Donnerstag, 17. März 2022

#PutinsWar in Ukraine...Fossil Fuel War With The Climate Losing

Another New York Times "Debatable" newsletter in my inbox...Again it's about #PutinsWar in the #Ukraine.Today it's about the effectiveness of sanctions in the light of an important sector not yet been shut. The complete stop of oil and gas imports from Russia remains for a majority of observers the only way to keep Putin at bay, - beside the No Flight Zone as Ukrainian's most urgent demand to keep the Russians out of their sky, which has been refused out of fear to enter WWIII and to risk the use of nuclear weapons.

But how is it possible to become independent from Russia's oil and gas in the first place? How long will it take? How many other dependencies will be created? And above all, which consequences will the transition of becoming less dependent have for our climate?

March 16, 2022

  Illustration by The New York Times; Photography by Sean Gallup, Johanna Geron, Scott Olson, and Mikhail Klimentyev, via Getty Images


By Spencer Bokat-Lindell

Staff Editor, Opinion

At the end of February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, released a scientific report warning that the dangers of global warming are mounting so rapidly that adapting to them could soon become impossible. “Delay,” the U.N. secretary general said of the findings, “means death.”

The report came out just days after President Vladimir Putin of Russia began his assault on Ukraine, so the world’s attention was understandably trained elsewhere. But soon enough, commentators began pointing out the role that Russia’s fossil fuel trade has played in underwriting the invasion, thrusting climate change and its causes back into the spotlight.

“The world is paying Russia $700 million a day for oil and $400 million for natural gas,” Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, told The New Yorker this month. “You are paying all this money to a murderous leader who is still killing people in my country.”

How is the war in Ukraine shaping the politics of fossil fuel dependency, and how might the conflict advance or hobble the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Here’s what people are saying.

This is a fossil fuel war’

One of the largest producers of fossil fuels in the world, Russia is highly dependent on its energy trade, with fossil fuels accounting for almost half of its exports and 28 percent of its federal budget in 2020.

Unlike the United States, the European Union has not banned imports of Russian oil and gas, and it’s no secret why: Europe relies on Russia for about one-third of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas. (The United States, by contrast, gets none of its natural gas and only about 3 percent of the oil it consumes from Russia.)

Germany is especially dependent on Russian fossil fuels; it is Europe’s largest energy consumer and Russia’s most important customer. That dependence deepened after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in 2011, when Angela Merkel committed to closing all of Germany’s nuclear plants. (The powerful earthquake that struck the same region of Japan on Wednesday was significantly less violent than the one that caused the 2011 disaster and does not appear to have damaged the country’s nuclear plants, even as it left two million homes without power.) Russia now supplies more than half of Germany’s gas, half of its coal and about a third of its oil, according to Bloomberg.

Until recently, German leaders didn’t see this dependency as a problem. As Alec McGillis explains in The New Yorker, Germany actually chose to rely on Russia “because it saw the economic links created by fuel imports — physical links, in the form of pipelines through Eastern Europe and under the Baltic Sea — as integral to keeping peace and integrating Russia into the rest of Europe.”

The big picture: In the view of Svitlana Krakovska, Ukraine’s leading climate scientist, who helped finalize the I.P.C.C. report from Kyiv as Russia invaded, the war on her home country is inextricably linked to climate change. “Burning oil, gas and coal is causing warming and impacts we need to adapt to,” she told The Guardian. “And Russia sells these resources and uses the money to buy weapons. Other countries are dependent upon these fossil fuels; they don’t make themselves free of them. This is a fossil fuel war. It’s clear we cannot continue to live this way. It will destroy our civilization.”

How the war could spur climate action

In the immediate term, Germany and others could take measures to reduce their consumption of Russian fossil fuels, as the Times columnist Paul Krugman explains. Eliminating their use, though, would incur steep costs to the German people equivalent to those of a moderate recession.

“It’s not so simple to just say, ‘OK, overnight, now we’re going to suddenly switch and no longer going to be dependent on natural gas from Russia,’ or fossil fuels in general,” Pete Ogden, vice president for energy, climate and the environment at the U.N. Foundation, told Yahoo News. “Right now, you’re seeing that vulnerability exposed and there not being easy, short-term fixes to that problem.”

