A recent Daily Telegraph front page nicely encapsulated the sense of denial that still abounds over climate change.
A picture of devastation was accompanied by the headline: "The thriving community turned into a wasteland by Sandy," below the second story: "Death knell for wind farms."Hurricane Sandy blew in causing devastation across the US, just as the presidential election campaign was entering its final week. A campaign incidentally that had not featured climate change as a topic at all. The one politician to push the issue forward was not surprisingly Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg who saw the ravages being caused at first hand as a result of the effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, in sleepy hollow, otherwise known as the right wing of the Conservative Party, the new minister of state for the environment John Hayes was attacking wind turbines. Hayes gave a speech sounding the death knell for wind turbines, something the right of the Conservative Party and assorted odd bod celebrities have been campaigning to achieve for some time.
It remains extraordinary that the biggest threat facing the very survival of human kind today, namely climate change can still be treated with the gravity of a VI form debate.
In Little England the climate change deniers are still getting a disproportionate share of air time to put their side of the argument.
The lords of balance at the BBC have played a particularly active part in continuing to maintain the farce that there are two sides to this argument. The nature of this process is not just evident as climate change deniers, who receive some support from the oil, gas and other energy companies, are pitched against those who claim it is happening.
Another more subtle approach has crept in whereby climate catastrophe, whether drought, hurricane or storm are reported as isolated and separate incidents. There is no narrative joining these happenings together - the words climate and change in some cases seem deliberately to have been removed from the vocabulary.
The approach is difficult to understand. As scientists have been warning for some time now, there needs to be urgent action taken to address climate change. It really is the most indulgent form of naval gazing to still be arguing over whether it is happening or not. From the residents of New York who have been blown out of their homes to humble allotment holders like myself the evidence is clear for all to see.
This year has come as a rude shock to those of us with dreams of becoming self-sufficient and growing our own food. The drastic change in climate, from drought to flood has made growing vegetables desperately difficult. In the south, we have managed to come through with some decent crops, other allotment holders though living further north simply gave up due to the effects of the weather. It was simply too wet.
And these type of dramatic variants in climate look set to continue over the coming years. Growing your own in the future is going to become far more difficult. The change is not, as some tabloids would have us believe, all about a warming climate that will turn UK beaches into Mediterranean idylls, with vines growing inland.
What is difficult to understand is why the public discourse as undertaken in the media, involving the political class remains so backward. In the UK, steps have been taken to address climate change such as big investments in renewables, though this has been reined back since the present government took office. Chancellor George Osborne appears to be a committed member of the climate sceptic club. He neither seems to accept the threat or want to embrace the opportunity that green technology offers for economic growth. The UK has been retreating from the field when it comes to green technology, leaving it to the likes of Germany to once again take the lead.
The public debate needs to move way beyond tepid acceptance of maybe climate change is happening. No house should be being built now without full insulation and equipped with solar energy. The impetus needs to return to the renewables market.
Then there is the incredible amount of hot air being expended discussing where airport capacity can be expanded. This is totally unrealistic; the world has already reached the point of peak oil. The next few years are going to see oil exploration becoming increasingly desperate and expensive. As oil prices rise there will come a time when the tax payer is no longer willing to continue to subsidise air travel to the extent it does today. The cost of air travel will rise inexorably and reduce accordingly. Any new airport built now will be seen as a huge white elephant in 20 years’ time. Indeed, the way the airport debate is conducted, with the accepted truth being that passenger growth will continue forever, serves only to expose the land of denial most politicians inhabit.
The only place seemingly more backward on climate change than the UK is the US, where despite the devastation caused by Sandy the country seems to live in a collective denial. For a politician to discuss seriously addressing climate change is about as popular as advocating the abolition of the death penalty. The only hope can be that the words of Mayor Bloomberg and the devastation caused by increasing numbers of hurricanes do one day help the penny to drop.
The US is a huge carbon consumer and polluter that needs to accept the realities and act accordingly if the world is ever to seriously address climate change. Elsewhere, real steps need to be taken – the fundamental nature of the shift required in all our lives just to have any chance of survival needs to be accepted and most importantly seriously acted upon.
Morning Star - 12/11/2012