After nearly three decades of climate change denial, the US has decided enough is enough. Climate change is real, and the US must act. It has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution — its emissions reduction framework — to the climate treaty secretariat. It has set out its climate change action plan. Dramatic. The Paris climate conference is the stage for an operatic unfolding. The world is already celebrating — the prodigal has returned.
We present a few inconvenient truths — one per chapter — that might throw cold water on the celebration. The US climate action plan is dramatic. But it is neither ambitious nor equitable. Worse, it is but business-as-usual. If implemented, we have analysed, emissions reduction will be marginal. Whatever reduction is achieved, whether due to increased efficiency or a shift in fossil fuel use, will be run over by runaway gluttonous consumption. We conclude, for the sake of the world’s future: American lifestyle can no longer remain not-negotiable.
Will our stance lead to huge disquiet? Our friends in US civil society are sure to accuse us of playing into the hands of the Republican Party — that fearsome free-market gang of raucous climate sceptics. Here is a president, they will say, who has finally come out of the closet. It has taken President Barack Obama courage to act on what he declaimed in the first year of his eight-year presidency, when he spoke loudly and with passion about the coming climate catastrophe. We, they will rue, are discounting this effort. Discrediting US policy drift. We are providing serious grist, they will scold, to the anti-climate change mill in the country. Our position on the need to discuss consumption in climate change will fuel their worst fears: the world wants to close their free-market frontier.