Climate destabilisation, like tax avoidance, is one of those bad things which governments wring their hands about, say they are deeply opposed to allowing this profoundly harmful phenomenon to flourish, and then proceed not only to do next-to-nothing to stop it, but actually themselves fan the flames to extend it. At the Earth Summit last June Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Putin didn’t even think it worthwhile to attend. At the monumental failure of the Doha climate change conference last month world leaders were far less interested in a sustainable planet than in sustainable growth, the biggest threat to climate stability. The pristine wildernesses of both the Arctic and Antarctica are now about to be defenestrated in a last wild global dash for fossil fuels.
In addition the US-UK are now set pell-mell on exploiting hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale gas which, though only half as polluting as coal, is vastly more polluting than renewables. Rather than developing at full scale the enormous potential of the British Isles for renewable energy (especially wind-power and wave & tidal), the Tory-led Coalition is now using the facade of electricity market reform to slow-track renewables inorder to provide huge under-the-counter public subsidies to nuclear. Osborne, even in the face of opposition from the Big 6 energy companies, has now made clear he intendes to phase out, or at least greatly water down, Britain’s international target to curb carbon emissions.
Does it matter? It does, hugely. The evidence of climate destabilisation, over and above normal climate variability, is mounting disturbingly fast in terms of the increasing frequency and ferocity of extremes at both ends of the spectrum, from droughts and desertification on one side to hurricanes and cyclones on the other. Altogether 11 out of the 12 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. The evidence is everywhere, not necessarily of unique causation by climate change (the jury is still out on that), but certainly of severe aggravation by climate change – the largest hurricane ever battering New York, the enormous West Antarctica ice-sheet is now warming three times faster than the planet as a whole which could raise global sea levels by 4.5 metres which is enough to make London and New York uninhabitable, droughts and mega-storms are pushing food security towards the top of the global agenda which caused food rioting in 30 countries last time round, and the scientists now believe that the world has failed its target (or rather never seriously tried to achieve it) to keep below the ‘safe’ 2C rise in global temperatures and is now irreversibly headed towards 4-6.5C – a burning up of the planet which must cause a massive global population crash from its forecast 10 billion level by mid-century.
The problem for the politicians (or rather their escape route) is that all these armagedda will fall after the next election.