It’s power, stupid!

Graphic by Jordan Engel, 2019, courtesy of Decolonial Atlas

It’s about power, and how it is exercised. That is the conclusion of a team of experts who set themselves the task of answering the key question: “After three decades, why haven’t we bent the emissions curve?”

Lead researchers Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, and Isak Stoddard, from the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, assembled a multi-disciplinary team of academics to examine this fundamental question at the heart of the climate crisis. They looked at the problem through a series of nine themed “lenses”: climate governance, the fossil fuel industry, geopolitics, economics, mitigation modeling, energy systems, inequity, lifestyles, and social imaginaries. They then grouped their findings into associated clusters, which they dub the “Davos” cluster, the “Enabler” cluster and the “Ostrich and Phoenix” cluster. And amid the complex and multifaceted reasons they identify for the failure, over three decades, to act to mitigate the unfolding climate emergency, they find: “a common thread that emerges across the reviewed literature is the central role of power.”

Blindingly obvious, some might say, but while most of us come to this conclusion piecemeal, partly through evidence, partly through intuition, these scientists have brought all the rigour of their disciplines to bear, in an objectively oriented, meticulously documented, satisfyingly thorough analysis of the nature and methods of the power that has been wielded to prevent effective global action. And in the Phoenix sector of the Ostrich and Phoenix cluster, they find what may be the strongest catalyst for the necessary changes that now all who understand the science agree upon, pointing “to the power of ideas, to how people can thrive beyond dominant norms, and to the possibility of rapid cultural change in societies—all forms of transformation reminiscent of the mythological phoenix born from the ashes of its predecessor.”

Do read their paper, released in the public domain this week; though necessarily academic in format, it is succinct and direct. Without taking any overt political position, it lays bare the realities of the current global body politic. Every activist, politician and concerned citizen should read it. It provides invaluable material to take our campaign forward. It’s a great read! Find it here.

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