But it’s evident that the fusion of foreign-policy and climate interests has lent more political momentum to decarbonization. Germany, for its part, just earmarked 200 billion euros for investment in renewable energy production between now and 2026. “Many of the strategies to lower dependency on Russia are the same as the policy measures you want to take to lower emissions,” Thijs Van de Graaf, a professor of international politics at Ghent University, told The Financial Times. “At the moments where we have these crises, the [energy] transition can be supercharged.”

The European Union has vowed to slash Russian natural gas imports by two-thirds by next winter and to cut them out entirely by 2027. “That would be an extremely ambitious timetable in peacetime, but if the continent shifts to a war footing — as it must, with a savage conflict playing out on its eastern borders — then it should be achievable,” The Boston Globe editorial board writes.

Key to the transition, the board adds, is increasing American production of minerals and metals required for renewable energy technology. Russia is a key supplier of those materials, so the West needs to ensure it doesn’t become just as reliant on Russia for clean energy production as it is now for fossil fuels.

In The Times, Simone Tagliapietra, Georg Zachmann and Morgan Bazilian call for a pact between North America and Europe to help the continent reduce its short-term dependence on Russian fuel. “Such a pact could also build an important foundation for cooperation in clean energy innovation and deployment and reducing energy demand in the longer term — which would significantly enhance Europe’s energy security,” they write.

Four ways the war could derail climate action instead

Fossil fuels — not renewable energy — end up filling the void. As energy prices soar, some fossil fuel executives have seized on the crisis as a business opportunity. At CERAWeek, an annual energy conference that was held in Houston this month, climate change was supposed to feature heavily. Instead, Kate Aronoff reports for The New Republic, the focus shifted to increased domestic fossil fuel production.

“An industry that’s spent the last two years and billions of dollars trying to convince the world that it can ‘decarbonize hydrocarbons’ is much too savvy to brag about all the money to be made off a humanitarian catastrophe,” she writes. “Accordingly, the message fossil fuel execs pivoted to, as Russian troops crept further into Ukraine, is that they’re patriots, standing ready to meet the world’s energy needs and build American ‘energy independence.’”

Countries rethink their priorities. As politicians divert their attention to the invasion, investment in climate mitigation and adaptation could find themselves on the back burner, usurped by the perceived need for greater military spending. And militaries are highly energy-intensive: According to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the Pentagon’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 exceeded those of entire industrialized countries, such as Sweden, Denmark and Portugal.

“If war wins, climate action loses,” Andrew Sheng writes for The Jakarta Post. “Increased defense expenditure will accelerate energy and nonrenewable material consumption” as well as push up emissions, “thus diverting scarce resources away from climate action.”

The United States continues to suffer from political gridlock. While the Biden administration has made ambitious promises to transition the country to net-zero emissions by 2050, his climate legislation has been held up for months by members of his own party, and the crisis in Ukraine has done nothing to move that particular needle.

Even Biden himself has been wary of connecting the war in Ukraine to climate change. In his State of the Union address, he made glancing mention of the issue, but “did not articulate the long-term opportunity for the U.S. to lead the world in breaking free of the geopolitical nightmare that is oil dependency,” said Paul Bledsoe, a strategic adviser to the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

One explanation for the reticence: During a midterm election year, the administration is worried about being blamed for rising gas prices. Even in deep-blue California, the issue is being treated as a political liability.

Military conflict crowds out cooperation. As my colleague Ezra Klein said on a recent episode of his podcast with the economic historian Adam Tooze, the goal of global decarbonization can be met only if countries work together. But “the hotter conflict gets, the harder cooperation gets,” he noted.

It bodes ill, then, that Russia, as one of the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, is vital to the international effort to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, and has so far shown a “critically insufficient” commitment to that, according to Climate Action Tracker. If climate diplomacy was halting during peacetime, what chance is there for it now?

Tooze, however, was more optimistic than Klein about the prospects for decarbonization in an era of renewed great-power competition. International cooperation is important, but “if you take the climate problem as seriously as I think we have to at this point and as seriously as I think big parts of the leadership in China increasingly are, it’s a national interest issue,” he said. “You do it because you’ve got to do it.”


- Sanctions, Boycotts, Bans - Cancel culture as reaction to #PutinsWar?/ 09.03.2022

- War / 03.03.2022

- War on the horizon???/04.02.2022 



Mittwoch, 9. März 2022

Sanctions, Boycotts, Bans - Cancel culture as reaction to #PutinsWar?

