Anthropocene Capitalism

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The chilling conclusion that humankind has pushed the planet beyond the limits that will lead to the collapse of stable civilised human societies is elaborated further in Wolfgang Streeck’s “How Will Capitalism End?”  This is a brilliant book that deserves to be widely read. Irrespective of the environmental limits to economic expansion, Streeck sets out the instabilities within capitalism and the erosion of democratic checks on runaway growth that will lead to the breakdown of the global economic system in due course.

Here is a summary of some of the key ideas in Streeck’s analysis provided by David M. James (my highlighting):

Capitalism is permanently unstable and in a state of flux [a point generally forgotten and denied by the dominant “general equilibrium theory”]. Given its inherent tensions and contradictions, capitalism’s success has been dependent on the timely appearance of a new technological paradigm or the development of social needs and values complementing the changing requirements of continued economic growth.

One of the current problems for capitalism is how to convert insecure workers into confident consumers. Following the replacement of the working class by technology, the same is now happening to the middle class by information technology, undermining the very carriers of neo-capitalist and neoliberal lifestyle (careerism-cum-consumerism). There is nothing left to prevent the accelerated displacement of labour.

“OECD capitalism” has been on a crisis trajectory since the 1970s, with three major trends: declining growth, growing inequality and rising debt. These trends are mutually reinforcing. We are entering a period of “deep indeterminacy and multi-morbidity”. For the decline of capitalism to continue no revolutionary alternative is required.

The neoliberal social order results in “under-socialised individualism”, making people liable to be drawn into “repressive-identitarian collectivism”. There has been a gradual erosion of the post-war “standard model of democracy”, in part a consequence of “de-nationalisation” (globalisation) and neoliberalism. The new elites have accepted lower growth because they’ve benefitted from higher profits (the system has been restructured to achieve this) and growing inequality. Democracy has become irrelevant to the political economy, leading to the birth of “post-democracy” (decision-making being removed from the political arena altogether). “Now states are located in markets rather than markets in states”. The global financial industry’s provision of liquidity establishes control over national governments.

We are entering an “Interregnum”: capitalism is disintegrating from within, with no successor approaching, and the incumbent management is clueless about how to restore stability. Equally the opposition has no idea how to replace it. The end is a process not an event, marked by proliferating and irresolvable crises. Individual resilience in the system (adaptability to the conditions of neoliberalism) undermines collective resistance to it. Networks of “users” replace communities of citizens (= also part of “post-democracy”).

The 4 behaviours of “users” in the entropic system: coping, hoping, doping and shopping. Optimism underpins the system, impeding political radicalisation and collective action. Pessimism is labelled as a socially harmful personal deficiency. The crisis of capitalism is so pervasive that it affects the whole social order and way of life “dependent on the uninterrupted progress of private capital accumulation”.

Capitalism and democracy were compatible for only a short period: the 30 years after WW2, an era of economic growth within national economies facing a common external threat (communism). Capitalism’s success was always dependent on countervailing forces (trade unions, an interventionist state, regulation) that limited it, but those forces have been more or less destroyed by neoliberalism.

The large-scale migration from politics to markets has hollowed out the public sphere, undermining public interest in politics, such that whatever political interest or activity remains tends to be not for but against something.

The “European consolidation state” is forcing national economies and democracies to be “market-conforming” (Merkel’s phrase). The politics of the consolidation state protects markets from the vagaries of democratic politics, imposing a permanent austerity regime. Europeanisation today is identical with a systematic emptying of national democracies of political economic content. “Where there are still democratic institutions in Europe, there is no economic governance any more … and where there is economic governance, democracy is elsewhere.” There is a regime of “authoritarian liberalism” throughout the EU’s institutions, especially the European Council (and the Finance Minister’s group), the ECJ and the ECB.

Planetary boundaries update

The Stockholm Resilience Centre here has updated its research on the limits to growth of the impact of human activity on the planet as a whole. As we enter what some are seeing as the post-globaisation phase of geopolitics as Trump and other nationalistic political leaders take power, the analysis of overall human impact on the planet remains off most mainstream politcal agendas.

“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015).

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The planetary boundary research offers evidence about tipping points.  How to spread awareness of their imminence to the changing leadership of our most powerful nations, some of whom seem keen to accelerate the rush to exceed planetary boundaries?

