Germany: more climate concern than successful action

2019-07-22

in Politics, The environment

Among other things, this reinforces my view that “awareness raising” isn’t very meaningful and certainly isn’t sufficient to keep us from wrecking the global climate:

At the European elections 48% of voters said climate change was their top concern. The Green Party came second in that election and now leads Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in polls. Every week “Fridays for Future” protests fill the heart of Berlin with marching schoolchildren.

Much of the frustration comes from Germany’s sluggish performance. In the past decade it has spent a fortune rejigging its energy system while barely reducing emissions. This embarrassment comes with a price tag; under EU rules Germany could be liable for penalties worth tens of billions should it fail to meet its 2030 target. The 2020 goal is already abandoned.

Two factors explain this. First is Germany’s ongoing dependence on coal, particularly lignite, the dirty brown sort. Thanks to hefty subsidies, renewables account for over 40% of electricity production. But Mrs Merkel’s sudden abandonment of nuclear power after a tsunami-induced meltdown at a Japanese reactor in 2011, and warped price signals that made gas-fired power uneconomical, meant that cheap coal has made up much of the rest. The last mine is due to be shuttered by 2038. Too late, say activists.

Being “aware” or even concerned about climate change doesn’t have any importance if it doesn’t change behaviour, if people continue to default to dirty forms of energy, and if people won’t tolerate costs and risks as part of decarbonization.

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