Climate change and global governance.

Blog No. 83.

Globalised economy: fractured polity. In a recent blog https://khakispecs.com/?p=1759 I referred to the common sense argument that if a globalised civilisation based on a globalised economy is to survive, the economy will need to be made subject to a global polity. Without some form of globalised system of political governance to override it, the current economic competition and ongoing military confrontations between multiple sovereign nation states, has the potential to explode at short notice, into a full-scale global catastrophe.

Churchill quoteSo far: so good. This situation could no doubt be allowed to continue indefinitely on the basis of ‘so far so good: we haven’t destroyed ourselves in the seventy years since the first nuclear weapon was used: why should we not get through the next seventy (or even for ever) on a similar basis?’ In theory, it could be argued that the current system of global governance is still working. Accidents could (seemingly by accident) continue to be barred and mutual nuclear annihilation could be postponed indefinitely. The same is not true of climate change.

Climate change: a different category of threat. The current situation in regard to climate change is in a different category of seriousness. More or less exact calculations can be made as to how long it will be before the continued pursuit of current state policies ensures an end to both civilised and uncivilised life on Earth. Though it is a common existential problem, shared by all nations, the current global political structure is most unlikely to be able to provoke sufficient inter-state cooperation to address the fast approaching crisis in an effective manner.

cyclone
A cyclone over Iceland!

Why state governments are impotent. This is a capitalist world in which governments answer to corporations and to the populations that corporate marketeers have brain-washed into unsustainable consumerism. In each nation, economic growth is prioritised above all else. States are thereby structurally committed to the search for the economic advantage that is to be gained by waiting for their competitors to be rash enough, or courageous enough to make the first, climate-benefiting, economy-restricting move.

Governments return to power at the end of each three, or five-year term, by doing everything they can to maximise corporate profitability. By doing so, they retain and boost employment, the feeling of well-being and contentedness among the electorate and, at the same time, maximise their ability to raise taxes.

Politicians habitually think two or three years ahead to the next impending election. Their votes come from an electorate, the majority of which seldom thinks further ahead than a few weeks. Under such circumstances, is it reasonable to expect the political leaders of democratic nation states, to voluntarily impose the painful, vote-costing policies, which are urgently needed to impact on a situation, which is unlikely to make itself scarily obvious within a ten-year time frame? Clearly, it is not!

The third factor, those seeking to address the problem, have to bear in mind, is the perfectly normal, human reluctance of members of any elite holding power within a state, to voluntarily relinquish sovereignty to an outside body (unless it sees such a move as somehow being to its own economic advantage.)

An over-arching governance structure. I am not being in any way original in suggesting that the community of nations is in need of some over-arching governance organisation, which, at least in regard to climate change and the global environment, has the authority to enforce the harmonisation of national policies. There is of course, much grass-roots objection to such an idea. To many people, the idea of a global government implies both a bureaucracy of nightmarish complexity and the probability of it establishing itself as an equally nightmarish, self-perpetuating totalitarian dictatorship.

Hence the phrase ‘global governance,’ rather than ‘global government’ is customarily used by the mundialist thinkers (from the French word ‘monde’ (‘world’)) who have been marshalling their thoughts, organising themselves into groups and (ineffectively) advocating one or other system of global governance for the past several decades. https://www.recim.org/cdm/krono-an.htm

governance
Free for all: the tragedy of the commons.

Functionalism v. Regional Integration. For a more detailed revue, read this Wiki: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/International_Relations/World_Government_Theories An extract from this Wiki summarises the alternative approaches to the problem:

“A number of scholars have theorized as to how a world government might come into being peacefully. Two general schools of thought on this are functional and regional integration. According to the functional school, world government would arise through all the nations of the world gradually establishing international bodies to deal with particular issues (trade, communications, health, etc.)—these bodies would slowly grow in power, and, having succeeded their parent states in terms of importance, finally be federated to form one world government. According to the regional school, the formation of a world government would be preceded by the formation of regional governments in different parts of the world, these regional governments later joining together to form one world government. As described above, both forms of integration are currently active and growing in scope.”

The Wiki goes on to state that progress on these two fronts is gradual and that few seriously envisage such a stage of effective global governance being reached for many years yet. Having thought much on the subject of world governance, I definitely subscribe to the first of the two schools of mundialist thought outlined above – I’m a functionalist.

