Twenty five per cent of the Western world could be unemployed by the end of March: COVID19 shows that society failed to provide, to most, secure jobs and pensions, income support, skills training, clean air, clean water and healthy food. We must change the way we work, move, eat and live and do capitalism differently, by focusing on people not corporations. So as airlines, hotels, the retail industry, banks and other financial institutions and astonishingly, even the oil & gas industry come asking for bailouts, let’s move them from their 19th century design to a 21st century one: Focus them on green new deals
Photo by Assaad W. Razzouk
Welcome to the first episode of The Angry Clean Energy Guy “AC,” or “after Coronavirus.”
Everything, and I mean everything appears to be changing.
The way we eat appears to be changing. More local food, less food from far away. The way we travel appears to be changing: less flights, less trains, less car trips. And, for one thing, fewer people will die. Because air pollution from dirty cars and SUVs and trucks and diesel buses is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Leisure appears to be changing. Less in-person visits to exotic places, more online leisure. The way we exercise appears to be changing. We’re now streaming yoga, pilates, gym classes. The way we work appears to be changing. We’re now working from home in our hundreds of millions. Trends we are familiar with already, like online shopping, are accelerating. But at the same time, 25% of the Western world could be unemployed by the end of march – by the end of this month.
Think about that for a second. 25% of the entire workforce of the Western world could be out of a job by the end of the month. And what the Coronavirus is showing us, is actually screaming at us from the roofs, is that we, as a society have failed to provide to most secure jobs, secure reliable pensions, income support, skills training, clean air, clean water and on and on.
We’re in the middle of a Corona-geddon that makes it clear that most don’t actually have acceptable healthcare, don’t actually have job security whatsoever and don’t actually have much social protection.
Welcome to Episode 33 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk. Thank you for being here.
NATURE TAKING A BREAK
It’s obvious that we have to change the way we work, the way we move, the way we eat, the way we live.
And may we remember all that once the first wave of the Coronavirus has passed us by, as it will. But there’ll be a second wave and maybe a third one before we have vaccines.
This is actually a historic opportunity to change the way we work and the way we move and the way we eat and the way we live, yet at the same time making sure that we are changing this in a way that is more sustainable, in a way that is consistent with the major threat that is looming all around us and which is called climate change.
And I know most people probably don’t want to hear about climate change at this stage. But they have to.
Look at Earth for example. Earth, at the moment, is taking a break.
Air quality in Southern California right now isn’t just good. It’s incredible. They are clocking numbers from another era.
Jogging is back in Beijing. They never thought they’d see that again.
The people of Venice can see their water again.
People are breathing better worldwide.
Bird sounds have returned to some of the dirtiest cities on earth.
Earth is breathing because we humans are giving it a break.
The natural world must be ecstatic about our suffering.
I must say, this whole Coronavirus apocalypse makes me really angry. And it makes me really angry on so many levels. I feel like I am living in a movie, and a horror movie at that, because the entire epidemiological community, so all the experts in biological disease, have been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was just a question of when. And what did we do about it? We went and we stockpiled arms is what we did about it. We stockpiled tanks and guns and uniforms. We didn’t stockpile masks or protective gear or ventilators, even though the warnings were all there.
Now does that ring a bell? Because if it doesn’t, it should.
And that bell is called climate change. We are doing exactly the same thing with the climate change crisis. So here is what I’m hoping for: I am hoping that the Coronavirus apocalypse can demonstrate the importance of science as transmitted by experts. That’s a super valuable message for the anti-science crowd, which by and large is largely shutting up. All our flaws, our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities are being exposed and highlighted by this virus. These may be dark times, but there are important lessons that we need to learn. We’ve got to emerge better, and we’ve got to emerge smarter and we’ve got to emerge stronger.
And if I could put it simply, Covid-19 offers humankind a modern precedent in super-fast forward mode to the coming climate crisis. If we don’t do something, and that’s something major, the climate crisis will be far worse and, in many ways, astonishingly many ways, it’s the Coronavirus crisis in slow motion. The climate change emergency is the Coronavirus crisis in slow motion.
We need to learn, and we need to learn fast.
So, what am I hoping that we’re learning from this crisis? How can we possibly tackle with far more urgency the climate crisis as a result? The lessons I think, are relatively obvious.
LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS
The first one is that acting on science from experts is critical. Listen to the experts, and as an important aside, disregarding scientific evidence is criminal. You know who you are.
The second lesson is that competent government is critically important in a crisis. Think Singapore, think Taiwan, think South Korea, with their laser focus on the challenge from day one with the full resources of the state deployed, all with full transparency and open communications to the public and then benchmark that against the response in most of the Western world.
FAITH IN GOVERNMENT
Next lesson, people having faith in the competence of their own government is just as critically important. Again, think about Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and how in these countries the population remained pretty much calm because they knew that their government, their competent government was implementing measures that had their buy-in.
EARLY AGGRESSIVE ACTION
Lesson number four, early aggressive action minimizes loss. That is super important. That is completely what we’re avoiding in the climate change crisis.
Early aggressive action minimizes loss.
