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A Velvet Climate Revolution?

BUDAPEST – In the discussions now underway in Copenhagen, the fate of Earth’s climate is at stake. Although many of the participants recognize the urgency, the actions of many of them suggest that a business-as-usual approach will suffice. But it will not. The world needs a decisive break with the past, and that break needs to start now.

Fortunately, we have recent precedents for changes that fundamentally alter the economic and political landscape – i.e., of revolutionary change undertaken peacefully and with enthusiastic popular support. The collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe 20 years ago, and the establishment of new democratic polities with market economies, was precisely such a decisive and positive rupture with the past.

Those regime changes required people to change not only their way of life, but also their habits of mind. The ecological revolution that the world demands today – a transition to a low-carbon global economy and a low-carbon way of daily life – will require a similarly comprehensive change.

Obviously, such a comparison has its limits. The regime change that took place in the communist world introduced a well-known model (or so we thought), whereas there is no existing model at hand for a low-carbon and yet efficient economy.