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Ecomodernism

  1. 1. Ecomodernism UNT PHIL 3120 and 3330 Spring 2021 | Prof. Adam Briggle adam.briggle@unt.edu
  2. 2. Outline • What is climate change? • Ecomodernism in a nutshell • Ecomodernism is an extension of key points from modern philosophy • Machiavelli – lowering the bar • Locke 2.0 • Spelling out the ecomodern vision • The centrality of price • Decoupling • The Kaya Identity and CDR
  3. 3. How did we get in this mess? Modernity! How will we get out of this mess? More Modernity!
  4. 4. It is not just a mess. Climate change is the unintended consequence of human development
  5. 5. Ecomodernism in a nutshell • “The solution to the unintended consequences of modernity is, and has always been, more modernity — just as the solution to the unintended consequences of our technologies has always been more technology.” • Shellenberger and Nordhaus • Consider the ozone hole • Think scale! • If you got all Americans to cut meat consumption by 25% you would save 82 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. That is four days worth of US emissions and TWO DAYS of emissions from China.
  6. 6. Ecomodernism is an extension of modern philosophy • Machiavelli and lowering the bar • Matt Taibbi: “The average American likes meat, sports, money, porn, cars, cartoons, and shopping. Less popular: socialism, privilege-checking, and the world ending in 10 years.” • Locke and increase • Human labor transforms nature (‘waste’) into value for convenience – governments instituted to protect this growing wealth-creation process. • All people benefit via a trickle down sort of thing. • Locke 2.0 = ecomodernism = sustain this basic logic of ingenuity even on a crowded planet…
  7. 7. Spelling out the ecomodern vision • Our ‘schedule’ (future) is one of increasing temps, at least for the next several decades. (True, we won’t hit 1.5C, probably not even 2C) • But it is also a future with dramatically less hunger and poverty. • A wealthier future will be better adapted to the warming world – and will be better able to mitigate emissions to reduce warming. • Indeed, the supposed ‘business as usual’ RCP scenarios are quickly outdated as decarbonization increases – thanks to green tech. • In the long run, we can turn the temp down. • Vast areas will be re-wilded as we develop more efficient agricultural systems (e.g., lab-grown meats). • We will have begun extra-planetary resource extraction – effectively zoning the Earth ‘residential.’
  8. 8. From Sin to Dignity • The pessimist take on climate change is an eco-theology about sinfulness, transgression, hubris… • But we are natural creatures doing what we do best – use intelligence to control our environment • Along the way, we are truly ‘humanizing’ ourselves, making life more dignified for more and more people.
  9. 9. Get ready for exponential growth! • More solar energy strikes the Earth’s surface in 2 hours than the global energy demand for an entire year.
  10. 10. The Centrality of Price • Scarcity just means an increase in price • That signals innovators and investors to find alternatives • Examples: copper and fiber optic; fracking • The philosophical question: what costs and benefits are taken into account? What is the ‘real cost’ of a gallon of gas…how do we get that into the price? • So, the trick is to get this kind of innovation and investment around carbon, which has not been priced. • This can happen via markets, government, investors (e.g., Blackrock), activists, and NGOS.
  11. 11. Decoupling Year SPM GDP 1952 200 micrograms/m3 $11,000 2015 15 micrograms/m3 $38,000 Peak Impact
  12. 12. The Kaya Identity – and CDR? C = W P P E W C E x x x Carbon Intensity Energy Intensity Decarbonization
  13. 13. But where is direct air capture? NUCLEAR! Source: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/2.4_cicero_peters.pdf

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