Joe Biden hosted a climate summit last week. Greta Thunberg accused leaders of still talking and not doing, and nine women were arrested for breaking windows at the HQ of HSBC, a major investor in fossil fuel industries. Talk Radio wanted to know what I thought about it all. You’ll hear what I told them.

 

Leaders’ Summit on Climate

Last week, as the Sustainable Futures Report went to press, Joe Biden was hosting his virtual leaders summit on climate. 40 countries discussed a wide range of aspects of the crisis and did their best to outdo each other with announcements of action they were taking. A further 60 joined roundtable discussions hosted by Special Envoy John Kerry.

President Biden told Summit participants that the United States would halve its greenhouse gas emissions, setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030.

For the UK, Boris Johnson repeated his commitment to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035. "It's vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive, politically correct green act of bunny hugging”, he said. Of course not. 

Greta Thunberg made her position clear. “All I can do is to urge you to listen to and act on the science, and to use your common sense,” she said. “I’m not even going to explain why we need to make real drastic changes and dramatically lower our emissions in line with available science. It is the year 2021. The fact that we are still having this discussion, and even more, that we are still subsidising fossil fuels directly or indirectly using taxpayer money, is a disgrace.”

Meanwhile nine women smashed windows at the HSBC HQ in Canary Wharf, London, and activists dumped manure on the steps of the White House. I understand it came from bulls.

Last Friday, while the summit was still in session, Talk Radio asked me to talk to Kevin O’Sullivan about Greta Thunberg’s message to the summit. As you’ll hear, he was particularly concerned that she didn’t directly attack China and he claimed that China and India had both refused at the summit to take any action. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was incorrect. According to the official summary from the White House,

“China indicated that it will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen the control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.

“India reiterated its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and announced the launch of the “U.S.-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to mobilise finance and speed clean energy innovation and deployment this decade.”

It might not be enough, but it’s not nothing.

There’s a link below to a graph which shows the relative contribution to global emissions of major countries. China emits 28%, India 7% and the US 15%.

Here’s the interview. There’s quite a long introduction, but I’ve left it in so that you have no doubt about where Kevin is coming from. Before talking to me his guest was a retired policeman and they agreed that it was concerning that XR activists are predominantly middle-class and white. More of them should be arrested and locked up. They still see the climate crisis as a debate: they clearly don’t accept it as fact.

 

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

We're still on climate change. We've just been discussing why extinction rebellion is so white and middle-class. Let's talk about Greta Thunberg, who some people call the doom goblin. I'll be nicer to her, call her the green goblin. She's at it again. Let's have a little listen to her in her prime.

 

Greta Thunberg:

I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

How dare you? It makes you laugh every single time. But she's very, very worked up about the climate summit organised by Joe Biden. Just this week, on International Earth Day yesterday, all the nations of the Earth got together via Zoom to discuss what they're up to in terms of cutting back carbon emissions. Britain, of course, is going gangbusters on it all with Boris' Green Industrial Revolution. We're going to cut back carbon emissions to zero by 2050, stop selling petrol cars by 2030, cycle lanes all over the place, and we produce less than 1% of the world's pollution. So hey, folks, as your life gets a bit worse, at least you're going to have the solace of the fact it's doing no good whatsoever, not having any effect at all.

 

So Greta Thunberg actually lashed into poor old Joe Biden, who organised this event, saying that America's failure to do anything about its fossil fuel subsidies was a international catastrophe, and we'll all go to hell in a handcart unless he does something about it. What she didn't mention is the country of China, which produces 28% of the world's pollution, by far and away, the biggest producer of carbon emissions known to man.

 

And what did China and India commit to doing during this recent conference by Zoom? Lots of countries said, "Oh, we're really going to get to grips with our carbon emissions." What did China and India say they were going to do in terms of cutting back their carbon emissions? The square root of damn all. They are not going to do anything. So what is the point, and why does Greta spend all her time having a go at the West and not China? Let's talk now to the presenter of The Sustainable Futures Report podcast, Anthony Day. Good evening, Anthony.

