IMF Chief: ‘Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled’

Another day, another icon of the global financial system becomes a climate hawk.

You may recall World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said of the climate crisis: “If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak.”

Turns out IMF managing director Christine Lagarde is also a climate hawk — and she’s the former conservative finance minister of France.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, she said, “the real wild card in the pack” of economic pivot points is “Increasing vulnerability from resource scarcity and climate change, with the potential for major social and economic disruption.” She called climate change “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century.”

Ms. Lagarde concluded with a call for a new kind of economic growth. “So we need growth, but we also need green growth that respects environmental sustainability. Good ecology is good economics. This is one reason why getting carbon pricing right and removing fossil fuel subsidies are so important.”

In response to a question from the audience, she said: “Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”

Perhaps the IMF can release an analysis as blunt as the stunning World Bank Climate Report from November that concluded: “A 4°C [7°F] world can, and must, be avoided” to avert “devastating” impacts. Its 2012 release, “Fiscal Policy to Mitigate Climate Change: A Guide for Policymakers,” was kind of a yawner.

Then we need to see the IMF actually focus on environmentally sustainable growth, as opposed to say, our currently unsustainable trajectory, which will roast, toast, fry and grill countless future generations.

35 Responses to IMF Chief: ‘Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled’

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well it is bollocks, pure greenwash, as you’d expect from the IMF. ‘Green growth’, ‘green development’, call it what you like, is the equivalent of ‘healthy cancer’, ‘pregnant virgin’ etc, an utterly self-contradicting notion. To survive we need de-growth, we need to make our impact on the biospheres much smaller. To do so humanely and justly requires a radical redistribution of human wealth out of the grasp of a tiny oligarchy and into the hands of humanity. In any case the proceeds of ‘green growth’ like those of the ‘brown growth’ of the present will, under capitalism, be all captured by the elites as poverty and misery burgeon. Once we have general equality and the absence of grinding poverty, experience tells us that there will be a demographic transition and we can humanely begin to reduce humanity to truly sustainable numbers.

  2. for Earth says:

    Joe, you write ‘countless generations’. If roasting, toasting, frying and grilling occurs I would expect only one or two more generations before we’re on our way to a Martian-like surface and Venusian atmosphere.

  3. Ken Barrows says:

    Sure, we have economic growth as long as we cut global carbon emissions by more than 5% per annum indefinitely. The emissions cuts take priority, not the growth.

    The reality? Emissions will rise and growth will cease. All the while many will say that emissions can fall and growth (as measured by GDP?) return.

  4. Jan says:

    I was going to say something like that.

    Maybe you should join forces with James Howard Kunstler.

    He predicts economic contraction and a return to local, food-based economies – as a consequence of peak oil, while treating climate change as some sideshow apparently.

    You write mostly about gigantic existing reserves that we can’t afford to burn for climate reasons, while maintaining a “green growth”.

    I think that probably the only means to combat climate change is voluntary de-growth, or it will be the involuntary consequence (with lots of heat and mayhem added).

    Can you make wind and solar with wind and solar, and energy-efficient things with not-yet energy-efficient things, and get away with a high living standard and little climate change?

    I guess if we do nothing, peak oil and climate change might start to really hurt both at the same time. Sadly ironic.

  5. Artful Dodger says:

    This is not binary. Would you rather hit a brick wall at 4 mph or 20 mph?

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Finally, a movie about the roaster toasters themselves:

  7. Omega Centauri says:

    Agreed that “green growth” carries with it a contradiction. But it depends upon what we mean by “growth”. We could grow GDP and human wellbeing, while at the same time reducing nonsustainable consumption. But, that requires some changes in what we consume. If we insist on faster-cars, bigger mansions, and plane trips around the world, then that can’t be sustainable. But if we (say) give up powerboat racing for (say) hiking, we’ve changed our sustainability in a positive manner. So Green Growth” requires some changes in lifestyle if it is to more than a slogan.

  8. John says:

    Growth is anathema to climate, sustainability, environment, habitat, future.

    This is obvious.

  9. John McCormick says:

    Mulga, we are the sheep being led to extinction.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    John we can’t have any more growth, green, brown or polka-dotted. We are overdrawn on our planetary credit card, big time, already. We have to downsize, quickly but humanely, or stark reality will do it for use, rapidly and pitilessly. I think that explains the elite’s total refusal to act sanely, despite decades of warnings. They want to downsize, too, but not themselves or their hypertrophied greed. No, the sacrifices, as ever, will be made by the ‘little people’ who now comprise 90odd % of humanity. For them the prognosis is most dire.

