The bad news continues to pour out of the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, as sewage pours out of a burst pipe, unwelcome, hard to ignore and depressingly real. The great and the good of climate change have yet to find a form of words that inspires the world into action. The catch phrases revolve around like advertising slogans, high on form but lacking in substance; no one has yet been able to encapsulate the dangers and the task ahead in a convenient phrase.
Some of the delegates at Copenagen are using the line that “it cannot be business as usual”; others say that the latest science offers “new certainty” on climate change; everyone talks about sustainability – a concept that seems to have many definitions depending upon where you stand and what is in your personal interest. The Danish Prime Minister called for “green growth” but nations still permit activities which cause the polar ice to melt and the rain forests to be devastated. Yet the phrases do not manage to create the changes in attitudes and policies that are needed.
Climate change is almost invisible; it is a slow cancer that is created by our parasitic behaviour on the planet and will slowly drain us of the means of survival. If we were fighting a war, everyone would be forced to defer their personal interests to victory. No one would be permitted to collaborate with the enemy or to plead that their own interests take precedence over victory.
Yet the interests of the long term future are constantly be subjugated to the short term interests of individuals and corporations; this is exactly what has happened to create the banking crisis, where short term benefits outweighed the long term prosperity of the banks, and so the banks failed. If governments had not feared the consequences of the banks actually going into liquidation, they would, as businesses, be as dead as the dodo.
Yet, as serious and as far reaching in its consequences as the greatest war, the fight against climate change is low on the list of priorities Instead of being at the top of every government agenda it languishes near the bottom of a long list of priorities below banking, war on terrorism, wealth creation, health, and all the other items upon which more than 40% of our work is taken from us as taxation and prioritised as being more important than climate change.
It seems so simple to point out that you cannot have safety, trade, wealth or health if the planet you inhabit is flooded, subjected to severe weather events, over heated and dealt all the other shocks that the planet will be heir to as a result of human induced climate change.
If the money that has been spent by nations in the “war on terrorism” or banking or even the health of the nations had been spent on the war against climate change the news leaking out of Copenhagen would not be half as depressing.