On the Prospect of Preventing Global Climate Catastrophe due to Rapid Social Change
The present official economy is heavily dependent on the use of fossil fuels. The increase of the use of coal, natural gas, and oil has gone hand in hand with economic growth. However, to prevent global climate chaos, humanity must decrease and eventually cease burning fossil fuels. There is an increasing amount of evidence that we must quickly wean off the use of oil, gas, and coal, and most of the remaining sources of fossil fuels must be left in the ground.
To avoid climate catastrophe, humanity must decrease its greenhouse gas emissions very rapidly. This is not possible with technical fixes alone. What is defined as production and consumption in the official economy must be drastically reduced. This, however, is not possible within the present social system because it is based on the growth imperative. Therefore, basic social structures must be rapidly changed by social movements. This may be possible because analogous changes have occurred in history without large-scale violence. Social resources and the energy for such an upheaval could be tapped from the social and subjective ‘‘overspill’’ created by the fractured nature of present societies and the corresponding cleavages in human subjectivity. In such a process of social change, abandoning consumer society may turn out to be surprisingly painless, because modern consumption is inherently dissatisfying. Economic growth and the consumption utopia have been used as excuses and surrogates to prevent people from realizing the values of democracy and equity shared by the majority of people. Hence, there is a chance that out of the transformation, in addition to a rescued climate, an equitable economy and a genuinely democratic polity would also emerge.