ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King spoke to Euronews about how climate crisis has become central to the ‘culture wars’ fuelling the UK’s politics. Jennie explains how a wide range of actors are uniting under their scepticism and opposition to climate action: “You now have a space where the traditional climate deniers or delayers are merging with a much broader and largely decentralised universe of extremists and conspiracy movements. […] Denier’s arguments have existed for a very long time, but climate issues are, in much more prominent ways, feeding into cultural confrontation and identity politics.”
Jennie highlights how the weaponisation of the climate crisis shuts down constructive dialogue around climate action and the possibility to address the public’s concerns around issues like the net-zero transition. “What’s really coming to the fore in conversation at the moment is how easy it is to exploit the gap between general public approval and recognition for the necessity of climate action versus actually being able to propose and implement an ambitious policy platform.”
She also explains the concern around the increasing misuse of the so-called ‘eco-extremist’ label: “I also suspect that the rhetoric around so-called eco-extremism is going to become more and more febrile. […] When the ISD uses terms like ‘eco-extremism’, it means something substantive and specific. A neo-Nazi movement that justifies its supremacist worldview through the environmental lens, for example. […] What is not eco-extremism, at least from a definitional point of view, is movements that use forms of civil disobedience to advocate for climate action on the streets of the UK.”
Finally, she highlights the importance of knowing who is advancing this inflammatory rhetoric and why, as sometimes their affiliations may discredit their positions on the climate crisis. “That isn’t going to be the case in every example, but where there is an MP that is using that language who also happens to, I don’t know, sit on the board of one of these think tanks that receive funding for fossil fuel and of the industries […] I don’t think it ever loses its value to point out those associations,” she said.
“[It] has nothing to do with the substance of policy and is all to do with who should or should not be involved in the conversation.”