Summary: Discusses neo-liberalism and the environment, geo-engineering, Co2 removal, solar radiation management, carbon emissions pricing, criticism of emissions trading, price signals and innovation, progress traps, Easter Island, Latin America and China, persistence of global poverty, the environmental movement, future generations, precautionary principle, economic cycles and environmentalism, unions and the environment.
UK journalist and environmental activist, George Monbiot has stated that neo-liberalism and its “self hating state” has to be defeated in order to overcome the environmental crisis.
Monbiot says that “neo-liberalism is not the root of the (environmental) problem” but that neo-liberal ideology has been used to justify a global grab of power, public assets and natural resources by the unrestrained elite. The self-hating state cannot act because it is captured by vested interests that democracy is supposed to restrain. Thus climate change cannot be overcome until neo-liberalism is challenged by effective political alternatives. A wider political fight is required: a “democratic mobilisation against plutocracy”. It is necessary to stop seeing state intervention as wrong and to rescue politics from control by the super rich.
On the other hand, Nick Feik, an editor of Australia’s ‘Monthly’ magazine, has claimed that the environmental movement has failed to convert scientific consensus into action.
Solutions to halt or slow climate change have not been ushered in and it is too late to argue that humans should not take it upon themselves to upset the natural environment. We need to ask why “a political and social movement has failed” and to start investigating geo-engineering- large scale manipulation of the climate to prevent warming.
Here we have two expressions of concern about environmental crisis, which reach very different conclusions. Monbiot says “democratic mobilisation” is required to overcome a particular ideology or political approach. Feik suggests that the environmental movement has already failed to win the democratic debate and that an earlier technical fix will probably need to be geo-engineered.
In the meantime an UN report suggests that the Earth is on the edge of a tipping point due to methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaking from the melting of the Arctic’s permafrost, the perennially frozen ground occurring in about 24% of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere. This has the capacity to amplify the direct human impacts of greenhouse gas emission by a factor of 30% with the potential to increase temperatures by 2-5 degrees Celsius in just 100 years. 
The International Energy Agency has estimated that under current policies, global Co2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020 and almost double by 2050. This would likely lead global temperatures to increase by at least 6 degrees Celsius.
Even if average global temperatures only increased by an average of 4 degrees Celsius this would mean:
- Average temperatures on Earth would be the hottest for 30 million years;
- Sea levels would rises 3-6 feet causing many where people currently live to flood;
- There would be persistent drought in 40% of currently occupied land dramatically affecting food production;
- Millions of environmental refugees would be created;
- About half of known the World’s known species would likely become extinct.
In this essay the basics of geo-engineering are examined and the issues Monbiot raises in relation to neo-liberalism are then discussed in some more depth.
The essay then suggests that, whatever the particular problems posed by neo-liberalism, environmental degradation is not limited to any single economic ideology, or mode of production. This includes discussion of Ronald Wright’s notion of “progress traps” and examines how leftist governments in Latin America are handling environmental issues. It also includes a brief examination of developments in China.
Some characteristics of the environmental movement are then examined and are compared to the characteristics of other social change movements.
The essay concludes that, in the imminent future, neo-liberalism is not likely to be swept away by the democratic mobilisation Monbiot calls for. Further, even if neo-liberalism were to be swept away, there is little evidence to suggest that any system that would replace it would necessarily place the world economy onto a sustainable environmental footing within sufficient time to prevent dangerous levels of warming. This is one reason why Feik is likely to be correct in his view that geo-engineering will be required.
However the essay also concludes that many of the political problems that have prevented adequate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also potentially dog action on geo-engineering. Further geo-engineering itself potentially contains dangerous side effects. And issues concerning the domination of the body politic by powerful corporate interests (a characteristic of the neo-liberal order as described by Monbiot) will still be of concern in the context of geo-engineering.
What is geo-engineering?
Geo-engineering is perhaps better referred to as “climate engineering”. It consists of two different basic approaches. These are:
- Removing Co2, or other greenhouse gases, from the atmosphere. The gases are then stored (or sequestered) in a manner that does not contribute to climate change;
- Creating counteractive cooling effects by reducing the amount of heat from the sun that penetrates Earth’s atmosphere. This method is known as solar radiation management (SRM).
Co2 removal techniques include carbon sinks (reafforestation and increasing ocean uptake), gathering and burying biomass and various methods to “scrub” Co2 from the atmosphere. But carbon removal technologies tend to be slow acting, long term and resource intensive. And alone they are not capable of reducing the amount of Co2 in the atmosphere sufficient to keep temperature rises within a safe level.
Co2 removal is almost useless if not accompanied by reduction in the generation of new greenhouse gas emissions. There is little point in removing already existing Co2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere just to replace them with new emissions.
Solar Radiation Management (SRM)
SRM on the other hand, is capable of generating cooling effects even without reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite this, nearly all of its proponents typically promote it as a means of “buying time” until the world can transition to lower emissions energy sources. Modelling has demonstrated that unless net carbon dioxide emissions are reduced close to zero, SRM would be needed to compensate for global warming for centuries before it could be phased out.
The most commonly advocated method of SRM is to replicate an effect that sometimes occurs within nature from the eruption of volcanoes.
When Mt Pinatubo had a major eruption in 1991, it caused global temperatures to fall by half a degree. Replication of this effect would involve deliberate transmission of sulphate into the stratosphere, which is the the layer of the earth’s atmosphere above the troposphere, extending to about 50 km above the earth’s surface. Other methods of solar radiation management include:
- Reflectors in space;
- Increasing reflective capacity of the land or ocean surface (whitening roadways and cities and/or reflectors on the ocean);
- Spraying misty sea water to brighten clouds which can reduce the uptake of solar energy by oceans.
The various approaches to SRM have different scalability, potential speed of deployment, cost risks and governance issues. Further research is required into methods, possible unintended consequences and legal and ethical issues.
How much of a solution is geo-engineering?
In his discussion of the ethics and issues surrounding geo-engineering, Michael MacCracken, from the US based Climate Institute, emphasises that we cannot geo-engineer our way out of the problem of climate change without reducing emissions. But he is clearly of the view that geo-engineering, including SRM, will be a necessary part of any solution. He says that modelling suggests the warming from a Co2 doubling can be largely offset by reducing solar radiation by 1.8%. Counterbalancing from SRM seems to work on a both seasonal and latitudinal basis.
But the scientific consensus around the human contribution to climate change evaporates when it comes to geo-engineering. Mention of geo-engineering in IPCC reports typically meets with criticism from parts of the scientific community and the environmental movement. Climate scientist Alan Robcock has offered twenty reasons why geo-engineering might be a bad idea. Even those who are prepared to contemplate the option are often alarmed by the implications. Piers Forster, a climate-change researcher at the University of Leeds, UK, and one of the authors of an IPCC summary which mentioned the geo-engineering option, says: “The policy relevance … is that if you do not start mitigating [ie reducing emissions] tomorrow we will have to start to consider these unattractive options.”
Neo-liberalism and the environment
Neo-liberalism describes a bundle of economic policies as well as a theory of government or political approach. The bundle of economic policies draws upon classical liberal economic theory and includes:
- an increased role in society for the corporate sector, including in the provision of public infrastructure;
- the opening up of domestic economies to foreign direct investment;
- “trickle down” economics;
- free markets;
- ending fixed exchange rates;
- broadening the tax base in order to cut income tax (particularly high marginal tax rates);
- cuts to government spending and especially deficit spending.
A more contemporary emphasis of neo-liberal economics is the idea that prices generated by financial markets represent the best possible measure of the value of economic assets and are therefore the best guide to decisions about investment and production. This theory is known as the “efficient markets hypothesis”. It is specific to the era of finance driven capitalism that emerged after the 1970s. The theory demanded financial deregulation, removal of controls on international capital flows and massive expansion of the financial sector. These were the developments that ultimately produced the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
As Monbiot suggests, the neo-liberal political approach is generally that government intervention is to be avoided, especially in the economic sphere. The neo-liberal political approach does not necessarily preclude strong government intervention around law and order, enforcement of property rights, anti-trust legislation, border protection, national security and defence.
Neo-liberal theory and practice
But there is a gap between neo-liberal theory and the practice of neo-liberal politicians. Leading examples are:
- Deficit spending to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Bush Administration (the deficit was also contributed to by the Bush administration’s tax cuts);
- The persistence of farm subsidies in the US and Europe;
- Massive government intervention to “bailout” private companies in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Neo-liberal theorists will claim that the examples referred to above reflect failure by politicians to implement neo-liberal policies consistently and deeply enough. But, at best, these actions demonstrate that political realities do not conform to neoliberal economic textbooks and never will.
Critics of neo-liberalism complain that, stripped of its theoretical rhetoric, in practice the neo-liberal state operates to privatise profit and socialise loss or risk of loss.
A hole at the centre of neo-liberal theory
Liberal economic theory was born during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment replaced faith in religion with faith in reason. A fundamental tenet of liberal economic theory reflects this faith in reason. It the idea that individuals act in their rational self interest driving markets to efficient outcomes. The theory holds that there is generally little need for government intervention in the economy because rational choices by individuals quickly cure most market failures, including lack of consumer information.
