Monday, 17 February 2014

Greetings from the sodden, soggy South-West.

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 say it.

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.

Tackling 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.

1 comment:

  1. You are speaking pure common sense. The industrialists and their apologists in government and the media want to squeeze every drop of profit out of the world before it goes tits-up due to climate change and peak oil.
    BTW, it struck me at the time of the Beijing Olympics that a nation which can put on such a show can 'turn things over from one purpose to another' quite efficiently. Calls into question our lumbering political system which can only deliver what has been delivered before (i.e. inherently conservative, and not up to C21st tasks). Where do we go from here? Round in a negative feedback loop.
    "Tackling global warming would make everyone's lives better in so many ways". Yep.