You may have noticed we are having a little problem with water here at the moment. Don't worry about me, I live up a hill, the only way I'll come to harm is if the mould in the bathroom gains sentience and mugs me. Nonetheless I'm really pissed off.
This is the second bout of really bad flooding in 7
years (2007 was the last one). I grew up the region and in the first
21 years of my life can't remember flooding anywhere. I do remember
first reading about global warming, I think in 1989, so that would be
25 years ago. I thought it seemed scary and disturbing, but
what I didn't do, like lots of people who were older and better paid
and more expensively-educated than me, was assume it must be rubbish
just because I didn't like the implications.
I do understand a prediction is not the same as a fait accompli.
However I am quite sure that one of the things that the scientists
who predicted global warning warned was that there would be more
storms and erratic weather. So far, so correct.
Nonetheless, even as people bail shitty water out of their homes,
some people, like environment secretary Owen Patterson, are still
going round saying it's all just a coincidence. Even the Prime
Minister, who clearly does believe the flooding is related to climate
change, is too hamstrung by nutters in his own party to come out and
However, this isn't what makes me really cross. What makes me
cross is that all the things we need to do to take on global warming
are the things we need to do anyway. Because even if climate change
is a myth, the oil is still going to run out. Because we only have a
limited amount of fossil fuels, and we keep having to invade other
people's countries, and/or cosy up to disgusting religious
dictatorships to ensure a supply of it. Because we once used to be
the engineering and manufacturing capital of the world, and we now
have millions of unemployed while we ship
nastily-made crap from sweatshops in China. Because we have a housing
crisis while spivvy property developers cover the floodplains of
Southern England with overpriced Barrett homes, while perfectly
habitable terraces in the North go empty, since there isn't any work.
global warming would make everyone's lives better in so many ways.
More insulated houses? Great, lower heating bills, more pleasant
homes, less old people admitted to A&E. More railway stations?
Watch those rural economies pick up, and businesses relocate outside
London. Less dependency on oil? A massive reduction in
exploded squaddies, plus those foreign interventions are really
expensive. Build some wind turbines and train carriages, we could
site the manufacturing plants in Liverpool or Birmingham and cut that
benefits bill they're always banging on about.
Now, clearly I'm not expecting the government to do any of these things. Firstly, doing something would require them to
toss aside their sustaining ideology, which is that the free market
will solve everything. Secondly, there are so many incentives for them to do nothing.
Many people make money out of the industries that perpetuate global
warming. I'm sure there might be people who could make money out of
tackling it too, but a guy in a garret with a brilliant idea is no
match for a petrol corporation with a team of paid lobbyists. And
politicians need money from the people who make money out of
politicans doing nothing.
Thirdly, the last thing politicians like is a
challenge. And if we are going to actually start dealing with climate
change there are so very many things that need to be done.
Rerouting railway lines. Planting trees to catch
water before it floods; encouraging a transport system that doesn't
guzzle petrol; generating electricity through a renewable method, an
agricultural system that doesn't ship food from one end of the
country and back again, an economic policy that means workers don't
travel for hours to get to work. It's not one tweak, like pumping
more money into the nhs to reduce waiting times. It requires
engineering, both social and actual, and plans years ahead, and
dealing with difficult, intractable problems, and conflicts of
interest, and unpleasantness. It's so much easier to spin a bit, and
get rewarded with a headline.
But I'm really sure that them being unlikely to do anything about it, isn't the same as it being impossible to do anything about it.
Recently, for unrelated reasons, I've been reading a lot
about World War Two. It's very apparent how everyone understood that
collective effort was the only chance of survival. It's
shocking, when you're used to the glacial pace of official action in
2014, to realise how fast things got turned over from one purpose to
another when everyone put their minds to it. It really is possible to turn things round quite
quickly, just as long as you admit there's an emergency. And don't
just stand around looking blank, muttering how you 'suspect'
that the Nazis might have something to do with the blitz.