By Luke Landau
WHILE the future of foreign policy is impossible to predict it is increasingly clear that the most significant factor to consider when making decisions has to be the climate crisis.
Our best emission projections coupled with the latest climate sensitivity models forewarn of warming of between 2.3°C and 4.7°C compared to pre-industrial levels, meaning in all probability our chance to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement has passed.
We will likely suffer sea level rises of 61-110cm by 2100, causing the devastation of coastal cities, Arctic communities and small island states. Increased temperatures will lead to crop failures, more frequent extreme weather events and vast areas of land being swallowed by the desert. In all likelihood we will witness a migrant crisis beyond comprehension and if we do not act in time, the world as we know it will be swept away.
However the bigger the crisis, the greater the opportunity and this is the most severe crisis in all of human history. Rich nations have the opportunity, through investment in conservation and technology, to position themselves such that no matter who comes asking for aid, they will be able to assist.
In the US, president Joe Biden recognises the urgency, reversing his predecessor’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement within hours of being sworn in, firmly “putting the climate crisis at the centre of United States foreign policy and national security”
With the appointment of a new Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, he aims to pursue green recovery efforts of all kinds, like funding clean energy initiatives, decarbonisation strategies and channeling investment into the green economy.
AeroFarms, a pioneer of vertical farming, has built an indoor farm that produces 390 times the amount of food per unit of land compared to traditional farming methods, while only using 5% the water and no pesticides at all. If made economically viable to roll out nationally this could end the genocide of insects in the US, a significant driver of the extinction event, and free nearly 900 million acres of farmland for rewilding, more than enough to restore The Great Plains to their former glory.
In Europe, Sweden has long been charging its neighbours to import waste that would otherwise go to landfill, burning it to generate power while netting an annual profit of €100 million, though there is some debate about whether this can be considered environmentally friendly or sustainable.
France is an established leader in nuclear power, generating 70% of national electricity demand without producing CO2, and exporting so much the industry adds €3 billion a year to their GDP. Though this technology needs an
overhaul, about 95% of nuclear waste can be used as fuel for next generation reactors and the maturity of the sector means France is well positioned to cash in.
In blustery Great Britain, nearly 60% of the grid was powered by wind in august of 2020, and over the year the share of renewables grew to 42%. The government’s plan is to have every home in the UK powered with wind alone by 2030.
Denmark has just signed a deal to construct a €25 billion “energy island” in the middle of the North Sea. Designed to act as a hub for the largest offshore wind farm in the world, the first phase of construction will provide enough green energy to power 3 million homes.
But it seems one nation above all has recognised the advantage of seizing the day. Though China’s aim of carbon neutrality is later than most, 2060 instead of a global average of 2050, the relative infancy of their industrialised economy compared to other nations means that they are actually 150 years ahead of the curve.
China has installed 36% of the worlds wind capacity and is installing 45% of the capacity set to online. They own 32% of the worlds solar supply and are building 25% of what is to come. They are a major contributor to the ecological sciences, funding research and initiatives designed to promote protection and environmental management amidst a background of rapid economic growth, greatly restoring degraded environments, improving local provisions and increasing rural livelihoods.
They are also making huge strides in the advancement of next-gen nuclear technology which is cheaper and more compact than traditional methods. It is also passively safe, harnessing liquid instead of solid fuels to completely mitigate the risk of meltdown, allowing plants to be built quickly and placed near populated areas.
Alongside their $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, an expansive infrastructure project that aims to engineer Beijing as the centre of the industrialised world, it seems China is on course to earn themselves the most political capital from the crisis.
What this means for the significance of liberal democracies in the future is unclear but certainly things are moving quickly, and those agile enough to react will reap the rewards. For securing a place in the world and a seat at the highest tables, there has never been a better time to invest.
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