Is there a ‘good’ side to climate change?

WCS header-0I am in Paris and the UN Climate Change Conference is in town along with 50,000 delegates and more world leaders in one place than at any other time in history. This shows up as ‘factoid’ in most of the media but it might be worthwhile to pause and wonder how this could happen. Even the Climate Change deniers should ask themselves, can this many leaders and all the information they have at their disposal really be in some sort of conspiracy’? Given they can’t agree on anything else, and may not even agree on a solution, they sure all agree on the scope and size of the problem.

It’s one thing to hear a wild eyed crazy person on the corner screaming about the ‘end of the world’, it’s another to hear thousands and thousands of our best and brightest scientific and political leadership standing up and screaming ‘wake up’ or else the guy on the corner might be right. There isn’t much upside to passing on gloom and doom scenarios – and there are plenty of them, many well-grounded. Rather I am wondering, what if the climate calamity has an upside?

One upside of course is that a massive shift to renewable energy would stimulate trillions of dollars in potential new economic growth. By one measure the world economy is now around $65 trillion and in a ‘renewable world’ the number might be many times that as a consequence of having to remodel society, not just in terms of energy production but also as a consequence of the levels of global cooperation and collaboration that would be necessary to fulfill such a possibility.

Which is the really big upside I am thinking about. Our world, like our domestic politics is fragmented politically, ideologically and economically. The world seems log jammed on almost every front. It doesn’t matter what one’s person beliefs may be, the fact is that our institutions for governance, justice and implementation of social progress aren’t working. When conflict and narrow-mindedness become institutionalized, we are all trapped in a slowly deteriorating status quo. Like death from a thousand cuts, we are forced to witness our world disappearing without an apparent alternative arising.

However, if we’ve learned anything over the few thousand years we’ve been thinking about progress, human purpose and possibilities, it is that when our tribe is threatened we will come together, even enemies will unite in a common cause. Globalization and the Internet have demonstrated to even the most cynical of us that we are all one-big tribe. Our tribe is now definitely threatened by all sorts of nasty changes in climate that are happening faster than anyone could imagine and appear to be accelerating.

We’ll see what happens in Paris over the next week, but hopefully it will be the first step in creating a kind of global solidarity in the face of widespread systemic collapse.