But the theory of rational self interest at the core of liberal and neoliberal economics has not stood up to scrutiny from empirical research into actual consumer behavior. Unlike liberalism, behavioral economics was developed after Darwin and Freud. It has demonstrated that much consumer decision-making is far from rational. 
Apart from lack of information, factors that often lead to poor or irrational consumer choices include:
- cognitive load (too much choice within a limited period of time) resulting in desires to eliminate decisional conflict overriding rational choice;
- bias towards the status quo and discounting future benefits for immediate gratification;
- addition of extra options making another option appear as a (reasonable) compromise, when in fact it is not;
- minor changes to the context of a purchase;
- various advertising techniques (that appeal to emotion rather than reason).
Behavioural economics does not discount rationality as an important factor in consumer decision making. But psychological influences mean that rational choices are subject to limits or boundaries. Hence the behavioural economics concept of “bounded rationality”.
The findings of behavioural economics are relevant to the environmental debate. This is because many contemporary environmental problems ultimately link to patterns of consumption in which consumer choice, whether rational or irrational, obviously plays a role.
Reversible policy or just advanced capitalism?
Most critics of neo-liberalism see it as a reversible form of extreme capitalism which took hold due to political decisions commenced by Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. This was the way that Kevin Rudd depicted neo-liberalism in his renowned article in the ‘Monthly’ magazine in February 2009.
However it remains the case that substantial portions of the neo-liberal policies referred to above have been implemented by the same social democratic parties that sometimes criticise neo-liberalism. As Scott Sumner has put it, “Neoliberal reforms occurred in nearly every country during the 1980s and 1990s, regardless of whether a left- or right-wing government was in office.”
One reason for this that while neo-liberal policies have facilitated globalisation of the international economy, at least some of these policies are often regarded as an inevitable reaction to globalisation and the need for industries to remain internationally competitive.
But importantly, critics of neo-liberalism recognise that markets can fail and that the state has a role in correcting this failure. This includes taking action to address economic “externalities” such as pollution. Critics also tend to favour a higher level of government spending to stimulate demand during downturns in the business cycle.
Examples of pro-capitalist critics of neo-liberalism include US billionaires Warren Buffet and George Soros. Buffet and Soros have been particularly critical of the fact that the richest members of US society are indulged with an unfairly generous tax regime. In 2009 Buffet and Soros were joined by other extremely wealthy philanthropists to discuss what could be done in response to the GFC and the environmental crisis.
The economist Jeffrey Sachs is another pro- capitalist/ pro free trade critic of the political influence corporations now have on government in the USA. There appears to have been a gradual evolution in Sachs’ views on this matter.
In 2005 Sachs criticised the “anti-corporate animus” of the of the anti-globalisation movement. He claimed that “There is nothing in economic reasoning to justify letting the companies themselves set the rules of the game through lobbying, campaign financing and dominance of government policy”. 
It is true that neither neo-liberal ideology, nor any other economic theory, contains any prescription in favour of allowing corporations to “set the rules of the game”. But the critical issue is whether the retreat of the state from the economic sphere, under the neo-liberal approach, has itself contributed to the increased economic and political influence of large corporations.
It did not seem to occur to Sachs in 2005, that the influence of corporations in “setting the rules” might be an inherent characteristic of the neo-liberal social, economic and political order.
But in any event, by 2012, Sachs was criticising the takeover of political power in the USA by a ”corporatocracy” comprised of four economic sectors: the military industrial complex, Wall Street Financial firms, Big Oil and the private health care industry.
According to Sachs ” Big Oil has played a notorious role in the fight to keep climate change off the US agenda. Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries and others in the sector have underwritten a generation of anti-scientific propaganda to confuse the American people.”
Sachs could easily have added the industrial food complex to the mix. This is an industry which has successfully lobbied government to maintain corn and other agricultural subsidies, contributing to an array of health, animal abuse and environmental problems.
Given Sachs’ conclusions it is hard to see why he would disagree with Monbiot’s analysis that an effective response to climate change is dependent upon reversing the power of the “plutocracy”, “”corporatocracy”” or whatever other name one might want to apply to the influence wielded by large corporate interests on the body politic.
Further to the left of the political spectrum, a minority of critics regard “neo-liberalism” as just the logical extension of contemporary, or advanced, capitalism. The neo-Marxist writers Adrian Parr and Naomi Klein are examples of an anti-capitalist critics of neo-liberalism and its impact on the environment.
For Parr neo-liberalism is advanced capitalism and is the underlying cause of world environmental damage, lack of access to water, the persistence of hunger and unacceptable levels of violence to both human beings and animals. She maintains that “a few adjustments here and there to that system are not enough to solve the problems that climate change and environmental degradation pose”.
Parr views most current efforts to ameliorate climate change from within capitalism as tending to perpetrate the accumulation of capital and its environmentally destructive economic system. Thus, according to Parr:
- Green commodities and the image of a “green lifestyle” eclipse the politics of climate change with the corporate sector seeing “eco-chic” as an opportunity to maintain a competitive edge in the economy. Introducing a new breed of commodities into the market as a way to solve the climate crisis is just “displacement activity”;
- Consumers can buy (voluntary) carbon offsets so that they can continue consuming. Consumption trumps environmental concerns and provides a “green light” to citizens of wealthy countries to continue unsustainable consumption;
- Ethical food choices cannot be separated from the (neo-liberal) conditions determining food production. For instance, most vegans eat soybean products yet the transnational politics of soybean production is responsible for razing large parts of the Amazon rainforest;
- While work in the area of green building and green city development “is an important part of solving the climate change jigsaw puzzle… the process of producing “modern feeling” and the dynamics that it generates, facilitates the production of neoliberal landscapes…placing the transformative potential of modern feeling in the service of capital accumulation”.
Neo-liberalism and climate change
There is often coalescence between neo-liberal ideologues and denial of environmental crisis. This includes whether climate change is even happening, or the extent of human contribution to it. Examples are the overwhelming majority of the US Republican Party and substantial sections of the parliamentary members of Australia’s Coalition parties.
While there is nothing in neo-liberal economic theory that demands this coalescence, environmental problems that demand urgent and deep government economic intervention, emerge as an existential threat to an ideology that is generally opposed to direct involvement by government in the economy.
At an even deeper level, if one holds the view that there are resource and environmental constraints to economic growth, then the neo-liberal theory of wealth tending to “trickle down” appears to suffer a fatal blow. If the economic pie cannot be infinitely expanded due to environmental constraints, then the issue of how the existing pie is divided squarely raises its “socialist” head. Michael Jacobs, the former General Secretary of the UK Fabian Society and former adviser to Gordon Brown, puts the problem mildly, stating:
Yet climate change denial is far from being a unanimous neo-liberal view. Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are all largely proponents of neo-liberal economic policy. But they all accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change and the need for the state to intervene to price carbon. There are also organised groups within US society who promote conservation as a “Conservative” value.
For those neoliberals who believe in the human contribution to climate change, support for a market based solution, namely the creation of a carbon emissions trading market, is the most commonly promoted remedial measure.
But this is also the measure that is most popular amongst Western social democratic parties.
Carbon emissions pricing
Carbon emissions pricing is usually referred to as a “market based solution” because once the price is set market players are left to determine where the carbon emissions mitigation efforts will concentrate. Cap and trade involves government setting a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide to be emitted through the number of emissions permits that are issued. But there is no fixed price. Carbon taxation involves a fixed price on carbon emissions through determining the level of the carbon tax. But no limit is set on the total amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted.
Carbon emissions trading is a more market based approach to carbon pricing than carbon taxation because under carbon trading the right to pollute becomes a tradable commodity.
But economists would regard both carbon emissions trading and carbon taxation as market based solutions because both aim to facilitate market based reactions to the “price signal”. The contrast is with an approach whereby government seeks to more directly regulate environmental outcomes.
In truth however, carbon emissions pricing (whether through trading or taxation) can never be a “pure” reflection of neoliberal ideology.
This is because carbon markets have not proved capable of arising “organically” through adherence to neo-liberal Laissez Faire economic theories. If they did there would be no need for government intervention to create them. The pricing of carbon clearly involves attempts to correct market failure and deal with the externality of carbon pollution through government led intervention.
Further setting the “cap” part of cap and trade, or the level of a carbon tax, is government regulation just as much as setting the price for any carbon tax. And even after the level of the cap is determined, carbon pricing requires heavy continued regulatory oversight for the effective operation of any market, particularly in relation to the need to verify claims relating to emissions and carbon offset levels.
Although carbon trading is supported by both the ALP and the Australian Green Party, support amongst environmentalists is far from unanimous. Criticism includes both the idea of carbon trading, as well as the particular form of it adopted in Europe’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).