By now you would all have seen one or more or many politicians brandishing around the “flattening the curve” chart about the Coronavirus. That concept, the concept of flattening or bending the curve, it’s finally sinking in, and it is the same exact concept for emissions. So I am hoping that all the flattening the curve and bending the curve talk by politicians in the Coronavirus crisis will somehow stay the course in the climate emergency, which we are going to have to return to with increased urgency as soon as we finish with this one.
EAT LOCAL, TRAVEL LESS, WORK SMARTER
Lesson five. Eating local, traveling less, working smarter and energy independence are all actions that increase sustainability, whether you’re dealing with the Coronavirus or climate change.
Lesson six. Society can if it wants, mobilize instantly, massively, beyond actually most people’s imagination – and globally. It’s quite incredible and frankly, to the credit of the human race, how the entire world has mobilized to fight the Coronavirus. Yes, we might have mobilized late, but at the end we have mobilized. And yes, we have weaknesses, mostly to do with incompetent governments.
But the ability to act at speed has been proven yet again and translating that, this means that we can mobilize, we can fight and we can beat climate change. And on that ability of society to mobilize instantly, one of the most amazing headlines of the past few weeks – in weeks of incredible number of amazing headlines – was, and I’m quoting, “Germany lines up $600 billion virus aid as EU backs stimulus”.
That’s Germany we’re talking about. The same country that is still handling coal with a kid’s glove. The same country that did not believe in flexing its monetary and fiscal muscle.
And the other part of the headline is no less incredible. It says: “Germany lines up $600 billion virus aid as EU backs stimulus”. Again, something that we have not seen when Greece went down and when Italy almost went down. We actually have not seen that at all in the history of the European Union. But here you are.
Britain has suddenly made hundreds of billions of pounds appear from nowhere.
The United States is about to pass a $2 trillion bill. That’s trillion with a capital T in measures to defend its people and its economy.
I mean, these numbers are stratospheric. They are incredible. Nobody would have imagined that they could do that in a week, or in the case of Germany, in days. But there you are. It’s being done. It can be done, and we can do it again to fight the climate emergency.
On a related note, I’ve also tried to translate the measures everyone is urged to take to slow down the Coronavirus into climate speak.
- So, “wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and frequently,” translated, means abandon as soon as you can anything made with fossil fuels, especially single use plastic.
- “Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or cough into your elbow,” translated into climate speak would be: Be aware of fossil fuels everywhere in order for you to be able to minimize their use.
- “Avoid close contact with people who are sick,” translated into climate speak would be divest from fossil fuels.
- “Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces,” translated into climate speak would be drive electric, live electric, electrify everything.
- “Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are unclean,” translated into climate speak, that’s live sustainably.
And then one final comment on what the world appears to be doing to lessen the economic pain. Stupidly, and I’d like to repeat this word, stupidly, the world appears to be going to central bank interventions and airline bailouts when the solution is blindingly obvious. We need green new deals everywhere. That means doing capitalism differently by focusing on people, not corporations.
People need secure pensions. They need income support, they need skills training, they need clean air, they need clean water and they need healthy food.
So, as airlines, hotels, the retail industry, banks and other financial institutions and shockingly even oil and gas companies come asking for bailouts, we can ensure that these are transformative. Move these sectors from their 19th century design to a 21st century one. Focus them on green new deals. And that’s not very complicated. If you take money from society through a bailout, for the U.S. $2 trillion program, or the British hundreds of billions of pounds program, or the German hundreds of billions of euros program, if you take money from society that means that you owe society.
So, the message is clear: Use bailouts to implement climate commitments.
For weeks, in its own cryptic way, the World Health Organization has been saying that it’s seeing alarming levels of inaction. That’s so familiar to anybody who works on climate change, “alarming levels of inaction”. But at the end of the day, somehow, we are reacting strongly to fight Covid-19. Similarly, draw your lessons and unite to come back strongly to fight climate change.
As we deploy trillions of dollars of economic assistance to corporations in order to help them through this crisis, let’s make sure that that money comes with strings attached that help us avoid alarming levels of inaction on climate change.
If there is one thing we should keep in mind is that sustainability is about resilience, the resilience to shocks, the resilience to pandemics, the resilience to climate change, the resilience to everything. That’s what sustainability is. We are clearly in a world which is more unpredictable from an environmental perspective. It’s more unpredictable from a social perspective. It’s more unpredictable from an economical perspective, and it’s going to continue to do so, and I would guess, increase going forward.
So, we need to work sustainably. We need to eat sustainably. We need to travel sustainably. We need to exercise sustainably.
It’s the tough times that define us, and in the tough times there is nothing more important than paying attention to what is sustainable and what is not and ditching what is not.
And one final word.
China has got to stop deregulating what it calls wet markets. After SARS, they tightened wet market rules. But then guess what happened, that turned out to be temporary and they loosened them again. China, you cannot do that anymore. I very much hope that the international horror at the spread of this virus and its impact will insure a global policy ban on all wet markets globally. We simply just have to have that and anything else would be completely irresponsible.
Thank you so much for listening and stay safe.
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.