Climate sanity

Letter by Cedric Knight, London

ImageI applaud the coverage of climate action in the last issue (PN 2582-83), in particular COIN’s plea for the climate movement to reach out and embrace the political centre-right. Our ecology needs emission reductions now and cannot afford human beings to indulge any tribal instincts.

In the UK, the 2008 climate act was achieved with cross-party consensus. Many Conservative politicians such as lord Deben (formerly environment secretary John Selwyn Gummer) have both insight and influence, and frankly if conservatives are by definition averse to change, they should be naturally averse to climate change. Regardless of ideology, we want to future generations to be able to enjoy nature in the same way as we can.

The World Bank and the International Energy Agency project a 4°C temperature rise by 2100, which the intergovernmental panel on climate change suggests would result in 40–70 percent of species becoming extinct. I largely agree with Naomi Klein’s recruitment of existing progressive movements in a positive vision of a low-carbon world, but worry that she may be unnecessarily circumscribing her audience, having succumbed to the political polarisation that exists in North America.

So I agree with Kelvin Mason’s suggestion that we should engage in dialogue about ethics as well as about facts.

Connectedness to nature may be a shared value, but I doubt that ‘openness to change’ is going to be a value we can all agree on. Psychologists see openness as a relatively fixed personality trait, and Jonathan Haight observes it as more common among the liberal-left, suggesting that while those on the right share notions of mercy and fair rules applying to all, they also value authority and sanctity or purity.

Therefore I would guess (with less evidence than COIN) that the pollution and despoliation of fracking will engage the right, as well as still appealing to a universal agreement to avoid the tragedy of the climate commons.

Back in 2008, I wrote in PN that climate action should involve everyone ‘except economists’ (review, PN 2496). Unfortunately, economists are the ones making ethical choices for most of us, in a technocratic way inaccessible to those of us who aren’t conversant with the latest government policies of contracts for difference, levy control frameworks and carbon floor prices.

I would recommend former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern’s latest book Why Are We Waiting? as providing insight into the Paris negotiations and a way forward with ‘equitable access to sustainable development’.