Criticism of carbon emissions trading
Fundamental criticisms of carbon emissions trading include that it:
- is a magnet for hedge funds, banks and speculators, who are the main purchasers of carbon credits;
- replaces the goal of eliminating fossil fuel dependence with the goal of reducing emissions;
- increases layers of obscurity and complexity;
- promotes carbon offsets despite the facts that there are questions over whether carbon offset projects can be consistently measured; there is no single regulatory body to assess and verify projects; and the market is susceptible to fraud; and is fundamentally different the pollution trading market used in the USA to end acid rain upon which is the carbon trading system it is modelled. (This is because the system for combating acid rain only required monitoring a few thousand smokestacks in the Mid West of the USA. Carbon emissions trading, on the other hand, involves many more sites dispersed throughout the world with differential will and capacity to monitor and enforce standards);
- is likely to make poorer countries poorer or more polluted, or probably both. This is because the expense associated with low emissions technology means that poor countries are likely to want to buy pollution rights from richer ones. But this will be impossible if the price on pollution is set too high. On the other hand, if poor countries are allocated a large number of free, or discounted, pollution rights, multinational corporations will then have incentives to relocate their most polluting operations into these countries. 
Monbiot prefers carbon rationing to an Emissions Trading Schemes. He explains carbon rationing as follows:
“Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If he runs out, he must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The rest is auctioned off to companies.” 
In November 2008, the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee produced a report on carbon rationing, otherwise known as “Personal Carbon Trading’ (PCT). The report concluded:
- Reductions in emissions from business and industry need to be accompanied by reductions by households and individuals;
- PCT might be the kind of measure needed to bring about behavioral change;
- PCT could guarantee a reduction in emissions because it places a ceiling on consumption rather than just seeking to reduce demand;
- PCT has the potential to drive greater reductions than “Green taxation” because it could incentivize behavioral change and personal engagement more than the price signal from taxation;
- PCT could be more administratively complex than Green taxation and other proposals. However given its potential to change behavior Government should urgently investigate how to take it forward;
- Many difficulties would need to be overcome to implement PCT, not least to bring about public and political acceptance of such a concept- much further research is required.
But since the report, a Guardian poll indicated that while 85% of people in the UK accept the threat posed by climate change just 33% would accept something like a pay per mile road charging scheme  which would be a limited form of the type of pricing PCT might deliver. And PCT has not been seriously pursued by any of the major UK parties.
Monbiot has also been critical of the particular form of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that was adopted in Europe. He has stated that “By handing out Co2 emissions permits, free of charge, to the European companies that pollute most, it ensured not only that the polluter was paid, but also that something which belongs to all of us—the right, within the system, to produce a certain amount of carbon dioxide—was given to the corporations”.
The European Commission has accepted that the initial ETS involved the issuing to too many free permits.
Thus, in 2008 the Commission tried to improve the system by auctioning permits. But following the economic recession there are still too many permits in the system and the price of carbon has fallen below the level that experts say is required to have a sufficient impact. The Commission wants to further reduce the number of permits but some European Governments are reluctant to do so in the midst of a recession.
After the European carbon emissions price hit a record low of 2.63 Euros a ton in April 2013, the European Parliament voted through a temporary plan to delay the auction of hundreds of millions of EU emission allowances for several years, in order to avoid further flooding the market with new allowances while prices are near historic lows. Nevertheless in the long run more substantial structural reform is required to correct the over supply of permits and revitalize the market.
Some supporters of carbon pricing prefer carbon taxes to cap and trade.
Dieter Helm, professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University, says pricing carbon is best done via taxation including a tariff on high carbon products produced abroad. So, for example, if high carbon goods are produced in a country that does not price carbon and are then exported to Europe, the tax/tariff would be paid where the product is consumed. Consistent with World Trade Organisation rules, any country that imposes an adequate domestic carbon price would be exempt from the tariff.
But Stephen Tindale says that Helm’s approach fails to take into account the political opposition of European States such as Britain and Germany to European Union involvement in tax policy. Such involvement is regarded as an incursion into national sovereignty.
Tindale supports cap and trade. But he says that the ETS needs a floor price to push up carbon prices and give them greater stability, together with some border tariffs to address the issue of carbon leakage- the relocation of production to countries that do not impose any price on carbon pollution.
Price signals and innovation
Carbon pricing aims to send a price signal to industry to encourage innovation and investment in low emissions technologies. But some economists emphasise that price signals are not the only source, or even primary source, of innovation.
Mariana Mazzucato, for example, asks the question “What if the revolutionary, most radical, changes in capitalism came not from the invisible hand of the market but the very visible hand of the state?”
Mazzucato maintains that the state has, and must continue to play, an important role in innovation. She argues that key periods of innovation led growth have seen the state act as a market “creator” and “shaper” not merely as a market “fixer”.
Mazzucato says that the notion of a “meddling state” that crowds out private innovation is a myth. On the contrary, she maintains that the risks associated with innovation have been socialised while the profits have been privatised. She points to the following examples of state led innovation:
“From the internet to nanotech, most of the fundamental advances – in both basic research but also downstream commercialisation – were funded by government, with businesses moving into the game only once the returns were in clear sight. Indeed, all the radical technologies behind the iPhone were funded by government: the internet, GPS, touch screen display, and even the new voice-activated Siri personal assistant.”
Nevertheless carbon pricing remains at the centre of the political response to climate change and the overall complexity of the environmental debate is demonstrated by the fact that, despite the criticisms of carbon trading outlined above, even on the “hard anti-capitalist left”, there is support for carbon trading at least as an interim measure. For example, the radical economist Robin Hahnel has stated:
“…as long as the albatross of global capitalism remains around our necks our best chance to avert climate change is through an international cap and trade treaty that puts a significant price on carbon emissions”. 
Further whatever substantial obstacles neo-liberalism may pose for environmental reform, it is important to recognise that the problems created by human interaction with the natural environment extend far deeper than any particular economic or political ideology, particular type of society, or mode of production.
Humanity and the Environment- Progress Traps
In his book ‘A Short History of Progress’ Ronald Wright identifies how human societies commonly encounter what he refers to as “progress traps”- economic developments that starts off with positive consequences for humanity but eventually trap us with negative ones.
Hunter gatherers seemingly made progress when they learned that by driving woolly mammoths off the edge of cliffs they could kill 200 beasts as easily as they could kill one. The hunters feasted for a good while. But the new method may ultimately have contributed to the mammoth being hunted to extinction, thereby depriving the hunters of access to this source of food. The hunters had fallen into a “progress trap”.
Wright says history is littered with examples of progress traps where environmental degradation occurs at societal level. He traces progress traps involving environmental degradation through many pre-industrial societies- Catal Huyek, Sumer, the Western Roman Empire and the Mayan civilisation.
But his most outstanding example is that of Easter Island.
Here was a mini civilisation living in an area that is only 164 square kilometres in size. Human habitation of the island is estimated to have commenced sometime between 700 and 1100 AD. At this time the island was covered by large broad leaf forest and palms. The population increased to about 10,000, usually a sign of well being. The people had surplus time and began to honour their ancestors by carving impressive stone statues which date from about 1250 AD.
But by 1400 AD suddenly no more pollen is found in the fossil record. The forest on the island had been completely destroyed. This meant that there was no more wood for boats and therefore no fishing for seafood or means of escape. The Islanders then ate all their dogs and nesting birds. By the time European explorers arrived in the 1700’s the islanders had reached the brink of extinction with food shortages, perpetual warfare and cannibalism. This was now a society that would not have been capable of the complex tasks of carving and transporting the giant statues created by the earlier generations.
What is striking about Easter Island is that in such a small place the destruction of the island’s natural resources must have been obvious. The topography of the island is volcanic. This means that there would have been peaks on the island from where much of the increasing damage to the forest would have been obvious. This was a civilisation advanced enough to construct impressive statues yet seemingly incapable of taking the simple steps required to halt the destruction of the forest- the protection of saplings and replanting.
The Easter Islanders did not need neo-liberalism, or any particular economic ideology, to self destruct. Simple lack of willingness to collectively plan for the future was enough.
In such a small environment it is hard to believe that the environmental crisis arose solely out of inability to foresee the possible consequences of felling of the forest. It seems more likely that concerns about the forest were swamped by hubris, laziness, status quo bias, faith that some divine force might ultimately intervene; or by some combination of such factors.
Whatever the underlying cause of failure, Easter Island demonstrates that human beings are quite capable of driving themselves, as well as other creatures, to extinction through environmentally destructive economic activity. It also demonstrates that they are capable of doing so without a capitalist, or neo-liberal, mode of production and even in circumstances where the dire consequences that are likely to flow from the destruction are foreseeable.
Wright says that in modern developed countries, progress traps are exacerbated by excessive faith in technology. He says that technology is addictive because material progress creates problems that seem to be solvable only by further technological progress.
Wright is critical of the New Right’s war on redistribution which he says is a threat to civilisation. But he says that the fundamental change required to put the world on a sustainable footing is not necessarily anti-capitalist. Rather it requires a transition form short term to long term thinking.
Wright does not see this transition as easy. Indeed at times he appears highly sceptical that such a transition is likely. He postulates that human inability to foresee long range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth hunter gathering. It may also be a mix of inertia, greed and foolishness encouraged by a concentration of power which gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo from which they prosper, long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.
Anthropogenic climate change is merely the latest and deepest of the progress traps that have occurred throughout human history. Other, or related, contemporary progress traps include:
- forest reduction;
- soil erosion requiring the use of chemical fertilizers (which depend on burning oil) to replace depleted nitrogen and phosphorus;
- depletion of clean water sources, including lowering of the water table in many parts of the world;
- ocean pollution by plastics and ocean acidification.
