By Anders Lorenzen
Great journalism is meant to challenge our perceptions, stimulate debate, inspire ideas, come up with new ways of doing things. In today’s divisive and fake news and lazy copy- and- paste journalism it is easy to spot a great journalistic piece when you see one.
David Roberts is the energy and climate writer at Vox.com. He famously coined the term ‘climate hawk’ when he was working at Grist. He has done it again with this article – arguably coining arguments just as powerful or merely, perhaps, in addition to his ‘climate hawk’ terminology.
If you are not sure about what a ‘climate hawk’ actually means, then read the idea behind it above. But it is really simple – someone who cares about tackling climate change.
In the article, Roberts asks if you’re necessarily an environmentalist if you also identify yourself as a ‘climate hawk’? Not necessarily, but you can be – and those two terms can as a matter of fact conflict with each other. For instance, you might oppose clean energy technologies because you think they destroy the natural environment. Or you might oppose electric vehicles because of the minerals used, or because they might actually not be that efficient when it comes to reducing air pollution. This issue is that environmentalism and climate action are not always mutually inclusive. There’s nothing wrong with having these arguments, but at least call it what it is, Roberts argues. And I agree. We cannot normally assume that environmentalists first and foremost want to save the world from climate change, even if many do. But that is why it is so important to have one term that just addresses climate change.
Roberts is also right in his criticism of environmental groups like the Sierra Club. I would also add Greenpeace to that list – two organisations who say that tackling climate change is top priority. Those two groups are actually campaigning and focusing on closing down nuclear power plants – getting rid of clean energy capacity. This will result and has resulted, in more coal and gas getting burned and thus in carbon emissions rising. It is fine if, from an environmental point of view, you want to fight nuclear energy. But again, do not call yourself an organisation which views climate change as the biggest issue.
This is where it becomes complicated and often politicised. With terms like, being green, going green, green policies, sustainability, environmental policies – what do these labels mean? Does anyone know? I have to admit that even I get confused sometimes. Can a green policy have something to do with climate change? Yes. Could it also have absolutely nothing to do with climate change? Yes. So fundamentally we need to change the wording. If you call yourself an environmentalist, it could mean anything. But do you call yourself a ‘climate hawk’ – there can be no confusion, people know where you stand.
But it is important to know this. If you call yourself a ‘climate hawk’, you cannot oppose nuclear energy or any other developments that tackle climate change, such as big business investments in renewables, electric car fleets, and so on. This might be at odds with your political views. You might, for instance, hate capitalism or you might think many of these corporations are evil. But if these actions reduce emissions, this is a compromise you will have to make.
If you don’t want to go down this route that is fine. But while you can then say you care about tackling climate change, you can’t say it is the number one issue for you – clearly, other issues come before.
It is not easy being a ‘climate hawk’.
But fundamentally ‘climate hawks’ could unite across the political spectrum, be willing to put aside other issues from immigration to gun control, and unite in fighting what they agree is the biggest issue we face.