Capitalist technology is already solving the climate crisis but Extinction Rebellion hasn’t noticed

It is irrelevant whether or not Tesla itself survives to reap the reward. Volkswagen and Daimler have turned their backs on the combustion engine for ever.  

Tesla has already unveiled its million-mile battery. Later this month it will unveil a 500 mile-range battery on a single charge, now becoming de rigueur for premium models. Lucid Air is already on 517 miles. Range angst is so passé. 

We flip instead in mounting angst over the nearest petrol station. They are already becoming scarcer in Norway, the EV laboratory. We flip too to angst over road  access, since no major city in Europe, California, New England, Japan, or China, and perhaps much of India too, will allow vehicles with an exhaust pipe into their air space much after 2030. Once the EV shift gets going, it will proceed with lighting speed.

Personally I share the emotional leanings of Extinction Rebels. I don’t like to see the planet trashed either. We used to call this sentiment conservationism, the natural reflex of Telegraph readers. However, I take umbrage at their assault on my journalistic free speech. I have been writing ‘green’ articles for this newspaper for a long time without ever encountering a murmur of editorial disapproval. We are a broad church.     

The Rebels have an inflated sense of their own significance, and they are late to the party. It is already five years since the catalytic shift of the Paris Agreement, with its in-built ratchet effects on emissions. A $90 trillion alliance (PRI) of global investors and wealth funds is already operating on the assumption that the fossil economy is in terminal run-off. 

Big Money switched its primary allegiance to the environmental cause long before the Rebels began their Ghandiesque offensive, and it did so not to save polar bears but because green energy is where future profit lies.

The Alpine gathering of the world financial elites in Davos has been a sanctum of climate correctness for a decade. Battered oil and gas executives huddle on the margins, complaining at the exorbitant cost of capital for drilling, lamenting that Big Wind can now raise equity and debt more cheaply than Big Oil.

Opec leaders buttonhole one at the blueberry, celery, and beet juice bar, plaintively explaining that an accelerated path to net-zero will leave a string of failed states across the Middle East and Africa, with northward migration to match. But nobody listens to them anymore. 

The global policy class has already digested the IPPC’s scientific warnings. They do not need Extinction Rebels to educate them on the consequences.

Not all states are acting on this known science, of course. China has again let rip on new coal plants, pointlessly, with 94 gigawatts in development this year. It emits more CO2 than Europe and America combined these days so Rebels might more usefully focus their efforts on Xi Jinping (if they dare) rather than on the sins of this post-industrial island, which has largely driven coal out of its power system and enacted the first legally binding net-zero plan for 2050 among major states. 

But there is a green China and a brown China, and the green forces will win because the Communist Party knows that the Tibetan glaciers are melting, the great rivers are going haywire, the aquifers of the North China Plain are being depleted, and the Chinese people are first in line for devastation if nothing is done.

In any case, China will soon be forced to the net-zero table. The EU is launching its green deal with a carbon border adjustment tax. The Biden campaign in the US has pledged its own variant under its net-zero plan, explicitly to “hold China accountable”. Chinese exporters will be squeezed out of the world’s two biggest markets unless Mr Xi puts a stop to gratuitous eco-vandalism.

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