Climate Change, Institutions and Emerging Orders

The long-awaited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2013 report is now making headlines. The report is designed to inform the global community about the current state of climate science — the scientific debate, consensus and (most importantly) data.

We will learn of the latest scientific projections of temperature increase, sea level rise and extremes in weather. The report is seven years in the making and is currently the ultimate in climate science — not Al Gore, not Rush Limbaugh, but actual scientists who study climate.

So, expect three things to happen: Media sensationalism, arguments for government interventionism in the market and, finally, the continuing stigmergic revolution.

Media sensationalism has already started. This is nothing new. The media always presents, hypes and glorifies two sides of the environmental issue of our time (even though there is overwhelming consensus that anthropogenic activity is impacting climate). My advice when it comes to the media and climate change? Turn off the radio, turn off the television, put down the book Bill McKibben or Sean Hannity wrote and please instead devote time to the science. Mainstream media is not for news, it is for entertainment — sadly.

Then come the calls for government interventionism. Whenever climate change is in the limelight, liberals tend to champion the need for our great government institutions to once again save human civilization. Conservatives and other skeptics advocate that these same government institutions should save big business from the liberals. Both arguments are absurd.

Modern liberal visions of empowering the state to combat climate change are short-sighted to say the least. Empowering bureaucracy to combat something as urgent as climate change will only exacerbate our environmental problems. Bureaucracy is slow, un-democratic and ripe with special interests. Any hope of changing power structures so they act with benevolence will fall flat. In the face of complex wicked problems facing our entire biosphere we should act in ways that make our institutions unnecessary — to work around hierarchy and build a new society free of institutional supremacy.

Which brings me to my other point: On the other side of the very same bureaucracy we have modern conservatives advocating that “junk science” should not foster policy and any attempts to do so are just outright attacks on good ole American capitalism. In reality, what we often find is government supporting big industry. For just one example, liberal champion and US President Barack Obama is stomping around the country advocating natural gas as a clean burning “bridge fuel” — the answer to the climate problem. The administration has ignored methane emissions (by touting that they are less than projected as if that means there are no emissions), groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Government institutions go out of their way to protect and support the economic ruling class. Big business has no better friend than big government.

In the face of our environmental crisis, however, we are witness to emerging orders.

The greatest of biological phenomenons — Spontaneous Order — is already at work solving the problems we face today. We see this in emerging ideas of food production in the form of local permaculture farms and the urban food movement. We see it in the emerging philosophy of Adaptive Collaborative Management in regards to the utilization of natural resources. We see social movements dedicated to preserving cultural and natural heritage. There is work being done that is changing our institutions to give communities democratic energy in the form of micro-generation and solidarity economies. There are many more examples of grassroots movements working to protect our ecology.

Climate change presents a great challenge to civilization. Where there is labor to be done, we will do it. Expect us.

Citations to this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist