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Climate Lockdowns? No thank you!

When something is classified as a global emergency, there aren’t very many limits to what those in power can do to address it. A global crisis can easily justify any form of political action, even climate lockdowns and phasing out of fossil fuels in a few short years.

Many believe climate-related lockdowns would be so unpopular that the citizenry would revolt. I’m not so sure that’s accurate considering the escalation of urgency over the last few years to address the “climate emergency” and the resulting move to shut down coal, oil, and natural gas supplies, particularly in Europe.

Call them lockdowns, restrictions, or carbon passports, if people are given a compelling reason they may obligingly follow.

The oil and gas industry must take this seriously and monitor the advancement of climate lockdowns so it is not caught off guard by this potential black swan event. If the lockdown movement is successful, oil and gas usage will decrease similar to the start of COVID-19, exposing the industry to substantial risk.

Some will say that I’m being conspiratorial, but don’t take my word for it; do your own research. I have included links to reference my work so people can draw their own conclusions, which may be different than mine. I encourage you to research further as these are only a small sampling of what is out there to suggest that climate-related restrictions are closer than we may believe.

The calls for redesigning systems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unrelenting, using innocuous-sounding slogans such as Build Back Better or the Great Reset. All proposals link dealing with COVID-19, addressing climate issues, and combating inequality as the noble end goal.

In December 2020, then President-Elect Joe Biden said, "We're in a crisis. Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change."

Germany’s new health minister Karl Lauterbach recently proclaimed that addressing climate change would require steps that are analogous to restrictions on personal freedom similar to those implemented to deal with pandemics.

Lauterbach isn’t the only European to call for climate-related restrictions. On September 22, 2020, London, UK-based professor Mariana Mazzucato published an article entitled “Avoiding a Climate Lockdown” in which she says, “in the near future, the world may need to resort to lockdowns again – this time to tackle a climate emergency.”

She goes on to say, “under a “climate lockdown,” governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling. To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.”

Think her ideas are too radical for her to be taken seriously? In June 2021, the Government of British Columbia announced they would be “teaming up” with Mazzucato and her team to “advise the B.C. government as it develops its plan to build a sustainable, inclusive and innovative economy.” Some of her suggested changes to capitalism are worthy of consideration, but they don’t require a climate lockdown to implement.

Executing climate lockdowns won’t be as difficult as you may think, both politically and technologically.

As far back as July 2006, the UK government’s environment secretary was evaluating how to impose limits on how much carbon a person could output: “a credit card-style trading system would ensure that people pay for air travel, electricity, gas and petrol with carbon rations as well as cash, under the plans.”

Similar to carbon offset trading done by businesses, a concept given renewed life at COP26 in November 2021, it would work by allocating a personal carbon allowance to all citizens, based on national targets for cutting CO2 emissions. Those who use less carbon could sell their surplus credits on the open carbon market to people who need them. To avoid shenanigans, it would be illegal to purchase the stated items without swiping your card.

This idea was brought up again by UK MPs in 2008, championed by a Conservative Party MP; however, it was considered “ahead of its time”.

Fast-forward to August 2021, and the journal Nature Sustainability released an article renewing calls for personal carbon allowances.

Technology like Visa Eco Benefits and Mastercard’s Carbon Calculator are making it possible to implement carbon budget programs as people can now voluntarily track their carbon emissions – it isn’t a big leap to make it mandatory. Visa’s new card includes a carbon footprint calculator and the ability to offset the impacts of cardholders’ GHG emissions, all part of becoming a “climate positive” company.

Closer to home, Canada’s governing Liberals have been pushing government-controlled climate change policy since taking over office in 2015. Their 2021 re-election platform even called for nationalizing the electricity grid to get to net-zero power.

Imagine if the government controlled how much electricity you could access each month?

In some provinces in China, they don’t have to imagine. They’re experiencing power curtailments to meet the government’s 2021 three percent emission reduction target.

With the Canadian government releasing another ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels (739 Mt CO2 equivalent) by 2030 knowing that past targets haven’t been successfully met, how long before thoughts percolate of curtailment in parts of the country that use a lot of fossil fuels to generate electricity? Since the new plan was submitted to the United Nations in July 2021, the government will feel pressure to meet their commitments and may use that to justify curtailments.

To help track emissions, there’s a push for “carbon labelling” that identifies the carbon footprint from making the product you are purchasing so you can track your climate impact.

If you can easily track it, that means government and businesses with the right technology can track it too, which should cause you to pause, considering the Simon Fraser University assistant professor interviewed in a McLean’s article on the topic advocated for a mandated, government-led carbon labelling approach.

How long before that becomes irresistible to politicians?

And what happens if your carbon footprint is deemed too large?

What if they don’t like what you’re buying?

“Big Tech” already shuts down accounts of people who say things they don’t like; what stops Visa or Mastercard from cancelling your card if they don’t like what you’re purchasing?

While these ideas may seem fringe, radical, or conspiratorial right now, they’re being discussed in the inner circles of climate zealots. How long before they get into the mainstream zeitgeist and become accepted policy to help stave off the global climate crisis?

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