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We May Be Dooming Ourselves With Climate NIMBYism

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13.06.2019

Last month, the planet had its first climate-change election — and then, the following week, it had what was probably its second.

In Australia, the center-right, climate-skeptic Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprise reelection by making global warming (and the cost of doing anything about it) the central issue of the campaign. The result was invariably described as a shock, not because the preelection polling margin was so wide (it was only about two points) but because perceptions of climate momentum had seemed to make center-left victory look something like an inevitability, even in the aftermath of France’s gillets jeunes and the ballot-box failure of carbon pricing even in states as green as Washington in the blue-wave election of 2018. With Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes in Europe, Extinction Rebellion pressing Parliament to declare a climate emergency in the U.K. and then Theresa May committing to full decarbonization by 2050, and Sunrise pushing the Green New Deal in the U.S., that climate momentum seems to be just about everywhere but at the polls. For now, at least.

In Europe, though, the “big winners” in elections for the E.U. Parliament were the Greens, which suggests an entirely different narrative — climate action approaching the very center of the liberal political agenda, at least in many of the countries of the Continent. In Germany, the Greens captured 20 percent of the vote and, in polls taken since the election, are suddenly the country’s most popular political party. In Finland, Greens came in second, beating out both the Social Democrats and the populist Finns Party; in France, they came in third; and in Ireland, tied for second. The party picked up its first-ever E.U. seat in Portugal, where polls hadn’t even registered meaningful Green support before the election. Altogether, across the Continent, the Greens grew their representation by about 40 percent, picking up 22 seats in the process.

These are just two elections, even if one of them spanned a whole continent, and so it is probably best to be cautious in trying to generalize from them — voters in Australia are not the same as those in Austria, after all, with different perceptions of the urgency of climate action (among many, many other differences). But one plausible way of reconciling the results is that voters think differently about climate policies enacted at the national level than about gestures at the........

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