We spend a lot of time talking about the renewables nirvana of 2050.
Not only is it an era set in the post-climate apocalypse (as China and India have no intention of reversing their emissions until 2060 at the earliest), but our fields, mountains, and oceans will be covered in a virtuous blanket of spinning blades and scorching silicon.
Our ‘filthy’ Western nations will look like a magazine spread from a Swiss ski lodge. We’ll all be nice, obedient, vegan serfs trudging through the snow on our way to our state-dictated public service jobs. Cogs in the perfect machine. We’ll check-in with the government constantly to make sure we’re making ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ choices.
No emissions. No coal. No resistance. No problem.
Except that by 2050, almost every solar panel, wind turbine, and battery built today will be rotting in landfill.
Strip-mining, open-cut mining, and deep-sea mining will have to be increased dramatically to harvest the raw materials required to build this environmentally friendly future.
Many of these resources are in the ocean, which the world’s nations are in a race to dig up, filter, and pillage for rare earths.
Some of these elements involve the production of toxic sludge and heavy metals infinitely more destructive than traditional coal mining.
And you still need those coal mines to smelt the huge quantities of steel along with all that fossil fuel required to drive the mining equipment.
We don’t have enough raw material to build the renewable grid once, let alone replace it five times every century.
A lot of this mining is done in the third world, either with substandard or non-existent environmental practices or child labour.
We’ll also be covering portions of desperately needed agricultural land, creating a food shortage. But don’t worry, we might be able to eat some of the wind turbines.
And it’s only rare eagles, endangered sea-birds, bats, and other winged-wildlife that finds itself hacked to pieces in the blades of turbines dotted along mountain ranges and onshore breeding grounds.
That all sounds slightly less Utopian.
How many voters gaze at renewables farms and realise that they are destined for the scrap heap before the promised apocalypse? Has it escaped the notice of Teal electorates that not only are emissions going to continue to rise due to our Pacific neighbour, but that a communist nation will control the future of Western energy security?
These decisions, made out of virtue, have consequences.