Is wartime mobilisation a suitable policy model for rapid national climate mitigation?


Delina, L. & Diesendorf, M. Is wartime mobilisation a suitable policy model for rapid national climate mitigation?. Energy Policy 58, 371-380 (2013). Copy at


Climate science suggests that, to have a high probability of limiting global warming to an average temperature increase of 2degC, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 and be reduced to close to zero by 2040. However, the current trend is heading towards at least 4degC by 2100 and little effective action is being taken. This paper commences the process of developing contingency plans for a scenario in which a sudden major global climate impact galvanises governments to implement emergency climate mitigation targets and programs. Climate activists assert that rapid mitigation is feasible, invoking the scale and scope of wartime mobilisation strategies. This paper draws upon historical accounts of social, technological and economic restructurings in several countries during World War 2 in order to investigate potential applications of wartime experience to radical, rigorous and rapid climate mitigation strategies. We focus on the energy sector, the biggest single contributor to global climate change, in developed and rapidly developing countries. We find that, while wartime experience suggests some potential strategies for rapid climate mitigation in the areas of finance and labour, it also has severe limitations, resulting from its lack of democratic processes.

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Presented at the Earth System Governance 2013 Tokyo Conference:
Presented at the Tyndall Conference on Radical Emissions Reduction at the Royal Society, 2013: