In the poor, but mineral-rich mountains of the eastern United States known as Appalachia, coal millionaire Don Blankenship hosts a rally for “Friends of America” to hear country music and “learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.”
On the other side of the globe, with an eye on his venture in an Australian port town known both as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a smokestack industry haven, aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska battles that nation’s program to address climate change as “destructive for jobs, destructive for new and existing investment.”
And in China, ambitious renewable electricity plans look like an important step toward tackling global warming, but progress lags due to built-in and deeply entrenched favoritism for cheaper fossil fuel. “There’s no need for anyone to get over-excited,” says Lu Qizhou, the government appointee who heads China’s big power industry group. Change from the coal-fired energy system will be slow and won’t outpace “the market’s ability to cope.”
Around the world the story is the much same. Wherever nations have taken the first modest steps to stave off a looming environmental calamity for future generations, they’ve triggered a backlash from powers rooted in the economy of the past. Opponents of climate action may have different methods as they pressure different capitals, but the message is consistent: Be afraid that a cherished way of life may be lost. Be afraid that a better standard of living will never be had.