The current impasse. To summarise: humanity now finds itself at an impasse: rapid climate change calls for effective policies to start being implemented immediately, while, for reasons explained above, current governance structures are incapable of introducing, or enforcing such measures. Consumers are so bemused by corporate incitement to consume, that they are not, en masse, going suddenly to turn a deaf ear to the blandishments to which they have been responding for the past several generations. Just as turkeys won’t vote for an early Christmas, corporates are not going to start advocating reduced consumption. Governments are not going to act to significantly curtail corporate profits. Salvation can only come from outside the nation state.

The sole existing organisation, which could provide victory in the battle that humanity now has ahead of it, would be the United Nations Organisation. However, under its present format, having been specifically structured to ensure that the sovereignty of the leading nations on Earth cannot be usurped, it is as powerless as they are to take effective action in the ‘war’ against climate change.

A war-footing. I use the word ‘war’ deliberately, as the only way in which climate disaster will ever be avoided is by putting the global consumer society on a war footing against this invisible enemy, which has only very recently started to blitz the occasional city in out-of-the-way places. However, this existential war is set to escalate from a phony phase into a ‘hot’ phase, within the next decade or two. https://ecowatch.com/2016/03/14/february-smashes-heat-record/

I was born in 1942, with doodlebugs en route to London, a daily apparition in the skies above our house. My mother, on my behalf, had a special deal with the local butcher – a sheep’s brain as a weekly, off the card, supplement to the meagre family meat ration (measured in a few ounces per week.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationing_in_the_United_Kingdom

ration book
A wartime British ration-book

Today, the hugely increased global population is rapidly expanding its over-consumption of animal proteins. https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2015-july/growth-in-meat-consumption-for-developing-and-emerging-economies-surpasses-that-for-the-developed-world.aspx#.VudLQUApqC5 Dairy consumption is expanding in lockstep with that of meat. Here is what Eco-Watch has to say on the consequences for the planet of this increasing human feeding-frenzy. https://ecowatch.com/2013/01/21/factory-farming-global-warming/

Transportation is another over-indulgence by consumers that needs urgently to be curtailed. In March, James Higham, a specialist in tourism studies, gave this alarming RadioNZ interview concerning the extraordinary projections of growth in air-travel in the coming decade. https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/201792986/james-higham-the-mythical-solutions-to-aviation-emissions

Poster 1During WWII the walls of British railway stations were plastered with posters demanding ‘Is your journey really necessary?” This question urgently needs to be placed in modern airports world-wide.

The hope of limiting the drivers of the market economy. Clearly, while the agrifood business spends billions on encouraging consumers to eat more meat and dairy and while Governments and travel operators advertise frenetically for consumers to indulge themselves in unnecessary journeys, essential steps required to save the civilisation of the 21st Century are never going to be put in place.

What democratic government could afford to put itself so out of step with its electorate? Why should those more authoritarian regimes, which might be able to get away with such measures, bother to do so, when they know that the global problem cannot be solved without the full participation of the democracies, which appear incapable of taking any meaningful action? At least, the dictators know that they will have the means to retain power longer in the face of disaster than their democratic counterparts (and they might even be able to get rid of some of them at the same time!)

New Zealand’s role. The current neo-liberal government of New Zealand is one of the world’s least active and least ambitious governments in regard to preparing for and countering climate change. It justifies its inaction on two grounds. The first being that the NZs economy is largely dependent on animal husbandry (the most polluting of all commercial sectors) and that methane emissions from this activity are not readily reduced. The second excuse is that NZ’s 4.5 million population’s total emissions, when compared as a percentage against those of the major greenhouse gas emitters, is so negligible as to hardly warrant putting the NZ electorate to any undue inconvenience. The ‘no-vision-here,’ NZ government has therefore, chosen to do nothing. With a little imagination, it could perform an advocacy role at the United Nations, which would place it in the forefront of the ‘battle’ to save humanity from the imminent crisis, the extent of which is set out below.

It would cost the NZ government nothing to become a recognised advocate of action on climate change at the UN and it could even win it a substantial number of domestic votes. This it can do irrespective of whether or not it still has a rotating seat on the Security Council.

UN impotence. After seventy or so years of its existence and entirely as intended, the restrictions placed on it by the UN’s founders continue to effectively emasculate it in its freedom to act on international crises. These limitations were imposed to ensure that the great powers could control the extent to which their sovereign freedom of action could be usurped by the new supranational body. Not only did the leading powers give themselves the power to veto any decision reached by the new organisation, but they also ensured, by denying it any means of self-financing, that any independent action it wished to take would remain dependent on the ‘charitable’ contributions members chose to make to its budget.