Latin America’s retreat from neo-liberalism- no environmental panacea
Social democratic and socialist ideologies are more inclined than neo-liberalism to favour government intervention to correct what they view as negative market outcomes.
But the traditional focus of both social democratic and socialist ideology has been on reversing, or at least ameliorating, the inequality untrammelled market forces tend to produce. For the most part, these ideologies have been, and remain, as committed to economic growth as neo-liberal ideology, even if they differ on the extent to which the state should intervene to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits of growth.
At governmental level, the most outspoken socialist critics of capitalist environmental destruction today are probably the leftist governments of Latin America. The late President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, and Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, for example, have both blamed climate change on “capitalism”.
President Rafael Correa’s leftist government in Ecuador has recognised nature as having “rights” in the new Constitution. The Constitution affirms the “right of the population to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment” and declares “environmental conservation, the protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and the integrity of the country’s genetic assets, the prevention of environmental damage, and the recovery of degraded natural spaces” as “matters of public interest”.
Ecuador, the site of a major oil pollution disaster involving Texaco (now Chevron), is also home to Yasuni National Park, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world and a major carbon sink. Yasuni is also home to a $7.2 billion oil reserve inside a pristine corner of the park.
The Ecuadoran government has proposed leaving the fossil fuel in the ground if the international community will give Ecuador half the value of the oil reserve. Opponents claim this is environmental extortion. Supporters claim it is a new model for conservation and income distribution.
In any event it remains the case that leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil (together with more right wing governments in Columbia and Mexico) all rely heavily upon the export of hydrocarbons.
In the left leaning Latin American countries, the state plays a greater economic role and, despite some criticisms relating to efficiency, it is at least arguable that the benefits from hydrocarbon exploitation are now better shared and that progress has been made in reducing poverty.
But it is beyond question that negative environmental controversies and impacts remain. And, on the whole, the extractive industries are being extended rather just reorientated.  Venezuela’s dependence upon fossil fuel is evident from the fact that oil revenues account for roughly 94 per cent of export earnings and more than 50 per cent of federal budget revenues.
Brazil’s left leaning government has adopted a less bellicose attitude towards the West, than Venezuela and Bolivia with former President Lula Da Silva having stated “In tackling climate change, collective action is the only way forward”. 
But Brazil, together with the USA, is the world’s largest producer of ethanol. This is a controversial bio-fuel. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions if there is no significant land use change and it reduces air pollution.
But there are questions over the effect of bio-fuels on water use, soil erosion, land use changes and food prices. Monbiot has described bio-fuels as “a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster” which “set up a competition for food between cars and people”.
Lula disagrees, describing Brazil’s ethanol production as “a benchmark for alternative and renewable fuel sources”. Lula also denies a negative effect on food prices, and places the blame for food price inflation on US and European agricultural subsidies.
Brazil has sided with the US in an argument over measuring, reporting and verification of emissions from forests, refusing to agree to third party monitoring. More recently Brazil’s Government, now led by President Dilma Rousseff, has responded to mass demonstrations against spending on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games, by promising to increase education spending from funds derived from Brazil’s newly discovered oil reserves.
None of this is to be overly critical of the emphasis that Latin American left leaning governments place upon poverty alleviation. As Chavez and Morales imply, their countries are hardly at the forefront of responsibility for the onset of climate change. Even today, Latin America produces just 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector and 13% if deforestation and agriculture are taken into account. This relatively low level is in part due to the widespread use in Latin America of energy produced by hydroelectric plants.
Alleviation of poverty and inequality will remain at the forefront of priorities for Latin American Governments for the foreseeable future. And this will also be the case for other parts of the globe that harbour developing economies. As Andrew Charlton has pointed out any “solution” to climate change that does not also address the issue of global poverty is unlikely to be acceptable to the developing countries.
Persistence of global poverty
While much emphasis has been put on the progress made in reducing the proportion of the world’s population who live in extreme poverty, due to increases in population, in absolute terms, the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased.
Moreover it is important not too lose sight of how narrow the accepted definition of “extreme poverty” is. It only captures those living on less than $1.25 a day. About one fifth of the world’s population, over one billion people, lives at this level. But 2.6 billion people, more than one third of the world’s population, live on $2 a day, or less, a figure that has changed little since 1981. About the same number do not even have access to basic sanitary toileting facilities. Almost half the world lives on less than $2.5 a day and at least 80% of people live on less than $10 a day.
Nearly one billion people are unable to read a book or sign their names and a similar number do not have ready access to clean water. An average of one child dies of hunger or hunger related diseases every ten seconds or so.
Things can always get worse. Indeed it is the poor countries that are projected to suffer the most serious initial impacts from climate change. But for much of the world’s population, many of the grim descriptions of the consequences that will flow climate change- hunger, misery, lack of access to water, education and healthcare, debilitating disease and premature death- already describe too much of daily life.
For some the steady state economy provides a description of what an environmentally sustainable economy may look like. The steady state economy is a suite of policies that aim to move away from the need for constant economic growth. It advocates increased conservation areas, energy conservation, reduced inequality etc. The full suite of steady state policies polices can be found at the Centre for the Steady State Economy (CASSE) website.
But whether or not one accepts the central proposition that unlimited growth and consumption are impossible in an environmentally constrained world, the political reality is that there is nothing to indicate “steady state” policies have widespread support in either the developed or developing world. Neither is there anything to indicate that such support is likely to be attained in the near future.
China- not neo-liberal but still an environmental problem
Since 1978 China has liberalised its economy. The most important aspect of Chinese economic reform, which is usually associated with neo-liberal economics, was the opening up of its economy to foreign direct investment.
But the Chinese economic model also retains features that can only be described as deeply antithetical to neo-liberal economic theory. In addition to widespread regulation of prices (including energy prices) and central determination of the exchange rate these policies include:
- The production of central five year economic plans. These plans are developed by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), based upon a draft from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, approved by the National People’s Congress and implemented by Ministries and officers of the State Council;
- Continued participation by State Owned Enterprises in a mixed economy (with continued capacity of government to direct these enterprises to produce specific types of goods or services);
- Use of taxation or subsidies to influence non-government enterprises.
Elizabeth Economy has chronicled China’s environmental history in her 2004 book ‘The River Runs Black’. She points to the terrible environment price China has paid for transforming its economy from a poverty stricken nation into an economic powerhouse.
Apart from greenhouse gas emissions, this environmental price includes desertification, water pollution and scarcity, deforestation, air pollution, and susceptibility to flooding (due to deforestation and destruction of wetlands).
Economy maintains that China’s current environmental situation is not just the result of “modern policy choices” which have facilitated integration into the international economy and multinationals locating pollution intensive industries in China. She points to a centuries’ long drive towards economic development involving plundering of forests and mineral resources, poorly conceived river diversion, water management and intensive farming that has degraded the land. According to Economy “China’s leaders from emperors to Mao Zedong relied upon… few environmental regulations and no codified environmental laws…”
Contrary to common Western impressions, much of China’s limited system of environmental protection has always been, and remains, highly decentralised. The system relies upon local officials to safeguard the environment. These local officials are susceptible to corruption and, in any event, tend to favour economic development over environmental concerns as the most effective way of preserving social stability and gaining personal promotion.
There are now reportedly hundreds of thousands of Chinese people dying each year from pollution related diseases. This has led to sporadic local protests and demonstrations regarding environmental issues and against land seizures.
The top Chinese leadership has responded by recognising the environmental costs associated with economic growth. It has adopted ambitious targets for energy efficiency and carbon intensity targets into its latest (twelfth) five year economic plan  and, at one stage officially promoted “Green GDP” which attempted to formally offset environmental cost against economic growth.
But local officials regarded the Green GDP project as a threat. This led to it being discontinued as an official project. Moreover, because local officials still tend to be promoted more on the basis of economic and employment growth, there are questions over whether pollution reduction targets will be met, or whether underlying behaviours destructive of the environment will change.
The latest five year plan introduces emission trading as one of the new policy tools to be tested through pilot projects. The pilots are to be implemented in five municipal areas and two provinces. The document ‘China’s Policy and Actions for Addressing Climate Change’ also sets out conservation measures, increased carbon sinks, re-forestation plans, enhanced international exchange and measures to engage the participation of the whole society in environmental issues.
The government has established feed-in tariffs for wind and photovoltaic solar power, imposed an additional fee on all electricity end-users to fund renewable energy development and has made it mandatory for grid operators to produce electricity from renewable sources. Renewable energy state-owned enterprises are supported through local content rules and by contracts, to the chagrain of some international competitors. (73]
An Asian Development Bank report on China’s environmental challenges indicates positive achievements over the last five years in relation to:
- A 10% reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions;
- Increased municipal waste treatment capacity;
- Forest coverage increase with land degradation and desertification stopped, if not reversed;
- Energy intensity per unit of GDP reduced by 19% since 2005;
- Increased deployment of renewable energy.
However the report also finds significant remaining problems particularly in relation to:
- Water pollution and lack of availability of safe drinking water;
- Air quality (fewer than 1% of cities meet WHO standards);
- Solid Waste management;
- Land degradation, reduced biodiversity and inadequate forest resources.
