Denial Culture – ‘We Need More Oil to Have Less Oil’

As we discuss INEOS and Grangemouth here’s where we actually are. We’re heading towards nearly 3C of catastrophic temperature rises. But in just one year, the British government has greenlit a new coal mine, the biggest undeveloped oil field in North Sea, and over 100 new oil and gas licences. Yet your media champions politicians who tell you the problem is ‘heat pumps’.

This is the week we were told that “the world is on track for a “hellish” 3C of global heating”, as the UN issued a report before the Cop28 climate summit that begins next week in the United Arab Emirates. The report found that today’s carbon-cutting policies are so inadequate that 3C of heating would be reached this century.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) report said that to get on track for the internationally agreed target of 1.5C, 22bn tonnes of CO2 must be cut from the currently projected total in 2030, the report said. That is 42% of global emissions and equivalent to the output of the world’s five worst polluters: China, US, India, Russia and Japan.

We need rapid deep and structural change and instead we are faced with not just inertia but new forms of reactionary climate populism – like we see in Scotland – and in more extreme forms in the Netherlands and Argentina.

As The Ferret laid out the carbon dioxide emissions from Grangemouth were in (first figures 2019/ second figures for 2020):

Source: Scottish Environment Protection Agency

That’s a vast emissions output that has barely been mentioned in any of the coverage of the crisis. We desperately need a transition to clean energy for hundreds of workers in Grangemouth, and to create viable sources of income for the community – but we also need to rapidly shift Scotland’s status as a minor petro-state that benefits little from it’s polluting fossil fuels. The debate is trapped between normalised denial and constitutional inertia on the one hand (business as usual) and plans and policies that rarely seem to get off the ground, that either lack political power, financial resource or real aspiration for the change needed.

“Emissions are still rising, we’re on pace for 3°C of warming, millions of species are on the brink of extinction, & the media, politicians & many scientists still act like green growth exists & capitalism will solve the ecological crisis. We live in a denial society.” – Andrew Ahern

As we can see the climate crisis is being weaponised by the populist right (and shards of the weird left) to manipulate this situation That is why it is vital that, as Jonathan Watts has said (The Great Carbon Divide):

“We need a political discourse that is class conscious, that recognises that the rich and capitalism are the major drivers of the climate crisis. This is about bringing production – and provisioning systems and energy systems – under democratic control.”

and to recognise this reality … “At the top is the wide, flat, very shallow bowl of the richest 10% of humanity, whose carbon appetite – through personal consumption, investment portfolios, and share of government subsidies and infrastructure benefits – accounts for about 50% of all emissions.”

The richest 1% of the population produced as much carbon pollution in one year as the 5 billion people who make up the poorest two-thirds.

WE are told to put our faith in the COP process. Yet as we witnessed at first hand in Glasgow this process has been captured. As Kevin Anderson says we are facing massive failure:

“It has come to something where we see a major oil producer overseeing the COP process, not only overseeing it but in their statements saying … their statements are just similar to what we’re hearing from ministers in the US the UK and elsewhere where they say “we need more oil to let us have less oil” … we’ve got a position where its completely Orwellian … the structures that we now have and the narratives that we now have …that we can now have people seriously stand up with a serious face, reported by journalists that we need to have ‘more oil to have less oil’.

To be clear ‘we need to have more oil to have less oil’ is precisely the arguments we are faced with every day in mainstream Scottish and UK politics … What follows is a major challenge to journalists everywhere:

This is terrifying. You should be terrified.

Comments (6)

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  1. Madeline Usher says:

    The destruction of the oil sector is what you want Mike. Own the economic realities of it. I fear what Grangemouth’s loss means for Scotland’s tax base (already precarious) and worse is yet to come if the Yousef/Sturgeon plan to shut North Sea production ever comes to pass.

    The just transition you desire is the creation of a po-faced, command and control socialist state that the majority of Scotland rejects at each election. It’s not about ‘the world’.

    1. John says:

      No Madeleine this is a policy of a coalition government voted in under PR. If electorate in Scotland don’t like a just transition they can vote out the government and vote the ‘pragmatic’ climate change Tories whose policies will not meet UK net zero target’s according to Climate Change committee- chaired by Lord Debden a former Tory minister.
      This Tory change in policy is being driven by a PM who had no personal mandate and a party who have a majority in Westminster on <45% of popular vote in 2019. A Tory party, I should remind you who have been rejected by electorate in Scotland in every election for last 70 years.
      Feel free to criticise policy but leave out democratic mandates if you want to avoid coming over as a complete hypocrite.

    2. Frank Mahann says:

      Thank God for Rishi. He’ll save Scotland. / s

  2. Satan says:

    The great majority of Scots will be members of the 10% of the richest people in the world. It’s not an ideal audience for taking personal responsibility for consumption. Hence the unequivocal requirement for the impending draconian laws about heating and transport (AKA just transition / netzero / circular economy / anything but the truth).

    Unfortunately, the idea that a government will create a long-term industrail strategy is absurd when it can’t build a boat and thinks people need to be paid to deposit bottles that they have been depositing for free for years. I think their industrail long-term planning looks like a cross between Amazon and Deliveroo, so we don’t even have to bother to walk to the shops (if there are any). That involves giving Amazon public money for free, for real, which is pretty fucking weird possibly even to Jeff Bezos. It also appears to involve an immigration policy designed to facilitate Deliveroo, a dubious NHS, and a dreadful care-home system. Maybe the upside is that because they are wiping your mum’s arse in Cowdenbeath they aren’t going to be underwater in Manila.

    1. Wul says:


      Have you been at the Xmas brandy early Santa?

      What’s your plan? Your vision?

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I broadly agree with what Kevin Anderson says, although I think he misses out the key role of fossil fuel economies in supporting militarisation which is vastly subsidised by, and horribly skews, civil society. This militarization and its adjuncts (arms industry and trade, security services, royals etc) is as much pointed at civil society as foreign enemies. And of course, very lucrative in terms of corruption, waste, unaccountable public spending and resource looting and extraction abroad. And it is used to justify draconian secrecy about what a state is up to (‘national security’). I think that when Churchill decided to switch from coal to oil to run battleships, this set much of the course of British imperial policy in the last century.
    Then follows propaganda to get consumers to consume in patterns helpful to military policy, encouraging buy-in, building in complicity and relying on psychological mechanisms to keep most consumers defending their habits, which requires associating militarism with patriotism.

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