 

Anthony Day:

Good evening, Kevin. How are you doing?

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

I'm very, very well. Now, I don't accept there's a climate change emergency. I think climate change is going on. I think the narrative of the emergency is pernicious, but that isn't what we're talking about now. I think we might find a moment of agreement here. Why isn't Greta Thunberg, the voice of climate change, saving all her energy for the worst pollution producer known to man, China?

 

28% at last count, [inaudible 00:03:10] this was about a year ago, China was busy building, wait for it, 184 new coal fuel power stations. They are just destroying the planet. India is, too. America is no great shakes, either. Everything we do here in Britain, our little virtue-signalling Britain, it's all very well, but we produce less than 1% of the pollution. So everything we do doesn't really make any difference. Unless Greta aims her fire at China and China start to do anything, we're all wasting our time, aren't we?

 

Anthony Day:

Well, the letter that she wrote to the leaders just before Biden's conference said to the leaders, and it didn't make any distinction between America, China, Britain, or anybody, she said that all of them are not measuring up to what needs to be done. She said that there are people who are miscounted, miscalculating. And so, I think she was criticising China just as much as everybody else, and I'm sure-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

She didn't mention it, Andrew. Why doesn't she mention China, because China is grotesquely worse than everyone else? It is extraordinary. 28%, 184 brand new coal fuel power stations currently under construction. This is obscene. Why isn't she talking to Beijing and not Washington?

 

Anthony Day:

Well, John Kerry was in China talking about that, and he's already started negotiations, and it's accepted that China's use of coal has got to change. But the previous American administration had no interest in the climate issues and was quite happy to let China go its own way.

 

I don't know, early stages, it's a new presidency, but there's already signs that they are going to put pressure on China in order to get them to rein in those power stations, because you're absolutely right. It's not just a hundred and odd that they're building, it's nearly 600 that they've got to close down, and that's on the table. And it'll take time, it'll take negotiation, but everybody's clear that that's got to be done.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Well, why didn't China and India accept even the concept of cutting back its carbon emissions at this recent... yesterday's Zoom conference? Why did they just refuse, point blank, to consider cutting back their emissions?

 

Anthony Day:

Well, I don't know, and that's irresponsible, and that, obviously, leads to the sort of reactions from Greta that we've heard. She's saying, "Don't listen to me, listen to the science." And [crosstalk 00:05:40]-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

She never seems to mention China, though. She never seems to mention China. It's always America and Britain.

 

Anthony Day:

Well, we all have a part to play. I mean, okay, 1% for the UK, but why should we have a free ride? 1% of the [crosstalk 00:05:53]-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Because it doesn't make any difference, so we might as well have a nice life.

 

Anthony Day:

Oh, well, yeah. Okay, okay. But we actually-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

It doesn't make any difference, does it? Less than-

 

Anthony Day:

We started the-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

... 1%, Anthony.

 

Anthony Day:

Hang on, I'll tell you. I'll tell you why it makes a difference. It's because we started the Industrial Revolution and our emissions have been going on longer than almost anybody's, and therefore, the total amount of emissions that we've created are a lot more significant than the 1% which is the annual running rate.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

But it's just tokenistic on our part. And I mean, look, I'm not arguing-

 

Anthony Day:

Yeah, but look-

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

... with you. I know what you mean. There is this argument that we should at least show some kind of moral lead. I'm not necessarily against that, but it's rather irksome for people who haven't got that much money to be told, "You've got to get rid of your petrol car by 2030," "You've got to get new central heating that's going to cost a fortune," "We've got to do all this expensive stuff," "Get yourself an expensive electric car." Most people can't afford all of this stuff. It's rather irksome to be told all this and be told that the government is going to spend a fortune on floating green windmills when everything we do won't make any difference.

