Yesterday, Karen wrote about the contrast between the statements made by President Trump and Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The NY Times has published Thunberg’s full remarks at the forum and they are pretty striking. In addition to her usual tone of condescension toward world leaders, Thunberg explained that the only solution was to completely abandon fossil fuels immediately. She doesn’t want to talk about “net zero” emissions she wants to see “real zero” right now.
One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it doesn’t lead to anything…
We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching “net zero emissions” or “carbon neutrality” by cheating and fiddling around with numbers. We are not telling you to “offset your emissions” by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate…
Let’s be clear. We don’t need a “low carbon economy.” We don’t need to “lower emissions.” Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.
A bit later she spells it out:
We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments:
Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.
And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.
We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.
There’s one paragraph in her speech which acknowledges this could make for difficult times:
All the solutions are obviously not available within today’s societies. Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions. So, of course the transition isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.
This is why adults shouldn’t be listening to children who don’t know much of anything about the world. And no, the fact that Thunberg crosses the oceans on multi-million dollar sailboats as opposed to airplanes does not mean she’s taking this seriously.
What Thunberg is counseling—real zero, i.e. an immediate end to the use of all fossil fuels—would, if enacted, destroy the world’s economy overnight. What Thunberg doesn’t seem to grasp is that a significant portion of that energy goes toward things we would miss rather desperately, things like food, heat, light, etc.
Just to pick one obvious example at random from the seemingly endless pile, trucks are used to transport food from places like California’s central valley to store shelves in San Francisco and Los Angeles. What happens when there is suddenly no more diesel fuel for those trucks? You simply can’t cut off the transportation of food with no alternative on hand and expect no one will notice.
Obviously, all of the cars would be out of gas within a week or two if we went to real zero emissions. At that point everyone who can’t walk to their current place of employment is out of a job and unemployment leaps to never before seen levels. Suddenly there are tens of millions of people who can no longer provide for themselves. At the same time our social safety net would be most needed funding for it would collapse.
Along with cars and trucks you can forget about ambulances and fire engines which also require diesel fuel.
Maybe people will appreciate the burning buildings that never get put out. After all, it’s January. Once the natural gas stops flowing into millions of homes for heating and cooking, it’s going to get chilly. This would be a relatively minor inconvenience for me here in southern California but it would be more than that in, say, Canada.
And it’s not just heat. What happens to the electricity that powers homes and industries (and electric cars) when power plants suddenly can’t purchase natural gas to power the turbines? About a third of US electricity generation is powered by natural gas (as of 2018). So if we follow Thunberg’s advice and go to real zero emissions tomorrow…welcome back to the 19th century! But again, it won’t matter that you can’t cook or refrigerate anything because there probably won’t be any food available anyway.
And please don’t say I’m not being fair. Teen Cassandra just said we need “real zero” emissions right freaking now. That’s only possible if you’re a psychopath who enjoys seeing millions of people die. Calling it a “hard” transition is underselling the raw carnage that would follow pretty significantly.