2007 - 2022

Hoaxing from Bucha to Cambo

The world’s scientific community has just told us that we have only a narrow chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, and are falling far behind on making the changes needed to transform the global economy. Overshooting 1.5C is now “almost inevitable”. New figures reveal a massive rise in the number of deaths among homeless people, with one person on average dying every seven hours. Adam Scorer, CEO of the charity National Energy Action, warned us that more than six million households will be cast into fuel poverty in the coming months. He said that the costs will affect the “very basis of your quality of life” as he predicted that the millions financially trapped in the cold could become fatal victims of heart attacks and strokes. Roughly 10,000 people die every year due to living in cold homes but asked whether this number could rise due to the soaring energy costs, Scorer said that would be “inevitable”. From Bucha we watch as Putin’s soldiers slaughter people, leave them dead and mutilated in the streets, and then others in the West join in saying the bodies in the street are  “crisis actors” and it’s all a hoax.

I’m trying to make sense of this world as on the radio ‘upcycling’ experts are telling me how to make a four-poster bed for my cat. It’s on a sort of lifestyle greeny ‘how can you do your bit’ sort of feature, which, if you think about it, is all of them.

In my head I’m trying to calibrate the announcement that Cambo Oil field may now go ahead and calculate how many four-poster beds I need to create to offset the 800 million barrels of oil it will release.  Only a few months ago we had the charade of COP26 in Glasgow, a total failure followed by mutual back-slapping and self-deceit, as mass media and politicians colluded in gaslighting us all.

Now even that pretense is abandoned.

The man who was going to make a great success of Brexit, build a bridge to Northern Ireland and promised fifty new hospitals is going to build nine new nuclear power stations. Really. Greg Hands, the Energy Minister came on (just after the Upcycling) to explain that Scotland was going to be missing out on all the jobs of the new nuclear era and that Cambo and the rest of the North Sea would provide more environmentally-friendly fossil fuels than bad foreign oil and gas.

It’s just like living in a hellscape of stupidity.

But they’re not stupid. We are.

The Tories energy policy includes “a wide-ranging plan to boost domestic energy production through a range of power sources”. They include:

  • Increasing nuclear capacity from 7 gigawatts to 24GW
  • Offshore wind target raised from 40GW to 50GW (from 11GW today)
  • Solar could grow five times from 14GW to 70GW by 2035
  • An “impartial” review into whether fracking is safe

As is the Brexity Zeitgeist we’re hurtling backwards.

The obvious thing – we’ve known this for decades – this is so tedious – the obvious thing we need to do is rapidly and massively shift to renewables and Insulate Britain (to coin a phrase). Insulating and retro-fitting homes and putting strict guidelines on any new builds simultaneously helps fight fuel poverty, creates jobs and reduces carbon emissions.  We also know that onshore wind and solar are the cheapest (and easiest) forms of energy.

As Damian Carrington has written: “It is crystal clear that transforming the energy efficiency of the nation’s draughty homes should be the No 1 priority. After all, the cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy you no longer use and nothing can be installed faster than insulation. There are huge opportunities – for example, just 40% of UK homes have sufficient loft insulation. But there is nothing new in the strategy beyond an advice website. Former Tory energy minister Charles Hendry calls this a “major misjudgment” that will “force large numbers of very vulnerable people to be cold next winter when they need not be”.

The next priority should be renewable electricity, now six times cheaper than that from gas-fired power stations. There are 649 wind and solar projects that already have planning permission. These would save more gas than the UK imports from Russia. But the strategy promises nothing to cut the planning regulations that David Cameron used to strangle onshore wind development and large-scale solar farms.”

Carrington is quite right “the cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy you no longer use and nothing can be installed faster than insulation.” But in reality UK home insulation improvements have plummeted since 2012 (Source: Climate Change Committee. Note: Progress in reducing emissions March 2021 report).