The Bank assesses the full economic cost of environmental degradation at about 13.5% of GDP.
Similarly former US Vice President and climate change campaigner Al Gore has described a mixed picture in relation to environmental reform in China. Gore says that the bad news is that the Chinese are building a new coal plant every 10 days or so and that pollution is so bad hospital admissions for respiratory ailments have multiplied. But he says that the protest movement is growing and the new leadership appears committed to environmental reform.
Whatever the intentions of the new Chinese leadership, it appears it will have to deal with structural difficulties associated with effective implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations in China.
According to Alex Lo, lecturer at the Griffiths School of Environment, the emissions trading pilot schemes face considerable challenges in setting up robust monitoring, reporting and verification mechanisms.
Lo points to previous Chinese experience with emissions trading schemes which he describes as “not very encouraging”. For example, the country’s sulphur dioxide emissions trading schemes are predominantly based on self-reporting. Emissions are not regularly monitored. The regulatory infrastructure is far from complete and is not up to international standards.
Lo also queries whether the price of emissions permits under the ETS pilots can actually reflect market variations to electricity prices in circumstances where these prices are regulated by a central authority. He raises doubts that the Chinese ETS will be build upon a “mature free market” and “transparent regime”.
Lo says that if electricity prices remain regulated for political reasons, (which presumably include facilitating the country’s economic development and keeping prices affordable for lower income earners), thensynchronization of “carbon prices across continents would be impractical” orwould result inemissions trading schemes becoming “just another venue for political struggles among participating countries”.
Discrepancies between monitoring of Beijing’s air pollution by the US embassy and less dire official figures, as well as Chinese authorities’ complaints about the embassy’s insistence on independently monitoring also both add to concerns about transparency in China’s official monitoring of pollution.
And Xin Qiu and Honglin Li have pointed out that central regulation of energy prices means “energy prices are lower than their value, making it impossible to solve the problems of waste and overconsumption of energy”.
Finally it is important not to underestimate the close ties between the Chinese Communist Party leadership and China’s state owned fossil fuel energy giants and the ability of the later to influence policy. Plutocracy is not limited to the neoliberal state.
Internationalization of the Chinese economy has created a demand for political elites with experience of operating in the global economy. The state owned companies, including the energy giants, are seen as recruiting ground for new CCP leaders.
According to Erica Downs and Michal Meidan:
“The casual observer of China’s oil industry might easily think that the ultimate authority over China’s state-owned oil companies is the Chinese state…The companies’ political power, financial clout and technical expertise provide them with considerable influence over energy projects and policies in China”.
Has the environmental movement failed?
Feik’s query as to why “a political and social movement has failed” led to a number of letters of protest to ‘The Age’ newspaper. These letters defended the environmental movement, saying that it was not to blame for the failure of governments to take sufficient action on the environment.
But I did not read Feik’s comment as an attempt to attribute “blame” to the environmental movement. It simply recognised the fact the movement’s advocacy around the climate change has not translated into adequate action.
In Australia, CSIRO surveys confirm that the environmental movement has had mixed success in changing public attitudes.
On the one hand trust in environmental organisations ranked just behind university scientists as the most trusted source, well ahead of car and oil companies.
Other indicators suggesting “pro-environmental impact” include:
- 77% of Australians think that climate change is happening;
- People commonly overestimate the prevalence of climate change denial;
- Over 60% of people report having changed to more environmentally friendly products, reduced water usage and switching off the lights off whenever possible.
But on the other hand:
- Fewer than 25% of people have ever based their vote on an environmental issue;
- Fewer than 20% have ever given money to an environmental organisation;
- Of those who think that climate change is happening, a little less than half think it just represents natural fluctuations in temperature without a significant human contribution;
- For those who do not believe in climate change, or believe it to be a natural occurrence, a strong “switch off response” poses a challenge for science communicators.
What are some of the likely answers to Feik’s question as to why the environment movement has not been able to achieve sufficient political action around climate change?
Diversity of the environmental movement
A starting point is to recognise that the environmental movement is far from being a homogenous movement. Rather, both within countries and internationally, there are a large number of organisations with significantly different approaches. These differences reflect diverse cultural contexts and extend to ideological approach and political strategy. They also extend to the systems or technologies which are advocated as the best means of reaching what can only be described as a very general mutual goal of environmental protection.
That such differences exist is hardly surprising. Similar differences have existed in all significant social change movements.
Thus feminism has, or had, its radical separatists, liberal feminists and socialist feminists. The US civil rights movement had its Martin Luther King. But it also had its Black Panthers and its Nation of Islam. The organised labour movement, indeed the “left” as a whole has its reformists and revolutionaries, its protectionists and free traders, its secular and religious advocates, its social liberals and social conservatives.
So it is therefore hardly surprising that the environmental movements also contain diverse sectors. These sectors can be broadly described as follows:
- “Deep” ecologists who hold that human beings have no right to interfere with nature, except to satisfy the most vital of human needs, that technological fixes should be rejected and that human population and economic growth should be radically reduced;
- Social, or socialist ecologists, who tend to be anti-capitalist and see environmental crisis as directly linked to authoritarianism and hierarchy, which also causes racism, sexism, third world exploitation and mistreatment of other marginalized groups;
- Supporters of the steady state economy (see above);
- Greenpeace with its emphasis on non-violent direct action and what it describes as “creative confrontation to expose environmental problems”;
- More moderate groups like the ‘Australian Conservation Foundation’, or ‘The Wilderness Society’ who have never been overtly “anti-capitalist”. The traditional emphasis of these groups was conservation and their tactics tend towards mainstream political lobbying activity as well as less radical community based activity;
- Green political parties, for whom the environment has always been a primary focus but who invariably take up other (non-environmental) political issues, given that their primary purpose is to engage in the contest for public office;
- Social democrats whose political tradition did not have the environment as a central concern but who now tend to view environmental problems as examples of market failure which require correction by government intervention;
- Pro capitalist environmentalists who generally believe that environmental problems can be overcome within capitalism, or even that capitalism, because of its dynamism and innovation, is the economic system best positioned to tackle environmental problems.. This group includes the “eco-modernists” who describe themselves as progressives who support technological innovation including nuclear energy and shale gas as a means of overcoming global warming (see below).
In all social movements different elements play different roles. The extremes will often be portrayed by opponents of the social movement as representative of the whole movement. They are often the “straw dogs’ that are used to attack the social movement as a whole. On the other hand the extremes can also sometimes “push the boundaries”, allowing new ideas or strategies to come forward for debate. This can facilitate the opening up of political spaces, allowing those with more moderate positions or tactics to start to win over the political mainstream. This phenomenon exists in relation to the environmental movement just as it does for any other social change movement.
Difference between the environmental movement and other social movements
But there are also important differences between the environmental movements and the movements against sexism, racism and the labour movement.
While all social movements are concerned with the way we live, the movements against sexism and racism, as well as the labour movement, are “emancipation movements”. That is, they all represent specific groups, or classes, of people. Their aim is to protect, or free, these groups from exploitation, or to obtain for these groups, a greater slice of the economic pie.
These movements have arguably enjoyed a greater measure of success than “the environmental movement”. There are at least three obvious reasons for this.
First the emancipation movements are primarily concerned about social relations- the relations between people interacting with each other, including in the production process. While sexism, racism and economic inequality persist in all societies, capitalism has been able to accommodate some substantial demands of the emancipation movements. This includes, for example, industrial regulation, the right of workers to associate and collectively bargain and widespread legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or gender.
Second, while some within the environmental movement may support greater equality, unlike the emancipation movements, the environmental movement does not necessarily campaign for a greater slice of the economic pie for any particular group. Monbiot himself has recognised the distinction between the environmental movement and other social change movements. He has stated in relation to the campaign concerning climate change:
“It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves”.
Finally, and probably most importantly, unlike the environmental movement, the emancipation movements have not needed to advocate around such complex scientific or technological issues in order to pursue their causes.
Rosa Parks did not need a social science degree to know that there was something fundamentally wrong with the request from her bus driver for her to give up her seat to a white passenger. And she knew instinctively that the solution she wished to pursue was resistance to bus segregation.
Similarly everyday experience told the first unionists that they could not bargain with their employers as effectively as individuals as they could collectively.
And at a certain point in history it became obvious to enough women that it was wrong that women should be excluded from the vote, or that they should receive less pay than a man for doing the same job, or that pregnancy was sufficient ground for the termination of employment.
By way of contrast, environmentalists, of whatever hue, are concerned not only with social relations but also with the interrelationship between human beings and nature in all its manifestations. And they cannot escape the fact that this necessarily leads them into territory where there is significant technical and scientific controversy over causes and solutions to a diverse range of environmental issues.
