Environmentalists in the United Kingdom are pressing for “economy-wide” lockdowns, similar to those put into place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, in order to address the creeping threat of climate change.
In an op-ed published Monday, Mariana Mazzucato argues that the world is approaching such a tipping point on climate change that the only solution could be global economic lockdowns, temporarily — if not permanently — ending industry, travel, entertainment, and consumption in order to preserve the planet, even if it’s not clear that the effect would itself be permanent.
“As COVID-19 spread earlier this year, governments introduced lockdowns in order to prevent a public health emergency from spinning out of control. In the near future, the world may need to resort to lockdowns again—this time to tackle a climate emergency,” Mazzucato says.
“Shifting Arctic ice, raging wildfires in western U.S. states and elsewhere, and methane leaks in the North Sea are all warning signs that we are approaching a tipping point on climate change when protecting the future of civilization will require dramatic interventions,” she continues.
The plan, of course, isn’t designed just to end the world’s dependence on fossil fuel but also to curtail the spread of capitalism, and the lockdown itself would extend far beyond what’s been put into place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Environmentalists seeking a “climate lockdown” propose a ban on everything from driving private vehicles to consuming red meat, even if the science isn’t settled on whether those efforts make any meaningful impact on climate change.
“Under a ‘climate lockdown,’ governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling,” she says. “To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.”
In fact, the plan sounds an awful lot like the abortive “Green New Deal” authored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which includes a number of radical changes to the American economy, including a near-complete ban on domestic air travel and, according to an explainer released alongside the Green New Deal bill, an end to cows.
“Addressing this triple crisis requires reorienting corporate governance, finance, policy, and energy systems toward a green economic transformation. To achieve this, three obstacles must be removed: business that is shareholder-driven instead of stakeholder-driven, finance that is used in inadequate and inappropriate ways, and government that is based on outdated economic thinking and faulty assumptions,” Mazzucato offers.
Such a lockdown would, of course, create a permanent change, but perhaps not for the environment. According to Fortune Magazine, the COVID-19 lockdowns have been devastating for businesses. Nearly 100,000 independent establishments that shuttered under lockdown orders will never reopen again, per estimates. In New Jersey alone, The Hill adds, almost one-third of businesses have closed permanently.
Unemployment remains high, and the Biden administration is already promising a nationwide shutdown if the coronavirus pandemic is still raging in January, leaving investors concerned.