A lack of imagination hampers climate change policy

Scientists are revising their views about the pace of climate change and its consequences. The latest conference in Denmark leaks bad news every day. The scientists there believe that it will be difficult to hold the global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century – our chances of doing this are now only fifty – fifty. The sea level rises have been under estimated, and because the conversion of ice to water from the Polar is now becoming better understood and should now be taken into account. When doing so, projecting ahead, they foresee sea level rises of around a metre – which would put much of the world’s poor at direct risk and cost the world’s rich much of their wealth in protecting low lying areas.

I expect more bad news to come out of the conference and even worse news in the months ahead. I expect climatologists to better understand the effect of increased humidity in the atmosphere on the climate and this will give rise to warnings about the frequency of bad weather events and their individual longevity. I fear that the acidification of the oceans, caused by more fossil fuel burning, to have an effect on sea life. I fear planet air quality to be worsened by more fossil fuel burning and biomass burning, which will create more particulates and more health hazards in the future.

When new projections are reported by the media (and they are faithfully reported and commented upon) I sense a lack of imagination about the catastrophic consequences if the projections are true. I know that no-one wants to frighten the children or present a doom and gloom scenario, but we have to be aware of the nature of the problem of climate change and all its knock-on effects.

Of course, places like Bangladesh will be terribly devastated by sea level rises, causing death and misery for millions of people. That is bad enough. However, it seems that there is a lack of imagination as to how these events will create another separate chain of events which will end up on directly impacting upon our lives. If we have to accommodate say fifty million people who can no longer live on their land in Bangladesh because it is underwater, where will these people all go? Which nation will accept them, and on what terms? What happens if nations refuse to accept them?

It is one thing to lend your hose to your neighbour when his house is on fire, but what if your own house is also just starting to catch alight?

Many people will want to go to live with relatives who have moved to the developed nations, but the majority of the millions will pour into neighbouring countries, which will have to cope with this influx as well as their own climate change problems. Mass movements of people have rarely had a benign effect on the places to where people move, or to where they seek to move to. There have been many wars, genocides and devastation caused throughout history by these kinds of mass movements of population.

But there will also be problems in the developed nations. The coast of East Anglia will either need to be protected at massive cost or else another million people will have to be re-housed. There are millions of people living in Florida, and they may find their homes uninhabitable as a consequence of flooding or increased hurricane activity or both. Where will they go? Many came from New York, which will also be at peril.

I do not think that government policies take these consequences into account. The problem of climate change is not just about the consequences of climate change; it is about the consequences of the consequences.

This lack of imagination is probably the hardest thing to overcome when trying to persuade policy makers to implement real climate change measures. Governmental policy seems to be inadequate, when considering the knock on effects of climate change. In the United Kingdom the policy is very poor, yet the government has a self congratulatory view of its own climate change policy. Its policy of attempting to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 is clearly too little too late. It needs to bring the 80% reduction forward by at least twenty years.

UK climate change policy also lies uneasy with other governmental decisions; we can look at the plans to build a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth, the approval of another runway at Heathrow Airport, a failed emissions trading scheme and all the climate change consultations which continue what is the real policy – talking about global warming and living life as normal founded upon more and more growth rather than implementing any real measures to deal with global warming.

Instead of never putting off to tomorrow what you can do today, we seem to have governments all over the world refusing to do today what they can put off until tomorrow. Climate change measures are weak, uncoordinated and more protective of vested interests than they are of the planet.

Ultimately any climate change policies must be founded on measures to reduce emissions produced by our energy use. Anything else is just hot air, and not even useful hot air.

2 Responses

  1. Robert this may interest you that Buckingham Palace and the DECC (Defra) buildings have won first and second prize for Energy wasting buildings in London. Maybe you should send a Genersys brochure to Buckingham palace and the DECC, I am sure they will use a lot of hot water ? !

    I think I can see a big cloud of hot air above the houses of parliament in the Foto in this article:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1161459/Buckingham-Palace-tops-list-dirty-dozen-London-buildings-waste-energy.html

    http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/ariel-schwartz/sustainability/buckingham-palace-worst-londons-dirty-dozen-energy-wasting-buildi

    1. Buckingham Palace
    2. DECC (Defra)
    3. Ministry of Defence
    4. Horse Guards Barracks
    5. Shell Building
    6. Home Office
    7. Houses of Parliament
    8. Treasury
    9. Portcullis House
    10. MI6 HQ
    11. Albert Hall
    12. St James’ Palace

  2. Last year I read that The Maldives is already preparing for sea levels to rise it is actively investing in land to house its population;
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7719501.stm

    I thinks its lack of comittment its well and good to say that you have an interest in climate change but then to do nothing about it, to be honest I think that climate change is of little interest to the majority of the population.

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