Skip to main content

The prophets of doom?

Little has come from the Summit at Davos, or at least not much that indicates the major economies are coming together to tackle the pressing issue of our time: climate change. 

Political leaders are more interested in promoting growth in world trade than in tackling its environmental consequences.  They are fighting over tariffs, but none of them really wants to restrict world trade.  Yet, that is what needs to be done if they are to stop carbon emissions. 

A recent report for the OECD projected carbon emissions from global freight transport is set to increase four-fold over the next quarter of a century.  This has to be added to the carbon emissions from manufacturing.  

This is the carbon footprint of global trade.  Global trade is killing our planet, and there is little prospect of anything being done to stop it.

President Trump attacked the 'prophets of doom' and the 'pessimists' over climate change. The child, Greta Thunberg says action is required to stop carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, the real message gets buried.

This isn't a question of whether Trump is right or wrong. What matters to him isn't what matters to those fighting climate change. What matters to him is power and influence. His blustering, like that of Boris Johnson in the UK, speaks to his political base.

In democracies, the power to act is checked by the need for a mandate and for consent. This is difficult to achieve when the institutions of democracy in the 'free' world are under siege: parliaments, the press and media, judges.

The right-wing has created a fog of chaos, from which it is difficult for ordinary voters to engage with 'truth'.

"Listen to the science', loses its resonance when such experts are trashed daily on social media.

Sadly, in an age of populism, Trump is more likely to win than the climate activists. Trump speaks to his political base, but where is the political base for action to stop a climate catastrophe? Is it anywhere in the corridors of power? Is there a coalition of the willing able to gain enough votes for power to make a difference.

Does Greta Thunberg say how carbon emissions are to be stopped? For that is the problem: how?

I don't mean that climate activists don't have a set of policies. What I mean is how we translate that into real political action. 

Greta Thunberg is a trick, a ploy: "I am a child; it is not for me to find the solutions." But solutions must be found.

With the prospect of a Trump second term, the Democrats squabble their way through the primaries, ripping themselves apart in a process that will leave whichever candidate that emerges substantially damaged.

Greta Thunberg is correct: climate change isn't about left or right. But there is no prospect that the right-wing will come up with a solution. Only the left can do that.

If we go on playing this game of pitting simplicities against each other, then there is a danger that the message will be dismissed, and no prospectus agreed.

We must find positive action and a positive prospectus to win hearts and minds. Simply hectoring world leaders is not going to work.

Meanwhile, Brexit offers an opportunity.  The United Kingdom could take the next decade as an opportunity to rebalance its economy by making us more self-reliant and freeing us from 'free' global trade.  The EU also could take the opportunity to rethink its future, fostering locally sustainable industry and food supplies.   A real new deal in trade, protecting our environment.  

If this opportunity is taken, then there is hope.  Hope that we can escape the dependence on world trade.  

The EU is in some respects a busted flush.  It needs to find a new way forward.  We need to think small to dream big.   All across Europe, the political landscape is in turmoil.  But if we are to escape that turmoil we need a message of hope and a clear plan for the future.  It can be done; but not by holding on to old shibboleths. 

The world faces new challenges, not those of the 1940s.  We need to move forward with hope, not despair and build new international institutions to tackle the greater threat: climate change. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they