There are more shocks to come....including the bigger climate shocks that await us.
The value of an economic theory is that it might allow us to predict what is going to happen in the future: and allow us to prevent or provide. Ann Pettifor is recognised as one of the few mainstream economists who predicted the 2008 economic crisis.
And when writing her most recent book, The Case For The Green New Deal, she predicted another “shuddering shock” to the global economic system. She had completed her manuscript but before it reached the printing press that very shock arrived: and coronavirus presented an unprecedented challenge to the global economy.
“Thanks to the biological earthquake our whole world had changed,” she writes in her afterword. “There are more shocks to come. But the coronavirus changed the way we think about shocks and how we think about preparedness for shocks - including the bigger climate shocks that await us”.
Politicians have joked that the movie Contagion - based on scientific expertise about the potential for a global pandemic - could and should have served as a warning to world leaders. The 2011 feature film shows a bat displaced from deforestation infecting a pig with coronavirus and the pathogen entering the human food chain. And the consequences that follow. Scientists and experts can predict. And if we act, we can prevent.
The science warning us that continuing to dump billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will inevitably lead to further global temperature rises, chaotic and catastrophic weather events and then threaten our very life systems is even clearer than that which warned of a future pandemic. We now have a consensus about the consequences of continued fossil fuel use agreed by more than 99 percent of the world’s climate scientists.
The question is - how do we meet the challenge of climate breakdown? We have predicted - how do we prevent? And again, we have that answer. This is in part due to the work of Ann Pettifor and other economists and campaigners who have developed the concept of global Green New Deals. These are big economic plans to transform our economies, and to build a new renewable energy infrastructure. Country by country.
Some of the economics in Pettifor’s book can get a little complex, even though it is set out in the clearest terms. But to some degree, we don’t need to understand all the various levers and outputs and opaque idioms used to describe them among economists. We can trust those experts who clearly want to develop the solutions needed to prevent the ecological crises we are facing becoming a reality.
You can also read Jonathan Neale’s precise and clear Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs, published by The Ecologist, for an honest account of how we can cascade policy and actual work on a global scale to transform our economies towards zero emissions.
And our online series Perspectives on a Global Green New Deal, discusses in detail how these plans would impact and - hopefully - improve the lives of those living in specific communities.
The real question, then, is how do we make the planned Green New Deals a reality? How do we make politicians like Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping upscale and deliver on their climate promises? And if we cannot hold the Johnsons of the world to account, what do we do instead?
The answer is, in all cases, we need hundreds of millions of people around the world to become or continue to be actively engaged in climate campaigning. And they need a pretty good understanding of the economics that inform our demands. This is why Pettifor’s The Case for The Green New Deal is so important - to read, to share and to return to when necessary.
And this is why we’re so excited that Ann will be speaking at the Festival of Wellbeing, an online event held by the Resurgence Trust (which owns and publishes The Ecologist). The event begins at 10am on Saturday, 30 October 2021 - the day before the COP26 conference opens in Glasgow. Other speakers include Caroline Lucas MP and Vandana Shiva. Tickets are available for £10/£20 online.
Brendan Montague is the editor of The Ecologist.