Climate Lockdowns are NOT the Solution – Conservative Article
Throughout 2020 and 2021, much of the world has been living under strict lockdown conditions. Socially, we could not see our friends when we wanted to, causing terrible mental strain in multiple forms, including increased loneliness and anxiety. Economically, these restrictions devastated many industries, most significantly the hospitality sector. From the start of April 2020 to the end of March 2021, the sector lost £80.8 billion, and also over the course of 2020, 660,000 jobs were lost.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the consequences of lockdowns in the UK, much less the whole world. But this is exactly what Mariana Mazzucato is proposing in her article on climate lockdowns. She is suggesting that governments must clamp down on private vehicle usage, red meat consumption, fossil fuel drilling, whilst imposing energy restrictions.
This idea is no doubt born from the impact on the climate that the earlier lockdowns had on the climate. According to a study done by the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter, UK emissions decreased by 13% compared to 2019 due to lockdown policies.
This is a similar trend that has been repeated worldwide. The main areas of decrease were in transport. Car transport fell by about half at the peak of lockdowns, and globally emissions fell by approximately 10% and 40%. These numbers are positive, however, they are only temporary.
Mariana Mazzucato wants to make these numbers permanent, achieving this through the same means. Cutting private travel, whilst having a positive environmental impact, would have horrific impacts on personal lives. People would be barred from travelling to see family and friends. Inevitably, the same social and mental problems that have increased during the pandemic would become a permanent feature of society. Rural areas would be hit harder by this ban than city areas, as public transport is not as robust as it is in cities.
Clamping down on red meat consumption would not only mean that the government is infringing on what we choose to eat, but would also have consequences for the beef industry. It contributes about 2.8 billion pounds to the British economy, not to mention the jobs that it supports it. There are the industries that the beef industry supports, such as supplying restaurants with meat. Restaurants have struggled enough during the COVID-19 crisis, this would hit them hard. Restricting what foods they could offer would drive away customers. If you want to be a vegan for climate reasons, that is your choice, but you have no right to force your views on others.
Furthermore, the red meat industry doesn’t produce as much carbon as is made out to be. In 2019, the agricultural industry produced 5.7% of the UK carbon emissions, making it one of the lowest carbon-emitting industries in the country. The industry can also provide benefits for the climate, such as using the land for a carbon sink. If the soil were disturbed and crops planted, there is a risk that the carbon would leak into the atmosphere as CO2.
Finally, it appears Mazzucato is wanting a return to the 1970s by proposing energy restrictions on all but essential industries. This proposal would again have severe consequences on the economy and social well-being, with the 1974 crisis producing material shortages and contracting GDP by 2.7%. If the COVID-19 lockdowns did not hit mental well-being and the economy enough, then a ban on red meat and private vehicle usage would destroy whatever is left.
While I am no climate denier, there is such a thing as too extreme an action. Climate change is a threat and does need tackling. However, destroying society in the process is not a workable solution. These lockdowns would severely hamper any chance of recovery from the most recent set of restrictions. We must find other solutions to climate change.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
There are alternatives to climate lockdowns… for now – A Labour Response
Climate lockdowns are an interesting concept and Mazzucato’s article highlights a number of areas of potential positive impact. However, I agree with Kieran; they are not the best option to target the climate emergency. Of course, this is a very real issue that we can’t neglect but there are evident problems with this suggested solution.
By now I think it’s safe to say we all loathe the word ‘lockdown’. Spending over a year in and out of lockdown has taken its toll on people, as Kieran highlighted. Families fought desperately to keep food on the tables while small businesses were forced to close and others experienced the worst mental health of their lives. All as a result of lockdown. For a pandemic, a lockdown was the best option, despite significant hardship. For the climate crisis though, there are alternatives. But what are these?
Notably, Mazzucato’s article was titled “Avoiding a climate lockdown”; it inherently recognises that they are not the ideal solution. She does provide some other feasible options though, such as encouraging cooperation between both the public and private sectors and wider society. An emergency like this understandably requires everyone’s involvement to reverse the negative effects as much as possible.
One specific area that I have studied in depth academically is the environmental impact of consumption and production. Consumers drive production demand that ultimately leads to a lack of environmental considerations on both sides. A huge cultural shift is required to override the need to own things purely for status.
Stricter legislation is required to prevent production lines from skipping steps and allowing carbon dioxide to be emitted into the atmosphere. I’m not saying it’ll be simple. But we need to target both human attitudes and physical environmental impacts.
So, climate lockdowns aren’t the best option. I do, however, second Mazzucato’s sentiment; if we don’t act soon, extreme measures may be the only option we have left.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
The Environment/Economy Paradox – A Liberal Response
Kieran’s article is *technically* correct that actions to help prevent, mitigate or adapt to climate change will be expensive. Both opportunity costs (the costs of not extracting oil and selling it, for example) and additional spending are inevitable. However, the blind pursuit of GDP growth is part of the problem.
GDP is not a measure of the strength of an economy, it is a measure of its size. It is not a measure of an economy’s sustainability – not in an environmental sense, in a very literal sense – but rather the rate at which it uses resources. GDP does not account for the rate we are depleting our water sources; soil quality; air quality; carbon-sink stocks; or mineral deposits. Nor can it measure the growing inequality or worsening of poverty, and the increasing vulnerability of millions of people to the effects of a changing climate.
Climate change already poses significant risks to the same beef industry Kieran defends, as well as the restaurant industry as supply chains are increasingly disrupted. Rising prices will likely deter more customers away than fewer meat options.
COVID-19 lockdowns were a response to a very imminent threat. Climate lockdowns would be a very different affair. Both, however, are based on a shared principle. Those who are best positioned to help solve the issues are those least at risk; those least able to help are the most vulnerable to climate impacts. Richer households have larger carbon footprints and greater spending power to reduce those footprints.
GDP growth or contraction should also not be equated with changing welfare standards. In the years since the financial crisis, there has been a significant recovery in the UK’s GDP, yet living standards have improved only marginally as wealth has concentrated at the top. GDP is but one of the many factors which influence the well-being of citizens. Government action and intervention is the key determinant of citizen well-being, especially those least able to help themselves despite their best efforts.
Climate change, like COVID-19, poses a significant risk to those with the fewest resources. Whilst “extreme” action might not be needed to protect the relatively wealthy in this country, it essential to prevent immense suffering for others at home and abroad. We must all make sacrifices because if we don’t, even the wealthiest can’t hide from the potential climatic catastrophe arising from the dominoes falling if we surpass a tipping point.
The policies which Mazzucato promotes will not destroy society as Kieran claims. Nevertheless, I do not deny that there are plenty of ways to prevent the worst effects of climate change in a destructive way. Regardless, Kieran’s rhetoric of individual short term liberties above long term collective safety, however, is unhelpful in preventing this.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Daniel Jones