Even leaving aside the ideological and strategic differences among the broad categories of environmental groups referred to above, amongst environmentalists, there are divergent opinions on a myriad of technical issues. A far from exhaustive list of these issues includes:
- carbon trading v. other regulatory approaches;
- nuclear power (including whether, despite its risks, it is a lesser risk than continued coal power generation);
- the relative merits and demerits of different renewable energy sources and the extent to which renewable sources can meet required energy demands;
- treatment of animals (ranging from animal rights/welfare through to concerns about environmental or health consequences of over production and consumption of meat);
- the role of bio-fuels (including any effect on food cost inflation);
- organic farming (including whether it is a realistic option for feeding an increased population);
- genetically modified crops (including whether it is safe, required to feed an expanding population, as well as the issue of ownership of GM seed patents);
- population policy (including whether government should attempt to constrain population growth and, if so, by which methods);
- the need for geo-engineering.
Perhaps the most important of these issues is the extent to which renewable energy can meet required energy demands.
Andrew Charlton, for example, says that the claim that only political will prevents Australia’s energy coming entirely from renewable power within decades is wrong. The missing element is technology, not political will. Charlton acknowledges that nuclear and so called “clean coal” solutions both have drawbacks. But he says that the need for them is “mathematical” and Green groups opposed to them have not done the maths.
On the other hand, a UN backed report by the International Renewable Energy Agency says that “rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs,… shows that not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply…Renewable energy technologies have grown more robust and more efficient and are increasingly able to generate power even in suboptimal conditions such as low wind speeds and low solar irradiation…Solar photovoltaic prices have fallen by 80% since 2008”. There are reports claiming that 100% of global energy demand can be met by renewable energy by 2050.
In any event, very few people, even if they are interested in environmental issues, have the time or training to assess for themselves the relative merits of all of the highly scientific, technological and economic arguments around the broad array of issues listed above.
It follows that the position that one takes on these issues will often reflect trust as to the most reliable source of technical information. This means that the assertion, often made by opponents of the environmental movement, that environmentalism has a “religious” or faith based element, is not always completely devoid of truth.
Parts of the environmental movement certainly have a somewhat ambiguous relationship with science. They rely upon the scientific consensus to support arguments to combat climate change. But they often also expressing a degree of mistrust towards science in relation to some of the other issues listed above.
For example, one might think that the environmental movement would welcome, or at least have an open mind towards, the meat patty that was produced in a laboratory from cattle stem cells. Development of this technology offers potential benefits to the environment (requiring only 1 percent of the land and 4 percent of the water used in conventional livestock farming) as well as for animal welfare. But almost immediately after news of the stem cell patty emerged, Greenpeace condemned the development. It claimed that it was a distraction from ecological farming. And it wrongly suggested that the patty had involved genetic modification when in fact it did not.
Nevertheless given the scientific and technical complexity involved in so many environmental issues, it is hard to see how trust in preferred sources of information can be avoided.
And, in defence of the environmental movement, it can be legitimately said that its views are usually no more or less “faith based” than the faith that opponents of environmentalism often place in the inevitability that technological fixes can be found to every problem, or in the so-called “rationality” neo-liberals assign to consumer choice, or that the best solution to any problem is always to be found in removing barriers to the operation of the so-called free market.
Environmentalists often suggest that climate change denial is the main reason for the failure to take sufficiently timely action on climate change. The denial campaign, which has occurred in the face of peer reviewed scientific consensus, has certainly proved to be a substantial obstacle to the effort to combat climate change.
But even if climate change denial did not exist, or was unable to attract more than its fair share of media coverage, and even if the fossil fuel lobby did not exert such a disproportionate influence on the body politic, there would still be a great deal of scientific, political and economic controversy around the best means to alleviate the climate change problem.
There is simply no escaping the fact that controversy around scientific, economic and technical issues adds layers of complexity for the environmental movement that hardly exists, if at all, for other social change movements.
“Eco-modernism”- an offshoot from the environmental movement
Eco-modernism, challenges conventional environmental views of development, modernization, and technology. It shares some of the criticisms of neo-liberalism and tends to support views like those expressed by Mazzucato on the importance of the public sector in technological innovation. It sees long-term government investment as required to accelerate technological progress, economic growth, and environmental quality.
The Breakthrough Institute is a classic example of eco-modernist philosophy. It describes itself as being made up of “progressives who believe in the potential of human development, technology, and evolution to improve human lives and create a beautiful world.”
It supports nuclear energy and shale gas as low emissions technology that will facilitate ecologically sustainable development. It points to “dramatic land use requirements” associated with renewable energies.
Breakthough opposes the idea that destroying capitalism and economic growth while running the world on costly, small-scale, decentralized, and intermittent renewable energy technologies offers a plausible path to a stable climate, or to a more just and equitable world.
It supports a world of dense megacities, low-carbon energy, and a variety of other technologies capable of decoupling human well being from ecological impacts.
Environmentalism and future generations
The environmental movement often expresses concern at how degradation of the environment will affect future generations. Concern for future generations has also been, and remains, a common motive for the emancipation movements. But the environmental movement is perhaps unique in the extent to which it expresses for the environmental legacy that will be left for generations into the far flung future. This focus presents some, usually unarticulated, ethical conundrums.
Some sense of obligation to future generations seems intuitive. If somebody was to suggest that we have no responsibility to care about the conditions in which our children or grand children will live over the next 50-150 years we might regard such a person as lacking moral sensibility.
On the other hand if someone was to assert that they did not particularly care what happened to generations in say 500 years time, because we are too remote from these generations, or because we cannot possibly influence outcomes that far in advance, we might regard such a person as a realist rather than as somebody lacking moral sensibility.
At least one of our prominent cultural myths suggests that historically, our moral sensibility might be limited to about four generations. Thus the Jealous God of the Old Testament punished the offspring of non- believers to the fourth generation. It seems that the Old Testament God was aware of the law of diminishing returns. He was able to recognise that the threat of eternal damnation for all succeeding generations would be no greater deterrent to non-belief than damning just four future generations.
Whatever the historical limits of our sense of responsibility to the future, it can certainly be said that relatively recent industrial and technological changes mean that our capacity to affect the way future generations will live, now stretches beyond anything that our predecessors could have imagined.
Climate change is an issue that squarely raises the extent of obligations to future generations. In part this is because of the time lag between when greenhouse gases are released and their effect on temperature increases. In broad terms current temperature rises are a response to greenhouse gas emissions from 50 or 100 years ago.
While asserting a general obligation to immediate future generations is easy enough, the general proposition does not solve the riddle of the extent that current generations should make sacrifices for future ones and how far into the future we can realistically extend a sense of moral responsibility.
It is clear however that the cost-benefit analyses which are typically conducted by economists to give an “evidence base” to government decision making, heavily discount future costs and benefits against current ones. Thus “the costs and benefits to persons just a few generations into the future count for virtually nothing in economically based policy analyses”.
On the one hand discounting the future in this manner is one explanation for our susceptibility to progress traps. On the other hand it is not entirely irrational. Current costs and benefits are inherently more tangible and measurable than the costs or benefits that may, or may not accrue, in an uncertain future and the more remote the future, the more intangible the costs and benefits.
The average period for mammalian survival is 1 to 10 million years. We have a period of existence of 200-300,000 years or 1.7 million if one wants to be excessively generous and include home erectus who was closer to us in nature than to our common ancestor, the ape.
We have no evidence that the level of ingenuity human beings possess is a factor that makes it more or less likely that we will achieve, or surpass, the average periods of mammalian survival. Ingenuity provides the capacity to adapt to new challenges and to even bio-engineer the way a species evolves. But it also creates the technological capacity for mass destruction, creating the possiblity that it could reduce the chances of longevity for an ingenious species.
Further, while longevity for the human species is a legitimate aim, it cannot be the only value. Quality as well as longevity is surely relevant. The horseshoe crab has existed in more or less unchanged form for 445 million years, dwarfing the period of human existence. But the crab is not ingenious. It understands nothing of the universe and we humans use the crab for bait and fertilizer.
If we had have remained as hunter gatherers it seems likely that we would not now be facing the type of widespread environmental crisis that we have created for ourselves. Indeed however long we last, it is possible that this period of time may have been surpassed if had remained as hunter gathers.
But it hardly follows that progressing to modernity, with all of the enhanced comfort and knowledge that modernity brings (at least for those who no longer face extreme poverty), was some kind of terrible mistake.
We seem compelled to conclude that while it is reasonable for existing generations to plan for the welfare of future ones- this must be subject to reasonable limits. Yet even once we arrive at this general principle it does not tell us anything of what those reasonable limits might be.
The precautionary principle
Many environmentalists argue that we should adhere to the precautionary principle.
The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an act.
But the assumption underlying the precautionary principle is that the risk of taking an act, where the consequences of that act are uncertain, should be assumed to outweigh the risk associated with the status quo, or “business as usual”.
Yet the climate change scenario associated with “business as usual” is so dire that it appears that the current widespread breach of the precautionary principle may ultimately render it redundant as a guide to action.
The dilemma can be illustrated by analogy with a patient who has a terminal illness. The medical specialist tells the patient that without operative treatment the patient is certain to die a slow and agonising death within 12 months. With medical treatment the person has a 25% chance of permanent cure. But the operation is so delicate and risky that there is a 50% chance of death on the operating table. What is the best choice?
The answer may depend on the age or other circumstances of the patient. But at least some patients will undoubtedly take the risk, even though the chances of permanent cure are less than the risk of death. The precautionary principle is of no real assistance as a guide to action.
