“We Have to Consume Less”: Scientists Call For Radical Economic Downsizing to Avoid Climate Crisis

Amy Goodman has been reporting for Democracy Now from the Warsaw COP 19 Climate Change Talks, here she interviews Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin, scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University

AMY GOODMAN: A pair of climate scientists are calling for what some may view as a shocking solution to the global warming crisis: a rethinking of the economic order in the United States and other industrialized nations. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin of the influential Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in England say many of the solutions proposed by world leaders to prevent “runaway global warming” will not be enough to address the scale of the crisis. They have called for “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the United States, EU and other wealthy nations.” Anderson says that to avoid an increase in temperature of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the world would require a “revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony.”

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin are here in Warsaw at the U.N. climate summit. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It was rare to be able to actually sit across the table from you, because I know you don’t fly. You came here by train, Dr. Anderson.KEVIN ANDERSON: Yes, I haven’t flown for eight years. And Alice is something similar, I think.



KEVIN ANDERSON: Because the carbon dioxide emissions from flying, I mean, it’s sort of emblematic of modern life, for the wealthy few of us, that it symbolizes what we do, day in, day out. We don’t think twice about burning more and more carbon. So it’s important for us to make—it’s a symbolic gesture. But then, hopefully, that catalyzes action with other people to also say, “We, too, can make those sorts of changes.”

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how long did it take you to go from England to Poland by train?

KEVIN ANDERSON: It’s 23 hours from Manchester to arrive in Warsaw. But during that, we got a night’s sleep, and we managed to work the rest of the time on the train and have a meal. So, you know, it’s civilized, comfortable form of travel.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the dire situation we’re in and whether you feel that is expressed here at the U.N. climate summit.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, we’ve been in a dire situation now. It’s, I really think, since the late 19—well, the early 1990s, when we started to recognize this is a very severe situation. We’re now 20 years on from the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Emissions are 60 to 70 percent higher than they were then. And the situation just gets worse every single year. We’re now at the point where this magical number of two degrees C, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, temperature rise, which really is the threshold between acceptable and dangerous climate change, so going above that temperature we start to see many, many really very, very dire impacts. We’re at the cusp of being able to make those changes. If we don’t do it in the next few years, we’ve literally left it too late. We will have gone beyond that sort of temperature threshold. We’ll have locked the future, our own children’s future, and for the rest of the planet, into high temperature changes, changes in precipitation, changes in weather, that we will not—well, most of us will simply not be able to deal with. Continue reading