Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Pale green policies won’t keep the global lifeboat afloat

Yesterday Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute had an article in the Guardian (Brown’s pale green policies are more honest than most, 24 June 08) in which he praised Gordon Brown with faint damns. The article made some good points. ‘Cleaning up the environment’, ie changing our ways to use Earth’s resources sustainably, will be expensive. And, yes, politicians are hypocritical and short-sighted in wanting to take the credit for action without dealing with the electoral unpopularity that effective action will produce.

But what does Stelzer recommend? ‘Pale green policies’. That is, policies that do too little to achieve sustainability. Policies that will continue to drive global warming.

Stelzer’s real concern, as his website makes clear, is to promote ‘market solutions’ even if they do not actually solve the problems. He does not address the need to treat climate change as a global emergency that will make the Earth unable to support even its current population if left unchecked. In an emergency we put aside our normal preoccupations and focus on solving the problem. In WW2, for instance, we formed a government of national unity which took control of the economy.

Climate change is not one issue amongst many – just another environmental issue. It is the central survival issue of our time. It poses as great a threat as world war – just a less immediate one.

Today the whole human race is in one lifeboat. Because it’s a planet-sized lifeboat many people do not recognise this. But because we are in a lifeboat we need to put our effort into bailing – not selling our emergency supplies to each other!