Why is this? In everything that this Prime Minister does must be framed as grandiose wildly ambitious and gigantic when what is needed is the simple solutions well-executed with the speed and urgency required to face the scale of the crisis. But there’s no political capital in that.

A leaked early draft of the energy plan proposed increasing onshore wind capacity from 15GW to 45GW but the target, first reported by the i newspaper, disappeared from the final edit.

Why?

Mostly because it upset Tory backbenchers who are hounded by their ageing NIMBY constituents. As we hurtle towards ecological catastrophe we are propelled by the selfish fury of the Shires. A demographic within a handful of Tory constituencies holds a generation to ransom.

Insulation as an answer isn’t sexy, and onshore wind is (improbably) political difficult, but there’s a wider problem at play. Energy is seen as a commodity, not a resource and it’s a private one. That’s the backdrop to profiteering, fuel poverty and climate breakdown. As long as energy is seen in this way there is no incentive for corporate power to change. This is why the debate is always about supply and never about demand. Imagine having an ‘energy strategy’ that didn’t have at the heart of it a plan to use less and less of it?

This collective experience is just leading to a deeper delirium. It’s as if none of the climate reality actually existed at all, we’re being encouraged to hurtle backwards to a pre-climate emergency era, just pretend it away.

But something about the (overshadowed) IPCC leaked out. For the very first time the IPCC wrote about demand and supply.

While many journalists and media outlets just glazed over at yet ANOTHER climate report, investigative journalist Amy Westerverlt has been dissecting the latest.  She writes: “There are a lot of new additions to the IPCC report this time around, but the newest and shiniest is Chapter 5 “Demand, services and social aspects of mitigation.” Sounds kinda wonky and boring I know, but what it means is roughly: are people actually demanding fossil fuels, or even energy, or are they actually just demanding services? And that is a pretty revolutionary question.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a chapter on demand because this idea about economic growth and demand being linked was just untouchable,” environmental economist Julia Steinberger, a contributing author to chapter 5, says. “Everybody wants economic growth, so everybody wants demand to increase and that’s it. But as soon as you start questioning it, you realize that it’s a God with clay feet. That you can actually do a lot better with a lot less. There’s nothing preventing us from doing a lot better and using a lot less, including resolving poverty and deprivation around the world.”

Imagining a world in which exponential growth and eternal upwards demand weren’t assumed is actually revolutionary.

The connections and parallels with Ukraine are multiple. The Ukraine conflict is, as well as being a war of Putin’s Christian nationalism also a resource war. As it exposes, again and again, our dependence on externalities it also offers-up the solutions, real energy security, real food sovereignty, real peace and resilience. None of these are found in Johnson’s energy plans, none of them are found in our forced dependency on fossil fuels. But there are other darker parallels, the forces who look at the tragedy and horrors of war and climate breakdown and cry ‘hoax’ are caught in their own forms of denial. The horrors spilling out of Ukraine are the horrors of a grotesque world made manifest. Without radical change there’s much more of this to come.

 

 

Comments (25)

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  1. James Coleman says:

    Excellent piece.

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    It’s ironic that the world ‘overshoot’ appears in the IPCC reports, but only in the contect of ‘overshooting 1.5*C’ imaginary targets, and not in the context of ecological overshoot. Europe is already at +2.3*C above the 1750 baseline, the Arctic at an average +4*C and who knows for the Antarctic. Heatwaves at both poles simultaneously is not normal.

    Everything we are seing now – war, climate disasters, increased inequality, increased fascism, oppression of free speech, fake news, increased in poverty alongside increases in extreme wealth, stuttering supply of goods and transport networks, biodiversity collapse, mass extinctions, etc – are all symptoms of Overshoot. Human society is now in the end game of collapse and it is clear to see for anyone who dares to look. However, most don’t dare to look, as that would involve some hard home truths, and sacrifice. One of the best responses I heard to the latest IPCC reports is that the scientists should simply stop doing these reports, the energy saving would be enormous. Incidentally in the small print of UN reports done in 2018 on the state of the oceans, and apparently somewhere in this one, is that climate change is irreversible (on time scales that matter to humans at any rate).

