Michael Dwyer‘s Choice – the Courageous Outrageous Posted on , is about the difficult times that await us, humans in the future.

The human race is moving into very difficult times. We all know it but how to deal with the future is the question. We know climate change has started and it will increase in intensity. Australians remember the fear, pain and loss when 18 million hectares burnt in the summer of 2019 – 20. The west coast of the USA and Siberia are also suffering the same catastrophes. Bangladesh, China, India and states in Africa have suffered record flooding. The world temperature is rising. From an all-time high of 54.4°C in the USA’s Death Valley to an Antarctic temperature of 20°C recorded in January 2020, to the June temperature of 38°C inside the Arctic circle. We have the warmest temperatures now for the last 12,000 years.

Something needs to be done.

David Attenborough agrees. He said we have a manmade disaster on a global scale. When enough polar ice has melted, the fresh water added to the sea water will halt the ocean circulation streams. Then weather patterns will be lost as the fundamental rhythms supporting humanity disappear.

We can choose. We could do nothing and let Nature decide our future but Nature can be cruel indeed. Alternately we can make the transition to the future as painless as it is possible to make it. We can choose to accept the trajectory this planet is heading in; I didn’t say fix it, I said accept it. The dramatic changes happening will get worse so we either change the way we live and prepare for a new world or do nothing and let it annihilate every one of us.

Figure1  Bushfires as a result of increasingly hot weather cause loss of biodiversity and decrease in our food supply

As the effects of climate change get worse, more land will become uninhabitable through drought, flood, fire and destructive storms. Desperate people will become refugees because to remain in their old countries means death, war or slow starvation. It has always been so, people have always moved to where the living is easier and the climate for growing food is good. Climate change refugees are already increasing. We, in our privileged first world rich countries will contend with uninvited refugees coming to live in our local neighbourhoods.

We have a number of issues we may choose to address. The first of these is a rising world consumer population. How many people are aware that a yearly increase of 2 percent means a mathematrical doubling of any population in a mere 35 years? Australia’s increase in 2019 was 1.2% (this means Australia’s Population will double in about 60 years.). World population is increasing annually by 1.1% per year (it will also double in about 60 years). And South Australia has a consumer population increase of .8% (doubling in about 90 years) contrary to so many who have been convinced that the state’s population is falling. This planet can’t handle today’s consumer population. And yet we are headed to double it in such a short time!

So many of us, particularly politicians and real estate developers, cheer the rising consumer population because it means jobs and wealth. But increasing consumption increases greenhouse gases which is changing the climate. Climate change is the big issue now. It’s not about who has a job and who can afford yet more consumer stuff, it’s about whether we can continue to live on this planet. If we choose to address climate change cleverly, there must be no increase or better still, a quick worldwide decline in the consumer population. I am assuming we still have the time to enact a fall in the consumer population growth but we may not have that luxury.

Let’s go back to the choice. Do we leave it to nature to make the calls or do we use our intellects to soften the blow? Instead of addressing the rising population we can address consumerism directly. (It is not the number of people that builds the climate change disaster, it is the greenhouse gases produced by the numbers TIMES the individual personal greenhouse gas productions of each of us). Consumerism requires an ever increasing input of raw materials; water, food, arable land, coal, oil and mined metals and minerals. And somewhere to dump the rubbish like the greenhouse gases. As David Attenborough and a thousand scientists say, we should choose to accept the reality that we are destroying this planet. And there is no planet B to migrate to.

Figure2  Damage to Planet A. Economic growth requires increasing resource consumption

The 2020 Federal Government has put its hope in having a carbon neutral future by championing five technologies; clean hydrogen, energy storage, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon. With these it intends to maintain business as usual. In TV’s ‘Fight for Planet A’, Craig Reucassel suggests a more believable approach. We are able to live much more energy-frugal lives and avoid some greenhouse gas production. In one example in ‘Fight for Planet A’, he particularly notes that cows and sheep produce methane and do as much greenhouse gas damage as half our transport system. Like the Morrison Government, he argues we can still have our cake and eat it too, we can live as we are but be frugal about it. Both he and the Morrison government are wrong. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We will eventually lose the cake and a lot more besides, if we make a half-hearted attempt to live exactly as we do now but with minor tweaks.

Figure3  Recycling is not enough. At best it suggests to the public something needs to be done

Choice. The first step is to convince the public of the gravity of the situation. Mass advertising will inform and persuade both the public and business leaders of the need for the radical changes to be implemented. Jobs and businesses will be lost in the re-adjustment of our culture and way of living and life will get difficult. Wealth and opulence will be gone forever but though we may live materially poorer lives, with care we can be happy living more meaningful lives with a real sustainable future ahead of us. We can plan what the next two thousand years might be like.

Figure4  Our culture must change. The financial profit goal and growth philosophy is no longer fit for purpose

If we accept the reality of a fundamentally changed future there are so many ways to proceed. I mention two physically and technically possible approaches.

Rationing of greenhouse gases at the consumer level is a good approach. This brings it home to the individual, not government and not the businesses. Rationing at the consumer level will unleash the power, innovation and creativity of every individual.

