Ted Nordhous argues powerfully that Climate Change is simply not the main event anymore, and the climate punters are shellshocked.
by Ted Nordhous, Foreign Policy
Virtually overnight, the war in Ukraine has brought the post-Cold War era to a close, not just by ending Europe’s long era of peace, but by bringing basic questions of energy access back to the fore.
Climate Change was the filler hob-goblin between the real threats
The issue of climate change burst into the global debate just as the Cold War was coming to an end. As one existential threat seemingly receded, another came into view. For much of the international community, particularly the United Nations and its agencies, climate change also became much more than an environmental issue, offering an opportunity to reshape the post-Cold War order to be more equitable, multilateral, and politically integrated.
And offering the UN a reason to grow, to be bigger, richer, more powerful. There were nice jobs, annual junkets and the feeling they were superheroes.
Most religious zealots are not flexible enough to move with the times:
Much of the climate commentariat—politicians and policymakers, academics and think tank analysts, journalists and activists—appears shellshocked by the violent return of energy geopolitics and fossil fuel shortages.
The 1970s energy crisis left a long term mark:
In response to the energy crises of the 1970s, the United States, rich in both fossil fuel resources and technological capabilities, invested in almost every energy source imaginable. It accelerated the development of coal deposits across the U.S. West, built rail links to bring coal to the Eastern Seaboard, and invested huge resources in the development of unconventional oil and gas production, including shale gas, oil shales, and coal-based synthetic fuels. It also made foundational investments in the commercialization of solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient technologies ranging from LED lighting to combined-cycle gas turbines to fuel-injection engines.
The West hobbled itself in so many ways. Not only by cutting off our own baseload power, but lecturing the developing world, holding them back, and not helping them build the infrastructure they needed. That left the door open to others to fil that role.
Resentment runs deep. For decades, Western environmental and other NGOs, often with the tacit or direct support of governments and international development institutions, have broadly opposed large-scale energy and resource development, from dams to mines to oil and gas extraction.
China and Russia, by contrast, have no such qualms and have leveraged investments in energy, resource extraction, and infrastructure to advance their geopolitical interests. Their intent is to create dependency in ways that advance Moscow’s and Beijing’s economic priorities while creating international leverage. Since the Ukraine invasion, the efficacy of this strategy is now plain for all to see.
The world reduced carbon intensity a lot faster before the UN got involved:
Facts on the ground told a different story. The carbon intensity of the global energy system fell faster in the 30 years before the first major U.N. climate conference than after it—a result of rising energy efficiency, the spread of nuclear power, and the changing composition of the global economy. After 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, both total and per capita emissions rose faster than before.
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By Ted Nordhaus, the executive director of the Breakthrough Institute.
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June 6, 2022 at 01:02PM