Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Never before has humanity as a whole embarked on a project to radically transform the way its societies work. Sure, there have been revolutionary projects, many national, some aiming at global transformation. Through empire and war, countries have sought to assert their view of the world in order to re-model it along new political lines. And revolutions have certainly happened, both political, and more importantly in the current context, social and technological. We can think of the inventions of agriculture, printing, the steam engine or the computer. All of these have wrought vast changes upon societies. But all of these were the result of initiatives by individuals, particular companies or countries. In responses to climate change, we have the first instance of societies collectively seeking a dramatic transformation of the entire global economy.
For that is the basic claim we want to make in this book. On the one hand, responding to climate change entails radical changes in how the global economy and daily life are organised. The term ‘decarbonisation of the economy’ is increasingly in common use. It refers to the process of taking the carbon out of the energy we use to run the economy. But its implications for how the economy is organised are rarely drawn out or understood – it is rather seen as simply a technical question.