Likewise, risky proposals such as SRM may well end up having to be compared with the risk of the increased warming that is certain to occur as a result of failure to move sufficiently far away from the business as usual scenario. The countervailing cooling effects from SRM will likely begin to look like they are worth the risk of the SRM side effects which may not be fully known. If you think that this is a bit scary, you are correct.
No democratic mobilisation to usher in environmental sustainability is imminent
Whether or not a democratic mobilisation on behalf of the environment should happen is a different question to whether or not such a movement is likely to happen.
This should never be regarded as a static question divorced from human endeavour or the vicissitudes of human circumstance and political activity.
But when one looks at the world’s current political situation, a democratic mobilisation to overthrow neo-liberalism hardly appears imminent. And even if it did occur there is little to suggest that the result would necessarily be a new system in which environmental sustainability was the overwhelming priority.
Neither Monbiot nor Parr make any suggestion as to how the demise of neo-liberalism, or continued domination of the body politic by large corporations, might come about.
Parr concludes her book by stating that “our politics must start from the point that after 2050 it might all be over”. But this appears to be an almost utopian hope or sentiment rather a political strategy or prediction. And just a few pages before making this statement, Parr herself cites a March 2011 Gallup poll indicating, that in the US, environmental issues ranked 13th out of 14 in importance, with 71% of voters nominating the economy as the most important issue.
Similarly in Australia, surveys indicate that in 2013 just 9% of voters ranked addressing climate change as one of the three most important issues in deciding how they would vote in the federal election.
Since his re-election President Obama stated that he wants Congress to pursue market based solution to climate change and that he intends to take executive action to reduce pollution to speed transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
And polls, commissioned by environmental organisations since the election indicate that 65% of US citizens support “significant steps to tackle the problem”. But these polls do not indicate what steps the public will support, or the cost that voters might be prepared to pay to fund such action.
Obviously when asked whether they want action taken on climate change voters will often say “Yes”. But posing this question, without asking about costs is like asking voters whether they want more services without being asked whether they want to pay more tax to fund them.
The economy is likely to remain the foremost concern for a majority of US voters. Obama did not campaign on pricing carbon, he does not control the Congress and since being re-elected, he has failed to veto a Bill, which allows the Secretary of Transport to prohibit US airlines from participating in Europe’s ETS and which had received cross party support from both Democrats and Republicans.
In any event, it is far from clear that any ideology which might replace neo-liberalism would necessarily deliver the environmental outcomes that are needed within the time required.
Economic cycles and environmentalism
Apart from poverty being likely to remain the first priority in the developing world, environmental policy in the developed world appears very susceptible to the economic and political cycles. The EU’s failure to remove the excess of permits from its ETS in the wake of the GFC is only the latest manifestation of a longer underlying tendency for environmental issues to be put on the too hard basket in the wake of economic recession.
In his short history of ‘European Union Environmental Strategies’, Dr. Christian Hay, Secretary General of the German Advisory Council on the Environment, concludes that the general policy approach over the last 30 years has involved “looking for synergies between business and environmental goals” and that “progress… has never been linear…European environmental policies have always been very sensitive to wider political and economic cycles”.
In a similar vein, in analyzing environmental policies under the Hawke, Keating, and (first) Rudd governments, Nick Economou, has pointed to the existence of a “rise and fall dynamic”. He attributes this to existence of an issues attention cycle. But it also seems that the end of the Hawke Government’s ecologically sustainable development initiative broadly coincided with the new Prime Minister, Paul Keating’s policy emphasis on economic and industry policy in the wake of the 1991 economic recession.
Similarly the reluctance of the first Rudd government to take the Emissions Trading Scheme to a double dissolution followed in the wake of the onset of the global financial crisis and the political changes in the leadership of the opposition.
Political circumstances led the Gillard Government to introduce a moderate carbon tax as a prelude to a more fully fledged carbon trading scheme. But the tax initially proved very unpopular with the Australian public. In part, this may be attributed to Gillard’s pre-election statement that she would not introduce such a tax. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that Gillard’s pre-election statement would have remained as an overriding objection if most voters were convinced that combating climate change should be a major political priority and that pricing carbon at least represents a start on tackling the problem.
As outlined above, the second Rudd government’s decision tolower the price on carbon emissions by replacing the current fixed price with a price attached to the European market price appears to be just the latest example of a seemingly worldwide tendency for short term economic and political interests to trump longer term measures to protect the environment and the economy.
It appears that democracy, or at least the forms of it that exist within a globalised economy, will continue to fail to produce sufficient action around environmental issues.
One reason for this is that globalisation, neo-liberalism, increased incidence of casual employment replacing permanent employment and technological changes have all tended to place workers, both in the developed and developing world, into positions of greater economic insecurity.
Globally, workers from trade exposed sectors (which now includes services industries as well as manufacturing) are forced into competition for a limited number of jobs. “One day’s ‘winners’ may become the next day’s ‘losers’: maquiladora workers in Mexico lose jobs to China or Vietnam, while American information technology workers lose theirs to India or Malaysia”.
This position of perpetual insecurity means most workers are most immediately concerned about obtaining, or retaining, employment. This insecurity makes them very susceptible to any politics which suggests that environmental action by their government might reduce the nation’s competitive position, place employment at risk, or increase ordinary worker’s living costs. This is of course precisely the campaign run against carbon pricing by the Coalition parties in Australia.
Karl Marx thought that an organised working class contained transformative potential because it would eventually feel that, as a class, it was not the subject of a particular wrong requiring particular redress but was generally wronged by capitalism. It could therefore redeem humanity as a whole.
Eventually the environment crisis has the potential to perpetrate a “general wrong” upon the great majority of people, or indeed upon everybody. But the effects, especially the initial effects, are uneven. And entirely unsurprisingly, the general tendency is for workers and their unions to support the industries in which they are employed.
Unions and the environment
The peak bodies of the labour movement in developed countries generally recognise climate change and have policy positions in support of efforts to combat it.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, for example, has a policy of support for worker engagement in climate change issues at the workplace level including the right to participate in workplace environmental committees, the right to know about environmental hazards, whistleblower protection and the right to refuse work which is dangerous or harms the environment.
But at the level of individual unions and their rank and file members, any coalescence of view with positions taken by the environmental movement generally coincides with job security in the industry in which the union’s members are employed. Trying to protect their member’s job security is part of a union’s job description. This phenomenon can be easily observed in the Australian context and there is no reason to suspect that the situation is different in other countries where workers face much the same pressures on employment security.
Thus, for example, in Australia:
- In trade exposed industries Australian unions have expressed concern about “carbon leakage” and jobs going offshore;
- The meat workers union could never advocate reduced meat consumption consistent with its members’ employment interests. However it has joined animal rights activists in opposing live sheep and cattle exports as this coincides with its member interests for meat processing to occur within Australia; 
- The Rail Tram and Bus union describes itself as aligned with the environmental movement on a range of issues including urban planning, freight transport, energy use and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions;
- The vehicle builders union supports co-investment by government and car makers to manufacture electric cars;
- Within the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union:
- The forestry division strongly opposed Mark Latham’s proposals to end wood chipping in Tasmania’s native forests. This campaign contributed to the victory of the Howard Government in 2004 and its control of the Senate resulting in an unprecedented attack on union rights of entry and rights to collectively bargain through ‘Work Choices’.
- The construction division strongly supports government programs to fund retrofitting of buildings to reduce emissions and create jobs;
- The mining division supports continued coal mining with increased investment by mining companies in carbon sequestration technology (the merits of which many in the environmental movement are highly skeptical). (Postscript: Since this article was first written the Mining Division has changed its position to support Labor’s renewable energy target).
A notable exception to the general pattern of unions’ environmental advocacy corresponding to their member’s immediate employment interests occurred between 1971 and 1975 when the NSW branch of then Builder’s Laborer’s Federation (BLF), imposed what were then referred to as “Green Bans” on indiscriminate building development in Sydney.
It has been estimated that during this period, the NSW BLF green-banned some 43 projects with a value of around $3 billion. . But ultimately the NSW branch was taken over by the federal branch of the union, the NSW branch leaders were expelled from the union and the Green Bans ceased.
Organized labor’s support for their industries will continue at home and abroad whether or not neo-liberalism remains the dominant economic ideology. Likewise industries that are regarded as strategically important to a nation’s welfare are likely to continue to attract majority voter support.
It follows that if no “democratic mobilisation” to overthrow neo-liberalism or usher in a period of environmental sustainability is imminent, Feik is probably correct in his conclusion that geo-engineering, and SRM in particular, will be tried.
How might solar radiation management come about?
Many of the obstacles that have prevented sufficient international action to reduce Co2 emissions are likely to also arise as obstacles to implementation of SRM.
While it appears that the SRM technology could be deployed relatively quickly and would be relatively inexpensive, the technology with the biggest potential for global cooling (sulphur in the stratosphere) also has the most potentially significant side effects, including possible changes in precipitation belts and damage to the ozone layer. 
Further SRM technology is difficult to effectively test and provides for no reversal of the problem of ocean acidification which still requires reduction in Co2 emissions. If something goes wrong with SRM and it is necessary to withdraw the technology, any failure to decrease Co2 emissions in the meantime will result in a leap in warming.