    As far as the war goes, two things we ought to remember:
    a) half of those in charge in America believe in The Rapture
    b) there are thinktanks in America that actually accept the idea of winning a nuclear war with Russia. Their articles appeared in the MSM as recently as a couple of years ago briefly.
    I leave the reader to work out the rest.

    There is no “window of opportunity”,
    https://climatecasino.net/2022/03/the-steel-door-of-doom-is-welded-shut/
    there will be no “transition to green energy”, no great “reset”, no “levelling up”, no meeting of any fantasy targets. There will be, as Tim Watkins calls it, a great simplificiation, but if you are on Universal Credit or a refugee seeking a UK visa or using a foodbank you’re already there. Germany is openly talking about energy rationing, that is a far more realistic discussion that the UK should be having. The EU is talking about banning cars in cities, free public transport, etc, which again, is a more realistic discussion.

    As for Boris’ nuclear ambitions, I doubt they will ever be built. Some companies and hedge funds will be given a lot of money to ‘sort it out’, but by then the daily temperatures will be too warm to cool nuclear reactors on a regular basis. And some of the resources needed to make reactors comes from, you know, Russia.
    The scale of the predicament in weaning ourselves off Russian resources was openly shown by the EU last week – in March the UN gave Russian Eu35 billion in fuel payments, and gave Ukraine Eu1billion in aid. If the annual EU fuel bill to Russia is half-a-trillion Euros, how do they expect to replace that one-for-one from somewhere else?

    The least worst thing you can do is voluntarily simplify your life, before you are forced to. Whatever that is will be different for different people, but I would include getting rid of the TV and car, working as minimum as possibly as you can afford, moving nearer to work, or moving/changing work to near where you live, growing some of your own food, do more voluntary stuff in your community. For those with an economic surplus currently, if there is that one thing you wanted to buy for your own longterm pleasure, especially if useful to a pre-1750-style-technology community – a plot of land, an expensive book, a scythe, climbing gear, kayak, whatever, get it now whilst they are still being made and whilst money is still a thing.

    What I find depressing is not the oncoming collapse, where 90% of the planet’s population is going to cease to exist, if not 100%, but the hopium and self-delusion that is clung to like a shipwreck hanging onto a melting iceberg by humans. Everywhere, in the MSM, even from some climate scientists, the aggrevating bollocks that we can maintain this set of living arrangements we call civilisation indefinitely on a finite and now exhausted planet. This denial in itself is a symptom of collapse and part of the standard psychological response of the failed evolutionary experiment that is homo sapiens. But it’s still bloody annoying. I cheer myself up with some honesty at the relatively new addition to collapsology at Eliot Jacobson’s blog: https://climatecasino.net/
    and Tim Watkins’ Consciousness of Sheep is always a good reality shredder.

    Yes, indeed, “Without radical change there’s much more of this to come.” But even with radical change, overshoot, collapse and potential renewal will still happen. Radical change may lessen the pain, the bodycount and the biodiversity loss, but it cannot alter baked-in events. The rate of descent, to whatever comes next, is now more important than any attempt to avoid descent.

    Many laugh at Guy McPherson’s 2026 prediction, but every week I see evidence that the human race is trying it’s hardest to prove him right.
    Lap it up humans, and get used to it, the fossil fuel party is over. Don’t expect those in charge to help you, they are only trained to enrich the already rich, and that’s all they want to do anyway. Sunak’s response to the cost-of-living crisis is adequate proof, as is the government’s kneejerk reaction to open up more oil fields, fracking and nuclear plants in response to our “sudden” awareness of reliance on Russian resources. This moment was a unique opportunity to present Degrowth to the nation, to add it to the Overton Window as a reasonable topic for debate, and they fluffed it. Of course, because there’s no profit in degrowth.