Week 2 of  Putin's senseless War against Ukraine has come to an end and we are witnessing already the start of the third week of a war which noone wanted to have, despite Mr.Putin and his political apparatus. 

However, economic sanctions will be felt not only by Mr.Putin and his puppets, they will hit eventually the population, the first ones are already to be felt. No facebook, no twitter, no MacDonalds...Discussions are in full swing everywhere as to which extent Russian culture too will have to be avoided, excluded or even cancelled.....

March 9, 2022

 Russian-German pianist Igor Levit, left, and Russian sopranoa Anna Netrebko.Illustration by The New York Times; Photography by Stefanie Loos, Angelos Tzortzinis and mikroman6 via Getty Images


Author Headshot

By Spencer Bokat-Lindell

Staff Editor, Opinion

A specter is haunting Russia — the specter of cancellation.

As Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine enters its third week, conscientious consumers and businesses across the West have retaliated through what can be described only as a mass cultural boycott.

In Russia, Disney and Warner Bros. have paused theatrical releases, and McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have suspended their business operations. In the United States, liquor stores and supermarkets have pulled Russian vodka from their shelves, and the Metropolitan Opera cut ties with one of its most acclaimed sopranos after she criticized the war but refused to distance herself from Putin. And in the international arena, Eurovision, FIFA and the Paralympic Games have banned Russians from participating in this year’s competitions.

Are these informal sanctions of Russian culture and business justified, and can they alter the course of the war? Or are these histrionic gestures that risk stigmatizing an entire population for the crimes of one autocrat? And what does the invocation of “cancel culture” — as both a rhetorical cliché and a material phenomenon — reveal about the way the war is being metabolized through social media? Here’s what people are saying.

The case for cancellation

About a century ago, sanctions emerged on the world stage as an alternative to conventional warfare, an “economic weapon” intended to impose such a high burden on a country’s political elite that it would be forced to change its behavior. While conceived as a tool to be wielded by nation-states against other nation-states, they can also be levied — however haphazardly — by nonstate actors against other nonstate actors, as we’re now seeing.

In the arts, Javier C. Hernández reports for The Times, organizations are facing pressure from donors, board members, audiences and social media users to fire Russian artists who do not distance themselves from Putin or fail to speak out with sufficient fervor against the war. Such campaigns are not unprecedented, as some commentators have pointed out.

But vetting artists for their political beliefs and ties raises difficult questions. “What is the point at which cultural exchange — always a blur between being a humanizing balm and a tool of propaganda, a co-opting of music’s supposed neutrality — becomes unbearable?” asks Zachary Woolfe, The Times’s classical music editor. “What is sufficient distance from authoritarian leadership? And what is sufficient disavowal, particularly in a context when speaking up could threaten the safety of artists or their families?”

For the Russian-born pianist Igor Levit, the issue isn’t so complicated. “Being a musician does not free you from being a citizen, from taking responsibility,” he commented on his Instagram account, adding the #StandWithUkraine hashtag. “Remaining vague when one man, especially the man who is the leader of your home country, starts a war against another country and by doing so also causes greatest suffering to your home country and your people is unacceptable.”

Others have argued that athletics are the better cultural theater in which to wage war against Putin. “Sanctions against Putin in the sphere of games have a reach unlike any other because they leave him sweatingly exposed to the only audience he really fears or courts: the Russians in the street,” Sally Jenkins argues in The Washington Post. “His brand of shirtless belligerent patriotism — his macho nationalism — has been a long con, and it’s no small thing to knock him off medal podiums and expose the lifts in his shoes, or to rip off his judo belt and show the softening of his belly and, in turn, weaken his influence.”

So far, the cultural backlash doesn’t seem to have done much to get Putin to change course — and may even be playing into his preferred narrative of Russia being victimized by the West.

Yet the longer the country’s cultural isolation persists, “the more chance such measures have of breaking through the state’s narrative,” Yasmeen Serhan writes for The Atlantic. “If ordinary Russians can no longer enjoy many of the activities they love, including things as quotidian as watching their soccer teams play in international matches, seeing the latest films, and enjoying live concerts, their tolerance for their government’s isolationist policies will diminish.”