Results from SRM would be uneven. Accordingly, gaining international agreement for SRM appears difficult. As Ricke, Morgan and Allen have observed:
“…our results demonstrate that not only would `optimal’ SRM activities imply different things for different regions, but that international negotiations over the amount of SRM could become inherently more difficult the longer such activities were used to compensate for rising greenhouse gas concentrations…Consideration by diplomatic and other communities of how global governance of such activities might best be managed is in an even earlier stage of development than the science and engineering”.
Agreement may be somewhat easier to achieve for more localised SRM projects. Reducing solar radiation only in the Arctic might be possible with possible benefits including:
- Restoring ice necessary for migrating species and for limiting erosion that will require relocations;
- Limiting permafrost thawing which releases methane and causes further warming;
- Restore air chilling which influence mid latitude weather including rainfall.
Moreover SRM does not make the issue of neo-liberalism disappear. Questions remain such as:
- Who will foot the bill for further research?
- Who will own the patents on any new technology?
- What will be the respective roles of the public and private sectors?
- Will price signals be sufficient to lead the private sector to innovate? Or is Mazzucato correct in asserting that much important innovation must be led by the state?
There is one political advantage that SRM has over efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While one would need to accept the reality of climate change in order to support the need for SRM, there does not appear to be any obvious requirement to accept that climate change is a result of human activity in order to accept the necessity for SRM intervention. On the other hand this same factor also exacerbates moral hazard concerns about the fossil fuel industry latching onto SRM as an excuse for continuing the life of high emissions fuels.
One thing seems certain. We are indeed in the midst of a deep, deep, progress trap.
‘Wanted: a new politics to save Plant Earth’ ‘The Age’ 8.12.12; http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/wanted-a-new-politics-to-save-planet-earth-20121207-2b17l.html#ixzz2Gi7mYsXO
‘Green Movement has been an abject failure’, ‘The Age’ 5.12.12
 ‘At the Edge of Disaster’, Ben Cubby, ‘The Age’ 28 November 2012 http://www.theage.com.au/national/at-the-edge-of-disaster-20121127-2a5xe.html; http://www.unep.org/pdf/permafrost.pdf
‘Ethics and Issues Surrounding Geo-engineering to Mitigate Climate Change’, Lecture byMichael MacCracken, Ph.D, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute,: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yth5YsiN5Y8
Boucher, O., Lowe, J. A. & Jones, C. D. Implications of delayed actions in addressing carbon dioxide emission reduction in the context of geo-engineering. Clim. Change 92, 261_273 (2009).
 ‘Ethics and Issues Surrounding Geo-engineering to Mitigate Climate Change’, Lecture byMichael MacCracken, Ph.D, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute,: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yth5YsiN5Y8
‘Zombie Economics’, John Quiggin, Black Inc 2012, pg 36-37
‘A Behavioural Perspective on Consumer Protection’, Eldar Shafir, (2008) 15 Competition and Consumer Law Journal; http://www.financialaccess.org/sites/default/files/publications/a-behavioural-perspective-on-consumer-protection.pdf;
‘The potential limits of consumer empowerment by information’, Geraint Howells, Journal of Law and Society, Vol 32, No.3, Sep 2005, pg. 349-70
IBID See also ‘Choice Over Time’ https://www.russellsage.org/publications/choice-over-time
 ‘Governing the World’ by Mark Mazower, Allen Lane, pg. 419
‘The End of Poverty’ by Jeffrey Sachs,
‘The Four Big Gangs that run the US’ by Ross Gittins, Review of Jeffrey Sachs book ‘The Price of Civilisation’, ‘The Age’ 31 December 2012
 Food Inc http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1286537/plotsummary
See for example, ‘The Wrath of Capital- Neo-liberalism and climate change’ by Adrian Parr, (New York: Columbia UP)
 IBID Pg.148
 IBID Pg.20
 IBID Pg.19
 IBID Pg.33
 IBID Pg.38
 IBID Pg.96
 IBID Pg.113
 ‘Green Social Democracy’, Michael Jacobs, http://www.fabians.org.uk/green-social-democracy/
See for example, http://conservamerica.org/; http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=577&theme=home&loc=b; http://www.cenetwork.org.uk/
‘Neoliberalism- The Rise of Carbon Trading’, Larry Lohmann at: http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/files/Neolib&Calc.pdf
 “The Wrath of Capital’ IBID pg 28
 ‘Carbon Credit Fraud, The White Collar Crime of the Future’ Deloittes, at: www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Australia/…/Carbon_credit_fraud.pdf
 “The Wrath of Capital’ IBID pg 29
 ‘Outrageous Fortunes’ Daniel Altman, Black Inc, 2011, pg 205
Climate Law Blog, Centre for Climate change Law, http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2013/07/16/eu-parliament-vote-renews-hope-for-future-of-eu-emissions-trading-scheme/
“How to Confront the Climate Crunch’ by Stephen Tindale; http://www.cer.org.uk/insights/how-confront-carbon-crunch
‘Building the entrepreneurial state’, Mariana Mazzucato, New Statesman, 8 March 2012, http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/03/investment-state-policy
 http://www.iied.org/new-left-new-extractivism-latin-america; See also ‘The Wrath of Capital’ pg. 146 for Chavez’s comment.
 See for example, ‘The Perils of Petrobas’, ‘The Economist’; http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21566645-how-gra%C3%A7a-foster-plans-get-brazils-oil-giant-back-track-perils-petrobras; http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/08/us-venezuela-election-oil-idUSBRE8970UR20121008
See for example: ‘Poverty Reduction in Venezuela’, Mark Weizbot, Harvard Review of Latin America, http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/weisbrot_revista_fall_2008.pdf;‘Venezuela Reduced Poverty by 50%, Affirms Eclac’, 28 August 2011 at http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6451;‘How did Venezuela change under Hugo Chávez?’, ‘The Guardian Data Blog’ at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/oct/04/venezuela-hugo-chavez-election-data;‘World Bank: Venezuela decreased poverty’ http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/1774; ‘The World Bank- Brazil’- http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/brazil; ‘Poverty Reduction In Brazil’, Brazil Factoid, http://www.brazil-factoid.com/poverty-reduction-program-in-brazil.html; ‘Ecuador’s Poverty Rate Fell To 28.6% in 2011’, Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20120117-712857.html
 ‘A Lethal Solution’ George Monbiot, March 2007, http://www.monbiot.com/2007/03/27/a-lethal-solution/
 ‘Man Made World’, Andrew Charlton, Quarterly Essay, issue 44 2011, Black Ink
Energy Regulation and Legislation in China’ Xin Qiu and Honglin Li, Environmental Law Reporter, 7-2012; http://www.epa.gov/ogc/china/Qiu.pdf
 ‘Economic Planning in China’, Gregory C. Chow, Princeton University;
 ‘The River Runs Black’, Elizabeth C Economy, Cornell University Press, 2004
 See for example: http://www.vjel.org/journal/VJEL10058.html; http://ecojesuit.com/reflections-on-chinas-environmental-protection-administration-system/4617/; http://www.greenlawchina.org/2010/03/environmental-public-interest-litigation-continues-to-develop/
See also ‘The China Price- The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage’ Alexandra Harney, 2008 Penguin Press HC
‘Blackest Day’, ‘The Economist’ http://www.economist.com/blogs/analects/2013/01/beijings-air-pollution
‘Energy Regulation and Legislation in China’ Xin Qiu and Honglin Li, Environmental Law Reporter, 7-2012; http://www.epa.gov/ogc/china/Qiu.pdf
See for example, http://www.deepecology.org/ and http://www.context.org/iclib/ic22/zimmrman/
See for example, http://conservamerica.org/; http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=577&theme=home&loc=b; http://www.cenetwork.org.uk/
Heat, London, Allen Lane, 2006, p. 215
‘Man Made World’, Andrew Charlton, Quarterly Essay, issue 44 2011, Black Ink
 Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9
‘Utilitarianism and Future Generations’ Jukka Mäkinen and Marja-Liisa Kakkuri-Knuuttila, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, http://lta.hse.fi/1997/2/lta_1997_02_s4.pdf
 ‘The Wrath of Capital’ pg. 147
 IBID pg.142
 ‘Back on the issues attention cycle. Labor and environmental policy from Hawke to Rudd’ Nick Economou; http://apsa2010.com.au/full-papers/pdf/APSA2010_0057.pdf
 ‘Neoliberalism and climate change adaptation’, David Roberts; http://grist.org/climate-change/2011-08-25-neoliberalism-and-climate-change-adaptation/
RBTU website http://rtbu-nat.asn.au/238.html
See for example Greenpeace- http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/coal/carbon-capture-and-storage/
‘Ethics and Issues Surrounding Geo-engineering to Mitigate Climate Change’, Michael MacCracken, Ph.D, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute,: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yth5YsiN5Y8
‘Regional Climate Response to Solar Radiation Management’ Katharine L. Ricke, M. Granger Morgan and Myles R. Allen, Nature Geoscience, 18 July 2010; http://re.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Regional%20climate%20response%20to%20solar-radiation.pdf