Dr Mark Levene - Southampton University
Co Founder of the
The debate around climate change becomes more fractious and fragmented.
So considerations of 'who do you trust' arise. Mark Levene is one of the people that you do.
Within the contested 'appeals to reason' that climate change debate has triggered,
Mark's measured consideration of the full-context, make his a credible and trustworthy voice.
What is equally significant about this historically-grounded eschatological resource is the
manner in which it transcends the argument for purely and simply merging history with
natural history. Ideas about the end appear to be an outcome of civilisational
development from the ancient Near East, yet have endured when all the civilisations out
of which the ideas emanated have long gone the way of Nineveh. Why?
Fundamentally, I suspect, because they are expressive of a deep consciousness about
what is 'wrong' with civilisation and what needs to be put right to set humanity on its path
to reconciliation with itself and Mother Earth. The ideas carry within them a great list of
things which would need to be done by way of environmental and social justice to arrive
at such a destination. In our own time, the climate campaigner, Aubrey Meyer has
exquisitely captured the essence of this purposefulness in his entirely scientific
proposition for a route - Contraction and Convergence - by which all humankind might
arrive at an equal carbon entitlement which would also provide a practical framework
within which yearly, incremental carbon reduction could be brought to safe-limits.
While mitigation of dangerous climate change - and within an actually, normative timeordered
process - has been the project's ostensible aim, underlying it is an ethical endgoal
suffused with compassion and loving-kindness for all living things. Yet the reason
why Meyer's proposition has been, and remains still-born is not on account of its
practicality, but, much more pointedly, because its implementation would undercut,
indeed starve, the sources of hegemonic worldly power.
One can almost speak of Contraction and Convergence in the past tense now because the
chronological time has come and gone in which the international system might have
grasped mitigation as its urgent priority. Looking back from a further vantage point, we
are unlikely to be surprised by the system's failure. Indeed, in a sense there was no failure
because it had nowhere else to go other than 'business as usual'. What will be truly
disastrous for humankind, however, is if - as a consequence of the system's impending
climate-precipitated collapse - the rest of us give way to despair, anomie and even greater
estrangement from each other.
From 'Climate blues:
or how awareness of the human end might re-instil
ethical purpose to the writing of history' -
Aubrey Meyer's principle of Contraction and Convergence.
In seeking a route to an internationally negotiated reduction of carbon emissions to a scientifically-determined stable level founded on the principle of per capita equity, Meyer envisages a timeline in which the necessary global 'convergence' would be dependent on explicit rates of deep emissions (‘contraction') made by the high carbon-emitting countries. In other words, Meyer, in considering humanity's predicament in its totality, implicitly highlights the historical imbalance between the powerful, industrialised West and the subordinate South. This, he argues, might only be comprehensively reconciled by a UN adjudicated process in which the West's annually diminishing entitlement to pollute would be traded in favour of the poorest (lowest carbon-emitting) countries' right to develop: that is until carbon equity- 'convergence' - is reached. The problem is one of time: and we are running out of it, fast. The science is clear that without radical deceleration of greenhouse gas emissions we are set on course for planetary disaster. Yet, for all the reams of information we now possess on climate change, the sort of social transformation necessary to meet the ch allenge hardly seems achievable on the basis of our current state of consciousness. To arrive there would seem to demand something else: 'some utopian leap, some human rebirth, from Mystery to renewed imaginative life.' The words are that of social historian and activist, E.P. Thompson, not long before his death, writing of that great visionary, William Blake, who broke all the rules to imagine a new post-apocalyptic age for humankind. Should we now feel enjoined to think with Blake, with Thompson, with Meyer and all the other modern-and ancient- prophets about our full ethical potential in the world?
History at the End of the World Mark Levene
"Climate change is a pressing reality. From hurricane Katrina to melting polar ice, and from mass extinctions to increased threats to food and water security, the link between corporate globalization and planetary blowback is becoming all too evident. Governments and business keep reassuring the public they are going to fix the problem. An epochal change is called for in the way we all engage with the climate crisis. Key to that change is Aubrey Meyer's proposed "Contraction and Convergence" framework for limiting global carbon emissions, which he outlines in this book."
"Surviving Climate Change"
Editors Mark Levene & David Cromwell
Southampton University Crisis Forum