Good on ya Greta!
Big corporations will always find a way to be Net Zero with a bit of tricky accounting, but small businesses are the ones who will suffer
9 November 2022
Good on ya Greta!
There you are. That’s probably the highest praise of the Swedish teen you’ve ever seen from any of The Spectator Australia’s authors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also guilty of having laughed at the many memes which appeared in the wake of Thunberg’s 2018 speech at the Climate Summit. However, she made some salient remarks in an interview with Sarah Ferguson on Thursday’s airing of the ABC show 7.30.
I’ll give you a few.
On our current ‘goal’ to achieve no more than 1.5 degrees average temperature increase, she says: ‘Even at 1.5 degrees we’ll be seeing irreversible tipping points beyond human control.’
On ‘Net Zero’, Thunberg commented that: ‘These are cherry-picked dates based on carbon budgets which do not give us [much hope of] staying below and meeting our internationally agreed climate targets.’ Furthermore, countries’ Net Zero pledges are apparently ‘completely dependent on negative emissions technologies that do not exist at scale’ and ignore ‘many crucial factors such as tipping points and feedback loops’.
I don’t know what anyone else takes from that, but personally what I hear are three things…
First, if (and this is a big if), we do everything possible: decimate the fossil fuel industry, agriculture, and our very way of life. If we live in our houses 24/7 on government ‘Climate Welfare Allowance’ (CWA, not to be confused with the Country Women’s Association), never drive or fly, consume only lab-grown meat that isn’t meat, and milk that isn’t milk, and live in the metaverse. Essentially if we don’t live at all and we produce no more carbon, we are still guaranteed an environment that is irreversibly altered. Scientists admit this.
Second, we aren’t actually prepared to do any of those things, let’s be completely honest. Even those who are vegans with electric bikes, homegrown veggie patches and enjoy a Netflix binge occasionally. Society is so dependent upon fossil fuels that we can’t even comprehend what doing without them would mean in practice. Bear in mind, that’s just considering the Western world, countries whose populations are (by and large) far better cushioned. Many here in Australia, and in other affluent countries, are guilty of what Rob Henderson terms ‘Luxury beliefs’. According to Henderson these are ‘ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class’ – think celebrity climate activists with private jets, but who cry: ‘That’s so harmful to the environment. We need to change now!’ every chance they get. It is a privilege to be concerned about carbon, when there are so many who are busy struggling to feed themselves or who live in nations that have known nothing but war. The refugees in camps around the world, with no running water, starving and homeless don’t have the time to consider their green footprint (or the blue and yellow flag on their profile picture). The fact is this, we have built our society on fossil fuels, like it or not. That society might be a skyscraper built on sand, but we don’t fix the building by doing away with the foundations completely. Unless we want the whole thing to collapse.
Third, the entire notion of ‘Net Zero’ is nothing more than what an uncle of mine termed ‘creative accounting’. Essentially carbon neutrality is an estimate and this question: how much carbon is so and so producing? This has to be determined by someone. So, who does determines this? Who is deciding who’s guilty of carbon production? Who makes the call that, ‘Okay we’ve considered everything?’ How do we, the public, know that things haven’t been overlooked?
The fact is that we can never be certain that all the factors have been considered, but you can guarantee that any company with a brain will find the data that suits them! They’ll find a way to prove that they’re neutral, or offsetting their emissions, and it’ll be a report that’s wrapped up tight in a nice green bow. It’s the small businesses that can’t fudge the numbers who will suffer the regulatory crackdowns.
Whether you’re an activist, an environmentalist, don’t believe in Climate Change, or are sceptical about our capacity to do anything, one thing is for sure… There still is no plan, and the plans which governments do have are going to have an unprecedented, negative impact on our lives. All of that with no guarantee whatsoever.
Political and business leaders are going to fly (oh the hypocrisy) to meet at COP27 with their luxury beliefs and their greenwashing, to discuss their favourite buzzword: Net Zero. I personally can’t help but agree with Greta, who says: ‘The way that COP27 would for me be considered a success … would be that more people realise what a scam it actually is.’