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ONLY COLLECTIVE ACTION CAN OVERCOME THE CLIMATE CRISIS,NEITHER MARKETS NOR PERSONAL CHOICES CAN DEAL WITH THE BIGGEST THREAT OF ALL

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  • patneuman2000
    ... wrote: ONLY COLLECTIVE ACTION CAN OVERCOME THE CLIMATE CRISIS NEITHER MARKETS NOR PERSONAL CHOICES CAN DEAL WITH THE BIGGEST THREAT OF
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2004
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      --- In Paleontology_and_Climate@yahoogroups.com, Sonya
      <msredsonya@e...> wrote:
      ONLY COLLECTIVE ACTION CAN OVERCOME THE CLIMATE CRISIS
      NEITHER MARKETS NOR PERSONAL CHOICES CAN DEAL WITH THE BIGGEST THREAT
      OF ALL
      By Robin Cook
      The Guardian
      Friday, December 10, 2004

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5082907-110970,00.html

      Future generations will be puzzled that we failed to grasp the
      urgency of
      climate change and may be furious at the environmental calamity we
      bequeathed to them. They may reasonably feel that we were given
      plenty of
      warning signs of the stress which our lifestyle was putting on the
      ecosystem, one of which is almost within sight of the Docklands home
      of much
      of the British press. When it was first constructed the Thames
      Barrier was
      closed only once every two years, but rising sea levels have required
      it to
      be deployed six times on average in the past five years.

      Part of the reason why such alarm bells provoke no urgent response
      from even
      those who hear them is the widespread belief that climate change is a
      gradual, incremental process which still leaves us a long time to get
      round
      to dealing with it. This could turn out to be a tragic delusion. The
      US
      National Academy of Sciences has warned that climate change may turn
      out to
      be gradual in the same way as the slowly increasing pressure of a
      finger on
      a switch, but when it flips the result is revolutionary, not
      incremental. In
      the case of Britain, the switch that may get flipped could be the Gulf
      Stream, which delivers as much heat to our land in winter as the sun.
      Its
      disappearance would leave us with the same climate as Hudson Bay,
      with which
      we share the same latitude.

      Those who find themselves living in the freezing environment we
      bequeath
      them will be perplexed at the preoccupations of the current political
      agenda. Earlier this year the government's chief scientific adviser,
      Sir
      David King, was ignominiously forced to retreat from his observation
      that
      climate change was a bigger threat than terrorism. But, good
      scientist that
      he is, he had the facts on his side. Last year 20,000 more people
      died in a
      record heat wave than in all the acts of terrorism around the globe.
      Increased flood and drought, which are the twin extremes of climate
      change,
      are the most lethal weapons of mass destruction of our time. Even the
      CIA
      has warned that climate change will stimulate an increase in
      conflicts over
      diminishing water and food supplies and proposed seven steps in
      response
      which, oddly, did not include a single measure to halt climate change.

      All of this makes more depressing the admission this week that
      Britain looks
      set to miss the government's target of a 20% cut in greenhouse gases
      by the
      end of the decade. True, we are comfortably going to meet our
      obligations
      under the Kyoto protocol, but that is largely because of history and
      the
      drop in coal generation in the early 90s. The total level of carbon
      emissions has stayed stubbornly stable over the past eight years.

      In any case Kyoto is too modest a benchmark. The threshold was kept
      low,
      ironically, to get on board the US, but the net result was a set of
      targets
      that only delay the rate at which matters get worse. To stop climate
      change
      we must cut emissions by 60%, which is the government's target for
      2050. The
      beauty of the government's interim target of a cut of 20% by 2010 was
      that
      it promised to get us a third of the way within a third of the time
      from the
      base year of 1990.

      We miss the point though if we simply berate the government for
      missing
      "its" target. The reality is that it is our target and we are all --
      or at
      any rate most of us -- responsible for the failure to meet it.
      Government
      and industry have both delivered cuts of 20% in their carbon
      emissions. By
      contrast domestic households and private transport have produced large
      increases in greenhouse gases. On average each of us now produces
      over five
      tons of carbon emissions a year. Imagine the equivalent of two trucks
      of
      coal dumped on your doorstep; and then multiply it by each member of
      your
      household.

      Government could, of course, do a lot more. All departments need to
      give the
      same strategic priority to halting climate change that Margaret
      Beckett has
      dinned into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A
      good
      start would be for the Department of Transport to abandon its aviation
      policy of expanding capacity to meet demand. Carbon emissions
      released above
      cloud level have doubled the impact on climate change, but bizarrely
      emissions from international air travel do not count in the Kyoto
      targets
      for cuts in greenhouse gases.

      There is, however, justice in ministers throwing back the problem to
      the
      public in a hundred pages of consultative document. There is no
      prospect of
      Britain meeting its long-term targets unless the population is
      willing to
      sign up to the necessary changes in lifestyle and consumption, or to
      accept
      a price for fuel and transport that reflects its environmental cost.

      It is a paradox that Margaret Thatcher was one of the first political
      leaders to accept the science of climate change but was also the
      foremost
      proponent of the politics of individualism, which both exacerbated the
      problem and made it difficult to resolve. Hers was an ideology in
      which
      greed was the approved agent of economic progress. But climate change
      brutally exposes the limits of such material individualism. It is
      simply
      impossible for all of us to pursue a lifestyle that maximises carbon
      emissions without in turn rendering our own and everyone else's
      environment
      unsustainable.

      Climate change is the classic example of a common problem that
      individuals
      cannot solve by acting independently. No family can opt out of climate
      change or buy their own little patch of retro weather. It is also a
      spectacular case of market failure as the seismic changes in weather
      patterns will only produce a shift in the price signal when it is too
      late
      to reverse them.

      The solution to climate change will be collective and the result of
      democratic intervention. It will require investment in public
      transport. It
      will need common regulation and state subsidy to enforce good
      standards of
      energy efficiency and a higher proportion of renewables. It will
      demand the
      use of taxes to reflect the real cost to society and its environment
      of
      individual consumption. And it brings the bonus of an added argument
      for
      equality as extravagant consumption by a few imposes not just a
      financial
      cost on themselves but an environmental burden on everyone else.

      All this should be meat and drink to a party of social democracy which
      believes in solidarity, partnership and working together. Labour is
      well
      placed to rise to the political challenge of halting climate change.
      But it first needs to rediscover the ability to talk about collective
      provision for the common good with at least as much skill and passion
      as it has recently adopted the rhetoric of personal choice.



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