Political and economic ideas vary over time and between countries. Since climate and environmental problems are infinitely long-lasting and borderless, all political ideologies must be able to contribute to sustainable solutions. Political measures must also be morally defensible to function globally and in the long term.
Letting research determine climate policy would be difficult, especially when special economic interests are threatened. The fossil industry and the forest industry invest large sums in influencing science. It is both about making the research suspect and about producing research results that favour one’s interests.
The greater the political influence the research gets, the greater the activity of the special interests to get involved. Therefore, independent international reviews and summaries of the science, e.g. IPCC and IPBES, are even more important in the future, and their independence from financial interests must be strengthened.
Delaying climate change by presenting overly optimistic future scenarios with new technology is a clear strategy from the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately, this strategy is politically appealing to many political parties – to present a climate policy that does not involve any drastic lifestyle changes here and now.
But vis-à-vis future generations, it is, of course, reprehensible and also dishonest because no one can guarantee that the technology will work.
Nuclear power is an illustration. Is it morally justifiable to build a society on nuclear power that delivers benefits for a few generations while thousands of generations have to live with radioactive waste?
If we consider nuclear power an acceptable technology, we must consider the consequences if other nations think the same way. Do we want all states and political regimes to use nuclear technology that could potentially be used for military purposes?
The research message about climate change could be summarized in three important messages:
- Every (tenth) degree matters! This means that it is worth striving toward the 1.5-degree target. The difference for future generations between stabilization of the temperature at 1.5 or 2 degrees is very large. There is also no magic limit to the temperature, but the consequences get worse and worse the warmer it gets, and the risk of catastrophic events increases with every (tenth) degree. Politically, this means we cannot trivialize the importance of a high level of ambition, as some national economic models have done.
- Emissions must be reduced now! The faster the emission reduction, the better the effect of slowing down climate change. Politically, we must prioritize quickly reducing emissions by using less fossil energy and replacing fossil energy by expanding existing fossil-free energy (such as solar and wind) and not primarily relying on future technologies. It also means that temporary relief from climate change is devastating for new generations.
- It is not enough to phase out fossil fuels! Other sectors must also contribute. This mainly applies to forestry and agriculture. Our use of forests and land plays an important role in the future climate, and here there is a strong polarization between long-term climate goals and economic interests. Scientific arguments are widely used to promote special interests, and the forest industry is an example of an industry heavily involved in producing scientific results to promote its interests.
An important reason why agriculture has such large emissions of greenhouse gases, but also problems with soil erosion, nutrient leakage (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) and the spread of toxins, is that annual crops dominate it.
The research shows that it is possible to develop completely new perennial (perennial) crops and thus solve many of agriculture’s biggest problems in a few decades. But such development of perennial crops challenges an influential chemical and seed industry, which requires political courage and action.
It should perhaps place a law at the constitutional level so that the long-term perspective is not lost from one government to another.
It is not the investment in renewable energy that has created rampant energy prices in the EU, but rather the dependence on fossil energy. Structural social reforms are a prerequisite for facilitating necessary and reasonable lifestyle changes.
We should, therefore, not allow ourselves to be lured by politicians who promise without cover that the transition does not require lifestyle changes.
Original article in Swedish: https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/a/L58q3q/hoga-elpriserna-beror-pa-vart-fossilberoende