Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Why politics makes for bad ecologic

I was interested to read a news report telling us that the IPCC's focus on cutting carbon emissions was ignoring the development needs of the poor. Apparently Dr Chukwumerije Okereke, from Reading University, said 'The argument has been shifting away from the view that the developed countries, who have been mainly responsible for the problem, should take leadership in solving it, to this centre-ground view that we are all in it together and we all have to do our share.' Dr Okereke thinks this is a bad thing, because those 'who have been mainly responsible' should shoulder their guilt and sort it out, leaving everyone else to do whatever they like. The trouble is, this attitude is all about politics and nothing to do with science and solutions.

I have three problems with Dr Okereke's viewpoint.
  1. It's a classic attempt to bring blame in - the developed countries, the argument goes, are most to blame for the current situation, and hence they should do most to fix it. However, as James Lovelock pointed out in his recent book A Rough Ride to the Future, blame is both counterproductive and wrong. It's a bit like blaming people in the 1930s for smoking so much and inflicting passive smoking on their children. They had no reason to do otherwise. Blame is irrelevant.
  2. This approach is backward looking. We can't undo what has been done in the past, but we can change what we do in the future, and that starts today (not in 2005 or 1825 or whenever). We do all have to do our share because we are all contributing to the increasing problem, and while some countries like the UK are reducing their contribution, many are not.
  3. Even out of pure self-interest, the developing nations need to do all they can. Just look at the way climate change is predicted to influence agriculture around the world. Which countries get hit worst? With the exception of Australia and the US, the majority are developing nations. Some Northern countries even get improvements in agricultural capability. Where is flooding going to have the worst impact? The Indian subcontinent. Which countries can least afford to mitigate the impact? The developing nations.
The fact is that climate change is not something where we can afford to play politics and the blame game. It needs to be about realistic solutions. Many of these may be about adaptation, others are about slowing down the change. But we don't get anywhere by playing silly games.

This has been a green heretic production

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