Endless debates about soup and paintings serve those who’d prefer we ignore the climate crisis

Just Stop Oil activists with their hands glued to the wall after throwing tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery. Photograph: Just Stop Oil/AFP/Getty Images. dizzy: I’m assuming that this is a JSO image really.

Zoe Williams


Opponents of meaningful action are trying to sidestep the immediacy of the threat to our planet

Expert opinion is settled and public opinion united on the urgency of climate action. If our politics or our discourse were in any way functional, there would be no confusion, no debate. We would simply be proceeding from one bold practical action to the next, following the blueprints laid out by the Climate Change Committee.

Instead, we have energy policies stitched together from reheated cliches, which on the one hand doesn’t matter, since no prime minister has been stable or focused enough to iterate them since Brexit, but on the other hand does matter. There is nothing more depressing than to go back to Amber Rudd’s “energy reset” speech of 2015: what if, instead of dismissing renewables incentives as “Blairite”, she’d actually taken them seriously and built on them? What if she’d pushed energy-efficient homes instead of the “unfettered market”, what if she’d made a plan to reduce dependence on gas from Vladimir Putin rather than increase it? “Spoiler alert,” wrote the renewables entrepreneur Bruce Davis at the time: “this doesn’t end well for bill payers.” And nor has it.

Obviously, Conservatives are only interested in their own internal dumb-and-dumber popularity contests, and cannot be trusted to make sound, long-term decisions in the national interest. They degrade everything in public life. But they only get away with this because of the discursive cover provided by pointless debates about climate action.

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