Sunday 8th September 2019
Carbon use has risen by 60% since 1990. This stands in sharp contrast to the majority view of climate scientists stating that we need to end global heating emissions and become carbon-neutral by 2025. How certain is this? In a recent interview with a right wing podcaster (Mallen Baker, a Corporate adviser to big business: https://Malle Baker.net/podcast), Roger Hallam of Extinction Rebellion explained he is influenced by complexity theory – a model suggesting that the construction of the future is complex and cannot be wholly predicted.
Indeed, we cannot say with a certainty that we are correct about climate change, and we don’t need to. The science is probe-able. We can do no more than delve deep into the gathered scientific facts in order to develop a probability analysis based upon current evidence. Compile the data. The context of probability offers human beings a collective assertion of emotional humility in which we don’t have to be certain to be potentially correct. There are no absolutes.
The scientific facts detail that extinction within our lifetimes is a real possibility. Even if, as in the most conservative of estimates, only half a billion people die prematurely as a result of climate change within the next 50 years, the emotional impact upon those who remain will be socially destructive.
The precautionary principle suggests we should act as if extinction is likely in order to stop it from happening. If the science says you’re likely to die, the debate is not over the probability but over the action required to lessen the potential. To do so, and in defiance of any scepticism, there will have to be a fundamental change in the way the System works and society manages itself, just in case.
This raises the probability of authoritarian state control in the coming period of deep crisis. How else, for example, will the majority of humans be convinced to give-up their private cars and the diesel-lorried goods filling-up supermarkets with seasonless nibbles? How do we end all notions of continuous growth and development? How do we consent to become carbon-neutral by 2025 – the probable date of no-return?
Top-down governments have never been particularly sensitive to environmental concerns and will probably lead the descent into barbarism rather than prevent it. Absolute power in individual hands will determine who’s to live and who’s to die. Wealth and influence will dominate survival. Even Hallam admits that Right-wing politicians usually put the ideology of individualism in front of the facts.
The issue of consent is therefore important in this process of major social and economic change. How the majority of the People can be convinced remains the issue. Hallam is convinced that peers can convince their peers. So people like you convince people like you. Hence we need ordinary people randomly picked from across the political spectrum to share with those they know the understanding and information received from attendance at the Citizens Assemblies.
As an attempt to prevent totalitarianism the formulation by Extinction Rebellion of The Citizen’s Assembly process is highly appealing. It is a jury-style democratic decision-making process for deliberating on what is to be done. Lottery-picked jurors will be advised by specialists and expected to tell politicians what needs to be done. The replacement of one set of membership with a new set will ensure inclusion of our entire community.
There are no guarantees in life, suggests Hallam, but the historical record of such “deliberative democracy” offers the possibility of huge empowerment and radical solutions. It is suggested that the Jury system remains the most just method of calibrating degrees of doubt and proof. At the very least, Citizens Assemblies are a creative and inclusive solution. Probably.