Tone On Tuesday 144: How A Real War Will Confuse Climate Wars

Attention: the following contains absolutely nothing on the tax reductions of the third stage.

Climate change is a two-sided coin. We act on climate change and climate change acts on us. This week we look at the first, why act for limit climate change that seemed so positive six months ago is now failing. Next week, our inability to resolve the impacts of climate change.

Science tells us we must limit climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, but politics has long been beset by Stum and Drang: acrimonious debates, ignorant Holocaust deniers on FOX/SKY, bleating teenagers on TED talks, misguided disruptive protests.

The answer was diametrical: the crimson straight refuted that weather events were influenced in any way by climate change; the green-left advocates for ever more drastic measures to reduce the climate change they believe has caused them.

Science has been howled in the climate wars that we thought was over with the election of a new federal parliament: no more Labour, Green and Teal. But arguments over whether Australia’s targets should be 26, 28, 43, 60, 75 or some other percentage by 2030 have continued. The argument now seems moot, at best a distraction, as action on climate change is drowned out by real war.

After agreeing on tentative pathways to reduce climate change over the past 25 years, current global events are pushing governments in the opposite direction, forcing them to back down from the promises they made: big issuing countries are in difficulty; greenhouse gases increase sharply; recent reductions have been overtaken and erased. The outlook is bleak.

First the democracies: as the United States sinks into recession, independence from oil and coal is seen as a way out. To add to this misery, they seem to be reigniting a dormant civil war. Under Boris Johnson, the UK had a semblance of tackling climate change, but the new Prime Minister and Chancellor are determined to make an ideological swing; the pound is therefore collapsing, British society is in turmoil and coal consumption is increasing to cope with energy shortages.

Then autocracies: China has pledged to delay the climate change agenda, but as a deep recession bites, it will ‘pollute to produce’ as a solution, with ever more Australian coal. Russia’s war on Ukraine sees greenhouse gases soar, not just from wartime emissions (hence the pun), but from the ripple effects of economic sanctions from the European nations. Russia limits Nord Stream gas, so Germany ramps up coal and nuclear power for the cold, harsh winter ahead. France and the rest of the EU will follow.

The world is in turmoil, energy at the heart of it, and a massive acceleration of greenhouse gases is occurring. It’s not a climate Armageddon, but it will be if there is a nuclear one.

So the green left is stepping up and demanding more and more action on climate change now. Not only is it fanciful, but it’s deeply unnecessary and counterproductive because action on climate change is happening anyway, due to market forces, but it’s slower than many would like. Jumping up and down won’t make it any faster, but it does make headlines.

The better news is that future action on climate change will increase, ironically for the same causes. The gas-cutting Russians have forced Germany back to fossil and nuclear fuels for the time being, but it has stepped up its sustainability plans, to become more energy independent. Germany is committed to a future with a strong increase in sustainable technologies, especially wind and hardening. The perverse short-term result could produce long-term benefits for the planet.

Russia’s actions have highlighted how a handful of mostly autocratic countries (eg the OPEC cartel) control the energy market. This has led to market manipulation and price gouging, corruption, intimidation and blackmail. Who wouldn’t want to be free from all that?

A country’s desire to improve its national security and independence requires severing its relationship with imported fossil fuels. This in turn implies shifting to local energy production, which requires developing local sustainable technologies, which by their very nature are “low level” (wind, solar hydro) but distributed everywhere; as opposed to the “top of the range” (coal, gas, oil) which are concentrated in the hands of these few very rich countries.

Australia is caught between two fires. He wants to be seen as sustainable, but at the same time wants to sell as much coal as possible. “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” But global politics is making this increasingly difficult. As more and more countries switch to sustainable technologies, the demand for our thermal coal will decline; we need to be more like Norway, less like the United States.

The current transition to sustainability is driven by a form of market forces, where the “market” is “forced” by war crimes, oligopolies, far-right democracies and autocracies. It’s very muddy and messy, which slows sustainability adoption on the one hand, but ensures it will eventually happen on the other. It’s a great case of green karma running over brown dogma.

Change is much slower and heavier than purists would like, but the irony is that the market will push to break free from the fossil fuel warlords and guarantee that sustainability will happen more surely than promises during their beloved COP meetings. But it’s not good enough and fast enough for some current effects-oriented people.

The frustration of many is palpable. The green left resorts to more extreme media stunts – blocking highways, sticking hands on a Picasso painting, performing unauthorized demonstrations – but they only succeed in alienating the public. The answer to severe storms is not violent protests, no matter how good that feels to the protesters.

Simply put, a real war has changed climate wars: the conundrum is that, even if its action is slowed down now, it will intensify it in the future. Next week we will look at what to do to deal with the increased time impacts.

Tone Wheeler is an architect / opinions expressed are his own / contact at [email protected]

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