Climate Change Needs a Short-Term Plan and a Global One

The democratic left generally agrees that using renewable energy is necessary to defeat climate change and is becoming more focused on moving our nation to a renewable future.  Yet we also know that climate change is a global problem.  The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest forecast gives us a hint of what we need to do globally.  The IEA consists of mainly of developed countries (not Trump influenced).

The IEA has forecasted the change in primary energy demand and energy types between 2016 and 2040 for the whole world.  The forecast shows decreases in Europe, Japan, and the U.S., but huge increases in the developing world.  European nations are the main ones forecast to decrease energy demand, especially for fossil fuels.  The first figure below forecasts the extent of future energy demand change geographically between 2016 and 2040.  The second figure shows and forecasts the types of world energy capacity additions during the 2010 to 2016 and 2017 to 2040 periods.

The first figure forecasts that the developing world energy demand increase is almost thirteen times the decrease in developed nations demand in the next 24 years.  This suggests that developed nations could go completely renewable, but that will not solve the problem.  This bad news is somewhat limited in the second figure, which shows that the new world energy capacity increase is projected to be mostly renewables (> 60%).  We could end up going renewable in the U. S., but still have a global increase in fossil fuels and climate change.  Part of the problem for some developed and developing countries is that coal is easy to mine and use while renewables require a more sophisticated infrastructure industrially and educationally.  Thus going solar requires further development.  It also requires monitoring climate change and identifying new infrastructure to meet the projected change.

Short-Term Goal

The necessary short-term plan in the U.S. requires us and all developed nations to go renewable. This is like the airline emergency procedure to get the oxygen to the adult and then the child.   We need to politically defeat the fossil fuel industry and its supporters and build a world based on renewables.  Not an easy task.  We will also need to reform many utilities who fear their “leadership” will be undercut by distributed renewables.  That undercutting will and must happen to ensure local reliability.  The fossil fuel companies could remake themselves into renewable companies, but they are more focused in making money the old way.  The short-term plan requires the U.S. to expand its renewables and be a master in renewable tech to provide the technical training to train the trainer for developing countries.  The U.S. assets include industry, education capabilities, plus research and development labs.  These can be used to measure, predict, and plan the reversing of climate change.  There is no good reason why the U.S. cannot start modestly to share our tech while we go deeply renewable.

International Cooperation

To meet the danger of climate change, the developed nations, having access to capital, will need to organize a new global Marshall Plan with representatives from developing countries. The current climate treaties are voluntary, and they do not aim to end fossil fuel use.  They also do not provide sufficient aid to developing countries.  Defeating climate change requires phasing out fossil fuels and a transformation of world education and development. The fully renewable economy has not been invented yet and needs transportation, more energy storage, and networking capabilities.  The renewable future and its predecessor require study, education, cooperation, and deployment on a worldwide scale.

The Original Marshall Plan

The United States developed the original Marshall Plan in the late 1940s to help revive Western European economies after World War II.  The U.S. had several motivations for developing the plan, including undercutting possible fascist movements, restoring economies, and undercutting communist and Soviet efforts.  The Marshall Plan created cross-national organizations and delivered loans and grants through local governments.  Since the U.S. still had viable markets, the loans and grants were used to buy mostly U.S. goods, which increased U.S. employment. Requiring that Western European countries buy mostly U.S. goods helped get the program through Congress.  The plan was a great success.

China

China is already having success aiding developing countries globally.  It has programs to develop infrastructure on a country-to-country basis.  It has an industrial policy that seems to create at least self-sufficiency.  China has an increasingly well-developed renewable industry and its educational sector is expanding.  It is also expanding its own international organizations.  China makes almost two-thirds of the world’s photovoltaic panels, but this concentration needs to be shared if all countries are to be mobilized for change.  One Chinese method we need not use is employing foreign nationals to build new infrastructure in developing nations.  This method might work for demonstration projects, but developed nations need to train and advise so the developing countries build their physical, managerial, and research capabilities.

A new plan

The new Marshall Plan’s goal is to include all developed countries to help all countries develop the educational, building, industrial, and research assets needed to make the transition to renewables.  Some needed technologies have not yet been invented or deployed in numbers (e.g., electric cars and micro grids).  Unlike the old Marshall Plan, the new plan leaders would be a mix of mainly developed countries that understand that to fight climate change, all humanity must work to increasingly develop all countries so that they can master the new technologies.  To support the new technologies, all countries must have a basic industrial base that is not dependent upon global markets and likely will be protected by tariffs.  The goal is not the neoliberal dream of global market, which is actually controlled by billionaires and rich countries.  Like the old Marshall Plan, the countries aided under the new plan would have a major role in defining aid, but the new plan should not require all aid to be used by private industry. One starting point may be to deploy Internet connections to the world so humanity has a better ability to learn and use the aid.

Plan management

The U.N. could lead the plan and be a key coordinator.  It could set standards for the identification of projects, standards for accounting, and education.  The U.N. is the likely voice for developing countries.  However each donating country will likely set standards too.  For the donors, providing the funds for the new plan will not be easy, but each could start with a carbon tax aimed at its own and developing countries’ needs. When faced with the cost of World War II, the U. S. raised funds by Liberty Bonds and a 90% tax on corporate profits.  We could use a version of Lend Lease (or grants) used in World War II to aid developing countries around the world to achieve a familiarity with renewables and build their industrial and educational base. The grants would be used to provide demonstration projects that could be replicated. We could employ 60-year loans for the deployment of wind farms and other renewables.

The U.S. and the world have organizations that focus on development and climate.  These include the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps, but mainly the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).  We might help expand the environment and energy part of the UNDP to create a world climate institution.  It is likely that developed countries would want to insure that their aid is fully used on the climate objectives.

Trade

For serious change, we need to rewrite trade policies to eliminate the winner-take-all aspect of economies favored by multinationals.  Stopping climate change will be easier if all countries have an industrial base and the educational base to build and maintain renewables. Trade policy needs to be made by all stakeholders and arrive at policies to support, defend, and develop all countries industrial bases. Tariffs can be useful in creating and defending a certain percentage of each countries industrial base and thus aid building industrial bases.

Immigration

The climate effort would also create domestic and international jobs and be a boost to our own economy as well as create markets for the world. It is likely to reduce immigration as well, which has been fueled by climate change, U.S. military adventurism, religious extremism, crime, and autocratic governments.  The new program is likely to result in safer immigration by fewer but less desperate refugees as viable jobs are created globally. Renewables can lead to a more reliable locally based energy industry and governments.  The call to end ICE is understandable given the immoral policy of using the terror of dividing families to stop immigration, but a more equal world development may set the conditions to eliminate borders.

Summary

A world Marshall Plan for climate is only a dream under the Trump administration, but we must realize that world-wide cooperation is a must for a stable climate and we are not done just fixing our own nation.  If a new Marshall Plan is not succeeding in a decade, then we will have to declare war on climate change and mobilize like we did in World War II.  That mean 95% taxes on profits and all taking leadership to develop a renewable world.

Steps in rolling back climate change

  1. 2018 Win back at least the U.S. House of Representatives and/or the Senate to defend environment-linked agencies and policies.  Cut ICE budget.
  2. 2020 Elect a Berniecrat-like President to begin to minimize fossil fuel use and grow renewables, plus work with countries to track and measure climate change and plan alternatives including aid, and delete Trump enviromental acts.  Aiding the more rural states that voted for Trump would be a good strategy to show them the potential of renewable employement and energy.  We start to share space assets to measure climate change in all countries.
  3. 2020 – 40s Create a coalition of developed and developing countries to create the world-wide educational and physical infrastructure to move to completely renewable-ize society and develop the world.

This essay was cross-posted at Metro DC DSA’s blog The Washington Socialist.