• Megan Parfitt

War and the energy crisis

After the COVID-19 hit, there was a glimpse of a new era of energy use and production. People were driving less, flying less, and using less energy in general. However, this seems to have become less of a reality since the war in Ukraine.



Days after the war in Ukraine began the IPCC released its 6th assessment report. It warned that insufficient action so far means some impacts of climate change are now irreversible, and there is only a brief window to avoid the worst of global warming. Eirini covered the effect of military emissions in a previous article found here, but the war has since had further consequences for our planet.


The EU is particularly vulnerable to Russia’s threat to natural gas supplies as it supplies 40% of its gas [1]. The low gas flow from Russia has caused a global energy crisis, causing prices of oil to drastically increase.


The pressure to find alternative energy suppliers to Russia means that governments are claiming that fossil fuels are still needed, if not more so. In fact, they are making questionable overtures such as reopening dormant coal, oil, and gas fields, reversing earlier fracking decisions, and mixing domestic methane gas with hydrogen [2].


Joe Biden seems to believe that now is in fact a good opportunity to progress towards net zero, vowing to eliminate reliance on Russian imports by 2027 [2]. But this view doesn’t seem to be shared by all. The UK government seem to pander to fossil fuel companies, by giving them windfall tax relief if they invested in further extraction [3]. This, and other governments send clear messages that when there are tough times, we need to increase the same fossil fuels that are driving the crisis. As we know, this will contribute to more extreme weather which in turn will result in further conflict and an endless downward spiral.


Switching to sustainable forms of energy is believed to take a long time and lots of money. However, the straightforward fact is that renewable energy is cheaper. Furthermore, energy-efficient measures can be implemented much faster than new fossil fuel extraction [4]. For us to truly tackle climate change, we need commitment, diplomacy and trust, something that seems to be quickly overshadowed by major conflict [4]. Yet, there does not need to be a choice, both can be addressed.


To begin with, our governments need to be pushed to resist replacing Russian fossil fuels with other fossil fuel sources. It is too ‘easy’ to replace with the familiar than replace the familiar with something altogether different. Now is the perfect opportunity to invest in wind farms, solar fields and hydroelectric dams. The world will not run out of sun, wind and water, unlike coal and oil, making logical alternates.


Another option would be for the implementation of economic sanctions - like those being used on the Russian government – to be implemented on those who continue to fuel climate change. Cutting off these massive corporations from the bank “would be revolutionary” [4].


The war in Ukraine is consistently getting worse, likely distracting leaders from other emergencies like climate change, yet there need not be a choice. Identifying steps which tackle both issues, like cutting dependencies on Russian energy by investing in sustainable alternatives will be the start of serious climate action.

References

[1] Ashkenaz A. UK to avoid Putin's EU Energy Wrath as huge new gas field found [Internet]. Express.co.uk. Express.co.uk; 2022 [cited 2022Oct1]. Available from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1580756/putin-eu-energy-wrath-uk-new-gas-field-found-under-north-sea-yamal-pipeline

[2] The war in Ukraine and climate change [Internet]. The War in Ukraine and Climate Change – tedNEWS Network. [cited 2022Oct1]. Available from: https://ted.adventist.org/news/the-war-in-ukraine-and-climate-change/

[3] Bourke I. Fracking and oil drilling doesn't just fail Britain, it fails the world [Internet]. New Statesman. 2022 [cited 2022Oct1]. Available from: https://www.newstatesman.com/quickfire/2022/09/new-fracking-uk-oil-drilling-britain

[4] Kenyon L. Laura Kenyon [Internet]. Greenpeace Canada. [cited 2022Oct1]. Available from: https://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/story/52575/war-ukraine-climate-fossil-fuels/