The risk of a new Russophobia

When holding a country’s people responsible for the transgressions of its political system, how do you decide whom it’s fair to punish? In Russia’s case, the economist Tyler Cowen argues that you can’t.

“It is simply not possible to draw fair or accurate lines of demarcation,” he writes in Bloomberg. “What about performers who may have favored Putin in the more benign times of 2003 and now are skeptical, but have family members still living in Russia? Do they have to speak out?”

Another question: “Who exactly counts as Russian? Ethnic Russians? Russian citizens? Former citizens? Ethnic Russians born in Ukraine?”

Tricky moral calculus aside, the utility of these informal sanctions is still very much in doubt. “None of these measures will reduce the Ukraine war’s life span by a minute, let alone a day,” Jack Schafer argues in Politico. “It would be a mistake to even proclaim these gestures symbolic because they don’t really symbolize anything meaningful about the war,” he adds, noting that only about 1.5 percent of all vodka consumed in the United States comes from Russia.

At worst, critics warn that these cancellation campaigns directed at ordinary Russians could backfire. “Contrary to expectations, making life harder for the population can bind them to the rulers who blame outside interference,” writes Samuel Goldman, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University. “Even when sanctions succeed in destabilizing the regimes they target, new dictators may come to power under conditions of economic collapse and social disorder.”

A potential rise in anti-Russian bigotry is another concern. Already in the West, The Washington Post reports, people of Russian descent or association are reporting a rise in discriminatory attacks, comments and refusals of service from local businesses. In New York City, some Russian restaurants have seen a decline in customers.

What might a more targeted informal sanctions regime look like? In Mondoweiss, Jonathan Ofir, an Israeli-born musician, suggests looking to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which calls — controversially, to be sure — for an end to the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian land captured in 1967, among other demands. The B.D.S. movement claims to reject on principle boycotts based on individuals’ identities, opinions or mere affiliation with Israeli cultural institutions. Rather, only those who represent the State of Israel or participate in Israel’s efforts to “rebrand” its occupation are targeted for sanctions.

Insofar as measures are being taken against Russians with no apparent ties to their leader, “the B.D.S. movement takes a softer boycott than what was applied to apartheid South Africa, and than the one now readily applied to Russia,” Ofir says.

When it comes to Russian goods, though, the biggest pressure point is fossil fuels, which are not within the average person’s ability to boycott. President Biden did take the striking step on Tuesday of banning imports of Russian oil and natural gas. But Europe, which is much more dependent on Russian energy, has not yet demonstrated the same resolve, and continues to pay Russia hundreds of millions of dollars every day for fuel.

From culture war to actual war

As Kyle Chayka writes for The New Yorker, the invasion of Ukraine is by no means the first conflict to play out over social media. But it is perhaps the first war to be mediated primarily by content creators and live-streamers rather than by traditional news organizations.

As people and institutions watch the war get spun into content in real time, they react to it as social media has trained them to: through arguably superficial displays of solidarity, entreaties to practice self-care, the reflexive lionization of political figures, Twitter clapbacks (in one case, between the Russian and German Embassies in South Africa), and a desperate desire to be — or at least appear — useful.

The cancellation of Russian cultural figures and products can be understood as a successive step in this familiar choreography. “This is the globalization of moral outrage,” the Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes. “It goes from watching a short video online showing Russian soldiers firing on a Ukrainian nuclear energy facility to an employee posting that video on his or her Facebook page to a group of employees emailing their bosses or going on Slack — not to ask their C.E.O.s to do something but to tell them they have to do something or they will lose workers and customers.”

This decentralized response — “a kind of global ad hoc pro-Ukraine-resistance-solidarity-movement,” as Friedman calls it — is arguably quite inspiring. But there’s a danger to it too, Friedman warns: While nation-states may choose to lift their sanctions at some point for realpolitik reasons, everyone else may not.

“When Anonymous, the global hacker consortium, announced that it was attempting to take down Russian websites, that was not by government order; it just acted on its own,” he writes. “Who does Russia call to get Anonymous to accept a cease-fire?”



“To Boycott Russians, or Not? In Film and Beyond, That’s the Question.” [The New York Times]


Related Debates:

- War/03.03.2022

- War on the horizon???/04.02.2022