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Wishful thinkers on the right of me, hopeful fools on the left, here I am stuck in the middle with you

The right: “We can easily solve climate change just throw some nuke plants together over lunch and we’ve got this all sorted in a chrome and pavement world.” (The far right: “Science, what’s that? Only good for making guns.”)

The left: “We can easily have a li’l anarchistic revolution, just smash the state over lunch and then question mark question mark profit and the world is saved in a solarpunk kumbayah. And we can obstruct and delay until all social justice issues from the past 100000 years have been adequately addressed and then maybe we can look at that pesky externalities problem.”

Darling, stop confusing me with your wishful thinking! It’s a li’l trickier than that. This is the difficultest problem humanity has ever faced. All of our processes—markets, policy, elections, legislation, even day-to-day living—are geared toward exacerbating the problem rather than solving it.

We had the toolbox for it back in the seventies: energy rationing. Let’s get that going again.

“There can be no climate action until I’m ensured to get what’s mine”

In game theory there is one model called the “chicken race”. It’s a name game theorists apply to any situation where whoever acts last wins, but if no-one acts, everyone’s hurt. One well-known example is if there’s a huge snowdrift in the street, the people who’re last to go out to shovel will get the least wet and tired, but if no-one does it everyone’s gonna stay snowed in.

Sometimes the people who’re not acting are making all kinds of excuses, trying to not let on that they don’t wanna help. “Yeah, I’m coming, I’m tying my boots, why don’t you just start and I’ll be right there?”

Other times it’s outright brinkmanship. “Nu-uh, I’m not gonna do anything unless I’m ensured to get what’s mine!”

Oil barons, coal brokers… We all remember a certain poisonous viper that thought it was a man two years ago who refused to build solar unless he could guarantee that the fossil fuels would keep flowing.

People who would hold the world hostage in order to get what they want are two things.

First, they’re unthinkably evil. I can’t even begin to understand that part of it so let’s skip to part two, which is:

They must be pretty optimistic thinking that there’s more leeway than there is; that we’re further from the edge than we are, that we can still easily brake once they’re ensured they’re gonna get what’s theirs. Optimism that crosses over into outright denialism.

Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting. Humanity’s been trying to define “what’s theirs”, what we owe each other, for centuries. Merits vs needs, families vs societies, “earn your keep” vs “humans take care of each other”, together vs alone. I see the appeal of hoping that this will finally get settled once and for all in the stark light of Armageddon, but that implies time and capability I’m not sure we have.

I can’t shake that chainsaw juggling metaphor I came up with.

Yes, I sympathize with the left’s cause; workers controlling means of production and a society not based on exploitation. We can keep fighting the two fights concurrently without tying them to each other, without holding one hostage to the other.

The road forward I’m proposing has energy rationing as it’s first step. And I mean an egalitarian rationing. A homeless woman sleeping under the bridge getting the same usage cap as the factory owner.

No grandfathering distribution where those who wasted the most before will get the most now. That was why the EU ETS was such a scam, a windfall for the biggest fossil polluters.