Thursday, November 10, 2016

What just happened

Something is happening
But you don't know what it is
-Bob Dylan
Manic depression
Is a frustrating mess
- Jimi Hendrix

      Like most people, I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out what happened, how it happened, and what it means in terms of energy and climate.  In my view, Trump is mainly a salesman, who says whatever he thinks will be persuasive , so no one knows what he really thinks, or whether he has any abiding values or policies .   So prediction something of  a crap shoot. ( Here is what he says he'll do)
       Nevertheless, it's worth contemplating some possible scenarios.  Here's a few for your consideration .
    Dave Roberts at Vox, notes that things already looked grim on the climate front.  Now they look worse.  He also notes that either way , with Clinton or Trump, 2 degrees was in the cards  He thinks the fight is now about 3 degrees, and looks towards 2020.

"The truth is, hitting the 2-degree target (much less 1.5 degrees) was always a long shot. It would require all the world’s countries to effectively turn on a dime and send their emissions plunging at never-before-seen rates.
It was implausible, but at least there was a story to tell. That story began with strong US leadership, which brought China to the table, which in turn cleared the way for Paris. The election of Hillary Clinton would have signaled to the world a determination to meet or exceed the targets the US promised in Paris, along with four years of efforts to create bilateral or multilateral partnerships that pushed progress faster.
With steady leadership, the US and China would exceed their short-term goals. Other countries would have their willpower fortified and steadily ratchet up their commitments. All this coordinated action would result in a wave of clean energy innovation, which would push prices down lower, which would accelerate the transition.
The promise of US leadership was never about tons of US emissions; they are only 15 percent of the world’s total. (Though, as Chris Mooney notes, pledged US reductions accounted for about 20 percent of total reductions pledged in Paris.) It was about the US acting as a catalyst that sparked a virtuous, self-reinforcing cycle of escalating ambition, eventually building up the momentum necessary for a chance at 2 degrees.
That story is gone now. Dead. The US will not provide leadership — it will be an active, and very powerful, impediment. Under unified Republican leadership, progress on lowering emissions in the US will halt and reverse and US participation in international efforts to combat climate change will cease. (I will have more to say on the scope of the coming Republican policy disaster in another post.)
"... the chance of limiting temperature to 1.5 or 2 degrees is, for all intents and purposes, gone. There’s going to be severe, dangerous climate change. Millions of people will suffer.
The larger climate struggle is not over, of course. It never will be — 3 degrees is much worse than 2 and 4 much worse than 3. The fight goes on. But it is time to honestly acknowledge our failure and grapple with its consequences."
Richard Heinberg  agrees that it will bring to a halt any national action on energy or climate change   He makes a pitch for local resilience
"There will be no more federal support for climate action or research, for environmental protection (the EPA will be gutted), or for alternative energy. All federal lands will be opened up for oil, gas, and coal exploration. Most of Yellowstone will be paved over as a parking lot for a new Trump resort (okay, I’m kidding—a little). With the Executive Branch, Congress, and Supreme Court all dominated by the same party, there will be no brakes on efforts to defund government agencies, or overturn regulations of all kinds (on guns, banks, workplace safety, you name it). Having witnessed Trumpism’s success, a new generation of politicians will adopt the tactics of utterly demonizing their opponents. It’s hard to see how civility can return anytime soon. These will be dire times for women and minorities.
Crises won’t go away because government refuses to acknowledge or address them. Climate change, resource depletion, and over-reliance on debt are wolves at the door. In light of all this, Post Carbon Institute’s organizational strategy continues to make sense: Build resilience at the community level.
For the time being, national policy-based action on climate and other environmental issues is a closed door. But the most promising responses to our twenty-first century crises are showing up at the community level anyway. It’s in towns and cities across the nation, and across the world, where practical people are being forced to grapple with weird weather, rising seas, an unstable economy, and a fraying national political fabric. Whatever workable strategies are likely to be found will arise there. We see our job as helping that adaptive process however we can. This is not about winning; there is no finish line, no election day. Just a new opportunity each morning to encourage, educate, and build.
Erik Lindberg offers a somewhat different way of looking at things . He puts Trump into a more of a historical perspective,  the perspective of the limits to growth.   He suggests that a Trump is a predictable feature of a collapsing civilization, especially one which worships growth.  If we can"t have growth, someone is to blame - we need a scapegoat, and Trump offers a hand full..      
"From the perspective of a contracting civilization, Trump, or someone like him (perhaps even worse) was entirely predictable.  I have been waiting for him—with dread, yes, but also without surprise.  I have thus been able to ready myself for him and the truths he reveals about our fracturing and eroding society.
....For regardless of political affiliation, there is one official story about America: that it cannot contract.  If it does, then someone or something is to blame.  Given the reality of life in an empire that has reached its peak, or of living in a nation that consumes a quarter of the world’s resources, this is just about as bad a narrative as one can imagine.   There is no telling to what depths it might descend, nor how many Trumps it might create."
He points out that a Clinton victory would really have little effect on the slide that has been going on for years.    Its interesting to note that one could argue that we have run out of fuel for the "post war" prosperity, and that the white working class is feeling the pinch..   Median household income has stagnated.   Off shoring and automation had taken their toll.  And much as we might wish for it, neither Clinton nor Trump   (nor Sanders)  would be able to turn the clock back .
"Educated liberals are able to see directly through Trump’s story about making America great again.  But do these same people really believe that Clinton has some magic way to reverse years of job loss, deindustrialization, disenfranchisement?  Have you looked at a rustbelt city, driven over Gary Indiana on the freeway, or through the miles upon miles of Milwaukee (where the GMC plant once stood) beyond the sliver of prosperity sitting along the lake?   All this is not going to be made great again.  Our IPhones are not going to save us.   Clinton is not going to discover a hidden trove of low-hanging fruit, an untapped market of new cheap labor or of eager and moneyed consumers ready to buy more of the crappy stuff and junky culture that we market and sell, but can’t even make ourselves.  The coal mines are not coming back, Trump’s promises notwithstanding.  But neither is sort of sudden and unrepeatable consumer expansion that returns us to the 1964 poised for reemergence in our political fantasies.  No one is going to discover a way to grow the global economy at 3% per year without, at the same time, devastating the planet’s environment and ecology.  Clinton doesn’t have some magic new way forward or path into the future.  That little of this is noticed can of course be explained by the disgusting and repellent personality of Trump.  
      The fact remains that we still live in an incredible wealthy country, which is over shooting our resource base 4 or 5 times over.    This is not a sustainable and will not be sustained.   The American dream, that everybody can be rich, is just that : a fantasy.       Reality is beginning to creep in..   
      As for what is an appropriate response, I tend to agree with Heinberg, that a program of local resiliency will be useful.  Getting to know our neighbors, and helping each other out.  An of course, we will need to oppose scapegoating.  As Heinberg points out, these will be tough times for gays, immigrants,  women and people of color.   We will especially need to show that we stand with them. 

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