Civil Strategy to Decarbonize the Human Footprint

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The above analysis demonstrates the need to combine global agendas of carbon equity and climate sustainability if we are to successfully address the problem of climate change. Halting the current experiment in warming risk requires all industrialized societies to transform their social and economic structures in a manner that is consistent with the carbon cycle and social justice. Without transformation along both dimensions, it is unlikely that a global commitment to significantly and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be mounted.

Additionally, it is now clear that irresponsible climate action by just one nation - the US -can result in the loss of sustainability for the entire world. If the US delays action, even a commitment by Europe and Japan to zero emissions cannot avert warming risk. This vital point cannot be stressed too strongly.

To resolve the current stalemate, the global political and scientific communities need to confront the necessity of an equitable foundation to strategies and policies for GHG reduction. This challenge involves recognizing equity not simply as a target for sustainable rates of energy use, but as a political basis for motivating all nations to adopt and act upon climate protective measures. In particular, if nations with burgeoning populations and economies such as China and India are to be expected to act in concert with international accords, the US - the world's largest violator of the atmospheric commons - must commit to a transformation of its social and economic structures. One political strategy is to sanction the US for its delayed action in the hope that compliance can be forced.

But another option - which does not preclude the sanction strategy - is to forge alliances with American civil society through, for example, locality focused partnerships with US states and cities. The methods to be pursued here remain subject to the democratic negotiations of the global political community, yet the need for such intervention cannot be forestalled. American civil society has undertaken precisely the changes in social and economic structure that its national leadership refuses to consider. Ultimately, compacts with civil society across the world will produce the transformation to renewable cities (Droege, 2007) and a global solar economy (Scheer 2004' see also Byrne et al. 2006b). International treaties among governments can call for action, but these agreements cannot produce results.12 Our political challenge, therefore, is not only the creation of a rhetoric of climate justice, but its practice and this, after all, is the province of civil society.

11There is fast-growing literature of local policy leadership which includes initiatives in Europe and Asia that cannot be discussed here (please see, for example, Kim 2006).

12 This fundamental point is sometimes overlooked. Recent interest in restoring US governmental leadership in the climate arena seems to make this mistake. See Claussen and Diringer (2007).


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