Plan C

From Community Solutions:

Plan A seeks to maintain economic growth by developing unconventional fossil fuels, increased use of “clean” coal and more nuclear power plants. Plan B also seeks to maintain the status quo, believing this can be done with “renewable” energy sources – bio-fuels, wind turbines and solar photovoltaics (PVs). Both require technological breakthroughs or very rapid scaling of existing technologies. Both are expensive with high technical and ecological risks.

Plan C focuses on ways to dramatically reduce or “curtail” our per capita energy consumption by reducing the goods and services we use. This is in contrast to “conservation” which refers to reducing energy consumption by reducing energy required to produce and use goods and services. In particular it is solutions for the household sector of home, auto transportation and food, which represent two-thirds of total energy consumed and CO2 generated in the United States. These areas of use are under direct personal control.

Curtailment and Community

The two main parts of Plan C solutions are Curtailment and Community. Curtailment is the action of reducing our consumption of fossil fuels. Community is the context for a culture where consumption is not the primary value. Community also describes a culture or way of living where relationships are more important than material goods. Since World War II our consumption of fossil fuels has risen dramatically while at the same time the values and benefits we give the name community have declined.

We are facing massive challenges and there is no guarantee that they can be solved or solved quickly. Thus the C of Plan C also stands for contingency as in “a contingency plan.” Even though it is possible that some breakthrough technology will suddenly make all our concerns go away, it is unlikely. If we do not take seriously the possibility that oil depletion or climate change will force change upon us, we will not begin looking for other options until it might be too late. A contingency plan – which is what Plan C offers, needs to be developed.

Although the word curtailment may sound drastic, what it means is a deliberate long term effort to continually reduce our per capita consumption of fossil fuels. The C also stands for a similar but not identical term – Conservation. This recognizes that, although energy plays the most important role in climate change, our consumption of all other natural resources must decline as well. Conservation addresses, water, biodiversity, and other areas, secondary to Curtailment but still a vital part of Plan C.

Another way of talking about Curtailment is to use the term Contraction, which is often used to talk about an economy. Since a growing economy is based on increasing consumption of fossil fuels, curtailment implies economic Contraction, the opposite of economic growth. Contraction is often paired with the word Convergence. The combination of Contraction and Convergence are the hall mark of the work of the Global Commons Institute in Great Britain, whose co founder Aubrey Meyer introduced the term to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1996. Convergence in this context means that the world must converge toward equal per capita CO2 emissions across the planet, which would also lead to decreasing inequity.

Calculate, Compare, Confront

There are three C words that represent the skills needed for achieving reduction – Calculate, Compare and Confront. Calculate means developing the skills one needs in order be able to make the complex energy choices that are needed. Without such “numeracy skills,” we are easily led by green marketing programs. Compare means using these skills to know the differences between the various energy reduction or curtailment options. Recall the old saying – “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” This is often one of the weak points of various movements for change – the lack of skills to evaluate options. The third member of this C trio is Confront. We need to “challenge false assumptions” whether they are called “green” or not. We must cut through the hyperbole of options and see them for what they are. This is vital for our survival as it takes time to change and going down too many false paths could be disastrous.

Community or Consumerism

I have described the analytical side of Plan C; there is also the cultural side best described by the term “Community.” This is, essentially, the opposite of Consumerism. Consumerism is concerned with the acquisition of material goods in a competitive manner while community is concerned with the acquisition of positive relationships in a cooperative manner. Community also means Caring – both for the present inhabitants of the planet as well as future ones. It implies a right sharing of world resources. At its core is the principle of Cooperation while the core of consumerism is competition. Community’s scientific face is “social capital,” a more formal sociological definition, which includes the study of the value of relationships as contrasted to consumer goods.



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2 responses to “Plan C

  1. The author of the piece above is right to recall the relevance of: – “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.”

    The author is also right to worry that: – “This is often one of the weak points of various movements for change – the lack of skills to evaluate options.”

    The author is also right to say that ‘Calculate’ and ‘Compare’ are the necessary steps to the third member of this C trio , namel to ‘Confront’.

    This has indeed been the MO for GCI with C&C over the last couple of decades.

    Recent work in this vein may be useful:

    An assessment of ‘Contraction & Concentrations’ and ‘Contraction & Convergence’ and the C&C targets and modelling behind the various rates of ‘sink-efficiency’ in the UK Government ‘Climate Act’ [2008] is here: –

    It can also be downloaded and saved as a self-executing [virus-free] file here: – [PCs only Mac on request].

    The ’50:50′ odds the UK Government gave for avoiding a temperature rise globally of more than two degrees with their emissions scenario are put in context.

    A letter dated 8th June 2010 from eminent persons sent to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change about these matters is here: –

    Aubrey Meyer
    57 Howard Road
    LONDON E17 4SH

  2. A reply to Colin Challen’s letter has now been received from Chris Huhne.

    Mr Huhne’s letter and an evaluation of it are at this link: –

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