Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Guardian has declared 2019 the year they defeated “climate denial”. But nobody in the green movement has any idea what comes next.
Climate change denial was defeated in 2019. But what comes next won’t be easier
Defeating the climate crisis is just the beginning of the struggle – and tough political choices will have to be made
Will 2019 be remembered as the year in which climate change denial was defeated? The global climate strike, Greta Thunberg’s meteoric rise to international prominence, as well as several high-profile international conferences and reports – all contributed in putting climate skeptics on the back foot.
Even Donald Trump, who previously claimed that the climate crisis was a “hoax” invented by China to hold back American industry, has recently begun to brag about all his administration has done to address it. Following suit, the rest of his party is scrambling to develop a coherent environmental platform, more in line with their electoral base’s shifting views.
But the next steps in the global fight against the climate crisis remain far from clear. In the speech she delivered to US Congress in September, Thunberg maintained: “No matter how political the background to this crisis may be, we must not allow it to become a partisan political question. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics. And our main enemy right now is not our political opponents. Our main enemy is physics.”
We already see this new politics taking shape in emergent debates over competing proposals for addressing the climate crisis. Bernie Sanders’ and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s respective versions of the Green New Deal are very different from the proposal for a European Green Deal recently put forward by the new president of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
The first approach wants to connect the issue of the climate crisis with social justice, and advocates for a massive expansion in the role of the state to manage the transition to renewable energy. The second approach treats the issue of the climate crisis in isolation from other social and political issues, and proposes market rather than state mechanisms to address it.
These decisions cannot be taken by purely technical or scientific means. On the contrary, the fact that the environmental movement has so far remained the preserve of a small technocratic elite has done more to invite populist backlashes than to further its own goals.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/29/the-climate-movement-is-about-to-get-more-political-and-thats-a-good-thing
The climate movement didn’t win in 2019, they won a long time ago. With a handful of exceptions like President Trump, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and President Bolsonaro of Brazil, for the last decade at least there has been an almost seamless genuine global political consensus on the need to address the climate crisis.
Why hasn’t this political consensus translated into real climate action?
When Greta Thunberg said “Our main enemy is physics.”, for once she was spot on. The renewable solutions the climate movement advocates are impossible. Other greens are aware of this problem; Bill Gates tried and failed to solve the problems. David Attenborough advocates a renewable “Apollo Programme”, to attempt to solve problems which he knows are currently insurmountable. Trump hater Michael Moore tried to investigate what was stopping the green revolution; Moore found a dark swamp of lies and corporate greed, in the last place he expected.
Eventually voters will tire of believing in a climate crisis which never manifests. But until then, I see the main role of climate skeptics as trying to contain the economic damage caused by ruinously expensive political climate follies.
When trillions of dollars are at stake, doubt, even a small doubt, kills the sale.
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