Friday, December 02, 2016
In a much discussed recent article in the Journal of Democracy, Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk reveal frightening new numbers of how young people in particular have come to abandon democracy. Of those born in the 1980’s in the United States, just above 30% consider it “essential” to live in a democracy.
This very weekend, Austria will have a rerun of its presidential election (potentially bringing the highest office of the country into the hands of the extreme right) while Italy is having a constitutional referendum which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is likely to lose, opening the door for the anti-globalist populist Five Star Movement under Beppe Grillo.
In the past I always used to say that what the Left needs is a new forward looking global vision. While I still think that is true to some extent, I am less certain that such a vision would actually win any elections, at least in the short run. Having said that, more of the same corrosive identity politics is clearly not the way forward. Crucial as it is to recognize the historic crimes of colonialism and discrimination, the future we build must be one for all people of this world, a common vision which speaks in the same universal language to the highest in each individual, including those white male "left-behinders".
Sunday, November 27, 2016
In early December I am off to the UK again where I will give a presentation at The Nottingham Centre for Normative Political Theory (or CONCEPT as it is abbreviated). Since agreeing to give the talk, the world has clearly taken a sharp turn in precisely the direction I feared, towards further fragmentation and polarization. So, yes, we definitely need Monocle but also a much broader social transformation that makes us realize our common humanity and the possibilities of a fully integrated world of equal opportunity.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Small things to make the world shimmer for a second, as if it was within my power to do that.
In three months I will be back in New York for a night before the conference madness begins down in Baltimore. This time I will serve as chair and discussant for two different panels in addition to my own presentation at the ISA. Kind of overwhelming considering that I will have 125+ take-home exams to mark the week before...
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Outside climate policy, my main worries of course have to do with Iran and the Middle-East more generally, to say nothing of the Ukraine. I guess the key thing at this stage is to not rush ahead too much but to take each issue when the time comes. If nothing else, it will be funny to see how progressive everywhere will suddenly start loving the Senate filibuster…
Friday, November 11, 2016
In Lund, again
Soon time to head up to Eden where I had my office for six years. It is of course impossible to not be overwhelmed by nostalgia. Every corner here has its flashbacks and rabbit holes. Perhaps better to think about the future. On the train, I did just that, putting together an abstract for a special issue on “Energy and the Future” organized by the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. I will know in February next year if I get accepted. For those interested, the abstract is on the “High-Energy Planet” and reads as follows:
A key part of the ecomodern discourse of a “Good Anthropocene” is the vision of a “high-energy planet” characterized by universal access to modern energy. Recognizing the crucial historical role that rising energy consumption has played in driving social transformations, ecomodernists imagine a future with substantial global equality of opportunity in which clean and abundant energy allows not only for economic convergence but also for deep decarbonization. Whereas traditional environmental thinking has advocated land-intensive distributed forms of renewable energy, ecomodernists have argued that such technologies are fundamentally incapable of powering a world in which 7-10 billion people can live modern lives. As such, ecomodernists have developed a conflicted relationship to current mitigation efforts. On one hand, they fully recognize the seriousness of anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, they are concerned that the scalability limitations of renewable energy technologies will lead to a suboptimal endpoint by which a few, and highly ecologically motivated, countries may succeed in decarbonizing their domestic electricity supply while the overall global share of fossil energy stays largely intact even as access to modern energy remains deeply unequal. To avoid such a future, ecomodernists have welcomed accelerating globalization as a way of making a high-energy planet politically inevitable; hoping that, as all of the world gets richer, its capacity and willingness to finance breakthrough technological innovation will also increase. However, growing global volatility and resurging protectionism, not the least in the United States, has meant that the future of a rapidly globalizing world is now in itself more uncertain. This could have a number of controversial implications for ecomodernist thinking and energy futures more generally. First, a delayed globalization of the world economy may in the short run take away some of the urgency of climate mitigation and make existing energy technologies seem more viable. Second, without comprehensive forms of modernization and urbanization, the global population will continue to increase while low or negative economic growth rates may make financing breakthrough innovation more difficult. Third, and finally, the longer a truly global supply-side technological revolution is delayed, overall political polarization is bound to increase as radical environmental voices will call for ever harsher demand-side reductions while technocratic elites may increasingly come to see solar radiation management as the only feasible way of preventing an irreversible destabilization of the climate system.
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Yet, the election of Trump cannot be undone. The question then of course becomes, where do we go from here? With regards to my own academic bubble, I would say that the election of Trump once again shows the futility of climate moralism. To make decarbonization conditional on that everyone accepts the same epistemology of climate risks (to say nothing of a commitment to far-reaching environmental sacrifice) is a no-starter. If affluent countries like Sweden still want to make a difference with regards to global climate change, they should focus on the innovation of scalable technologies that are “smarter, cleaner and faster”. Instead of deploying even more non-scalable and expensive renewables, we need to take a step back and look at what kinds of technologies that could make possible a rapid global decarbonization in a world where many people remain uncommitted to effective climate action. Only then can we make a difference.