Judging by the latest opinion polls, the public is ripe for some green austerity. Ipsos Mori says that 85% of Britons are concerned about climate change, with 52% admitting they are very concerned. These are the highest figures since the pollster started tracking opinion in 2005. Given the spate of extreme weather-related events, and the pictures of the torching of the Amazon rainforest, such concern is both logical and predictable. In this country, the climate deniers have been put to flight. What the polls don’t show is whether the public is willing to translate this concern into action; whether similar levels of concern are present in less prosperous parts of the world; and whether it is possible to translate individual concerns into collective political action. A drastic cut in carbon emissions from homes requires two things: better insulation and the replacement of gas-fired heating with the latest technology – heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. This will not be cheap; few households have the money to pay for the new kit, and making them pay for it through higher energy bills would be unpopular. The independent Committee on Climate Change said putting hydrogen boilers and electric heating into every home would cost tens of billions a year, and if this is to happen quickly – as it should – the government will have to foot the bill. It could do this in two ways: by taking advantage of historically low interest rates to float green bonds – something the German government is planning – or by channelling money created by the process known as quantitative easing into environmental projects. Retrofitting homes so that energy does not leak out of badly insulated walls and roofs means lower energy bills and the prospect of well-paid, secure jobs in every part of the country – and would make public engagement with the climate crisis easier to sustain.
Guardian 23rd Aug 2019 read more »