Faith in the 1% and fighting the 80
Photovoltaics have a huge future and have grown enormously, to about 1% of global energy use.
Banking heavily upon it, Germany has plunged it’s poor into energy poverty, by shuttering nuclear. And not because of nuclear’s risk or impact on health, but to pander to green ideology.
Quite why humanity, after 30 years of increasingly urgent warnings, still lacks a robust roadmap of how to replace the 80% of global energy that comes from fossil fuels, is partly explained by the disinformation orchestrated by those with most to lose from climate action:
Educated but mostly-white conservative businessmen and political servants/allies recognize a threat to their current near strangle-hold on power and wealth arising from calls to address rampant climate warming. They see those who promote alternative climate-cooling lifestyles and technologies as enemies to their existing entitlements, certainly profits and power. They are, moreover, inclined to be bigots. Being clever, they mobilize their equally bigoted but less educated, less cognitively capable, and exceedingly fearful base comprised largely of increasingly disadvantaged white males by appealing to their interest in maintaining the status quo and inflaming their fear of an alien intrusive world, manifest as “immigration” and “immigrants.” National chauvinism also plays well. Onto this, the conservative élites graft a disbelief in climate warming and aversion to socialized health care, neither of which is axiomatic to being white, threatened, and not particularly well-educated. But both threaten profit-making engines benefiting established capitalist elites. Adherence to these agendas then becomes part of a larger self-reinforcing and polarizing belief system that will not abide deviation.
And it is not by coincidence that these very people, churned by the a similar manipulative machinery, voted en masse for Donald Trump, the most egregious denier of anthropogenic climate warming to ever attain high political office. He is—also not coincidently—the most blatant presidential spokesperson for bigotry as well as inequality, privilege, and corporate interests that we have seen in the last 80 years.
While Aotearoa could possibly become zero-carbon without nuclear, it’s shipping, for example, can’t, so without complete isolationism, Aotearoa can’t begin to claim that it is charting a zero-carbon course—thus no export of food, sustainable housing or other sustainable timber-based carbon-sequestering products.
But mostly, by remaining anti-nuclear, Aotearoa misses it’s God-Zone-given opportunity to world leadership, which is conceivably the planet’s best shot of saving a remotely survivable climate, while giving the world’s most vulnerable the help they will need to survive in the rapidly less forgiving weather extremes.
Planning for nuclear needs to begin so that as soon as modular fourth-generation nuclear power generators are available, Aotearoa gets to help get them over the line. Aotearoa should be agnostic as to fuel. It could be thorium, if India gets there soon enough, or it could be old, cold-war warheads.
New Zealand’s former fame opposing nuclear-powered ship visits means that the international community will sit up and take notice when it says the world needs to get real about what it will take to quickly kick civilisation’s 80% dependency on fossil fuels. Clinging to their nuclear-free persona would be more comfortable for Kiwis, but better zero-carbon than dead—having decided that re-evaluating nuclear power was simply all too painful to contemplate.
Energy honesty has the potential for cutting through the green-washing that has overseen the inexorable global rise of annual emission rates.
Aotearoa is small enough to quickly demonstrate what larger countries need to do. If, instead, it relies on its privileged geography, the world won’t want to emulate Aotearoa, but will swamp it, as a refuge from climate-wrecked regions.