Income tax and other taxes as well as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be abandoned. They will be replaced by a system of Greenhouse gas rationing. The total number of greenhouse gas tokens issued per year to a person will be defined according to a ten year decreasing budget which will address the problem.

All consumers are issued with some greenhouse gas tokens reflecting the amount of greenhouse gas production tolerated that year. These tokens are used on all transactions and are passed from business to business like the GST currently operating. The number annually issued will decrease in order to match the ongoing greenhouse gas budget.

No greenhouse gases can be produced without the correct number of tokens. For example, when oil is sold to a business at the oil well, that business must pay tokens (and money) to the product producer. Those tokens are then passed back by the oil driller to the greenhouse gas token ‘bank’ and will be totalled against the year’s greenhouse gas allocation.

Those who are frugal with their greenhouse gas tokens will have enough tokens to sell to those who are desperate for more. When a person or business runs out of greenhouse gas tokens, more may be purchased from the central body though the price will always be higher than the publicly traded greenhouse gas token price. Businesses can borrow from the central token body however, the borrowing will still be matched to future overall token issuing i.e. greenhouse gas future production.

This approach will ensure greenhouse gas production falls to zero and further, then proceeds to remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere such that the climate stabilises.

To illustrate the effect of these climate change responses upon the consumer, a taxi driver will pay greenhouse gas tokens via his bank card as well as fuel at the bowser and will charge the token cost to the person who needs a taxi ride via bank card. The persuasion to avoid greenhouse gases are clear, the taxi must run on little or no fossil fuels and the consumer will avoid the use of taxis as much as possible.

All industries will be examined for their greenhouse gas production. Cutting down trees and clearing land is responsible for greenhouse gas production and is to be measured. Beef and lamb are also huge sources of greenhouse gases. Therefore they will attract a greenhouse gas token cost to be paid by the consumer. As the animal leaves the farm, the greenhouse gas token cost will be levied and passed onto the wholesaler at the abattoir. The transport greenhouse gas token cost and the abattoir token cost will also be added. Clearly, the industry will shrink.

Overseas goods will be much more expensive when compared to locally made goods because they need more transport. The entertainment industry will become much more local and it will often be within walking distance. As will sports. Education will go largely online enhanced with local gatherings of students for tutorials.

Governments too pay the greenhouse gas bank for its greenhouse gas tokens. One obvious candidate for government is carbon sequestration. A new natural technique is worthy of investment. Greenhouse gases can be sequestered using the seaweed kelp, because it lives on CO² and grows at a prodigious two feet per day absorbing huge amounts of CO². Trees on land are not as good because they can be cut or burnt thus releasing the CO².

Figure5  Government can develop kelp farms moored over seawater which is kilometres deep.

The facility will have two functions, foremost, kelp grows absorbing CO². When dead the kelp sinks to the ocean floor away from oxygen and remains there safely for hundreds of thousands of years. additionally the kelp farm will be a source of seafood and edible seagrasses.

Our whole economy is geared to the building industry and economic growth but this effort will no longer make sense. Jobs everywhere will disappear. But new jobs will arise when the mechanised harvesters and industrial food production systems go, huge amounts of physical labour will be necessary to plant, grow and distribute food. Crops too will change to avoid the new greenhouse gas cost of fertilisers, chemical sprays and energy.

Is such a change in the fundamentals of our culture possible? We have Nature to thank for showing us it is certainly possible by bringing us the coronavirus pandemic. This crisis proved we are capable of killing fundamental sacred cows of our culture. True happiness does not come from bank balances and ever higher levels of consumption. Happiness comes from relationships and meaningful lives. The ‘impossible’ shutting down of the world economy was carried out because the corona virus threat was big enough. Now we have an even greater threat.

There will be happy spinoffs to the painful adjustments. People will become much more healthy and lose weight as happened in Cuba when they lost their oil supply in 1990. We eat far too much red meat for our health and red meat will become a rarity. Plus food will become cleaner when the chemicals and flavour enhancers in our diet are no longer necessary in the locally grown food. People of this future will ride bicycles or walk as a normal part of their lives. The pace of life will be less frantic and people will be more relaxed.

Figure6   Riding and walking will be a natural part of everyone’s day-to-day life

Some transport will be necessary and will run on solar batteries but there is still a greenhouse cost to all manufacturing to be priced in. The internet however must remain with its support infrastructure. This will ensure the innovation, ideas and information on the how and why of the culture change disseminates to everyone.

Are we prepared for a future such as this? The change will shock us. Visiting a relative in another town will be nearly as difficult an operation as it was two hundred years ago. Large cities will become either difficult or deadly to live in so people will move back to the neglected small towns.

We must aim for harmony to help with the ‘catastrophic’ experience of the changing times. Climate change refugees in their millions must be looked after and settled well in their new lands. Otherwise there will be bloodshed as mistakes are made and resources become short. New local cultures with respect for every individual must be encouraged. War, aggressive and exploitive philosophies, like those espoused by trumpists, must be guarded against.

There will be problems and difficulties whether we choose to do nothing or choose to be pro-active. But we have the knowledge now to make life much easier than it was two hundred years ago before the use of fossil fuels. Though there are many questions and details to be worked out, life may well become more enjoyable than today because it will be more meaningful.

Michael Dwyer