George Monbiot, a journalist who writes regularly for The Guardian, has a knack for writing about difficult topics in a way that cuts through the rhetoric and makes thorny problems understandable by people of ordinary intelligence — like me. I write for a living, but make no pretense that my articles are as cogent, thoughtful, or well reasoned as those written by Monbiot.
What follows is an advocacy piece written by George Monbiot and published by The Guardian on June 15, 2023. Ordinarily, we don’t import entire articles from other sources, but trying to excerpt what he wrote would do violence to his argument and the clarity of his vision. We hope it will promote a lively discussion among our readers on a topic that is of vital interest to us all. So sit back, get comfortable, and read on. Then share your thoughts with your fellow CleanTechnica readers in the comment section.
The hard right and climate catastrophe are intimately linked. This is how.
As climate policy is weakened, extreme weather intensifies and more refugees are driven from their homes — and the cycle of hatred continues.
By George Monbiot
Round the cycle turns. As millions are driven from their homes by climate disasters, the extreme right exploits their misery to extend its reach. As the extreme right gains power, climate programmes are shut down, heating accelerates and more people are driven from their homes. If we don’t break this cycle soon, it will become the dominant story of our times.
A recent paper in the scientific journal Nature identifies the “human climate niche”: the range of temperatures and rainfall within which human societies thrive. We have clustered in the parts of the world with a climate that supports our flourishing, but in many of these places the niche is shrinking. Already, around 600 million people have been stranded in inhospitable conditions by global heating.
Current global policies are likely to result in about 2.7º C of heating by 2100. On this trajectory, some 2 billion people may be left outside the niche by 2030, and 3.7 billion by 2090. If governments limited heating to their agreed goal of 1.5º C, the numbers exposed to extreme heat would be reduced fivefold. But if they abandon their climate policies, this would lead to around 4.4º C of heating. In this case, by the end of the century around 5.3 billion people would face conditions that ranged from dangerous to impossible.
These conditions include extreme disruption, morbidity and death through heat-shock, water stress, crop failure and the spread of infectious disease. The figures do not take into account the effect of rising sea levels, which could displace hundreds of millions more.
Already, weather stations in the Persian Gulf have recorded wetbulb measurements — a combination of heat and humidity — beyond the point (35 C at 100% humidity) at which most human beings can survive. At other stations, on the shores of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California and the western side of south Asia, measurements have come close. In large parts of Africa there is almost no monitoring of extreme heat events. People are likely to have been dying of heat stress in high numbers already, but their cause of death has not been registered.
India, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and central America face extreme risk. Weather events such as massive floods and intensified cyclones and hurricanes will keep hammering countries such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Myanmar. Many people will have to move or die.
George Monbiot On Choices
In the rich world we still have choices. We can greatly limit the damage caused by environmental breakdown, for which our nations and citizens are primarily responsible. But these choices are being deliberately and systematically shut down. Culture war entrepreneurs, often funded by billionaires and commercial enterprises, cast even the most innocent attempts to reduce our impacts as a conspiracy to curtail our freedoms.
Everything becomes contested — low traffic neighbourhoods, 15 minute cities, heat pumps, even induction hobs (kitchen stoves to those who aren’t Brits). You cannot propose even the mildest change without a hundred professionally outraged influencers leaping up to announce, “They’re coming for your …” It’s becoming ever harder, by design, to discuss crucial issues such as SUVs, meat eating and aviation calmly and rationally.
Climate science denial, which had almost vanished a few years ago, has now returned with a vengeance. Environmental scientists and campaigners are bombarded with claims that they are stooges, shills, communists, murderers and paedophiles.
As the impacts of our consumption kick in thousands of miles away, and people come to our borders desperate for refuge from a crisis they played almost no role in causing — a crisis that might involve real floods and real droughts — the same political forces announce, without a trace of irony, that we are being “flooded” or “sucked dry” by refugees, and millions rally to their call to seal our borders. Sometimes it seems the fascists can’t lose.
A Conspiracy Of Oligarchs
As governments turn rightwards, they shut down policies designed to limit climate breakdown. There’s no mystery about why — hard right and far right politics are the defensive wall erected by oligarchs to protect their economic interests. On behalf of their funders, legislators in Texas are waging war on renewable energy, while a proposed law in Ohio lists climate policies as a “controversial belief or policy” in which universities are forbidden to “inculcate” their students.
In some cases, the cycle plays out in one place. Florida, for example, is one of the US states most prone to climate disaster, especially rising seas and hurricanes. But its governor, Ron DeSantis, is building his bid for the presidency on the back of climate denial. On Fox News, he denounced climate science as “politization of the weather.” At home, he has passed a law forcing cities to continue using fossil fuels. He has slashed taxes, including the disaster preparedness sales tax, undermining Florida’s capacity to respond to environmental crises. But the hard right thrives on catastrophe, and again you get the sense that it can scarcely lose.
If you want to know what one possible future — a future in which this cycle is allowed to accelerate — looks like, think of the treatment of current refugees, amplified by several orders of magnitude. Already, at Europe’s borders, displaced people are pushed back into the sea. They are imprisoned, assaulted and used as scapegoats by the far right, which widens its appeal by blaming them for the ills that in reality are caused by austerity, inequality and the rising power of money in politics.
European nations pay governments beyond their borders to stop the refugees who might be heading their way. In Libya, Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere, displaced people are kidnapped, enslaved, tortured, raped and murdered. Walls rise and desperate people are repelled with ever greater violence and impunity.
Already, the manufactured hatred of refugees has helped the far right to gain or share power in Italy, Sweden and Hungary, and has greatly enhanced its prospects in Spain, Austria, France and even Germany. In every case, we can expect success by this faction to be followed by the curtailment of climate policies, with the result that more people will have no choice but to seek refuge in the diminishing zones in which the human climate niche remains open: often the very nations whose policies have driven them from their homes.
It is easy to whip up fascism. It’s the default result of political ignorance and its exploitation. Containing it is much harder, and never ending. The two tasks — preventing Earth systems collapse and preventing the rise of the far right — are not divisible. We have no choice but to fight both forces at once.
As Monbiot says, fight we must. The alternative is a planet that is host to a few ultra wealthy individuals who have the money to build multi-million dollar underground shelters deep in the Earth in New Zealand. Somehow or other, they seem to be under the impression that they can ride out the coming overheating of the planet and emerge from their bunkers at some future time as masters of all they survey.
We are being sacrificed to the insane machinations of these trolls who do not seem to realize that it will take millenia for the Earth to cool to the point where human life will again be possible on our little blue lifeboat in a minor galaxy at the edge of the universe. Their mistake is they assume they are immortal, despite the fact that no one in the history of the world has ever made it out alive. They think the joke is on us, but in actuality the joke is on them. What a cruel surprise awaits them.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
EV Obsession Daily!
Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.