Climate Change Is Threatening To Dethrone Politicians
But, not how you think it will.
Politicians are bought. That much is clear by now. It doesn’t matter how moral or just they start out; if they want to take power and create the change they envision, they have to compromise and bend in order to secure funding to campaign. Each democracy has this problem to a different extent, but they all have it. This is half the reason climate action has been so lethargic over the years, as oil billionaires are some of the world’s largest political donors, giving them massive sway over our governments. But, as climate change starts to bite, this trend is reversing, as some significant donors are threatening to pull funding over climate inaction. But is this a singular event or the first domino to fall?
This all started with British billionaire John Caudwell, who is worth $2.8 billion, according to Forbes. He is a hard-line Brexiteer, and a significant player in the vote-to-leave movement. Over the years, he has become so entangled with British politics that he was the largest donor to the Conservatives during the last 2019 general election. Yet, in a recent interview with The Sunday Times, he said, “If Rishi [the UK Prime Minister] sticks to this, would I donate to the Conservative Party? Absolutely not.” What has made him so angry that he has not only pulled funding, but wouldn’t even vote for the party he has spent a fortune to get into power?
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Well, it’s Rishi Sunak’s recent climate policy U-turns, which John Caudwell and many others see as utter “madness.”
So what has Rishi done? Well, he has delayed the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars until 2035, handed out a tonne of new gas drilling licences, opened up new coal mines (the first since 2015), and diluted targets for the phasing out of gas boilers. The reasoning for all of this is that the British economy needs to grow, and these net-zero targets are costing the taxpayer money and holding this growth back. So, delaying targets and growing the UK fossil fuel sector is a way of injecting some life into the economy.
Now, we will ignore the fact that the reason the British economy is in such a bad way is because of Liz Truss’s horrific mini-budget, which she enacted without consulting advisors and was purely a move to please Conservative backbenchers who voted her into power. But one thing we can’t ignore here is that Sunak’s logic here is entirely flawed. These eco-policies aren’t going to cost the taxpayer, as the technologies they are promoting are actually far better for the British economy, costing the government less while providing more jobs that are higher paying than their fossil fuel equivalents. This is why a plethora of Sunak’s advisors have not only advised against his recent policy changes, but publicly gone on the record and said they are dangerous. In fact, the only reason Sunak seems to be making these decisions is that his family wealth (which is owned by his wife) is heavily invested in Shell and other fossil fuel companies. So it looks like Sunak is robbing the British economy and lining his own pockets. If you want to read more about this, read my previous article, The UN Has Condemned Britain.
For those of the more sceptical persuasion, this might not seem shocking at all, and just another case of the political self-serving status quo carrying one. But for John Caudwell, this is one step too far. In fact, in that Sunday Times interview, he said, “Would I switch to Labour? The answer to that is very simple: I will support any party that I believe will do the right thing for Britain going forward.” Rishi’s climate U-turns are such a deal breaker for him that he might vote for the other party!
Now, is this because Mr. Caudwell is a massive environmentalist? Absolutely not. He pollutes to that max with private jets and his very own super yacht. So, just like every other billionaire, his carbon footprint is about a million times that of the average person.
So why is he angry about Sunak’s plans? Well, like all billionaires, he wants to fund whichever politician will allow him to keep or enhance his wealth. In the past, this self-serving nature could exist without concern for the environment, enabling rampant consumption with little thought about the future. But we are now in the future, and billionaires like Caudwell are starting to realise that green initiatives can turbocharge an economy, allowing their wealth to stay buoyant.
There are two glaring examples of this change in perspective: the ECB and Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Rob Alexander’s work.
Let’s start with the ECB or European Central Bank. For years, they engaged in all the typical bank stuff, investing in whatever gave them the best returns, regardless of the consequences for the planet. However, a recent report by themselves found that nearly 75% of Eurozone bank loans are dependent on a healthy ecosystem. For example, farmers, fishing vessels, food distributors, and grocers all have huge loans to cover their equipment and premises, and they all rely on a healthy ecosystem for their income. This means that as climate change bites, and heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods and cold snaps happen more regularly and with more ferocity, the European economy and financial system could be put under insane stress. So much pressure, in fact, that banks could collapse, and when that happens, billionaires lose a vast amount of wealth.
Professor Rob Alexander has also shown that renewables and green technology are still better than fossil fuels from an economic standpoint, even with climate change taken out of consideration. They are now cheaper, require less government backing, provide more, better quality and higher paying jobs than fossil fuels, keep funds within a local economy and are more secure than fossil fuels. So, if you want to guarantee the growth of a country’s economy over the coming decades, then you should make it adopt green technology as fast as possible.
Some billionaires like Caudwell are starting to notice these studies and reports and are beginning to see climate inaction as a threat to the economies their wealth is stored in. As such, their allegiances are changing towards more sustainably minded politicians.
But is this just an isolated event? After all, aren’t most billionaires oil magnates whose wealth is threatened by climate action?
Well, no. Most billionaires got their wealth through finance, real estate, technology and manufacturing. These are all industries that can adopt modern green technology and policies without hindrance to their operation, and that need a buoyant economy to be profitable. As such, I think Mr Caudwell is the first domino to fall, and his stark turn away from the Conservatives could trigger other political donors to switch the same way across the entire globe. I might be being optimistic here, but if we don’t hope for a better future, how can we strive to make a better future?
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