Read China is on track to beat its peak-emissions pledge (Ars Technica)

China’s pledge, submitted as part of the international 2015 Paris Agreement, was to ensure its emissions peaked and stabilized before the end of the deal’s window in 2030. This is no small feat considering that the country’s emissions had more than doubled in the last 10 years or so. … As of 2015, some slowing economic growth and government directives were already combining to mark a shift in China’s emissions trend. Some studies have found that China may, in fact, be very close to peak emissions already thanks to transitions toward cleaner industries and renewable energy.

Heinz rührt eine wichtige Frage an: Findet die parlamentarische Demokratie eine Antwort auf den Klimanotstand?
Und er beantwortet sie mit “So, wie wir sie kennen, nicht.

Wichtige Beobachtung:
Ich glaube, dass das damit zusammenhängt, dass die wichtigsten Betroffenen der Klimakrise parlamentarisch nicht vertreten sind. Das gilt für die zukünftigen Generationen und es gilt für Menschen auf anderen Kontinenten, denen wir mit jedem Liter Benzin, den wir verbrauchen, ihr ohnehin geringes verbleibendes CO2-Budget weiter beschneiden. Es gilt vor allem für die nichtmenschlichen Akteure, die wir als Partner begreifen müssen statt als neutrales Material—für die Natur im weitesten Sinn. Eine parlamentarische Demokratie ist auf Interessenausgleich unter den in einem Gebiet lebenden Menschen ausgerichtet, aber nicht darauf, noch nicht Geborene, Menschen auf anderen Kontinenten oder nichtmenschlichen Wesen zu vertreten.

Er sucht die Lösung, zurecht denke ich, in eine Selbstbeschränkung des parlamentarischen Entscheidungsraums, so wie wir sie auch in anderen Fällen kennen:

Ich glaube eher, dass parlamentarische Demokratien eine strukturelle Selbstbeschränkung brauchen, um mit der Klimakrise umzugehen. Sie müssen begrenzen, was die Menschen entscheiden können, die gegenwärtig in einem Gebiet leben. Es gibt Beispiele dafür, das solche Begrenzungen funktionieren. Die wichtigsten sind der Markt und das Rechtswesen und für sie bestimmende Institutionen wie das Bankwesen bis hin zu Nationalbanken und Gerichte bis hin zu Verfassungsgerichten. Aber auch internationale Abkommen begrenzen die Souveränität von Parlamenten und werden trotzdem von ihnen akzeptiert.

Das hat eine Parallele auch in praktische Situationen, wie zB alltägliche Entscheidungen einzelner Bürger, oder Firmen: da sollte man immer die externalisierten Kosten geltend machen. Es ist aber üblich das Konsequenzen für zukünftige Menschen, Natur, oder Menschen ausserhalb des als eigenes verstandenen Gebietes unbeachtet bleiben, und nicht in eine ethische Abwägung bezogen werden, was den tatsächlichen, höheren, Preis einer Entscheidung verhüllt.

Es gilt deshalb über eine klimakonforme Demokratie nachzudenken und darüber, wer die parlamentarischen Entscheidungsprozesse entsprechend steuern und begrenzten könnte.

Ich mag den Begriff “klimakonforme Demokratie”, und es kommt bei mir die Frage auf welche Art von neuen (internationalen) Institutionen dazu passen, weil die Herkömmlichen für andere Zwecke konstruiert wurden, und zunehmend spröde erscheinen.

View of Thingvellir
Thingvellir, the site of Althing, Iceland’s parliament from 930-1798 CE, covered in ice and snow. Photo Sheep”R”Us, license CC BY-NC-ND

Serendipitously came across this on a mailinglist (UnCiv), which gives a practical example of using increased diversity of life as a coolant, as described in Novacene. Although this farmer in Portugal fears he might be too late.

Read Putting pigs in the shade: the radical farming system banking on trees | John Vidal (the Guardian)

A farm in Portugal is showing how the ancient art of silvopasture – combining livestock with productive trees – may offer some real answers to the climate crisis

Notes on reading Novacene by James Lovelock 2019

Definition of life: entities that reduce entropy, as they organise their environment

I knew his 1970s Gaia Theory, but remembered it mostly as a type of systems thinking and seeing earth as a complex system. But he adds something key:

In earth’s case the purpose of the system is to keep earth cool, to keep temperatures at 15C average. And do so as our sun slowly heats up.

A startling assumption to me is that earth really is not in the Goldilocks zone, but Mars is. We would be like Venus, hot, if not for the entropy reducing earth life. That life continuously draws down heat.
Furthermore, to an alien observer earth would not look cool but much hotter because of dumpng solar heat continuously.

The sun is heating up and so is earth therefore. Keeping cool is our prime directive. The climate urgency is making it worse and burning fossil fuells (stored heat from the past) should stop.

The Anthropocene started with the steam engine, when humans could influence their environment on a global scale. The Novacene is the coming age of AI.
The optimal temperature range for electronics and life are similar, and life and AI have the same hard upper temperature limit of 47C.
Above it we will have a runaway process to becoming like Venus.

AI will not deliberately kill us because it needs the world to stay cool under a heating sun. Carbon based life is needed for it. They will supplant us by evolution, slow not sudden, as evolution moves beyond us, as it always would.

Interesting notion: AI might become 1M times faster than us, but they are bound by the same physics as us. It means e.g. their travel will be at roughly the same speed.
Which will be 1M as boring and slower to AI than to us.

Makes a good caveat: AI would need to start its evolution from ‘good’ beginnings. E.g. not from autonomous weapons platforms.
Yet precisely in civic tech such as aviation we put hard constraints on AI. But we do not on military AI, making it more likely it will evolve from there.

My takeaway from this is how to use AI for civic tech, and set it free as it were, with a sense of communal values. Including with a sense of the Prime Directive to keep cool.

That I think is a core flaw in Lovelocks reasoning. Yes, the PD is to keep cool. Not only for our self-created heating, but mostly for the sun heating.
But how many humans are aware of this, and of those how many care enough to act, given the timescale of the suns heating in millions of years?
How will we make AI aware, and will they care where we do not, given that their relative timescale is even up to a million times longer?

He stresses the notion of the engineer and artisanal engineering. Where knowing how to make things work is a priori more important than knowing why it works.
This also ties into his notion that intuiting is key for engineering, and the scientific method of standing on the shoulders of others is more suited for the ‘know why’

Some of my takeaways:

  • When increasing the abundance of life is good to keep cool, greening your urban living environment makes sense on a deeper level than just cooling the city.
    Also as cities are an efficient way to house us humans at our current numbers.
  • How to use ML for civic tech, for networked agency
  • How to explore ML, what it currently does, what it can do, areas of issues it could be used in.
  • What autonomous things would be valuable in the home, neighbourhood, city.
  • What would an “AI in the wall” be like?