    1. Thanks Mark. What was Guy McPherson’s prediction?

      1. AudreyMacT says:

        Extinction

      2. Derek Thomson says:

        That St. Mirren would win the league. Sorry, but a poor life this if there is no room for levity.

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Aye, Gus, I know. Whatever.

        2. 220412 says:

          St Mirren could conceivably win the league if the League levelled the playing field by introducing a system of progressive handicapping.

  3. AudreyMacT says:

    The Ukraine war is no hoax – it’s horrifying – but perhaps in a sense it’s a distraction or a red herring. I think Putin chose his moment very carefully and the end goal is not a military or territorial win it’s a financial one. He chose to launch the offensive at exactly the point when inflation kicked in in the US, EU and UK. The inflation was caused by the insane QE policies used by the Fed, ECB and Bank of England. He chose a point of weakness and he knows it can only get worse for US, EU and UK. China and Russia did not go down the QE route and they have both stocked up on Gold and commodities like wheat. They have also offloaded their dollars. The rouble has already regained its value.
    I think Putin is possibly trying to hasten the end of dollar global domination and usher in the Yuan as new top dog. He’s taking a gamble that the US , EU and UK are basically fucked. The win, therefore, is not Ukraine. The win is a massively weakened US.

    1. How do you think that’s working out for him?

      1. AudreyMacT says:

        It’s a projection into the future so we will have to wait many months to see if it pans out. Many economists saying the US is heading for recession or stagflation.
        Btw please don’t jump to the conclusion that I want this to happen or that I support the Putin regime.

    2. 220410 says:

      The war in Ukraine is indeed a[nother] proxy war between Russia and the USA.

      Back in December, the Russian government laid out a series of security demands that would not only stop NATO’s expansion to the east but push it back, viewing the drift of former Eastern Bloc countries and Soviet Republics into Washington’s orbit as an existential threat to Russia as a world power. By invading Ukraine, the Russian government was aiming a) for regime change in Ukraine and the installation of a more pro-Russian government and b) to exact concessions from NATO regarding its operations in former Eastern Bloc countries and Soviet Republics in the subsequent peace settlement.

      Unfortunately for the Russian government, however, the invasion’s gone *rs* over t*ts. And unless it can pull the situation from the fire, the Russian establishment – i.e. the state bureaucracy and the army – will quietly remove it. The Russian establishment’s greatest fear since the end of the Great Patriotic War has been of sacrificing to Western revanchism and irredentism the strategic gains with which Russia came out of that war. If Putin’s government fails in Ukraine, it could fall in the same way that Gorbachev’s did following its failure to protect those gains throughout Eastern Europe and in the Baltic Republics.

      1. Niemand says:

        Ukraine is not in NATO so how can it be a proxy war between NATO and Russia (you conveniently simply equate NATO entirely with the USA, which is clearly not true given all the weapons European NATO countries are currently supplying Ukraine)? Other former Eastern bloc countries have voluntarily joined NATO entirely of their own accord because of their justified fear of Russia. NATO has not ‘expanded’ of its own volition which is what you imply in an attempt to draw an equivalence between NATO ‘expansion’ and deadly Russian invasions of its neighbours in its imperial attempt to literally subsume them. Such an equivalence is false.

        The entire long history between Ukraine and Russia, clearly a massive factor in this current war, is somehow irrelevant? The war in Ukraine is not primarily a proxy war between the USA and Russia; such analysis is simplistic at the very least. The logic of the argument would make any war involving Russia being a proxy one between them and the USA simply by default of those two nations being arguably the most powerful and traditionally not friends.

        1. 220411 says:

          No, Ukraine is certainly not in the NATO camp yet, which eventuality Russia is trying to prevent with increasing desperation.

          And every war in which either Russia or the USA has been involved since 1945 has been a proxy war between those two great powers for some global advantage.

          1. Niemand says:

            Ukraine has stated it will not be joining NATO. And there are other counties in Europe not in NATO also supplying arms to Ukraine. The USA v. Russia argument for the reason for the war in Ukraine is false.

