Many have heard about the advocacy for insect food to fight climate change. And about vegan lab meat, promoted as an environment-friendly substitute for animal protein. But asking people to turn off their heat and expecting them to survive winter’s cold? That is a whole new level of absurdity that risks lives.
With households anticipating unaffordable high energy bills, a U.K. power utility suggested that people cuddle their pets to stay warm. The statement sparked outrage, and an apology was issued. However, the apparent lack of sympathy for the well-being of people reflects a disturbing state of climate culture poisoning the world.
Climate crusaders calling for personal sacrifices to save the planet seem oblivious to immediate dangers many of their “solutions” pose for real lives — sometimes billions of them — especially in developing countries where people face persistent poverty. Climate diplomacy and green policies are already causing havoc where economic growth and daily life are being threatened by a constraint on access to affordable energy.
In China, for example, people were left to freeze as the country’s restrictive coal-use policy resulted in an energy crunch that left citizens with limited heating options. Last year, more than a dozen provinces experienced unprecedented power cuts due to coal shortages, a situation that could have been avoided if Beijing had not distracted itself with a green agenda. Industries were shut, and people were forced into unemployment.
Not far from Beijing is India, where the country’s 300 million poorest have already experienced every form of energy deprivation. They lack access to uninterrupted electricity and use unclean cooking fuel that puts millions at risk of early death. Recent studies have shown that even some urbanites do not have access to clean cooking fuel, a reality that I witness in my neighborhood in southern India. Unsafe fuel usage is still the largest source of indoor air pollution.
Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the worst electrification rates, with 597 million people without electricity access in 2021. Around 850 million Africans still do not have clean cooking fuel.
Energy writer Iain Esau points out that “Africa’s estimated death toll of 60,000 from Covid-19 represents just 12% of fatalities from indoor pollution.” Turning a blind eye to a problem bigger than COVID-19 is pure madness. Whether the climate elitists like it or not, fossil fuels will bring immediate relief to this killer of the world’s most impoverished.
Also, it is not just the poor who are affected. Middle-income families and small-scale industries unable to afford a generator backup suffer the consequences of unstable electricity. In the apartment building where I live, people are left immobile when elevators stop working. This seriously disrupts everyday life and is particularly difficult for the elderly who are incapable of climbing stairs.
Loss of productive hours is common for people who work remotely from home, including me as I type this in the middle of a blackout. Even worse are power cuts after sunset, which literally bring all of life to a grinding halt. Precious late evening hours are lost to darkness, followed by a difficult night’s sleep without air conditioning or an electric fan in 104°F heat.
The situation will only get worse if developing countries compromise their existing energy security based on fossil fuels and begin to embrace irrational green policies.
Not even developed Western economies are invincible to the effects of unrealistic green energy programs. Scores of countries — among them the U.K., Germany and the U.S. — have experienced unprecedented energy price hikes and fuel shortages during the last few years — the results of officialdom’s hostility to fossil fuels.
Further, geopolitics has exacerbated the negative consequences of poor energy policies in recent weeks. Some experts have predicted as much as a 30% increase in home energy prices in parts of Europe. The U.K.’s Evening Standard reported it is likely “that more than a third of families with children at home will reduce other expenditures such as food and luxuries if their energy bills go up significantly.
Households in Germany have been notified that their gas bills will rise sharply in 2022. If Europe had not taken the green route, it would have been less dependent on imported energy and in a better position to absorb energy shortages from political instability.
In the third world, price hikes of such magnitude would institute immediate poverty for billions — and death sentences to millions.
• Vijay Jayaraj is a research associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia, and holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.