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.
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.