Why We're Losing the Climate War

The Economist takes a closer look at entrenched interests
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2018 12:06 PM CDT
In this early morning Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters working on structure protection, keep a close eye on nearby flames atop Shepard Mesa Road...   (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
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(Newser) – Evidence of warming isn't hard to find: California is battling 18 wildfires, including one so hot it created its own weather. Fires killed 91 in Athens last week and Japan is enduring a heatwave that saw 125 die and Tokyo push 104F for the first time. Yet the international response has been to boost coal demand and increase oil and gas investments, while renewable-energy subsidies diminish, reports the Economist. Why the contradiction? A big contributor is Asia, where emerging economies consumed 40% more energy from 2006 to 2016; even coal, the worst offender, inched up by 3.1% annually. Despite warnings from scientists, state-owned firms in Russia and the Middle East see good reason to invest.

Then there's political inertia: Fossil-fuel lobbies are well-entrenched, the Economist says, and some countries can hardly imagine a turnaround. Yes, Britain is now coal-free, but India's electricity is 80% coal-generated; turning that around would mean damaging its poorest states and hurting its banking system, which lent big money to coal, per another Economist article. Finally, there are non-energy industries like farming, cement, and steel, which generate more than half of global carbon and are protected politically. On the plus side, solar and wind energy are on the rise, as is public concern, but many politicians haven't yet rung the alarm bell. "Perhaps global warming will help them fire up the collective will," says the Economist. "Sadly, the world looks poised to get a lot hotter first." (Read more climate change stories.)

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