Green energy, green cars, green jobs, green policies, cleaner and greener – notice how everything green is good? Today, “green” is not just a colour, it is a synonym for “good”; as is “renewable”. But all that glitters isn’t green. Or renewable.
The problem with our obsession with green and renewable is that they are never defined. These loose, borderless categories mistakenly include, and exclude, a lot of different things. The loose language permits governments, when it is politically expedient, to treat energy technologies as green/renewable when they are clearly not. The European Union recently did this, labelling gas and nuclear electricity generation “green”. But, if we really care about the global environment we need to look through the green and renewable slogans to see what lies underneath.
Green as an Obedience Button
Today, “green” is being used as a political obedience button. When government ministers say that their proposed policy is green they are pushing your green button to turn on your obedience algorithm. We are expected to agree, without closely examining the proposed law or policy. After all, how could it be bad if it’s green? We are not expected to ask “green in comparison to what?” Or “green at what cost, to whom?” If you were to ask these questions it is unlikely that government officials would provide any useful answers.
Presenting oneself as a green leader, fighting to save the planet from the “climate crisis” is a source of political power, money and social acclaim. The political benefit of this panic-generating strategy is to convert scientific and economic issues into moral and tribal issues. The virtuous are on “our” side, clean green, so join us and be good too.
American and Canadian politicians exaggerate the dangers of climate change and then, egotistically, pretend that they are the leaders in fighting the planetary crisis. Sorry, America, at a mere 13% of global CO2 emissions you aren’t the planet and you can’t do much to fix it. Sorry Canada, you are roughly 1/10 as able to affect planetary climate change as are the Americans.
At a long string of global climate conferences (number 26 was recently held in Glasgow) we see displays of green ego competition among politicians, to out-promise each other on being more green, without any discernible reduction in emissions over the decades. Greta Thunberg was right to call this just “blah, blah, blah.”
In the rapid transition to net-zero pledged by Western countries we are usually promised a “just transition” from fossil fuel jobs to “clean green jobs”. What is a green job? There is no definition, which is why government promises of such jobs will be virtually impossible to verify.
In the US, when the Obama administration was enthusiastically praising its record in creating green jobs, the definitions used for green jobs, when exposed, became hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0IQ_vI9WZ0.
The government agency doing the classification admitted that it would have described an employee of a used bookstore or of an antique store as having a clean green job because their work involved recycling; likewise, a cleaner in a school mopping the floor had a clean green job. Of course, these or similar employees may well have been doing this same work for decades. But they were only classified as green employees when it became politically desirable to give the impression that the incumbent administration had “created” millions of new green jobs. These were supposed to replace the two to three times greater number of jobs lost through cancelling pipelines and off-shoring to China and India manufacturing jobs that weren’t “green” enough.
Green as a Sign of Corporate Virtue
Pressing our green button is profitable, and not just for politicians. When a corporation announces that it already has, or soon will have net-zero emissions of CO2 people think that it has achieved this through restructuring its operations. But usually it is either through off-shoring production (and the resulting emissions), or purchasing “carbon credits” or other financial investments, while its operations, wherever located, continue to emit CO2 at almost the same level.Continue reading “All that Glitters Isn’t Green. Or Renewable.”