          2. 220412 says:

            ‘Ukraine has stated it will not be joining NATO.’

            And do you believe it? This runs counter to the foreign policy it’s been pursuing since it left the Union.

            (The thread won’t let me post the much longer article in which I trace Ukraine’s actions in this.)

  4. Chris Ballance says:

    I take a (small) degree of comfort from remembering that when i was editing the SCRAM anti-nuclear journal, Thatcher came to power and in 1979 promised 20 new nuclear power stations. 43 years later, just one of these is under construction. None is yet onstream. I think it quite possible that the new Tories’ plans will go the same way.

  5. AudreyMacT says:

    Here’s a link to Fabio Vighi’s essay in The Philosophical Salon of October 2021. He puts forward the idea that the massive burst of QE from the Fed was actually to prop up the US financial system which was teetering on the brink of collapse in September 2019. The’ pandemic’ was created to delay the inevitable inflation that follows such inputs of liquidity. The ‘pandemic’ shut down the real economy and successfully held off inflation until the end of 2021.https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/the-central-bankers-long-covid-emergency-noise-and-conspiracys-best-kept-secret/

    1. 220411 says:

      Thanks for the link. Did you attend Vighi’s ‘Lacan in Scotland’ seminar last September, in which we discussed the pandemic through the lens of Lacan’s discourse theory? And a right good ‘ding-dong’ we had too.

      It’s by no means clear that the pandemic is ‘a symptom of financial capital running amok’. Our cultural response to the pandemic (our discourse in relation to it) has certainly been shaped and delimited by the material conditions that presently obtain, which Vighi quite accurately characterises as ‘emergency capitalism’. But attributing our typical response to the pandemic to the world-making of capitalism isn’t the same as attributing capitalism as a ‘cause’ or ‘source’ of the pandemic itself. Vighi is curiously mistaken in this; ‘curiously’ because such instrumental ‘cause-and-effect’ reasoning is alien to the critical theory tradition in the context of which Vighi operates.

      Basically, Vighi’s ideological misstep here runs contrary to the ideologically more surefooted view that our cultural response has typically been to commodify the pandemic and other emergencies as ‘catastrophes’ and trade in the futures of those commodities. This is the same response we’re making from within the discourse of crisis capitalism in relation to the climate emergency and the financial emergency: we transact the present on credit, accumulating debts that can never be paid but can only be endlessly deferred by borrowing on future securities; we construct a habitable world for ourselves out of the chaos of uncertainty on the never-never; instead of living productively, we get by through ‘monetary doping’ on the basis of unsecured promissory notes.

      Nor is the pandemic (or the climate emergency or the financial emergency, etc.) ‘a symptom of a world that is no longer able to reproduce itself by profiting from human labour’. Again, this is a curious misstep on Vighi’s part. Human labour is still the generator of all value, and all human culture (the larger economy) is still work-based in the sense that our individual and social responses to the events that befall us are still conditioned or mediated by the technology we have to hand. Post-industrial capitalism hasn’t abolished labour as the creative source of the human world (as Vighi seems to be suggesting); it has only further abstracted or alienated the human world from its source and further deferred its realisation through the aforementioned transaction of ‘monetary doping’ or the endless extension of credit. Again, this is not the same as ascribing the pandemic to capitalism; it’s rather an ascribing of our typical response to the pandemic and other emergencies to capitalism.

      Contrary to what Vighi asserts, the foundations of our world – its axiology, as it were – still reside in socially necessary labour and not in commodities such as cars, telephones, or toothpaste and their futures; they do not reside in the ‘highly flammable debt-leveraged speculations on financial assets like stocks, bonds, futures, and especially derivatives, whose value is securitised indefinitely’. These latter are just the fetishes of late capitalism, the idols whose twilight is narrated as apocalypse, as the opening of a yawning abyss beneath our feet, as a descent into nihilism, from which only repentance can save us. In asserting the abolition of labour as the source of all value – in denying its agency in the revaluation of all values following the Death of God and the advent of nihilism – Vighi has become complicit in the hysterical nature of our discourse in relation to global crises like the pandemic.

