A Response from Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint center of Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne
The ecomoderns’ techno-fetishism is possible only because they don’t think about politics. It is true that thinking about the politics of climate change is depressing. For those who “embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future,” the easiest path is to ignore the messy world of politics and focus one’s gaze on humankind’s amazing technological achievements.
And so in the manifesto, which tells a story of how we got here and where we should go, there is no mention of the forces, national and international, that have given us rising carbon dioxide concentrations, acidifying oceans and all the rest. We look in vain to find reference to the proven power of corporations and lobbyists to stop environmental laws, or to the total victory of money politics in the United States, now entrenched after Citizens United. Exxon and organized denialism do not appear even between the lines.
For the ecomoderns, the story of the past and the story of the future revolve around one thing: “Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge.” It’s an entire historiography in which the human relationship to the natural world depends essentially on human ingenuity and entrepreneurship. It is not kings, presidents, proletarians or generals who make history — but rather scientists, inventors and engineers, and it is they who will save us.
If you believe that solving the climate change problem “is fundamentally a technological challenge,” then we are in this mess not because of the power of the fossil fuel lobby, not because of the influence of the campaign of denial, not because of money politics, not because persuading consumers to accept a price on carbon seems too hard, and not because getting international cooperation has been fraught. No, we are in this mess because technology has not evolved quickly enough to avoid it.