4010 Spring08 Questions and Discussion 18
This week's respondents: Mark and Tucker
Business-as-usual (BAU) is potentially catastrophic for all humankind in terms of its effects on the climate and the global economy. The Stern Review takes an international perspective examining “the evidence on the economic impacts of climate change itself, and explores the economics of stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” as well as “the complex policy challenges involved in managing the transition to a low carbon economy” (p. i).
Very quickly they assert that an early and significant world-wide investment is essential to stave off the risk of catastrophic climate change (only a 5˚ C change could be detrimental to life on Earth). They also assert that the first to feel the changes would be the poorest countries and people, and by the time the damages appear, “it will too late to reverse the process” (p. vii), a process that will tend to speed up the further it goes.
The Stern Review used integrated assessment models since they are “built around the economics of risk” and the reviewers wanted to “analyse risk explicitly” (p. ix). Using this model they estimate that “BAU climate change will reduce welfare by an amount equivalent to a reduction in consumption per head between 5 and 20%” (p. x). A strong mitigation policy can help lower this risk. Compared to the risk of BAU climate change, the cost of mitigation policies is far less and represents a “highly productive investment” (p. xi).
Interestingly, the Stern Review contends that “stabilisation of greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere is feasible and consistent with continued growth” (xi). Although the annual global emissions need to drop more than 80% below the absolute level of current annual levels, this drop would be brought on gradually over a hundred year period. They suggest four ways to cut emissions:
- Reducing demand for emissions-intensive goods and services
- Increased efficiency, which can save both money and emissions
- Action on non-energy emissions, such as avoiding deforestation
- Switching to lower-carbon technologies for power, heat, and transport
With actions such as these, it is estimated that emissions reductions will cost about 1% GDP by 2050, bringing “challenges for competitiveness but also opportunities for growth” (p. xiv, p. xvi).
These actions will be driven by policy and the Review suggests three essential elements:
1. Carbon pricing
2. Technology policy
3. Removal of barriers to behavioural change
- Lack of reliable information
- Transaction costs
- Behavioural and organisational inertia
Beyond this, the need for adaptation must be stressed. As opposed to mitigation, adaptation “will in most cases provide local benefits without long lead times” (p. xxi). It is in this section that the Review stresses the difficulty developing countries will have and that a financial safety net will be necessary to help them. Overall, the final pages of the Review place a strong stress upon international cooperation, whether financial, political, or technological: Above all, reducing the risks of climate change requires collective action. It requires cooperation between countries, through international frameworks that support the achievement of shared goals. It requires a partnership between the public and private sector, working with civil society and with individuals. It is still possible avoid the worst impacts of climate change; but it requires strong and urgent collective action. Delay would be costly and dangerous.
Stray observations: Wow! The bleak possibilities associated with BAU are rather daunting… This seems like an interesting test of globalism- can/will this great degree of cooperation occur? I was amazed how the almost perverse power of numbers/math/statistics carry in this reading and the next, The Bottom Billion.
The Bottom Billion
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Solutions Paul Collier suggests
- Aid that creates engagement
- Appropriate military intervention
- Laws and charters - Standards that create normative expectations
- Trade policy for reversing marginalization
Appadurai's essay, despite having gone through a few drafts (as he mentions), reads almost like a stream-of-consciousness prose. He seems to have many deep-rooted, well-evidenced theories about some of the major forces acting on the post-9/11 world. He describes most of them with examples from the developing world, particularly his native India, whose political situation and recent history he decodes using his 'fear of small numbers' hypothesis. I found it hard to go more than a few pages at a time without stopping to relate (or to try to relate) some of his ideas to my own experiences, and his writing is dense and thought-provoking enough to spend hours trying to apply his ideas to what I see happening from my own position in the world. There were instances where I strongly disagreed with an example he may have used, but I still tended to agree with his main points and really enjoyed how he tied things together towards the end of chapter four.
In a nutshell, unless I'm missing something, the main argument of his essay is this: Certain features of globalization can threaten national sovereignty (or at least feel like they are), which can lead to lack of national identity, which can lead to a psychologically manufactured identity that relies on building (or strengthening) an "us-ness" and "them-ness". The presence of the "them-ness" in a single, wavering nation-state (wavering, perhaps, under the weight of its own feeling of helplessness or marginalization caused by its slot in the world) can cause much anxiety (the anxiety of incompleteness or lack of a singular group identity) and sometimes rage. This can lead to a desire to eliminate those that prevent there being a "whole" or unified identity, and this can lead to genocide when a tipping point is reached. He begins to describe the tipping point on page 56 using the Nazi example, and finishes describing it on page 58 in the more general condition of a genocidal circumstance.