      That complicity just goes to show that, as Vighi himself admits, ‘the conservative structures of neurosis and perversion are often shared by “progressive minds” (including liberal and radical leftists) whose commitment stops at virtue-signalling or participation in conspiracy theory shame games’, both of which must be exposed and taken to task wherever and however they appear.

  6. AudreyMacT says:

    Here’s Fabio Vighi’s discussion with Lacan in Scotland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMHopHy7AIk

    1. Thanks Audrey, really intersting

      1. 220411 says:

        Vighi’s gospel is indeed interesting – but flawed.

        It always cracks me up when folk look for truth rather than a praxis in postmodern thinking. Vighi has fallen into the trap of believing that he’s saying something positive, of substance. The thing about the tradition of critical theory, from the context of which he speaks, is that its dialectic is entirely ‘negative’ or deconstructive rather than ‘positive’ or constructive. And Audrey only compounds the mistake by trying to take some positive truth out of Vighi’s vitiated praxis. LOLZ, as they say.

  7. Maxwell macleod says:

    Mike, I am proud to know you. This is a remarkable article,accurate,well written and pertinant. Best wishes from your secret weapon
    Mm

  8. John Monro says:

    I would not be able to claim with any certainty that the war in Ukraine is a resource war. Ukraine does have a lot of resources, apparently, wheat and fertiliser being two of the larger, and neon for microchip manufacture etc. But surely the war is “simply” Russia’s response to what it considers an existential threat to its security, and the support of the Russian leaning part of Ukraine that straddles its border, the Donbas, and its citizens who have been under a murderous Ukraine attack since 2014. The existential threat is the US and NATO expansion to its most important border, and the continued arming and training of a huge military, including NAZI battalions. The US is supplying billions of dollars in support of Ukraine’s aggressive posturing, all in the name of promoting democracy (where have we heard that before). So now, because Ukraine, strong-armed by the US and NATO, refuses to negotiate in good faith with Russia, and because neither side will back down, we all suffer this foul proxy war, which the longer it continues the more risk of a wider conflict and a hot war between NATO and Russia. The perils of that can hardly be overstated. But this is all has been predicted, because it is part of a part of the US’s continuing neocon agenda, a force that’s insinuated itself into the very heart of US politics, with its irrational but unbending hatred of Russia and its very existence and its capacity to inflict untold misery on any population that it chooses in its march to further global dominion., We have known all this for decades, it’s called the “Project for the New American Century”, which parallels in its murderous delusionality Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” and his fight for “lebensraum”. Apparently we should all be concerned about Putin being under the sway of the religious eschatologist Aleksander Dugin, but Biden and his neocons seem to me much more dangerous still. .

    1. John Monro says:

      Sorry Mike, this posting of mine doesn’t quite do the job I intend, I went off on a bit of a tangent. Mark Bevis’s reply is rather more pertinent to your thoughts. However, I would still disagree that the war is, at least primarily, a “resource war”. Surely this war in Ukraine is at a very fundamental level a geopolitical and existential struggle between one way of thinking and doing, and another way of thinking and doing. The war has brought this into stark relief. It is also highly nationalistic Yet, even in its enormity and horror, this struggle is totally futile even to its participants, there will be no winner, we will all lose, a great deal more than most still understand. As you and Mark so eloquently describe, this war though does come as part of a package of converging existential human and anthropogenic ecological crises that threaten the whole of our civilisation and humanity in an ever faster approaching future, it’s another frightening symptom of the decay of our human organisation and moral spirit.

      1. I think what I meant (and probably didn’t quite make clear) the war is complex but a major consequence of it – rather than cause of it – is about resources, with oil and gas as well as wheat and fertilisers having a major impact across Europe and changing the relationship between Germany and Russia.

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