Ideology vs science: challenges and opportunities in environmental protectionBY MONICA TOMMASI

Leggi l’articolo in italiano 

Yesterday, June 5th, World Environment Day was celebrated to promote awareness of sustainable living and the protection of our planet. However, to achieve real results, it is crucial to abandon ideological approaches, adopt science-based policies, and, above all, aim for realistic goals.

After neglecting or underestimating the environmental dimension for a long time, the economy is seriously grappling with the environment in this century. However, politics is more focused on climate than the environment. In fact, starting from 2006, climate has been at the center of the policies of the UN, OECD countries, and especially the European Union, which has set very ambitious goals for emissions reduction and consumption, goals so ambitious and obsessive in terms of timing and methods that they have overlooked careful evaluation of social, economic, and even environmental aspects.


This happens due to an ideological and non-scientific approach: in public discourse, there is no environmental problem that is not caused by the climate crisis, even when blatant failures, such as the lack of risk prevention, from hydrogeological to seismic, risks are evident.

This excessive simplification of realitygoals so ambitious that they are unrealistic or even counterproductive – is leading many people to believe that the environment can be saved by applying soup to artworks or painting historical buildings, and that simply asking for the immediate abandonment of fossil fuels on TV or social media and the installation of numerous intermittent renewable energy plants, such as poles and panels, would be enough to save the planet.


But simple recipes do not work in a complex world, and the risk is twofold: first, an increase in environmental problems on the planet, and second, rejection by citizens due to policies based on prohibitions, obligations, and, above all, very high costs borne by the less affluent citizens. 


Dealing with the environment, on the other hand, means facing the challenges and doing so properly, being aware that no solution is without impact. For example, not all families will be able to make their homes energy-efficient, install solar panels on their roofs, or buy an electric car because, while it is true that the sun is free, the materials used in these technologies are not. Furthermore, there are not enough resources available for the entire population of the planet, while climate is a global issue, European countries can influence less than 8% of this issue.

In fact, the demand for metals in batteries and other green technologies to meet European climate goals will grow like never before in the coming decades, and we must therefore consider the impacts of their extraction as well as the Chinese monopoly on their processing chains.

We should also consider the recent prospect of exploiting ocean floors, which could be environmentally devastating as its impacts are still unknown. Moreover, we must not give up landscape protection and reducing land consumption: placing these green installations could have an environmental, social, and cultural cost that is too high, even in our own countries.

For these and other economic and social reasons, fossil fuels will last for a long time. It is important to use them in the best possible way, minimizing their impacts as much as possible. That is why, for Amici della Terra, the principles of technological neutrality and energy efficiency come first and foremost.

*Monica Tommasi is the President of Amici della Terra Italia and member of the Scientific Board at Competere. 

Join Our Community and Stay Up to DateSign up to receive weekly updates, thoughtful ideas, and exclusive invitations