At the latest since the 1970s experts have known what causes climate change, into what catastrophe it will lead if unhindered and what one can do to mitigate it.
Contrary to NPPs and large hydraulic power plants, to acid rain, fine dust, deforestation and other environmental problems, the climate catastrophe was only difficult to grasp because the damage was once in the distant future.
In the meantime, the future is here. Individual heat records, aridity, forest fires are just signals, not yet the death knell. There probably will not be a knell, it will be a stealthy decline with fluctuations. Every cool year will milden the pressure a little.
But time will be merciless: we have lost 40 years, another 40 years are not so far away. My daughter is lying next to me on the sofa while I write this. She has her first school holidays. In 40 years she will be as old as I am now and in the prime of life. Until then we will have missed the 2-degree goal.
That was a shimmer of hope in science for so long: a limitation of the temperature increase to 2 degrees is feasible, the negative consequences can be handled, at least for the rich nations and they ultimately decide about the CO2 emissions. Well, politics has messed up. “Feasible” always meant: we still have time. Until we now have none left. And the reactionaries are not rethinking either, as they would then have to admit mistakes. No matter whether it is Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Sebastian Kurz or Norbert Hofer: they are all continuing the overheating policy, even scrapping initial successes. We will therefore miss the 2-degree goal and our children will live in the climate catastrophe.
The Spiegel magazine wrote this week: “At 3 degrees, according to Robert Watson, who used to look for solutions to climate change, as it is called to play it down, at the United Nations, the coastal towns of the world will be lost, possibly New York, Hamburg, Calcutta, Bangkok and many more. At four degrees there will be permanent aridity in Europe, wide parts of China, India and Bangladesh will become deserts, the south-west of the USA will become uninhabitable. At five degrees, so say some of the leading scientists, it threatens the end of humanity.”
And somewhere on the internet I read this week fittingly: it is bizarre that precisely those who are afraid of each individual migrant are responsible in future for the largest migration movement of all times. Yes, it is bizarre and it will be a catastrophe with a run-up.
And the ecological political movements are in crisis. Of course, there are counter-examples, currently especially Groenlinks in the Netherlands, but one must view it all specifically from a European perspective: it is not even two years ago that the Austrian Green Party was celebrated worldwide as a model after the election victory of VdB. Well, we were not so far up at the time as many believed. After the National Council election, we are not as far down as some might wish.
But the global overall picture is: ecological parties must reinvent themselves. We must do so because our most important strategy has been tested extensively and has failed: clarification about environmental protection does not lead to political pressure and other political action. I say often with an apologetic smile: we are a teacher party. We believe that we can make the world better by conveying knowledge alone. However, everyone knows about the climate catastrophe, everyone can see it, 97% of scientists agree and apart from a few extreme rightists and neoliberal lobbyists nobody disputes it – but knowledge alone is not enough. Explanation is not enough. That is sobering and presents a challenge to the self-understanding of many in the Green Party, Europe-wide. A democracy in which we establish ourselves in terms of content not with facts and discourse but with a power struggle and elbows… that is simply not ours.
And I watch the rightists how they persevere with their nationalistic, populist, racist, corporation-favouring, short-sighted politics on the back of the poorest and on top of that shout in their faces “We are the people”, whilst under practically every posting by a progressive someone else writes underneath: well I can find a perspective with which one can take it apart in a more differentiated manner. As if it were a sport. 400-metre brain-screwer hurdles, one lap and at the end you are standing where you were at the beginning (yes, the 400-metre stretch is an oval, not a circle. That’s what I mean.)
The climate catastrophe is coming and it will wash that away. There will be no time to run many laps, we will have to implement solutions and there will be hard confrontations.
If the temperature in our towns rises, we will need local solutions to keep it bearable. A tree replaces several air conditioning units, we will be forced to plant hundreds of thousands in our communities. Plant green facades and public spaces, from the bus stop to the strip of grass between the rail tracks. We will have to make regulations: when I drive through Austria I see a roundabout before almost every village, some supermarkets on almost every roundabout (only accessible by car) and in front of each supermarket large tarmac areas. They will have to be planted. And not only will there not be more, there will be less. No market and no individual consumer behaviour can regulate this. It is regulated by spatial planning, which is a state and municipality matter in Austria. Yes, the climate catastrophe would have been a global task and to limit it is also. However, managing its effects is local policy. Green policy. The Lobau tunnel, the third runway at Schwechat, the transit in the Alps – those are our battles and they will become harder.
The climate catastrophe is the greatest challenge of the forthcoming decades and the justification for the existence of the Green Party. But it is not an isolated theme. One cannot do “only” environmental policy. Just one example: at the TTIP negotiations, the USA insisted on the massive coal and fracking oil exports to Europe, furthermore agricultural products from the extremely environmentally damaging production method. TTIP was trade politics. However, preventing TTIP was an important ecological success. There is no political theme that is networked closer with all the others than environmental policy and that is also logical. Nor can one focus on this topic only in communication: because explanation alone is not enough.
People keep on asking me whether it frustrates and tires me. The former yes, the latter no. It agitates me and gives me strength. I went to the Green Party because I wanted to resist. Because I was dissatisfied.
That was after the formation of the first black-blue coalition and therefore approximately concurrent with Sebastian Kurz joining the ÖVP. We did the exact opposite: how one can be so fascinated by power to go to the stronger ones, to those with their finger on the button, is totally incomprehensible to me, but it explains how he governs.
For me it is the opposite: if there were powers that be that I support, I would do something else with my life and as a politically interested person nag bout the details. But it is the reactionaries, the corporation lobbyists, the neo-fascists, the environmental destroyers at the helm, our prospects are dim and it will be a long, tough, hard and uncertain battle. So just looking on is not enough. Do it yourself.
My political role models are two Austrians: Friedrich August von Hayek and Terezija Stoisits.
I have an image in my mind of Terezija, from the early 1990s, when she was standing at the lectern of the National Council and was raging about some injustice, beating her fist on the lectern, and I just thought: there is someone fighting. I had faith in it. I listened closer and therefore voted Green before joining myself.
Hayek was an economist and the leading pioneer of neoliberalism. Today his ideas dominate world politics, but when he set out in the 1920s and 30s the political debate was dominated by socialism and welfare state ideas. It stayed like that until the 1970s, but Hayek never gave up fighting and it must have seemed like fighting windmills for decades. In 1944 he wrote “The Path to Servitude” about the fact that even the smallest state regulations are wrong. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher moved into Downing Street and threw the book on the table in her cabinet and said: “That is our government programme.”
35 years, and almost the same amount of time again, until this thought heritage was mainstream. Major political battles span generations, even if in the Facebook age hardly anyone takes the time anymore to read a long text. Somebody also in the next generation will have to be angry and pound their fist on the lectern. It could be you. Think about how far you have already read.

Posted by Michel Reimon