In the rancorous aftermath of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s prime minister sees an opportunity: Boris Johnson wants to position the country as a global champion in the fight against climate change. With both eyes fixed firmly on the world’s next major climate summit, the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26), which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow this November, the British leader recently unveiled a suite of headline-grabbing new climate policies. Johnson’s “10-point plan for a green industrial revolution” would, he declared late last year, “create, support, and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050.” For the conservative populist, COP26 presents an opportunity not just to bolster his country’s green credentials but also to repair some of the diplomatic damage sustained during the Brexit process.
Achieving this vision may be easier said than done. It’s possible the United Kingdom’s progress in cutting carbon emissions could grind to a halt over the coming decade, jeopardizing London’s push for green diplomacy. British climate campaigners are also skeptical about Johnson’s professed enthusiasm for environmental issues given the limited spending he’s committed to them so far.
It’s difficult to take anything Bill Gates says about climate change seriously. Through his trust, the Microsoft co-founder owns $10 billion worth of shares in his friend Warren Buffet’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, which invests heavily in natural gas and other polluting utilities. According to Lund University professor Stefan Gossling, he is, along with other celebrities, responsible for ten thousand times more carbon emissions, annually, than the average person. In January, he tried to buy the world’s largest private jet operator, Signature. (Gates has previously described using a private jet as his chief “guilty pleasure.”) And yet, even if the Seattle-based billionaire didn’t have a vast carbon footprint – even if he was the greenest oligarch on earth – the ‘solutions’ to global warming outlined in his new book would still lack credibility.
How To Avoid A Climate Disaster tells us nothing we didn’t already know about environmental break-down. The opening chapters are packed with commonplace insights into the crisis. An average rise of two degrees Celsius in the earth’s surface temperature will decimate crop yields in developing countries. A hotter planet means more intense and protracted wildfires. By 2100, major urban centres like Miami will be underwater. Gates’s solution? Market-driven innovation. With the right combination of state and private sector support, companies can slash the (currently prohibitive) costs of renewable energy, thus reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and dragging the global economy across that all-important zero-carbon threshold.
On Tuesday, American voters will get the chance to end Donald Trump’s planetary death drive. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Trump administration will go down as one of the most environmentally destructive in modern American history. To illustrate the existential stakes of this election, here’s just a partial summary of Trump’s assault on the climate over the past four years.
Since 2016, the US president has ditched, sidelined or diluted at least 100 Obama-era climate reforms. He has opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to fresh drilling initiatives. He has licensed new oil pipeline developments and liquified natural gas terminals. He has gutted the National Environmental Protection Act, which forced the federal government to assess the ecological impact of its policies. He has expanded tax breaks for coal plants, championed fracking, and hobbled the American renewables market. He has muzzled climate scientists and blamed California’s historic wildfires on bad forest management. He has packed the US court system with conservative judges who are instinctively sympathetic to extractive industries. And, of course, he has withdrawn America from the Paris Climate Accords, which aim to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the middle of this century – just enough, in other words, to stave-off something approaching total climactic disaster.
The rapid ascent of renewables in recent years has eaten into an ever bigger share of the global energy market.
Even back in 2018, think tanks were projecting oil price declines, increased competition, and stranded assets.
Last year, following an exhaustive 22-month investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election had been “sweeping and systematic.” In her new book, Blowout, the American journalist and MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow argues that oil was the key motivating factor behind Moscow’s 2016 strategy.
According to Maddow, Vladimir Putin wanted someone in the White House who would lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West following the Kremlin’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Those sanctions scuppered a deal agreed two years earlier between Putin and the US energy giant ExxonMobil that would’ve opened up Russia’s Arctic territories to new oil and gas exploration projects. Hillary Clinton, a long-time foreign policy hawk and critic of the Putin regime, was never going to reverse Washington’s adversarial stance towards Russia; Donald Trump, a combustive reality TV star with a notorious weak spot for flattery, just might.
On Wednesday, Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish government minister for Energy, Connectivity, and the Islands, suggested that firms operating in the North Sea should start using wind turbines to power their oil and gas platforms.
This initiative is already being trialled in Norway by the country’s state-owned petroleum company, Equinor, Wheelhouse said, and could help the UK oil industry realize its “low carbon ambitions” ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year.
Edinburgh, Scotland—Five years ago, when Scotland voted in a landmark referendum to remain part of the United Kingdom, the issue of North Sea oil—who owns it and how it should be administered—was a key feature of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) independence platform. If—as seems increasingly likely in the context of Britain’s ongoing scramble over Brexit—Scots vote again on the future of their union with England, the heavy winds and tides that buffet Scotland’s coastline will play an equally critical role in the next campaign.
By some estimates, Scotland has 25 percent of Europe’s total offshore wind and tidal resources and around 60 percent of the U.K.’s onshore wind capacity. Renewable energy is worth nearly 6 billion pounds (about $7.5 billion) annually to the Scottish economy—and green electricity exports are rising every year. But in the face of an accelerating global ecological crisis, both advocates and opponents of Scottish independence think the country can go further in embracing alternative energy sources—they simply disagree on whether Scottish independence would help or hurt that goal.