Guardian reported under the headline "Has the green movement lost its way? Anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, anti-flying: the green movement may have alienated more people than it has won over, and there are now calls for a new kind of environmentalism"
This refers to the debate in the UK and it will be interesting to see what you make of it when looking at Germany.
The article portrays former activist and journalist Mark Lynas, novelist Ian McEwan and activist Tamsin Omond.
Lynas has come out in favour of nuclear power: "Anyone who still marches against nuclear today," he writes, "as many thousands of people did in Germany following the Fukushima accident, is in my view just as bad for the climate as textbook eco-villains like the big oil companies."
He is now also in favour of GM food and thinks the green movement should engage more positively with market capitalism. "If it becomes a culture war like the debate over abortion or something, you can't win," he says. "I want an environmental movement that is happy with capitalism, which goes out there and says yes rather than no, and is rigorous about the way it treats science. The green movement needs a clause-four moment – the Labour party had to go through that." (note: clause four meant to reject the Socialist principles).
However, it is one thing to realize that we are in a culture war, as we see every day also on this blog. It is quite another thing to get away from it. Lynas seems to rely on science to do so. As Roger Pielke Jr has pointed out, using the example of abortion politics and tornado politics, climate change cannot be treated as tornado politics despite all attempts to scientize the issue. Important value decisions are attached to it which cannot be wished away.
Tamsin Omond of direct action group Climate Rush recalls the period leading up to Copenhagen: "2009 was the year we said we would do one action a month, and we did. Everyone saw this as the one chance and the feeling of momentum – that we only had to work really hard until December, and then we could have a rest – was really present. Everything we did would get in the papers and journalists were phoning up all the time. I was completely caught up in it."
One wonders where the political instinct went during this period of blind activism.
McEwan makes an interesting comment about the waning importance of cliamte change in terms of political importance. "Most issues have a narrative, with the sense of an ending or resolution – the referendum is passed, the government falls – but this really is a lifetime story, and not just our lifetime, but our children's and their children's. We are decades away from the point where we say, 'We've finally deflected the rising curve of Co2 emissions, so let's have one last push to fix it for good.' We've made no impact on this rising curve as yet, and it's hard to keep interest and optimism alive."
This is the problem with the current framing of the issue as CO2 issue. If we focused on other short term climate forcings (such as HFCs, black carbon, methane, deforestation, as outlined in the Hartwell Paper) we could make visible progress and keep optimism alive. UNEPs Achim Steiner has outlined as much, see here.
Instead of engaging with such alternatives, McEwan offers a real letdown: "I've never voted for the Tories, but I'd make my judgments at the next general election based entirely on the respective parties' attitudes and intentions in matters of climate change. This is the overwhelming issue that encloses all others. If Cameron and friends came up with a more feasible and effective plan than Miliband, then I would have to vote for it. I think that's all we, as citizens, can do."