Travelling At Magnificent Speed

Whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of the UK government’s interventions over the past fortnight to shore up the financial markets and financial services, there is one thing we can all surely agree on: the government has acted very quickly and innovatively.

What has struck me is the contrast with our response to climate change. Like the financial crisis, it’s a calamity we are bringing on ourselves as a result of greet and short-sightedness. The effects will be more serious than the fallout from financial meltdown. And yet our response to climate change gets bogged down in international negotiations where looking after number one seems to be the main game, and we introduce a carbon trading scheme that, in effect, rewards polluters … Those of us who compare the threat and urgency of the problem with that faced by the UK at the end of the 1930s, and who argue for markets and systems to be geared up to deal with the threat, as happened in 1938-39, (such as Jonothan Porritt) are told that it is just not possible. But the events of the past fortnight suggest that it is.

Tens of millions of climate refugees and resource wars a decade or two in the future is, of course, a much less immediate threat than the prospect of businesses being unable to pay salaries and inter-bank lending grinding to a complete halt right now.

So it seems that the sense of urgency required to change ‘business as usual’ comes from the immediacy of the impacts, more than from their scale. Or is it to do with certainty – are there still decision-makers out there who are hoping that all those climate change scientists have got their sums wrong, or that there’s a magic technological solution just around the corner?

It would be good to end this blog with a proposed way forward, but I fear that that would mean wishing for a disaster that would change priorities overnight. Instead, I’ll point you towards the Green New Deal, which highlights the links between the financial and climate crises.