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The first part of the paper is an attempt to demonstrate that what we are going through at the present time is not just an economic-financial crisis, but a crisis of humanity. It seems that for the first time in human history several crises converge to simultaneously reach their maximum level of tension. The dominant economic model is to a great degree responsible for the world's collision course. Hence a number of myths that sustain the model are listed and analyzed. It is argued that a new economy, coherent with the problematiques of the twenty first century, needs urgently to be devised. The second part proposes the foundations for a new economy based on five fundamental postulates that allow the construction of transdisciplinary, holistic, and systemic visions to adequately understand the interdependence of all the elements that sustain life. It is stressed that it is no longer acceptable that Universities still teach economic theories of the nineteenth century in order to tackle twenty first century problems that have no precedence.
Climate policy has assumed an extreme degree of urgency in the international debate in recent years. This article begins by taking a critical look at the scientific underpinnings of the efforts to stabilize the climate. It points to several serious question marks on the purported relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, and expresses distrust about claims of impending catastrophes related to rising sea levels, hurricanes, and spread of infectious disease. It then reviews the concurrent climate policy efforts and concludes that they are incoherent, misguided and unduly costly, and that they have so far had no perceptible impact on anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The exceedingly ambitious policy plans currently under preparation suffer from similar fallacies. For these reasons, but also because of the remaining scientific doubts and the exorbitant costs that have to be incurred, skepticism is expressed about the preparedness to implement the climate policy plans currently on the table.
Carbon dioxide emissions have accelerated since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. This discouraging development may partly be blamed on accelerating world growth and on lags in policy instruments. However, it also raises serious question concerning whether policies to reduce CO2 emissions are as effective as generally assumed. In recent years, a considerable number of studies have identified various feedback mechanisms of climate policies that often erode, and occasionally reinforce, their effectiveness. These studies generally focus on a few feedback mechanisms at a time, without capturing the entire effect. Partial accounting of policy feedbacks is common in many climate scenarios. The IPCC, for example, only accounts for direct leakage and rebound effects. This article attempts to map the aggregate effects of different types of climate policy feedback mechanisms in a cohesive framework. Controlling feedback effects is essential if the policy measures are to make any difference on a global level. A general conclusion is that aggregate policy feedback mechanisms tend to make current climate policies much less effective than is generally assumed. In fact, various policy measures involve a definite risk of ‘backfiring’ and actually increasing CO2 emissions. This risk is particularly pronounced once effects of climate policies on the pace of innovation in climate technology are considered. To stand any chance of controlling carbon emissions, it is imperative that feedback mechanisms are integrated into emission scenarios, targets for emission reduction and implementation of climate policy. In many cases, this will reduce the scope for subsidies to renewable energy sources, but increase the scope for other measures such as schemes to return carbon dioxide to the ground and to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases from wetlands and oceans. A framework that incorporates policy feedback effects necessitates rethinking the design of the national and regional emission targets. This leads us to a new way of formulating emission targets that include feedback effects, the global impact target. Once the full climate policy feedback mechanisms are accounted for, there are probably only three main routes in climate policy that stand a chance of mitigating global warming: (a) returning carbon to the ground, (b) technological leaps in zero-emission energy technology that make it profitable to leave much carbon in the ground even in Annex II countries and (c) international agreements that make it more profitable to leave carbon in the ground or in forests.
Protecting the climate is not costly but profitable (even if avoided climate change is worth zero), mainly because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel. The two biggest opportunities, both sufficiently fast, are oil and electricity. The US, for example, can eliminate its oil use by the 2040s at an average cost of $15 per barrel (2000$), half by redoubled efficiency and half by alternative supplies, and can save three-fourths of its electricity more cheaply than operating a thermal power station. Integrative design permits this by making big energy savings cheaper than small ones, turning traditionally assumed diminishing returns into empirically observed expanding returns. Such efficiency choices accelerate climate-safe, inexhaustible, and resilient energy supply—notably the “micropower” now delivering about a sixth of the world's electricity and 90% of its new electricity. These cheap, fast, market-financeable, globally applicable options offer the most effective, yet most underestimated and overlooked, solutions for climate, proliferation, and poverty.
Humankind is currently faced with the huge challenge of securing a sustainable energy supply and biofuels constitute one of the major options. However, the commercially traded edible crops are barely sufficient to meet food demand of the present world population. Certain regions, for example EU-27, do not even have a sufficient indigenous crop production. Of this follows that motor biofuels based on edible crops should be avoided. To replace more than some percent of the fossil motor fuels, non-edible biomass—rest products and wastes—should instead be considered for conversion to biofuels. In this way, about 10% of the current fossil fuels can be replaced. Feeding a world population expected to grow by some 50% during the next 50 years will be a major challenge. For environmental reasons it seems that agricultural land cannot be expanded very much, maybe not at all. The solution to the increasing food demand seems therefore to be using the present crop production more efficiently and increasing output from present agricultural land, maintaining biodiversity and climate stability within reasonable limits. In the future, agriculture will need more energy and more water irrigation. Food production is, however, already very energy demanding, requiring several times more externally provided energy than the energy content of the food itself. A sufficient energy supply will be a key issue for the future farming!
Humanity has entered a new phase of sustainability challenges, the Anthropocene, in which human development has reached a scale where it affects vital planetary processes. Under the pressure from a quadruple squeeze—from population and development pressures, the anthropogenic climate crisis, the anthropogenic ecosystem crisis, and the risk of deleterious tipping points in the Earth system—the degrees of freedom for sustainable human exploitation of planet Earth are severely restrained. It is in this reality that a new green revolution in world food production needs to occur, to attain food security and human development over the coming decades. Global freshwater resources are, and will increasingly be, a fundamental limiting factor in feeding the world. Current water vulnerabilities in the regions in most need of large agricultural productivity improvements are projected to increase under the pressure from global environmental change. The sustainability challenge for world agriculture has to be set within the new global sustainability context. We present new proposed sustainability criteria for world agriculture, where world food production systems are transformed in order to allow humanity to stay within the safe operating space of planetary boundaries. In order to secure global resilience and thereby raise the chances of planet Earth to remain in the current desired state, conducive for human development on the long-term, these planetary boundaries need to be respected. This calls for a triply green revolution, which not only more than doubles food production in many regions of the world, but which also is environmentally sustainable, and invests in the untapped opportunities to use green water in rainfed agriculture as a key source of future productivity enhancement. To achieve such a global transformation of agriculture, there is a need for more innovative options for water interventions at the landscape scale, accounting for both green and blue water, as well as a new focus on cross-scale interactions, feed-backs and risks for unwanted regime shifts in the agro-ecological landscape.
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