Things are bad, really bad. But there is still hope. A letter to future generations

To future generations,

The year is 2018, I am currently 25 and we still live in a world of global carbon capitalism. As a result, our planet is facing severe anthropogenic environmental consequences that are affecting the future safety and stability of human security. I am going to go into depth as to how our civilization and world order has come to this point of uncertainty, but also offer hope, as I believe that the market economy, innovation and survival instinct will succeed in sustaining future generations and ensure all humans have a planet they can always call home.

As of 2018 Capitalism is found in every corner of the globe and many scholars believe this is due to our human nature. Over time our species has become more self-interested and focused on maximising ownership. This was evident when saw statistics emerge in 2016 that informed us that the 85 richest people on earth own the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 Billion people and that the top one per cent own more wealth than the rest of humans combined. So how did it come to this?

Corporations have augmented throughout history to the point now where they are the dominant narrative. ‘As carbon capitalism became more institutionalised and organised, this was always the result of a fusion of state fiscal and growing corporate power’. Yes, corporations are efficient and have done amazing things, but they are driven by capitalism and capitalism is driven by exploitation. Unfortunately, what we know is being exploited is our human security and our environment. As a result of this, author Tim Di Muzio predicted in the coming decades’ humans would see global climate disasters and rising energy prices that would result in the world order to experience vast amounts of change. Those being that our earth could move into a state of emergency and political anarchy as our species attempts to change its dependence on fossil fuels.

Signs of fossil fuel depletion have already commenced with ‘peak oil’ taking place around 2005 – 2006. As of 2018 our civilisation is still overly dependent on oil in countless facets of our daily lives. Major facets include transportation, agriculture, plastics and chemicals. All OECD nations’ statistics show the average amount of energy coming from fossil fuels to be at 72.9% oil (49.7%), natural gas (19.6%) and coal/peat (3.6%). There are major concerns regarding future circumstances that could arise if peak everything occurred. This would be a world where replacements to oil are not sufficient enough which results in unprecedented social, political and economic impacts. Unfortunately, there are already signs of this with habitat destruction, resource depletion and populational pressure all being interlinked and not showing positive signs of growth.

This, in turn, had a direct impact on our political democracy and certain scholars suggested we were witnessing ‘peak democracy’.  Footage was revealed with far-right nationalist, populist and protectionist governments scattering throughout the globe and particularly in Europe. This was linked with global terrorism and the 2015 middle eastern migrant crisis. Modern historians told us this was the result of the ‘War on Terror’. From 2018 this war had progressed into its 17th year since its declaration on 9/11/01. We then saw tariffs on imports, limits to immigration, withdrawals from international alliances seen through Brexit, and billionaires for presidents in Trump and Putin.

This all sounds terrible but believe me there is hope for a clean future and signs of human survival instinct. This is due to the world seeing progress on all aspects of science, innovation, democracy and the transition towards renewable energy. Countries all over the world are making strong progress on transforming their energy sector. A recent report written by a panel of climate experts commissioned by the Royal Society of New Zealand found that its own nation is on track to reach 90 per cent renewable energy by 2025. This was made known when the New Zealand government approved a plan to accelerate greenhouse gas emission cuts in 2016. That same year they approved a bill to pledge to zero-deforestation, the first country to ever do so. Scandinavian nation Norway also obtains nearly all of its electricity from renewable sources with 97% coming from hydropower and has the plan to be a climate-neutral country by 2030. Following from this, Costa Rica aims to be 100 per cent carbon neutral by just 2021 and runs off 99% renewables as of 2017.

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The world’s number one polluter China has been focusing on removing that label through their large investments into renewable energy. In 2005 China introduced the “Renewable Energy Law” and since then the nation has seen exponential growth in the transition to green energy with a variety of large-scale renewable projects. In 2015 China accounted for 46% of all new solar power plants across the planet in 2016. One of these projects that is gaining hype is the Panda Power Plant in Shanxi. It is the first plant to be built under a scheme agreed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) It will have a capacity of 100MW when fully connected, providing 3.2 billion kWh of green electricity in 25 years. That’s equivalent to saving 1.056 million tons of coal or reducing 2.74 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The movement is throughout the entire nation with over 77.4 GW of solar panels installed as of 2016 which is more than a quarter of the rest of the globe.

China is also sustainably transferring its transport sector. In the major city of Shenzen, the mayor replaced all 5698 petrol buses with electric vehicles. Thankfully, it’s not just China working towards green mobility. Sweden’s Volvo became the first major car manufacturer to pledge to stop making vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine. The very next day, the French President Emanuel Macron announced that his country now had the goal to ban all sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040. France is also on track with its Paris climate agreement, through its recent declaration of a five-year plan to encourage clean energy from 2017. The French environmental minister Nicolas Hulot, recently pledged that France will fully stop producing power from coal by 2022.

