Environmentalism is becoming, some thinkers say, the new religion of the secular world. There is something to it: a redemption that requires sacrifices for the greater good, a return to the connection with the environment that the ancient pagan cults preached. But let us agree that the goddess nature is the most visible and tangible of all deities. And, unlike other dogmas, science occupies the pulpit here and must guide us to salvation. It warns of the coming apocalypse, but it is not inexorable: it depends on what we do.
Congress is preparing to approve the climate change law on Thursday, a decade after the Chamber itself requested it. It does not arrive with the consensus that would have been desirable, but in the end Vox is left alone in its frontal opposition. The regulation, which is now going to the Senate, sets more or less ambitious emission cut targets, depending on how you look at it, and prepares the end of the use of fossil fuels, which will no longer be able to move new cars after 2040. It is a step more, relevant, of many that will have to be given, because the challenge does not require a sprint but rather running a marathon.
Against what could be expected a year ago, the pandemic relaunches the climate fight. Not because there is a cause-effect relationship: the spread of the virus is not due to warming, but to globalization and its frenzied movement of people and goods. The key is that this crisis has mobilized dizzying amounts of money in Europe for the ecological transition. The momentum that was needed if you know how to manage; that cannot be taken for granted.
Behind it there is an unstoppable social change. Environmentalism shows its strength in the new generations. After all, it is young people who will grapple with droughts, rising seas and other threats for decades to come. And climate is not the only battlefield: stopping ocean degradation and species extinction or improving air quality are necessary goals in themselves. The new sensibility works in favor of the green parties, which have shaken off their idealistic image and are already seen as credible managers. Its rise in Germany and other Nordic countries – southern Europe resists them – may turn the political map upside down in the post-Merkel EU.
Around the growing mass of believers appear some heretics who, without denying the diagnosis, are betting on nuclear energy rather than grinding mills, or they trust more in carbon capture technology than in stopping using plastic bags. Meanwhile, anti-scientific climate denialism settles on the populist right. Trump’s defeat removed the biggest obstacle to advancing the Paris Agreement; Bolsonaro resists on that front, with the Amazon as a hostage. Europe no longer waves the environmental flag alone, which Biden has taken well.
Public opinion seems more willing than ever to bear the costs of transformation. And it’s good news that big companies are turning to the cause: we can doubt his sincerity, we can call him greenwashing (green wash). It does not matter: the economic power wants to get on the horse that it senses the winner and that should be taken advantage of. Of course, any ambitious transition will leave losers. Ecological taxation is going to be the focus of great conflicts. It was seen in France, when an attempt to make diesel more expensive unleashed the fury of the yellow vests. It would not be the same to remove the hipsters urbanites, with their bike and their bonometer, that the inhabitants of empty Spain where a train never passes. The green faith adds faithful, but what is coming will not be a bed of roses. The price of not changing anything, yes, would be much higher.