Denial is over, but deferral is still doing a lot of damage

27-09-2022 | News

Almost no one now denies the climate crisis and its anthropogenic causes, but politics tends to postpone essential choices. But, the ecological transition will have to be at the heart of any government's work

by Donato Speroni

The "foreign minister" of the European Union, Josep Borrell, recently (September 20, 2022) recalled the sentence pronounced by António Guterres or on the occasion of the UN General Assembly with which he described the current situation as a “perfect storm”. The term "perfect storm" to describe the threats to our civilization, deriving from the sum of demographic, environmental, economic and social factors, it was used for the first time by the chief scientific consultant of the British government John Beddington in a report of his in 2009, later taken up by the Population institute of Washington, directed at the time by Robert Walker, who made it a brochure distributed in schools to sensitize American students to the challenges of the future. Beddington placed the crisis around 2030; with his colleague Gianluca Comin, starting from his report, we published for Rizzoli the book “2030 The perfect storm - How to survive the Great Crisis”.

What has changed in these ten years? The “perfect storm” caught us much earlier than we could have expected: we are already in the middle, as Guterres tells us. Wars, diseases, events linked to the climate crisis fill the newspapers like never before, but obviously the sensitivity of public opinion and the attempt to organize adequate responses have also increased. The signing of theUN 2030 Agenda in 2015 and, nationally, the birth of the ASviS in 2016, they are testimony.

In the debates that followed the publication of our book, we were greeted with interest and courtesy, but also with a hint of skepticism. At the time the denial it was still very strong: there were those who denied climate change and its anthropogenic causes. More generally, the threats of the future were minimized, in the belief that scientific and technological progress would solve all the challenges.

Today the situation is radically different. In the scientific debate no one now denies global warming, even if the deniers are still present on the social, where, however, flat-earthers and proponents of chemtrails also thrive. The discussion on the crisis has shifted a lot from mitigation, which is very important but with long-term effects, to the urgency of adaptation, to cope with extreme weather events, droughts and floods, rising seas, phenomena already underway. The social consequences of the damage that man is causing to the planet are also more evident, while the fight against extreme poverty and food insecurity is marking time. We also know quite well the solutions we need to implement at all levels. 

So what's the problem? And the tendency to postpone because politics favors the short term. The future? I'll think about it tomorrow… The electoral campaign in Italy was fought over the bills, the sending of arms to Ukraine, the citizenship income, the post-fascism rate of the right. Certainly important issues but not attractive enough for the new generations, on which further public debt and the unsustainable weight of our development model tends to be unloaded. Even when the tragedy in the Marche forced politicians to talk about the climate, (almost) everyone remained on generic formulations. After all, a study by Greenpeace and the Pavia Observatory unveils the “environmental numbers” of the electoral campaign: little more than the 10% of the politicians' statements in the news and on Facebook is addressed to environmental issues. 

The whole story of the municipalities devastated by the floods of streams in the province of Ancona is an example of deferral, of money allocated late and then not even spent, as often happens for public works entrusted to local authorities. An inefficiency that is worrying given the amount of investments envisaged by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, entrusted to Regions, Provinces and Municipalities, which will be financed only if they are fully implemented by 2026.

To the hindrances and bureaucratic inefficiencies are added the political resistance. Let's think about the construction of the Tap, the gas pipeline that arrives in Salento, built despite the many opposing battles. An infrastructure that Italy strongly needs today. Or to the future new regasifiers, which should allow us to disconnect from Russian supplies. A dispute has arisen on the hypothesis of mooring one of these ships in Piombino which, despite the compensation offered to the city, we do not know how and when it will end.

For our part we ask that the role of natural gas transition is as limited as possible (but for a few years we will not be able to do without it), moving on to one as soon as possible electricity grid powered by renewable energies. But even in this field very serious resistances occur, even on practically ready-made systems, with dozens of situations in which the nimby effect prevails, not in my backyard, not in my backyard. Not to mention the columns for electric cars, entrusted to a thousand different regulations of the Municipalities, and the PNACC, the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change, which has remained in draft since 2017.

In short, there is a lot to do for the ecological transition and the theme will be at the center of the next Sustainable Development Festival. But there are still those who deny the evidence. For example, on an article by Paolo Del Debbio, which is actually much more measured, The truth (excuse the pun) headline: "The excuse of the climate, no ecological transition, more care of the territory, less Greta", as if the fight against the climate crisis and the indispensable maintenance of mountains and water basins were in antithesis. There are still those who use the term "gretini" offending the thousands of young people who even today take to the streets with the Fridays for Future. Yet the future government will not be able to hide these problems under the carpet. Observe Michele Serra in his "Hammock" on Republic:

“Environmentalism will soon become synonymous with politics: there will be no politics without environmentalism. (…) There is more knowledge of the future in the “gretini” than in the intelligent people who entrust the processions with the task of regulating the seasons ».

Unfortunately, deferral is also rampant in international fora, as Guterres pointed out in his dramatic appeals on the occasion of the Assembly at the Glass Palace. The UN secretary general also put forward concrete proposals: the reform of the United Nations Security Council, to review the right of veto granted to countries that won the Second World War almost seventy years ago, and generalized taxation on companies that produce fossil fuels. This tax would then be discharged on the prices of goods produced with fossils, stimulating the conversion to renewables. We know, however, that nothing will be done about it, at least for many years to come. We have been talking about the reform of the Security Council for some time, but it is not clear with what shared path we can amend the mechanisms of the UN. The tax on fossil producers can only work with a global agreement and it certainly is not feasible with these moonshines.

Even if politics is so slow, there is still a lot that can be done. On the eve of the UN General Assembly, during an "SDG moment", the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presented its report "Goalkeepers 2022, the future of progress", Which took stock of the 2030 Agenda Goals, confirming the significant delay, but also presented a series of concrete proposals, from financing women with digital currency to the use of seeds capable of guaranteeing higher yields even on arid soils. But even here we must face resistance and mistrust that make everything very difficult.

From, 23 September 2022

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