 

Anthony Day:

Well, whether it will make a difference or not, we'll agree to differ on that. But I quite agree with you that people who haven't got much money, to be faced with having to spend lots of money on upgrading their cars or upgrading their central heating and things like that, this is not right. The government has made an attempt to subsidise people, to insulate their homes, an attempt. It ended in disaster.

 

But they've got to turn around and they have got to put money into this so that people can actually reduce their carbon emissions and they are subsidised, they are supported, so that it can be done. We, as a nation, have got to recognise that a lot of people find this more than they can afford. And because this is a crisis, we have got to support them so that they don't suffer, as far as their standard of living is concerned, if we are going to bring them up to the standards we need.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

To go back to the China and India problem, and Brazil is a problem as well, it's not quite the same problem with America, because although America is still responsible for a hell of a lot of the world's pollution, it is undeniably trying, and Joe Biden, I think, will make that effort all the more so. But you still have these vast nations, Brazil, India, China, who just don't seem to accept there's any imperative upon them to do anything. Why is that? Why do they not even budge an inch?

 

Anthony Day:

Well, I'm amazed at what you're telling me. I didn't actually follow the detail of the conference today. I know we've got the G7 conference coming up later on this year. Again, there will be pressure on people to control their emissions. And then, of course, there's the United Nations Conference in Glasgow in November, COP26, and nations are supposed to come together there and work together to reduce emissions to the level where we're below a warming of two degrees centigrade. And frankly, I can't see how China and India can back out of that, because as you say, they are very, very significant in terms of the emissions that they make.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

But it's not much of a statement of intent on the part of China, is it, that they are currently building around about 180 coal fuel power stations?

Anthony Day:

No, no. But as I say, that's on the table for negotiation and that has got to be changed, because at the same time, they are a world leader in wind power, in solar power, and they've got a massive fleet of nuclear power stations, which as far as climate change is concerned, are clean energy.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Sure. Can I just get a comment from you, Anthony? It'd be remiss of me not to ask you. Do you think it helps the cause of climate change when middle-class ladies go down to Canary Wharf and start chipping away at glass windows on the HSBC bank? Does that help at all, or is it actually counterproductive?

 

Anthony Day:

It helps in a little way because you're talking about it, and people will ask the question, "Why did these people do it?" And the answer is, because nobody is listening to the science.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Well, this idea of raising awareness on climate change, and we're assailed by it every day, in every way, attacked by all this information, shouted at by Greta Thunberg. "How dare you? How dare you?" The idea of raising awareness is absurd. We're aware of it.

 

Anthony Day:

No, no, no, no. We're not aware in sufficient detail as to what the problems are, and we need to be informed. It's the role of the government to inform everybody so that we can work together with a clear understanding of what the science is. And we can agree with the government, what needs to be done, and we need to agree how people can be helped and not penalised in achieving these objectives.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Do you think in your heart of hearts, John... Anthony, sorry, and I'm not... Don't know why I said, "John," there.

 

Anthony Day:

That's all right, Keith.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Well, at least Keith sounds like Kevin. I don't know where I got John from. No, do you think in your heart of hearts that the average man on the street, and woman, of course, actually deeply cares about climate change? I've got my doubts. I think they're worried, particularly in these turbulent times we live in at the moment, after the pandemic and everything. I think they're worried about putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their heads. And if they've managed to keep their jobs, will they be able to get their holiday in Spain and can they afford their car? This is what matters to them. They do not go around worrying about climate change.

 

Anthony Day:

No, because they don't know enough about it. That's why, because they don't know enough about it. When, suddenly, the supermarket shelves are empty because there's been a famine across the world, then people will suddenly say, "Well, why weren't we told? Why hasn't the government done something?

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

When is that likely to happen, do you think?