UN Veto

Need for reform. Now that the world is faced with an existential crisis that can only be addressed by a supranational body with executive powers, it is time for the UN to be reformed. If this is to be achieved, it can only be done with the consent of its members – all of whom have their own self-defeating reasons for preserving their sovereignty to the maximum extent possible.

Until the nations of the world, currently waging a ‘phoney war’ on climate change with so little sense of urgency, are faced with the more violent manifestations that are yet to come, they seem doomed to remain locked in their present inertia. By the time the full terror of the events, which their complacency will have given rise to, becomes apparent, it will be too late to defeat the enemy. By the time that point is reached, climate change will be well established and impossible to dislodge.

Tactics. It would be in vain for NZ to advocate all the reforms that are required of the UN at the same time. A sensible initial tactic would be to limit the proposed reform to one that would wedge open the door for other more effective reforms in the future, but which, in itself, would not cross any of the major inhibitors of change at the national level.

int_waters_map-672x372

The Commons. Currently, about 45% of the earth’s surface is covered by international waters that are not subject to the sovereignty of any nation. https://findlaw.co.uk/law/government/other_law_and_government_topics/international_waters_and_international_airspace.html These oceans are uncared for and present a perfect example of the ‘tragedy of the commons.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons Used as a dumping ground for nations’ waste and grossly overfished to the point at which a major human food resource is likely to disappear, they are in need of a caretaker to take over control and, in so doing, to look after the best interests of all humanity.

This is a responsibility for which a UN agency could be tailor-made. By taking over such an area of responsibility, the designated agency would be impinging on no other nation’s sovereignty: by definition, these tracts of ocean are held in common and have no individual owner. One of the prime reasons for national governments to resist the empowerment of the UN, their potential loss of sovereignty, would therefore have little bearing in this situation.

UN agency’s sovereignty over the global commons. In itself, such a change of ‘ownership’ will make little difference, unless at the same time, in the same way that other global players are allowed to promulgate and enforce regulations and raise revenue from their sovereign assets, the new, caretaker agency would be allowed to regulate and to raise revenue from its area of responsibility. Air passenger miles, freight tonnage miles, fish tonnage etc. through the new agency’s ‘territory’ could all be subject to tolls. These would give the agency the means to hire its own enforcement assets, put in place conservation areas, clean up the garbage and sue offenders in international courts.

The other crucial change to the current status that would have to be made would be that, while the new agency remained subject to the overall control of the UN, its regulations and actions should not be open to veto by members of the Security Council. From the outset, the agency’s rights and areas of responsibility would have to be clearly defined and firewalled against intrusions from individual state members of the UN.

Later developments – the thin edge of the wedge. Should this functional, major step forward towards global governance prove acceptable, the nations of the world might then consider further such moves, at UN level, including those which could impinge on national sovereignty. The new agency could be extended to take responsibility for regulation of the pollution of the commonly held atmosphere. Other Intractable and dangerous problems, such as nuclear armaments and other arms races, which are dysfunctions of the current global governance structure, might also, ultimately, be permitted to come under the control of such self-regulating, self-financing and veto-free special agencies.

The limitations of democracy. Democracy in the future will have to take place at the municipal and national levels. The idea of democratising a global government would be problematical in the extreme. Far better to retain a structure of dedicated public servants, governed by a council selected for its collective wisdom and expertise, rather than anything as arbitrary and as prone to short-sightedness as a democracy of some sort of federation.

The tragi-comedy of the current USA election system (comic, because of the blatancy of the greed and human folly on public display: tragic because of the inevitable global consequences) provides a perfect example of the faults of such a procedure. In the USA, democracy more than struggles, when applied to a population of 320 million. How much more would it struggle with a population in excess of seven billion?

Trump
American democracy in action

Democracy should be firmly restricted to the national borders within which it is practised. Globally, we need dedicated, humanitarian competence. The safe development of such a functional super-structure, should not prove beyond human wit. Perhaps Abdullah Ocalan has within his writings, the makings of such a system? https://khakispecs.com/?p=1844 .

 

 

I am now over halfway through the second year of weekly postings on this blog. In the past year it has received approx. 35,000 visitors. The subjects dealt with are mainly climate change and global political interactions – with particular emphasis on East-West conflict and Middle Eastern affairs. If something is worth saying it is worth hearing! If any of the readers consider a blog to be of particular merit or interest, I’d be grateful if they could help expand its readership by sharing that particular blog with their social media contacts. Thanks.

 

 

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