Corporate Watch have published their new report, Techno-fixes: A Critical Guide to Climate Change Technologies. I've had a bit of a hand in doing it, but it's a small enough contribution that I don't feel immodest in praising it.
Whether runaway climate change is avoided is largely down to the policy decisions taken now and in the next few years. We cannot afford to wait for miraculous technological breakthroughs but must work with what we’ve got.
The debate on climate change is surrounded by hype and vested interests. Technologies are being considered not for their effectiveness but for their profitability. Some proposed solutions would actually lead to an increase in emissions. Many would bring about great social injustice.
Beyond that, the promise of a future technofix is being used as a stalling tactic by those who want to keep on burning fossil fuels.
Technofixes are very appealing. They appeal to leaders who want huge projects to put their name to. They appeal to governments in short electoral cycles who don’t want to have to face hard choices of changing the direction of development from economic growth to social change. They appeal to corporations which expect to capture new markets with intellectual property rights and emissions trading. They appeal to advertising-led media obsessed with the next big thing, but too shallow to follow the science. They appeal to a rich-world population trained as consumers of hi-tech gadgets. They appeal to (carbon) accountants: technological emissions reductions are neatly quantifiable, if you write the sum properly.
Technofixes appeal, in short, to the powerful, because they offer an opportunity to maintain power and privilege.
The report investigates the large scale technologies that corporations and governments are putting on the table, including hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, agrofuels, electricity from nuclear, solar, water and wind, as well as a range of ideas to reflect the sun’s energy or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It finds what works, what doesn’t, the present state of these industries and where they’re heading. It explains why, even though many of the technologies do work, the corporate-capitalist model cannot deploy them effectively, and it goes in search of more realistic and socially just solutions.
It’s extensively researched, as we wanted something that was properly referenced and scientifically rigorous as well as politically focused. We were sick of seeing things that only talk about the carbon emissions and the financial cost without mentioning the social justice aspects or the problems with a wholly techno-fixated approach.
It’s big and hefty enough to be comprehensive, yet short enough that people will actually get round to reading the whole thing.
You can order a hard copy for a fiver or download it for free from Corporate Watch