The world belongs to the next generation. Yet, according to the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, the issue of climate change seems almost designed to dampen the motivation to address it on the part of the humans living in the global north who cause it.
“… if you kind of search the whole globe for the one problem that would maximize human apathy you would come up with global warming, right? It is, as you said, it is long in the future, it will happen to other people first, we do not see it progressing, it does not have a face. And anything we would do is a drop in the bucket, right. And you could contrast it with, what happens when one guy gets on one plane with a small bomb in his shoe, right? It is clearly terrible, but since then we all take our shoes off every time we go on a flight, right? Clearly taking an action. Global warming, if you believe the science, is a much bigger risk than one person going on the plane with a small bomb in his shoe, but we do not react to it. It does not have the same emotional reaction.”
In 2012, Cameron sacked a green energy minister, Charles Hendry, and appointed a climate change sceptic, Owen Paterson, as environment secretary. Has flooding in Somerset, which has followed the pattern predicted by climate change scientists, helped our scientists convince the politicians to use the media to urge the public to give them a mandate for change? Or persuaded the media to help the scientists push the fossil-fuel lobbyists away from the politicians ears? Or whichever way round it is?
Here’s Conservative Community Secretary of State Eric Pickles in The Telegraph defending the aid budget with loose reference to helping to alleviate the effects of global warming in Somerset (I’m not so convinced by the way the Telegraph spun that, actually). Cheering.
Not good: this week The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 gave a lot of airtime to pro-fossil fuel lobbyist and anti-scientist Lord Nigel Lawson. From Transition Network co-founder Rob Hopkins’ complaint:
“I usually enjoy the Today Programme, but today I could quite happily have hurled my radio from the window into the unseasonal hail storm lashing the windows outside. There is no need for “balance” in pieces about climate change. Does the BBC now feel compelled to have someone who thinks that smoking is good for you every time smoking is discussed? Are we now to expect a member of Occupy to be offered the right of reply every time Robert Peston discusses the economy? The BBC has a duty to reflect reality, rather than allowing dinosaurs like Lord Lawson to fill the airwaves with unscientific and deeply-irresponsible views.”
“The problem is that either denial or dither on climate change will damage the country. Denial is damaging because it means you won’t take the steps necessary, but dither is damaging, too, because it means you are half-hearted about taking the necessary measures.
“The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change.”
Their economic policies contradict this, though, and will continue to until braver leaders – or leaders who become brave – steer us clear of this moribund consumption-driven global business model. Though I have little faith in the Green Party, here is the Green Party’s 10 Step Plan on flood resilience.
Finally, a nod to my long-held cause, people who are serious greenhouse gas emissions stop eating animal because – among all the other good reasons like suffering, water abuse and biodiversity loss – animal farming contributes a huge share of greenhouse gas emissions and is calculated to grow 70% by 2050.