The whole point of The Consciousness of Sheep is that we face an existential crisis resulting from a confluence of economic, energy and environmental crises. There is no “solution” because the action we must take to mitigate any one of the crises worsens the crisis in another. The only way that we can switch from fossil fuels to renewables is by collapsing the global economy. The only way we can maintain the global economy is to destroy the environment. And the global economy may be over in any case because we have run out of cheap (to produce) fossil fuels.
Ordinarily we don’t talk about this because it is too depressing. But as one wing of the Tory party slugs it out with another wing of the Tory party over which is the best way to make money off the backs of the poor (otherwise, known as the EU referendum debate), tempers have raised to the point that our existential crisis has been brought into the open.
It began with Amber Rudd’s admission that the UK energy industry is in such bad shape that leaving the EU (whose energy system is no better) would add £500 million to annual energy bills. Now Christopher Booker asks, in effect, “and whose fault is that?”
“In making that “half a billion a year” claim, Ms Rudd must hope that we don’t recall those recent figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility projecting that within four years – due entirely to her own Government’s policies – we will be paying £13.6 billion a year in climate change levies alone, up a further £7.6 billion from the year just ending.”
Booker argues that UK government policy is following the German model, where:
“Already 77 nuclear and fossil-fuel plants have closed. Their largest power companies, RWE and E.On, have run up debts totalling £43 billion. And after £170 billion was poured into “green” subsidies, giving it the largest number of windmills in Europe (26,000) and causing huge problems for its grid when the wind isn’t blowing, Germany’s electricity bills have soared to the point where last year 350,000 customers were cut off because they couldn’t afford to pay.”
The result is that top German companies such as Siemens and BASF have shut up shop and moved to other countries where energy prices are cheaper.
What neither Rudd nor Booker is grasping is that they represent opposite poles of the same predicament. Neither is correct, since both assume that our global system of infinite growth on a finite planet can continue indefinitely. It cannot; and it is about to hit the wall of physical limits to growth in the worst way possible.
We have been sold the fiction that a few wind turbines, solar panels, LED lightbulbs and a bit of recycling will save the day. This, largely – as Kevin Anderson from Manchester University points out – because climate scientists have toned down the science to fit the economics. We have already passed the point where we could have avoided 2 degrees of warming. We are currently on track for 3 or 4 degrees. If we continue with business as usual, we are looking at six degrees or more. We need radical action of the kind that neither the UK government nor the European Commission is prepared even to contemplate.