The Antarctic ice sheet offers one specific example of a tipping point arising from global warming that seems on course to raise sea levels around the planet. This article on what is happening to the Antarctic ends as follows:

“The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.”

Planetary boundaries update

The Stockholm Resilience Centre here has updated its research on the limits to growth of the impact of human activity on the planet as a whole. As we enter what some are seeing as the post-globaisation phase of geopolitics as Trump and other nationalistic political leaders take power, the analysis of overall human impact on the planet remains off most mainstream politcal agendas.

“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015).

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The planetary boundary research offers evidence about tipping points.  How to spread awareness of their imminence to the changing leadership of our most powerful nations, some of whom seem keen to accelerate the rush to exceed planetary boundaries?

The Antarctic ice sheet offers one specific example of a tipping point arising from global warming that seems on course to raise sea levels around the planet. This article on what is happening to the Antarctic ends as follows:

“The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.”

Planetary boundaries update

The Stockholm Resilience Centre here has updated its research on the limits to growth of the impact of human activity on the planet as a whole. As we enter what some are seeing as the post-globaisation phase of geopolitics as Trump and other nationalistic political leaders take power, the analysis of overall human impact on the planet remains off most mainstream politcal agendas.

“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015).

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

In a deep and original study of the Anthropocene Era – “The Shock of the Anthropocene” – two French academics, Bonneuil and Fressoz spell out three phases of this new geological era:

  1. 1750-1950 Thermo-Industrial Revolution that saw the exploitation  of cheap fossil energy raising atmospheric CO2 emissions above the 277 ppm at the end of the climatically stable Holocene lasting around 12000 years during which human civilisations flourished. by 1950 CO2 global levels were at 311 ppm.
  2. 1950-2000 The Great Acceleration during which exponential growth of human population and industrial impact based on cheap energy multiplied enormously leading to CO2 levels of 380 ppm.
  3. 2000-present Tipping Point Phase in which CO2 levels in 2016 exceeded 400 ppm and points of no return (to long-term environmental sustainablity) across at least three planetary boundaries are evident.

The planetary boundary research offers evidence about tipping points.  How to spread awareness of their imminence to the changing leadership of our most powerful nations, some of whom seem keen to accelerate the rush to exceed planetary boundaries?

The Antarctic ice sheet offers one specific example of a tipping point arising from global warming that seems on course to raise sea levels around the planet. This article on what is happening to the Antarctic ends as follows:

“The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.”

Top Climate Stories 2017

This article offers a guide to what we might focus on in the coming year in relation to the changes occuring in the atmosphere of Spaceship Earth. Stories include:

1. Will Trump withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement and kill clean energy funding?

2. How will countries and others respond to a climate-denying US administration?

3. China, the world’s largest emitter, and coal consumption.

4. Will Arctic Sea ice continue to decline, opening up the fabled Northwest Passage once and for all?

5. Renewable energy getting cheaper and cheaper vis a vis fossil fuels.

6. Climate change, forests and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions form Deforestation and forest Degradation).

7. Ongoing global coral reef bleaching event and other climate impacts on Earth’s oceans.

8. Citizen-led climate action – this is a subset of our hoped for CASE – Community Action for Spaceship Earth, the purpose of this website. The American author of this article refers to direct protest (Keystone XL & Dakota Access Pipeline) and divestment from investment in fossil fuel production as examples of direct action.

Larsen C Ice Shelf seems likely to calve a gigantic 5000 sq. km. iceberg as big as South Wales in the near future as reported hereThis event may or may not be related to global warming.

No pause in global warming

This new research reported here by the BBC confirms previous NOAA research that casts doubt on the conclusion that there was a recent 15-year pause in global warming .

The data that seemed to suggest a slowing down of global warming in the early years of this millennium have been re-examined and the new analysis concludes that:

the warming experienced in the first 15 years of the 21st Century was “virtually indistinguishable” from the rate of warming between 1950-99, a time generally acknowledged to have seen significant rates of warming from human emissions of CO2.

Whether the incoming Trump administration and other ‘merchants of doubt’ will take note or will continue to claim that climate change is ‘a hoax’ perpetrated by the scientific community to undermine business and conomic growth, remains to be seen.