People or Planet: A False Dilemma
As the world grapples with runaway climate change, growing inequalities, and a resurgent far right, the political establishment feels increasingly outdated. Progressive green-left coalitions must translate generalised discontent and polarisation into grassroots support for a bold climate agenda, providing global political and everyday societal energy solutions.
There’s a festering, yet completely normalised, form of dissonance in global (climate) politics. Every year the UN issues increasingly stark warnings of humanity facing “climate chaos” due to continued fossil fuel investments. Yet, governments from Greece to Guyana, and from the US to the UAE, maintain tired arguments of “energy security” and “market dynamics”, presiding over the largest expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in human history.
While the Right drifts ever deeper into hyper-libertarian, anti-science, and conspiracy theory arguments to support its scaling down of climate policies, progressives (including social democrats and Greens) are not coming up with a convincing counterargument. Climate solutions – those that are not redistributive, do not address (carbon) inequalities, and do not adopt a cross-sectoral approach – are becoming increasingly harder to sell. As stark, increasing socioeconomic disparities plague even mature democracies like Germany and Sweden, the patience of voters is becoming razor-thin. This might help explain the rise of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), partly linked to a backlash against a law on heating, a flagship policy for the Greens that was hotly contested even within the ruling coalition.
What this far-right rhetoric fails to identify is the extreme carbon inequality that underlies our ongoing climate breakdown. This is not a coincidence: despite anti-systemic posturing, fascists and their ideology are the end products of (late-stage) capitalism – something which can be observed from Trump and Bolsonaro, all the way to Hitler’s Germany.
As the world veers closer to the precipice of multiple social and climate tipping points, reheated centrist, reformist 1980-esque politics just won’t cut it anymore. Slapping a meek carbon tax on private jets (that must be banned), or placing a one-off solidarity levy on multi-billion-dollar oil companies (that must be nationalised and dismantled), is not a convincing sell for citizens who are asked to change the way they heat their homes, commute to work, and eat.