. This is crucial information because humankind must quickly focus on the few workable measures that could end global warming and initiate the cooling required for our survival.
When asked for my views during the discussion period I said that the meeting had a post-revolutionary feel because fundamental social transformations would be required for these measures to be adequately implemented. One attendee countered this by saying that much can be done within the current system. I would like to briefly expand on my perspective and then respond to the attendee's remark.
The key issue in evaluating cooling technologies is precisely what the meeting addressed: feasibility. A measure must first be scientifically feasible by adhering to physical principles and permitting scale-up within energy and material constraints. This topic was covered by Dr. Tao. However, a measure must also be feasible in two social aspects: the economic and the political. Economic feasibility refers to the measure's compatibility with the prevailing economic system, which is capitalism. Political feasibility refers to the measure's acceptability to current social leaders - the capitalist ruling class. (For the political role played by this class, see chapter 5 in Youth Ecological Revolution.)
Based on this broader conception, are MEER's mirror technologies feasible? Along with many others I have concluded that, on the scientific front, the answer is yes. Are they economically feasible under the current system? The answer here is no. Capitalism's economic logic demands constant growth to maintain profits, and massive investments in mirror installations could undermine both. Also, because the logic assumes limitless natural sources and sinks, capitalist economies will continue to release greenhouse gases at roughly today's levels, thereby overwhelming any cooling that mirrors can achieve. (For a discussion of capitalist logic see chapter 7 in Youth Ecological Revolution.)
Are MEER's technologies politically feasible? Clearly not. The current ruling class will emphatically reject any measure that threatens to reduce profits, and it will recognize that such large-scale interventions would be an implicit admission that the system has fundamentally failed. This could impair the system's legitimacy, or popular support, at a time when probing questions are being asked about its past performance and future prospects.
Briefly stated, any global cooling measure must be feasible in three domains: the scientific, the economic, and the political. MEER's technologies meet the first requirement, but without the shift to a post-capitalist economy and the initiation of revolutionary change it cannot meet the last two.
The attendee's comment that much can be done within the current system was therefore misguided. Cooling measures under capitalism and its leadership are strictly limited given the economic and political factors cited above. More broadly, the critical question is not what can be done within the current system, but what must be done for human survival, whether this can be achieved within the current system or not. My revolutionary stance is thus another way of saying: Make MEER possible!
April 26, 2022
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