The process of elimination in climate war

Demand for lithium used in these EV batteries will create a variety of problems including environmental degradation

Imran Jan January 31, 2023
The author is a political analyst. Email: [email protected] Twitter @iamimranjan

A new report has entered the market this week. It’s called ‘Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining’. Here’s what it says in a nutshell: that the chronic American habit and dependence of automobiles must change and people must walk more and cities and towns must be redesigned so that commute changes. It also says that since American cars are transitioning from being run by oil to being run by electrically charged batteries, the demand for lithium that is used in these EV batteries is going to skyrocket tremendously. And then the report says that that is going to create a variety of problems such as environmental degradation resulting from mining, possible conflicts emerging from land rights, social inequality, and so forth. And then the report unleashed the big bomb: the world would not be able to achieve the global warming target of 1.5 Celsius as agreed to in the ambitious Paris Climate Agreement.

At the outset, it smells of fossil fuel paid propaganda. Usually, the first impressions are right. It’s the later nuances and twisted logics and arguments, which create another scenario in the minds of the readers and can even result in convincing the people that EVs are going to destroy the world. The fossil fuel industry has spent decades in denying, distracting, deflecting, debating, doubting and discrediting climate change as resulting from human activity and the use of fossil fuel to be more specific. The transportation sector is the biggest factor for the carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuel.

In order to gain credibility in its report, which The Guardian has titled with words such as “Revealed”, as if it’s the unquestionable finding, the report targets the fossil fuel industry indirectly as well. It says that the solution their model presents includes completely getting rid of the use of fossil fuel.

But it just reminded me of a childhood riddle. There is a tiger, a goat, and some grass. The goal is to transfer them all to the other side of the river in a boat without any party eating the other. But the maximum passengers that can travel are 3 including you being the manager of all this safe journey project. If you take the tiger and the goat on board, the tiger will eat the goat. If you take the goat and the grass onboard, the grass gets eaten. If you take the grass alone, the tiger eats the goat on the river bank. If you take the tiger alone, the goat eats the grass. But here’s the solution: you take the tiger and the grass onboard first. Park them on the other side of the river. Come back and pick up the goat. Problem solved.

What the purpose of such reports I believe is that it leaves the tiger with the goat alone. We are the goat and the fossil fuel industry is the tiger. Once we’re convinced that the EVs are actually destructive toward the planet in the form of mining, social inequalities, the crazy global demand for more lithium, supply bottlenecks, logistical disasters, and the planetary heating of over 1.5 Celsius, then we might not transition toward the EVs fully. And we just might focus more on, as the report recommends, walkable towns, reduced battery size, city density, more use of cycle, mass transit, fewer car ownership, and so forth.

The report argues that this would lower the demand for lithium. However, this doesn’t take into account the fact that some new invention might change the battery storage method. Therefore, changing the course of this EV transition would be a bad idea. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that people wouldn’t just start walking and biking to work and abandon the idea of favorite car ownership. Regardless, what the report just might do is to get rid of the grass (EVs) and leave us (goats) with the fossil fuel (tiger).

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2023.

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