Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Whatever happened to climate change?

A few years ago I wrote a couple of books on green topics (Ecologic and The Global Warming Survival Kit) -and the timing was terrible.

In the first place, after selling a storm, people suddenly stopped buying books on climate change. I think initially it was exciting and scary - but then it began to feel hopeless, and you don't want to read about hopelessness. Secondly, the financial crash and recession hit. You can protest as much as you like that our financial problems don't make climate change go away, but they certainly make it easy to ignore.

Here's the thing. I don't think we're going to do much about climate change until things get fairly dire for a sizeable chunk of the world. We're lucky in Europe that we won't get much of the really bad impacts at that stage. But a lot of people may suffer. And I also suspect that as much as possible, we are going to invent our way out of the problem, rather than go backwards and stop doing things - and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, whether green hairshirted types like it or not, despite the 'dark satanic mills', things are a lot better now for the vast majority of people than they were in the green, bucolic medieval times. Because we invented our way out of it.

Some claim this means we should give up even trying to be green. I don't agree. There's no harm in slowing things down. It gives us more time to invent our way out. But if I'm really, really honest, most of the green things I do have an ulterior motive. So, for example:
  • I recycle - but this means I don't run out of room in the wheelie bin
  • I don't fly - but this is because I don't like flying, and I did enough to last a lifetime when I was at BA
  • I drive a small, low emissions car - but if I won £10 million on the lottery tomorrow, I would be off down to the Aston Martin showroom before you could say 'Jeremy Clarkson'
  • I use low energy bulbs, have a well insulated house and all that - because I'm tight and want to save on fuel costs
  • I walk to the shops rather than drive - to save money, because I hate faffing about in busy car parks and for my health
 So, please do keep being green. Keep doing good things. But maybe it's time we got a little more realistic.

3 comments:

  1. I agree. The only reason most of us do the things we do are for quite selfish reasons, rather than helping the planet, if we're honest. The 'helping the planet' bit is a happy bonus. That's why we need far-sighted governments, IMHO.

    And I do hope you're right about our ability to invent ourselves out of it.

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  2. Just taken a look - very good review! Yes, I'd like to take a look at an optimistic view too.

    I agree about it not being popular science from what you say, but I am wondering about the assertion that the change is going to be gradual. From all that I've been reading it is going to be fast - well, too fast for us to adapt successfully, anyway. Looks like I'm going to have to read the book to find out what he means by that.

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