The great thing about this global recession that we’re in is that the planet has a bit of time to breath and recover from the destructive force of modern hyper-capitalism. I honestly hope that as we start to recover from this recession we’ll have realized that we need to work with the ebbs and flow of ecosystems and not just exploit what finite resources the ecosystems create.
An interesting theme has begun to emerge in Copenhagen: that the financial crisis might end up saving the world. Sure, it’s painful now, this line of thinking goes, but it gives us a chance to build a low-carbon global economy that we might not have had otherwise. And in the meantime, greenhouse-gas emissions could fall sharply as a result of depressed economic activity — factories closing, less driving, less flying, and so on.
Two influential English economists argued as much today at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change. In a morning plenary talk, Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Political Science explained the reasons why he’s more optimistic about the likelihood of a new, effective global climate agreement today than he was two years ago: the rapid advancement of low-carbon technology, the deepening of public awareness, the Obama administration’s commitment to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050 — and the fact that the recession provides an opening for completely remaking the global energy economy. “It should be easier because we have an economic crisis,” he said. Labor is cheap, after all. That will make it cheaper to hire the workers to, for instance, rebuild the electrical grid in both the U.S. and Europe. Besides, he argued, the financial crisis offers a clear lesson. With this financial catastrophe fresh in our minds, we should realize more than ever that if we wait to address a looming crisis, it will bite us that much harder in the end.