 

Anthony Day:

Well, I mean, people talk about tipping points. Some people say, "It could happen next year." Some people say, "It will happen within 10 years," but somebody also said, "There is no point in pushing a tipping point just to see if it works." We've really got to take steps to make sure that we don't get to those dangerous levels where things could go wrong all of a sudden, and we're getting closer and closer.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Well, I fear you're going to have to need some actual signs, as you say, shelves emptying, before the ordinary person on the street is going to react, because I don't think this actually does cut through to people who aren't middle-class and quite well off.

 

Anthony Day:

Well, I don't know about the social profile. It's going to affect all of us. But the whole point is that people are not being told about the issues, and rather than tell them scare stories, we should level with people and say, "This is the likely outcome if we don't make changes." Let's see how we can make changes in the most comfortable way for everybody, because time is getting short.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Okay, and I'm assuming, Anthony, and you can confirm this, that if people do want to find out all about this issue, if they tune into The Sustainable Futures Report podcast by Anthony Day, they will emerge from that experience informed. Am I right?

 

Anthony Day:

That's my intention. Thank you, Kevin.

 

Kevin O'Sullivan:

Thank you very much, Anthony, for your time. Much appreciated. Anthony Day. As I say, have a listen to his podcast. Sustainable Futures Report, it's called. You might not agree, but I do think it's an interesting debate. Let's get involved. I'm Kevin O'Sullivan and this is talkRADIO.

 

Some say I shouldn’t waste my time with denialists like the people on Talk Radio, but at least Kevin O’Sullivan gave me time to speak and didn’t resort to insults like some of his colleagues on the station. As I said about the ladies on the HSBC protest, the very fact that we are talking about it on Talk Radio is bringing the message to many more people. Some may flatly disbelieve, some may have very little idea of what it’s all about but may be encouraged to find out more. Gradually we can open the Overton Window a little wider. The what? The Overton Window is the range of policies that a government can introduce because they have the support of the public. Any government adopting policies outside the Overton Window risks losing office. If we accept that only governments have sufficient power to deal with the climate emergency then we need to inform people and persuade people that the actions needed are in their best interests. You could argue that Net Zero 2050 is already in the Overton Window, but so far there’s no clear roadmap of the actions needed. These actions have to be spelt out and we have to get the support of the public. The challenge is pushing these actions into the Window.

Net Zero

Talking of Net Zero 2050, James Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Global Systems at Exeter University, is co-author of a new paper entitled, “The Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”.  You may remember that James spoke to the Sustainable Futures Report just about a year ago, in the episode of 20th May 2020. He’s agreed to talk to us again and explain why net zero is a dangerous trap. You’ll hear him on the next episode. I hope he can tell us how to avoid the trap! According to Andrew Montford of the Global Warming Policy Forum, net zero is a disaster waiting to happen, although his position seems to be that we should abandon it altogether. We’ll talk about that as well.

The Nuclear Option

Later next month I will be talking to Sarah Cullen, a physicist and energy systems engineer, on the role of nuclear power in achieving net zero. I’ve invited Patrons of the Sustainable Futures Report to take part in the discussion or to submit questions in advance. If you’d like to become a patron you can find all the details at patreon.com/sfr. 

And that’s it…

…for this week. Thanks for listening. Numbers have been increasing over the last couple of weeks and I’m interested to see that the Sustainable Futures Report has far more listeners outside the UK than in, principally in the USA, Canada and Australia, but also throughout Europe and in India, Mexico and Brazil. 86 countries in all. And hi! to my one listener in China.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

I’m Anthony Day.

Looking forward to Net Zero next week.

Sources

Summary of Leaders’ Climate Summit

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/23/leaders-summit-on-climate-summary-of-proceedings/ 

https://news.sky.com/story/earth-day-2021-latest-live-joe-biden-announcing-major-new-climate-target-with-xi-johnson-and-putin-also-to-speak-12283599

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/greta-thunberg-congress-common-sense-b1835918.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/earth-day-2021-live-news-b1835566.html 

https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions 

HSBC Protest

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-56849903

Overton Window

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window 

 

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