Originally appeared in Foreign Policy, July 14, 2022.
Few should be surprised that, facing energy shortages and rising costs for fuel and electricity, rich countries are turning back to more and dirtier fossil fuels. To compensate for the slowdown in Russian gas deliveries—and to replace clean energy lost due to its shutdown of nuclear power—Germany is firing up coal plants previously scheduled for closure. Countries such as Norway, Britain, and the United States are all ramping up oil and gas production. Some European countries are even burning fuel oil again to generate electricity. The resurgence of carbon-intensive energy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and the resulting rise in emissions—shows that when economic growth and energy security are under threat, growth and security will beat out climate policies every time, what the political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. dubbed the iron law. So the current crisis means energy security is again taking precedence, and climate commitments will have to wait.
While this change makes sense in Berlin or Oslo, it looks very different when viewed from Dakar or Abuja.