When it comes to saving the planet, is it really asking too much that you install a few solar panels and submit to a dystopian nightmare administered by a totalitarian state?
· Jul 7, 2021 · NottheBee.com

Turn down the thermostat, maybe throw some extra fiber glass insulation in the attic, and then cram your family of four into a 640-square-foot apartment where they can patiently await their government allotment of daily rations.

These are but small sacrifices we must all make if we are to preserve our precious planet, and by "we" I mean "you."

That's at least according to a team of European researchers led by University of Leeds sustainability researcher Jefim Vogel.

The study, "Providing decent living with minimum energy: A global scenario", set out to determine what it would really take to meet the goals as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement (the one Joe Biden rejoined the day he was sworn in) which required limiting overall global temperature increases to 1.5°C while at the same time maintaining "decent living standards."

Their conclusion? We need to reduce our energy consumption by 90%.

There is a big problem with this: No country comes close to meeting these two goals.

As the researchers explained in a press release:

A major concern, however, is that such profound reductions in energy use might undermine living standards, as currently only countries with high energy use accomplish decent living standards.

Even the energy-lightest of the countries that achieve decent living standards - spearheaded by Argentina (53 GJ per person), Cyprus (55 GJ per person), and Greece (63 GJ per person) - use at least double the 'sustainable' level of 27 GJ per person, and many countries use even much more.

There is a fundamental assumption here driving their analysis which is key. As Reason explains it,

The researchers' assertion that "large reductions in energy use are required" is actually a non sequitur because it is not energy use per se that is contributing to man-made global warming, but the emissions of carbon dioxide associated with the burning of fossil fuels. In fact, when they set their 27-gigajoule per capita threshold, they specifically ruled out "speculative" technological progress. However, transitioning to no-carbon energy sources such as nuclear, wind, and solar power would solve the problem without forcing humanity to go on the ridiculously strict energy diet they call for.

There are all kinds of problems and disruptions and expenses that would be associated with moving to a carbon-free energy economy, but certainly no more so than what they are calling for in this study.

So why rule it out?

This is why.

Co-author Dr Daniel O'Neill, from Leeds' School of earth and Environment, explained: "Our findings suggest that improving public services could enable countries to provide decent living standards at lower levels of energy use. Governments should offer free and high-quality public services in areas such as health, education, and public transport.

"Free" public services. I think they fundamentally misunderstand the concept of "free."

"We also found that a fairer income distribution is crucial for achieving decent living standards at low energy use. To reduce existing income disparities, governments could raise minimum wages, provide a Universal Basic Income, and introduce a maximum income level. We also need much higher taxes on high incomes, and lower taxes on low incomes."

"Maximum income level?" UBI? Higher taxes?

As Tom Nelson likes to point out, when it comes to saving the planet, it's not really about saving the planet.

As luck would have it, saving the planet requires granting the state new and expansive powers over every aspect of our lives.

Talk about coincidence!

"But we need to be clear that achieving this ultimately requires a broader, more fundamental transformation of our growth-dependent economic system."

You know, "growth dependent," that growth providing a bright and prosperous future for your children.

"In my view, the most promising and integral vision for the required transformation is the idea of degrowth - it is an idea whose time has come."

"Degrowth!" An idea "whose time has come."

But not to worry, I mean, sure, the policies above will require an all-powerful state to administer but you can rest assured that you will be provided "decent living standards," those standards being set by the all-powerful state, of course.

What exactly do they mean by "decent?"

No need for concern here either, they've got you covered!

Introducing, the "Human Need Satisfaction" list, the not-at-all creepy and soulless title to their exciting new vision of subsistence living.

"Sufficient nourishment."

Tastes responsible!

"Drinking water access."

Wow, we'll get rations of clean water. It will be like camping! Only all the time, until we die.

"Safe sanitation access."

Working toilets?


"Basic education."

You know, basic. Critical Race Theory, Marxist dialectics, Gender updates, all the things you need to work in the gruel factory.

"Minimum income."

Health care will be free, but gruel ain't.

"Healthy life expectancy."

"Healthy." Not sure what happens to you when you're no longer considered healthy.

The researchers cite as support, a study that gets surprisingly specific regarding what these "decent living standards" would look like in a world running on 90% less energy.

According to Reason's analysis,

In order to save the planet from catastrophic climate change, Americans will have to cut their energy use by more than 90 percent and families of four should live in housing no larger than 640 square feet. That's at least according to a team of European researchers led by University of Leeds sustainability researcher Jefim Vogel.

I think everyone can agree that families should be closer. I'm not sure if they meant that physically, but this will do!

In their new study, "Socioeconomic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use," in Global Environmental Change, they calculate that public transportation should account for most travel. Travel should, in any case, be limited to between 3,000 to 10,000 miles per person annually.

See, you won't need cars after all. The government will arrange for all your transportation needs.

What's been going on in my county is starting to make more sense!

With respect to transportation and physical mobility, the average person would be limited to using the energy equivalent of 16–40 gallons of gasoline per year. People are assumed to take one short- to medium-haul airplane trip every three years or so.

I used that much gasoline last weekend. Oh well, sorry, dad, I'm afraid you'll have to die helpless and alone. They changed the bus schedule!

If you're wondering what kind of enforcement and monitoring systems would need to be in place to ensure that people adhere to these mandates, I don't think you're supposed to.

In addition, food consumption per capita would vary depending on age and other conditions, but the average would be 2,100 calories per day.

Those other "conditions" would of course include, "are you a ruling member of the party," and "are you Jeff Bezos."

Each individual is allocated a new clothing allowance of nine pounds per year, and clothes may be washed 20 times annually.

You will be "allocated" this clothing allowance.

And you're even permitted to wash them on occasion!

We'll be living like kings! From the 14th century, but still.

By the way, they really figured this all out. They calculated how much laundry you could do.

This chart comes from Global Environmental Change, a study on which author lead, Jefim Vogel relied in preparing his paper. (More on that in a moment.)

It gets better.

The good news is that everyone over age 10 is permitted a mobile phone and each household can have a laptop.

It's like it's Christmas! In Bulgaria.

Vogel pushed back on Ronald Bailey, who wrote the Reason article, claiming that the figures regarding square footage and laundry and the like were not his. Here is the exchange.

I encourage you to read it, because while Vogel is vociferous in claiming that his study did not in any way suggest these kinds of drastic changes, there is no getting around the fact that such limitations are unavoidable, and given Vogel cited the study in support, they are certainly in the ballpark.

As Bailey put it:

Restricting people to live on 27GJ per capita would require these sorts of limitations as the studies you cite to justify that threshold make abundantly clear. All I did was make clear to readers the implications of your threshold.

It's exactly this kind of academic sleight of hand that is used to avoid responsibility for the real-life consequences of their policy proposals. At one point, Vogel makes this argument:

3) If *you* want to interpret 27 GJ/cap for your readers, based on Millward-Hopkins et al., then please use the numbers they use in their 27GJ/cap "high demand" scenario (HD). That scenario uses ~1150 square-feet for a 4-person household, not 640 square-feet as you (not we) say.

Oh, wow. Burn!

Vogel can't hide from his specific calls for "degrowth" and cannot avoid the implications of his call to reduce energy consumption by 90% and in doing so reorder the existing global socioeconomic system (which he specifically calls for) that would leave people ever more dependent on the state and ever less free.

The future envisioned by this study is not unlike the world created in The Fifth Element, only there's no Bruce Willis and no Milla Jovovich to save you.

And worst of all, no multipass.

Ready to join the conversation? Subscribe today.

Access comments and our fully-featured social platform.

Sign up Now
App screenshot