Peak oilers versus climate activists

You might have thought that there would be a natural affinity between the peak oil crowd and climate activists, given that both basically want a plan for getting out of fossil fuels as fast as possible. But in fact, I’m constantly surprised by the distance that exists between the two – with the antipathy by and large on the peak oil side of the fence. Here’s an example courtesy of John Michael Greer:

Sharon Astyk, for example, has proposed aligning the peak oil movement with climate activism; in the abstract, this is a logical idea, but in the real world it’s an invitation to disaster. The climate change movement has science solidly on its side, to be sure, but it’s proven hopelessly inept in dealing with the decidedly unscientific worlds of public relations and politics; climate activists have time and again allowed their opponents to define the terms of the debate, and relied on the prestige of science to make their case at a time when that prestige, already at a low ebb, is continuing to wane. Their opponents have not exactly been slow to take advantage of these missteps.

At this point we’re thus probably going to have to wait for the first major climate catastrophe to hit the industrial world before any of the world’s major polluting nations will be willing to change their ways. Aligning peak oil with the failing climate activism movement won’t change that, but will make it easier for the political establishments of the world’s nations to ignore peak oil for another few years; worse still, it might teach peak oil activists the same bad habits that have scuppered what was once a formidable climate activism movement, and produce similar results a second time around.

Ouch. For what it’s worth, I think Greer’s downbeat assessment of the state of climate activism is pretty much spot on – as is his point that “we’re probably going to have to wait for the first major climate catastrophe to hit the industrial world before any of the world’s major polluting nations will be willing to change their ways” (I argued the same in my China Dialogue post last week). But I think he significantly overestimates the reach of the peak oil crowd.