First it was AOC and the Sunrise Movement versus Pelosi and the moderate Democrats in Congress. Now it is Greta Thunberg and the so-called youth movement versus the UN and the world’s major governments. Between the moderates in power and the new radicals, climate alarmism has split wide open. This has to hurt the cause, which is a good thing indeed.
The global split happened with elegant quickness. On Friday a million or more climate extremists marched around the world. On Monday, at UN headquarters, Greta Thunberg denounced the major world governments to their faces, while they dutifully explained that they had no new ambitions. The contrast between radicals and moderates was hilarious, and telling.
The problem for the alarmists is enormous. The new radicals are making demands that are impossible, not just politically but technologically. Complete decarbonization of the global economic system by 2030, for example.
To make matters worse, the radical climate alarmists have been joined by the social justice warriors, creating the nonsensical goal of climate justice. There has always been a vague undercurrent of this in UN climate deliberations, but now social justice is front and center, vying with decarbonization in the goal department.
The moderates are trying to press on but their efforts are being denounced by the extremists. Germany just wrought, with great political difficulty, what the moderates consider a bold new climate action plan. It was immediately denounced as trivial by the extremists. Realism is verboten.
How is the alarmist establishment to handle this schism? At this point their biggest enemy is not the skeptics; it is the extremists. Fighting on two fronts is politically damaging at best.
But it remains to be seen just how enduring and active the radical wing really is. Greta, AOC and the big rallies may just be a green flash in the pan. In fact AOC seems to have faded from view already.
Perhaps the next big test will be the upcoming UN Climate Summit in Chile, beginning late November. Unlike Monday’s no action one-day Climate Summit, the Chile meeting is the real deal, the annual formal negotiations under the Paris Accord. These annual meetings are each called a Conference of the Parties (to the UN global climate change treaty) or COP. They routinely draw 20,000 negotiating delegates, from almost 200 countries, and last well over a week.
By coincidence this will be an especially humdrum COP and Chile is far away from the centers of extremism. The 2018 COP was a biggie, because it worked out the detailed rules for the Paris Agreement. The 2020 COP will be a monster for two reasons. First, all the governments are supposed to come up with new, Soviet style, 5 year plans, with greater ambition than their first plan. Second, a mythical $100 billion a year is supposed to start flowing from the developed countries, like America, to the developing countries, including China. Moderate alarmism might even collapse under these twin pressures.
But in Chile this year there are no big issues on the table, just a lot of detail work. So the big question is will the new radical wave rise up in the wake of the 2018 COP? If not then they might lose momentum.
Or they might save their collective strength for the U.S. Presidential race and the 2020 COP. I imagine the radical leaders are already discussing these options, or as soon as they finish partying.
In this context one interesting possibility is that the radicals will support a third party green candidate in the U.S. presidential election, as well as green challengers to moderate Democrat incumbents (as AOC did). I can easily imagine Bernie Sanders running for president as an independent, if he fails to get the Democrat nomination, which is likely.
If the radicals bolt the Democratic Party and split the liberal tickets it will be very good news for the President Trump and Republicans. This is the potential upside to the new green extremism.
As things stand now the climate alarmist movement is coming apart at the seams. I say let her rip.