Along the way he describes a number of interesting features or characteristics of both the globalized and post-9/11 world. Rather than go through and describe them all as we will probably do in class, I've chosen a few that I think are most thought provoking.
Appadurai begins by describing a number of assumptions that tend to be made about how the pieces of our world act, interact, and fit together. His pointing out that these are assumptions rather than known truths reminds me of both Harvey's and Calhoun's emphases on considering our starting-point, so to speak, when attempting to analyze our current circumstance. Included in that starting point are the very tools we use in order to measure and describe our present circumstance, and how those tools come with their own conditions and biases. One of Appadurai's first targets is the world's concept of "Social order" and how it seems to exist as some sort of default. In other words, the assumption is that the natural state of things *is* social order, and he later attaches to this the more important and interesting assumptions we have about the nature or reason for that order, and the role of state sovereignty, national identity and what he calls the vertibrate structure of modern nation-states. He identifies another key assumption that relates directly to the latter pages of the book about genocide: the assumption that there is a deep and natural distinction between the social disorder within societies and war across societies.
Clash of Civilizations?
Not according to Appadurai, but only because to him there is too close a bond between civilization and the modern day nation-state. Whether agreeing with him about this or not, his stating that the current war is from a new type of agency, neither interested in establishing a new state, nor in opposing any state, nor in the relations between states at all, is interesting and new, and really belies my ignorance as I would have described the Taliban as ultimately desiring a single Islamic state for the world. Rather, he says, the 'war' is against the idea that States (as a natural order of the organized world) are the only game in town.
Vertebrate vs. Cellular
Appadurai describes as "vertebrate" the modern system of nation states, as compared to "cellular" by which he describes the growing trend of capitalism in the era of globalization, and also terrorism. By vertebrate he means that, despite their us/them nature, the modern system of nation states only works by way of its underlying assumption of an international order, guaranteed by a variety of norms, not least of which is the norms of war itself. He lists many examples of this-- the UN, protocols, institutions, treaties and agreements, so on, as comprising the pieces of this vertebrate structure, as well as semiotic recognition and communication between acknowledged states through their flags, stamps, consulates, etc. All of these things really emerge from a finite set of coordinated, regulative norms and signals. Cellular, on the other hand, refers to the modular, the portable, and the freeness granted through what he never seems to explicitly call "communications technology" but is what I would assume he means, and agree with, and is how I most readily associate the importance of this text with our task of studying theories of communication. Anyway, the financial sector, for instance, can be described as cellular, in a sense, because of its dislocation from any direct dealings with factories or workers. The transnational corporation is the solid example here, and the international terror network is Appadurai's main comparison. I like how he describes the cellular organization as questioning the "vertebrate morality" of the nation-state.
It's this vertebrate vs. cellular model that Appadurai proposes to use as a structure for examining the status of the nation-state in the era of globalization, and be cause for reconsidering the transformation underway and its relationship to terrorism and, as a last point, genocidal states.
The global capitalist system doesn't fit in this vertebrate/cellular model.
- Modern nation states recognize their common belonging to the vertical world and are now in a struggle for survival.
Double character of global capitalism
- With national economy gone, cultural field takes the forefront, purity, authenticity, borders, security. Ethnos as the last cultural resource over which it may exercise full domination.
- Emotional cold war between those who identify with the losers in the new game, and those who identify with the small group of winners.
- flows of money, weapons, info, people, and ideologies across national boundaries produced forms of solidarity that used to be monopolized by the nation state.
- Deeper integration of world markets and spread of ideologies worldwide-- driving the nation-state into new consideration
- Institutional matter-- global policies in national settings.
- Many states find themselves caught between the need to perform dramas of national sovereignty and feats of openness.
The fantasy that the nation state assures a sovereign economic space.
- The crisis of circulation and the tension between vertebrate and cellular forms. Clash not of civilizations, but of modes of large scale organization.
- Terrorism challenges two assumptions: that peace is the natural marker of social order, and that the nation-state is the natural guarantor of such order.
- Fear of inclusion on draconian terms and consequences (displacement, child labor, etc. )and fear of exclusion-- from history itself.
Very interesting to note that majority and minority or relatively recent markers, coming from new data gathering techniques and capabilities.
- Hypothesis: minorities are the major site for displacing the anxieties of many states about their own minority or marginality status in the world.
- Minorities are metaphors and reminders of the betrayal of the classical national project, the betrayal being that they haven't maintained sovereignty in the new era. This leads to a wish for there to be no minorities.
- Globalization as a force without a face cannot be the object of ethnocide. But minorities can.
Fear of Small Numbers
- Fear of the weak- group dynamics, the we/they and the anxiety of incompleteness: national totality and minority presence.
- When does this lead to genocide? p. 58
- The idea of the 'masses' p.61
- Minorities in a globalizing world are a constant reminder of the incompleteness of national purity.