  11. Leif says:

    There is a lot of “Green Growth” that can happen. Organic small farms rather than agra-business, Construction of the very things that make the green economy function. Retrofitting homes for sustainability. Rebuilding infrastructure to be robust in the first place so we do not have to rebuild after each mega-storm. Green the military in tooth and nail. To name but a few IMO. Every job must look with a eye to a green component. Of course stop profits from the pollution of the commons as well.

  12. atcook27 says:

    Mulga, you just get it! I can’t remember the last time I disagreed with something you’ve written. Thats why I hardly ever post here. You let my thoughts by known a darn sight more elequently than I could put them.

  13. Before we give up attachment to what causes climate change it seems to me that we will have to give up profiting from it. Since most of the profit from what causes climate changes such as extraction of fossil fuels is an unearned income it would seem an easy matter for us to tax it away and let the perpetrators decide whether they want to continue earning only what it is really worth or looking for alternatives.

  14. bratisla says:

    Strange, I don’t recall her working to get her carbon tax right after the initial fiasco (law censored by the equivalent of the Supreme Court because it was too ill done)

    Nor do I recall her saying anything after the President (under which she worked for as Economy Department chief) declared “Ecology ? Now that’s enough !”

    And now she goes with the “green growth” meme ? How credible is she, after what she has *not* done when she had economic decision powers at the head of the fifth (or sixth) most important economically nation ?

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thanks atcook. I simply try to say honestly, without too much hyperbole or rancour, exactly what I feel, and it’s what I’ve felt for a long, long, time. In fact, I felt it long before I knew what it was, as a subtle, but growing, insinuation of dread, and horror at what some ‘human beings’ were capable of. I have a good deal of faith in most people, otherwise I would have gone crackers long ago. I just want the sleepers to wake, and soon.

  16. Endofmore says:

    The owner of a brick wall near where I live is suing my head for damages!
    any kind of growth is unsustainable, green or any other colour. The fantasists who say we can are in for a very rude awakening. Growth means making stuff and selling it to one another. Just about every artifact needs heat to make it, and there has to be a profit motive of some kind involved in that.
    It has been the use of heat that got us into this mess in the first place.
    The alternative to that is a hunter gatherer society. There is no other way…I would be delighted if someone out there can suggest one. Our transfer back to that is going to be very unpleasant.
    The downsizers have this strange notion that we can retract our living standards into bucolic peasantry, all tending our acre plots and supporting one another through little local difficulties.
    They won’t be local difficulties. Without our industrial system, our healthcare is going to collapse, when that happens, bacteria will reassert their rightful place as top species on the planet, having been on a 100 year vacation while they mutated into new and more lethal strains to keep humanity in its place in future. Doctors?? A doctor is at the end of a factory conveyor belt. He my know more than his counterpart of 500 years ago, but without industrial backup, he will have no more to offer you.
    We have put ourselves into this position by burning fossil fuel, our wheeled lifestyle is not going to roll on into infinity
    To quote Joseph Tainter: Complex societies collapse from the complexities that created them

  17. Raul M. says:

    A nice consolation prise, though, is that God
    likes lifeless planets. That must be because there are so many lifeless planets.
    Another way of saying is that the laws of physics will stay even after our influences upon the Earth.

  18. fj says:

    Human growth is where we should be going; where we’ve been going; we are mind stuff; life is intelligence and virtually the same; nature provides everything.

    We must continue to probe deeply who we are and what we are, and watch where we are going.

    Our science now tells us that we are mobile ecosystems comprised of trillions of things living and otherwise: systems, stuff that has been around for billions of years.

    We are on an extraordinary journey led headlong by our ever evolving cognitive tools on a mission to survive.

  19. Endofmore says:

    lifeless planets just whirl around and dont cause trouble

  20. PJMD says:

    Call it whatever you want, but the human population isn’t going down any time soon — barring catastrophes of epic proportion — and developing countries want some decent amenities, like electricity, paved roads, safe food and drinking water, medical care. They deserve it. So we have to give them the clean tech they need, or they’ll mine their coal, gas and oil to get there. What fraction of the US’ military budget would suffice to put solar electricity in every rural village? Good will is priceless, along with reduced emissions.

  21. Paul Getty says:

    We won’t be so fortunate to go back to the lifestyles of the hunter-gatherers. They had a good, though changing climate, and there were far more species and healthy natural resources then, and none of the witches brew of industrial poisons that seep into our pores daily.
    It will not be pretty at all, no matter what the optimists say.

  22. fj says:

    American cities could go net zero if five years providing replicable models for moving forward.

    That would get the ball rolling.

  23. Endofmore says:

    I hate to have to agree with you

  24. Spike says:

    At least Lagarde isn’t in denial about the science, even though she is still in growth fetish mode.

    I look at this simply – we need massive expansion in some areas like renewables, energy conservation, ecosystem management, soil conservation, reforestation, organic agriculture. We need massive contractions in fossil fuel burning, deforestation, CFC releases, methane releases. Do all that and I don’t really care about the impact on GDP because it’s survival that counts.

  25. Solar Jim says:

    Suggested subtitle:
    Creation of the Global Carbonic Acid Gas Chamber

  26. Solar Jim says:

    As long, that is, as you believe discounting tens of trillions of dollars of national and corporate “assets” to essentially zero is “an easy matter,” yours is a reasonable statement.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly, Wendell, but, regretably, the wealth extractors, an even more pernicious breed that ‘wealth producers’, control both the late capitalist system, where financial interests are dominant, and the political process as well. Only a Second American War of Independence, this time from the kleptomaniacs, will see sense and survival dominate human affairs.

  28. Solar Jim says:

    Climate science thresholds or tipping points define non-linear processes where the planet automatically changes state (such as methane outgassing), thus a binary rather than linear response. Think of it as moving from the horizontal part of an impact response curve to the vertical.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I think that there is a small, and decreasing, chance to escape your all too plausible scenario. It requires that all the wealth that we have created by destroying the planet’s ecosystems, and ruthlessly exploiting humanity, be redistributed and used, not for cancerous ‘wealth production’ but for environmental repair, and poverty reduction, which will lead to a demographic transition to lower population. We have prodigious technological means, and, just by diverting money from the military, we would have plenty to get on with repair. If we choose, instead, to go on destroying everything to feed the insatiable greed of a tiny, malignant, elite, then we will be gone in fifty years, at the outside, I would say.

  30. Endofmore says:

    You make the classic error of defining our problems in monetary terms.
    diverting money isn’t the problem, the military machine burns energy, not money. If we divert military energy to other purposes (worthwhile I agree), we are still burning energy, money has nothing to do with it
    At the moment we are having to burn military energy in order to safeguard the supply of world energy itself. If we removed our forces from the oilfields of the world, they would be overwhelmed by the forces of lunacy in one form or another (think Strait of Hormuz closing), that would shut down the world economic system altogether. So at best our current spending is holding back my inevitable hunter-gatherer future.

  31. Raul M. says:

    Then keep the faith that humanity will learn
    to place the newly formed coal into the ground. If we know so much of the ways of the Earth systems, then maybe we need to follow some of the examples. Make coal and put it in the ground.

  32. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    John – The rate of tree planting is growing here, as are the trees themselves, as is their notional financial value, as is the value of the property they enhance.

    Just out of interest, how many of these forms of what Ms Lagarde would describe as ‘green growth’ would you see as anathemical to “climate, sustainability, environment, habitat, future” ?



  33. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Spike – agreed, but with two provisos – if ‘growth’ were allowed to collapse to the point where enough people cannot feed their families, then
    1/. rioting and the overthrow of govts committed to international mitigation commitments is only a matter of time – (i.e. slump-economy emissions and the feedbacks are left to let rip);
    2/. as already in Haiti, West Africa, etc, the remaining ecology gets hammered to dust/mud and the last fruit trees are felled for the means to buy food today (i.e. the remaining carbon sinks’ decline gets heavily accelerated).

    From this perspective one critical aspect for halting the damage – which Lagarde is at last starting to address verbally – is about re-defining the global accounting of ‘Growth’.

    No doubt those so unwise as to live in the way of Sandy’s impact may be intrigued to learn that the funeral costs of the victims were duly counted towards US GDP . . .



  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Most of what you recommend, with all of which I fully concur (save the ‘green military’-we need to get rid of militaries asap)is best not thought of as ‘growth’. Most of it is steady-state turnover of resources, recycling nutrients, following the seasons, living in balance with Nature, not confronting or fighting it, planting many more trees than you fell, planting for our grandchhildren etc. We need balance, sufficiency, the end of greed, the pursuit of nothing, but a quiet waiting for it to come to us. The greedy adventurer, always looking for new ‘frontiers’ and, most horrid of all ‘new lands to conquer’, is my least favourite human type.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If you really think that money has nothing to do with energy then I have a nice opera house, going cheap, that you might be interested in. As for the US military being in the Gulf to stop ‘lunacy’-well that is pluperfect nonsense. The only threat to the Strait of Hormuz is if the US or Israel attacks Iran, over its non-existent nukes, as non-existent as were Saddam’s WMD. Why Iran would cut off its nose to spite its face in closing the Straits, and thereby also invite massive military overkill and the deaths of thousands of its people and the devastation of its infrastructure is quite beyond me. If you wish to see ‘lunacy’ at large in the world, look in your own backyard.