“We require deep transformations of our economies and societies”


Earlier this year I blogged about the important distinction between supporters and activists. When we look at left-wing political, social, economic and other causes and movements we need to distinguish between the less ideological and more sincere followers on the one hand and on the other the hard-core ideologues who often drive these causes and movements or at least exert an influence on them far in excess of their numbers but whose agendas are often different or much more extreme than those of the multitude of follower. Take the environmental fight against climate change. An overwhelming majority of people who “want something done” about it are average people who are genuinely concerned about changes that might be occurring as a result of humankind’s industrial activity and want to ensure that our planet remains as livable as it has been for human population and all the existing ecosystems. But for many of the activists who are driving the movement, climate change is merely a convenient excuse and justification for far-reaching attempts to reshape our modern civilisation. It’s not necessarily that they don’t believe that climate change is real, but to paraphrase Rahm Emmanuel, they don’t want the crisis to go to waste.

“Climate change impacts have never been worse,” [UN climate chief] Patricia Espinosa told journalists after Sunday’s first negotiating session [of climate summit in Katowice, Poland].

“This reality is telling us that we need to do much more.”

In a rare intervention, presidents of previous UN climate summits issued a joint statement as the talks got underway, calling on states to take “decisive action… to tackle these urgent threats”.

“The impacts of climate change are increasingly hard to ignore,” said the statement, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. “We require deep transformations of our economies and societies.”

But why? Isn’t the whole problem caused by our promiscuous burning of fossil fuels? And therefore the solution to stopping, reversing and preventing further climate change from happening in the future is to replace fossil fuels with clean, green, renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, hydro, thermal, biofuels, hydrogen and some still to be developed technologies? Sure, it would be a huge task but it wouldn’t require a “deep transformation of our economies and societies”. These technologies already exist and much work is going on to make them better, cheaper and more reliable. There will be a shift in employment from extraction and processing of coal and oil to work in renewable energy industries, probably with a net gain in jobs. There will also be some geo-political consequences as countries producing fossil fuels would fall in importance and become poorer, but it’s nothing that the international system cannot handle. Power production will come first, with transport a somewhat more difficult area to de-carbonise, but this too will happen, thanks to better energy storage. If you exclude transport, some countries are already 100 per cent clean and renewable or nearly so, for example Iceland. Yes, the country is blessed with abundance of geothermal and hydro energy, but making it fully green did not require any deep transformations; it’s still the same old Iceland.

So what gives? What’s the story with the UN climate gurus wanting to dramatically reshape our societies? To ask the question is to answer it. People who argue that we need to de-industrialise, slow the economic growth to zero, reduce population, state to massively increase control of the economy, promote transnational governance and other some such drastic measures in order to combat climate change want to do all these things in any case, because they hate capitalism, modern economy, liberal order and the nation state. The irony, of course, is that the old left imagined the communist utopia as a highly industrialised economy, whereas the new left by and large despises industry and economic production. What remains, however, is the burning will to power, and desire to control and play God with the rest of the humankind.

Beware the red wolves in green clothes. Most people just want the temperature to stay the same, but the activists want everything else to change.