Now that the 9th anniversary of the opening of the Kyoto Protocol for signature has passed, I think that posting some thoughts about the politics of climate change is in order.
This will be a brief post, and I do not wish to explore the current politics surrounding the Protocol, which have basically been a mesh of paranoia, ideology, scientific and economic realism, and genuine concern for the future of the planet and its life support systems. What I wish to explore, very briefly, is what the Kyoto Protocol will lead to in at least the next 50 years. More specifically, not what kind of changes it will cause, but what it as a political entity will evolve into.
If you have not had the chance to read Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers, I highly suggest it. Not only is it poignant and to the point, but it presents climate change with all of its known, and not so known, implications. One section, in particular, concerns the Kyoto Protocol, and some of the institutions it could lead to if... it were the case that we did not take sufficient action to avoid dangerous climate change. He makes a very interesting case for why it may, conditions permitting (which they probably will) evolve into something not only with very sharp political teeth, but something that would both have the capacity to exert unprecedented control over society and over the democratic process, and that's sole mission would be to, literally, save the climate from going into meltdown, all (or most) other priorities rescinded. He names it the "Earth Commission for Thermostatic Control", and claims that it could easily grow out of Kyoto.
This organization would be one concerned with geo-engineering. But, the problem is that geo-engineering would concievably infringe upon "fundamental" rights of property, territory, and mobility: you can't farm on land that needs to be rehabilitated; soil needs to be regulated, for it is a powerful carbon sink. The whole business could be very misanthropic, and on the spehere of nations may infringe upon their sovereign right of rule. As Flannery writes: "As the climate crisis deepens...
and as our awareness of atmospheric impact grows, we can expect that more and more planetary processes will interest our commission...
...inevitably, one day some commissioner will suggest that their work would be more effectively done were they to concentrate on the root cause of the issue -the total number of people on the planet. And with sucha move the Commission will have transformed itself into an Orwellian-style world government with its own currency, army and control over every person and every inch of our planet. As horrific as such an outcome is, if we delay action to combat the climate crisis, the carbon dictatorship may become essential for our survival". (293-294)
He puts the date for such a move, interestingly, at 2084 (100 years after 1984?). While this is more metaphorical in placement than it is predictive, it is worth remembering that any such justification for "survival" will probably happen around the time when the dire situation we are faced with becomes thrown into full view; a true planetary emergency. Talk about political climate change.
What I find interesting is what this would mean for our traditional conceptions of justice, which revolve, usually, around the state and how it relates to its citizens. But this "new justice"; this Rule of Earth, would more properly constitute a concern with the alignment of the state with nature. An alignment with nature under the purview of the soveriegn state, or the state under the purview of a sovereign, horribly violent and angry Nature: Gaia in all of her terribleness.
My question is: would our traditional conceptions of justice, and of fundamental human morality, fit within this new system? Or would it be so radical and different that it would totally change the civil institution from one focused on the betterment and preservation of all things human to the betterment and preservation of that which gave birth to humanity in the first place?