Answering the Kennedys Call
There is something we can do as a country to mitigate the catastrophic changes that global warming is already wreaking on whole populations. Accelerate development of a modern for-the-22nd Century infrastructure. It will create badly needed jobs, energy efficiencies that mitigate greenhouse gases, and better manage the international conflicts already arising from massive droughts and rising oceans.
That infrastructure must include new digital pathways, such as 5G networks, modern energy grids, modern transportation systems, and better planning for uncertain outcomes to changing climates. This is turn will assist resolutions to conflicts that are sure to pop up when populations are pressured to move, as they have in just the last decade.
There is actually no alternative. We are already seeing the rise of populist, anti-democratic governments in Europe, Africa, and the United States. Scared native populations are building walls and fences to protect themselves from the influx of darker-skinned strangers ousted by unlivable climates from the poorest regions.
The World Economic Forum has said, “A global focus on sustainable infrastructure can boost growth, reduce poverty, improve air quality and create jobs, while building low-carbon, climate-resilient economies. This transition could entail economic gains worth $26 trillion over the next 12 years compared to business-as-usual, according to a report by the New Climate Economy.”
The New Climate Economy was commissioned in 2013 by the governments of seven countries: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. “The Commission has operated as an independent body and has been given full freedom to reach its own conclusions. Lead by its global commission, it has disseminated its messages by engaging with heads of governments, finance ministers, business leaders and other key economic decision-makers in over 30 countries around the world,” said its website.
And what has been proposed by other countries is just now reaching our shores. The Green New Deal resolution by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is already being denounced by so-called ‘moderate’ politicians and pundits as too draconian. Columnist David Brooks has characterized it as a massive government takeover of the private sector; socialism in its most extreme form that has been a failure in competition with modern capitalist-based economies.
Yet, why must it be an either/or proposition? The various reports on climate change mitigation maintain it will take centralized planning to create a necessary private/public partnership—yes, central planning in some form—to coordinate the incredible complexities that must be navigated in modeling multi-factor planning that takes into account many different outcomes. It’s playing three-dimensional chess with the survival of our planet at stake.
Then what kind of Central Planning? It has to resemble Roosevelt’s New Deal that brought us out of the Great Depression and enabled the U.S. to turn the tide in WWII. Global warming as a result of climate change is just such an emergency. And the longer governments wait to mitigate its affects, the more expensive it becomes—both in financial and geopolitical terms. The U.S. Pentagon has said it now poses a danger to our national security.
The critics of better coordination between the private and public sectors obviously miss the point. It is what is lacking from any suggested solutions to the climate crisis, because it entails massive improvement in the social structures as well, as is envisioned in the Green New Deal—such as some form of more universal health care, better labor laws, and a much improved social safety net that would mitigate much of the red-vs-blue states’ conflicts that have stymied bringing infrastructure improvements into this century, much less planning for the next.
“Even with these caveats in mind, a global climate action scenario prepared for this (New Climate) Report using the E3ME model that combines a range of opportunities including the wide scale use of appropriate carbon prices and phasing-out fossil fuel subsidies, seizing energy and industrial energy and resource efficiency gains, halting deforestation and restoring degraded lands, accelerating the penetration of electric vehicles, and integrating intermittent renewables into the power system—was found to deliver significant benefits. Transitioning to this low-carbon, sustainable growth path could deliver a direct economic gain of US$26 trillion through to 2030 compared to business-as-usual, according to analysis for this Report,” says the Guardian.
There is no reason that such complexities might overwhelm the planning process, in other words. Even AI will contribute in some form. If IBM’s Big Blue and newer iterations can win chess matches and defeat a top S. Korean champion in the ancient game of go, then we know Artificial Intelligence will be needed to help overcome those complexities.
Shouldn’t saving our planet take precedence over going to Mars, a barren planet and prime example of what could happen on earth? North America and all countries will suffer greatly from the looming climate crises, if we aren’t able to perfect our union in some way.
Harlan Green © 2019
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