The spectre of nuclear war has once again reared its head with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the world is rightly fearful of its renewed proximity. There is an almighty effort focused on keeping it at bay.
But there is another enemy at the gate and it measures up in terms of being a clear and present danger. Yet that enemy is being bankrolled from within the ranks of the besieged.
Instead of funding the fight against the climate crisis, and providing the weapons and ammunition to at least hold it back, banks and big corporations are pouring billions into making the enemy harder to beat.
Oil making a comeback
Oil is on a roll as global economies revive from the coronavirus pandemic. And with gas prices through the roof, utilities have turned to coal, the dirtiest energy source of all.
Reports show major banks are pouring more than a trillion dollars into fossil fuels, investing in new plants and funding renewed exploration. According to The Energy Mix, between 2019 and 2021, financial institutions funnelled $1.5 trillion into the coal industry, despite many of them having net-zero pledges.
“We’re in trouble,” says John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate.
And the facts back him up. As clean energy stocks take a hammering, Reuters reports that London-based ShareAction listed 25 leading European banks providing $55bn in financing to oil and gas projects in 2021.
UN climate report
What this does, of course, is pump up the emissions plume, when precisely the opposite is required. And the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC, a United Nations body – details all too clearly what that means.
The report warns that “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” remains. With about half of the world’s population already living in areas vulnerable to climate change, the report found 127 ways in which the planet will degrade if warming is not limited. The report warned that climate breakdown will make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer and more dangerous by 2040 – and called for action on a huge scale.
UN Secretary-General Antònio Guterres called the findings “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”.
Teresa Anderson of ActionAid, an international charity that tackles poverty and injustice, described the report as “a harrowing catalogue of the immense suffering that climate change means for billions of people, now and for decades to come”.
“It is the most hard-hitting compilation of climate science the world has ever seen,” Anderson said. “You can’t read it without feeling sick to the stomach.”
Of course, the irony is the poorest countries in the world are having to spend scarce resources to adapt to a crisis not of their making – while the billions promised by richer nations to help them adapt are being spent making the crisis worse, arming the enemy from within.