It’s not only governments who are flicking the renewable switch, but also businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the economic value and environmental sustainability in powering their corporations with renewable energy. Apple, the richest company by market value currently, announced that all of its facilities around the world were running on 100 percent renewable energy. Furthermore, Apple desires to slash its emissions from its value chain by one billion metric tons by 2030. Competitor Amazon is also joining the race with successful completion of numerous wind turbine farms and solar power grids around the world which they seek to increase productivity on an annual basis.

Even fossil companies are participating in storage with juggernaut energy company British Petroleum investing $20 million into StoreDot an Israeli company that claims its batteries can charge electric cars in under five minutes. This is great news for the largest electric car company in the world Tesla, who have been slowly building its enterprise since its creation. The company was created in 2003 by entrepreneur Elon Musk. The price of Tesla’s cars has been becoming more affordable as the years elapse. In 2008 the ‘Roadster’ was priced at $110 000 (US), four years later in 2012 we saw the Model S become available for $70 000. As of 2018, we can buy a new model for anywhere around $30 000 so we can understand that the emission-free car is becoming more affordable. In Tesla’s short history it already has a market capitalization almost twice that of Fiat Chrysler and half of Ford or General Motors. The minute that the market becomes more affordable to purchase an electric car over a petrol car, we will see universal exponential growth on the transition to electric mobility.

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Mr Musk is not only our saviour on the roads, he is also our conqueror when it comes to battery storage. Musk lived up to his promise to the South Australian government to build a 100-megawatt battery within 100 days. State Premier Jay Weatherill announced that “South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7.” The battery stores energy from a wind farm owned by French renewable energy company Neoen. The two companies are working together and the results are exponential, as the Adelaide battery is more than three times larger than the previous record-holder in Mira Loma California. Last year, 2017 was the eighth year in a row in which global investment in renewables exceeded U.S $200 billion and since 2004, the world has invested about U.S $2.9 trillion in green energy sources. Out of 2017 investments, Australia increased its spending of 147% to $8.5 billion, Sweden, from 127% to $3.7 billion, and Mexico from 810% to $6 billion. Rampant growth was also reported in Egypt with $2.6 billion up sixfold and the United Arab Emirates up 29-fold to $2.2 billion. Overall 2017 saw the world add more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined.

Reasons for signs of this exponential growth can be explained through the observation of ‘Moore’s law’. This is when innovation doubles the number of transistors on a computer chip every 2 years and has now remained accurate for over 50 years. The extension of Moore’s law is that computers, machines that run on computers and computing power all become smaller and faster with time. Scientists are calling the relationship between Moore’s law and the clean energy transfer the ‘Carbon law’. The creator of this law, lead author Johan Rockström of Stockholm University in Sweden said

“We are already at the start of this trajectory. In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050,”

The future is so bright that we may not even rely on renewable energy with the innovation of nuclear fusion power plants which all scientists agree will change the energy course of history. The completion of the first fusion power plant is already under construction in the south of France and will turn on in the mid to late 2040s. The nuclear energy known as fusion joins atoms of inexpensive and abundant hydrogen and produces essentially limitless supplies of energy that has the ability to power the entire earth, without creating lots of radioactive waste.

Remember when I mentioned peak democracy?

Well, we are in the highest human participation in higher education with an estimated 262 million humans attending higher education by 2025 up from 164 million in 2009 and just 28 million in 1970. Not only are humans increasing education engagement but also internet connect ability. Humans participation amount rose from 1 billion in 2005 to 3 billion in 2015. This connection and internet function helps citizens to correctly analyse democratic supply in their nations. The internet has also aided the rise of critical participant citizens which as a result makes individuals cognitively attentive when governments are not meeting their democratic demands. The implementation of climate policy is reliant upon the public’s engagement with the impacts of climate change.

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In the situation where these efforts are not enough to tackle climate change and the world begins to see climatic crisis, human survival instinct will inject itself, as mankind is programmed too. The last time humans faced global disaster was during World War II. This forced large amounts of humans to unite and work on a single goal in order to survive. U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt established ‘War Mobilization’, as factories that once produced civilian goods began churning out tanks, warplanes, ships, and armaments. Except this time, scholars predict a method of survival instinct will begin. It would be known as ‘Climate Mobilization’ and would be similar to that of the War Mobilization and a format of Martial Law. The federal government would use its authority to decrease carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible, resulting in an economic shift no less significant and disorderly than throughout WWII. It would involve governments from all over the globe and focus on several climatic measures and law changes such as production controls on fossil fuel energy, climate employment guarantee and rapid production to ensure industrial transformation.  

As you have read, our species has a hell of a lot to do. The world could see chaos in future generation through all of the interlinked parameters in peak resources, climate change and peak democracy. Yet there is hope with ambitious guidance of renewable energy, innovation and the internet. I will sign off with a quote from Gareth Redmond-King head of climate and energy at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF):

“It’s important to remember that there is genuine hope. This inspiring vision of change reaffirms that we still have time, provided we commit to serious, ambitious and urgent action to control our environmental impact. Every journey, however long and complicated, is easier with a clear map.”

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