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Watch out Liz Truss: This energy crisis could spark a climate revolution we can all get behind | Zoe Williams


iour change of prime minister does not bode well for the climate: Liz Trusswho has as much knowledge of British geomorphology as cheese, it seems that we may be out of the energy crisis before Christmas, and that nuclear power is just as fast to answer

Her newly appointed chief economic adviser, Matthew Sinclair, wrote a book called “Let them eat carbon” in 2011, which argued that “the temperatures we face today cannot be ideal conditions for humanity to live and thrive”. In other words, keep the warming going. It can be fun. Of course, that was over a decade ago, and let’s not write it off forever because of a tiny little book – all it did was thoughtlessly risk the end of the species.

Yet beneath these painful symptoms, the global energy crisis has sparked real conversation, perhaps for the first time – certainly the first time so many countries are experiencing it at the same time.

The prime minister’s first move is likely to be to tear up whatever she’s been campaigning for and move on to the opposition’s proposal. electricity bills will be frozen at the level of April 2022. Partly because of its inelegant overturning, partly because of harsh economic realities, it is clear that this Band-Aid, while necessary, is not enough. Competing alternative narratives: red (separate North Sea gas and let wholesalers pursue their rampant speculation elsewhere) and green (build up renewables until fossil fuel supplies are no longer relevant – 45% of UK electricity already from renewable energy sources).

Importantly, these narratives do not compete with each other. You don’t need to finish talking about the pros and cons of off-gas extraction before you can start talking about renewable energy expansion. It would be reasonable split the energy market into clean energy and fossil energy, so that the price of gas did not set the price of solar and wind, and the incentive to lean heavily on the latter and reduce consumption of the former became universal. Ideas that seemed unimaginably radical a year ago now seem far less extreme than the reality we face this winter.

We’ve now spent 12 years living in this cognitive dissonance, where we have long-standing net-zero ambitions enshrined in law, the climate crisis is unfolding at breakneck speed, and successive Conservative prime ministers have made silly remarks about “green shit” and then dropped the environmental agenda whenever they needed to appease their sociopathic short-term party members.

Any progress we’ve made has been made in spite of our own government, and so much of our collective mental energy has been wasted on denial: denial that we’re not moving fast enough, denial that the heat is of our own making, denial that we are probably already too late to save the things we love – be it beaches or biodiversity.

We needed Vladimir Putin energy war to take seriously how dire our situation is. This is not to predict some sudden shift in Truss insight, but rather to highlight the stunning irrationality of the Tory arguments – that somehow net zero targets are driving all bills up and the woke warriors started it all with Nigel Lawson’s repeal – more will not fly. By securing the opposition’s lead in the polls, the Conservatives also gave it an electorate sick of rhetoric and inaction, ready for bold ideas.

Even with the freeze on electricity bills, the cost of living crisis has already moved the dial. The idea that difficulties are mainly down to personal inadequacy has become a farce. The notion that people can cheapen their way to solvency, which is given to justify so many harmful policy decisions, has been completely debunked. In all nine bottom deciles there are green shoots of new solidarity. For God’s sake, this wretched party has radicalized a centrist dad Martin Lewisand they don’t even seem to realize how serious it is for their prospects.

Putin, meanwhile, has overreached: His threat of energy disruptions has historically been enough to keep his neighbors docile and maintain a precarious balance between democracies and increasingly authoritarian states. An actual energy disruption, on the other hand, will force us and the EU to switch to renewable alternatives, and once that gets going, the link between geopolitics and carbon resources will finally be broken. Good luck with strongman politics when there’s nothing behind it but farms of bots chirping vile things.

No one would ever want to be in a place where there is no alternative. It would be better if Russia didn’t invade Ukraine, if inflation were under control, if energy bills didn’t reach the point of impossibility. It would be better if the situation in Great Britain were not so particularly, peculiarly, bad. This is what the country looks like after 12 years of people who do not believe in the government being in the government. It turns out that if you focus all your energy and resources on nepotism and re-election, you can make life much harder for millions of people in a relatively short period of time.

But because of the lack of alternatives, we will come out of the next election not only with a new government, but also with a radical and uncompromising energy plan that will change the way we live. We will look at this as the inflection point that brought us to net zero.

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