March 03, 2006

Did Bush actually get it right on climate change?

Itís always disturbing as a democratic socialist to find oneself agreeing with a right wing Republican, particularly on something like the environment. Perhaps I ought to clarify slightly, Bushís position as I understand it is that the environment comes behind pretty much everything on his list of important things to do. To him the idea of potentially harming the economy in order to cut carbon emissions is just wrong, he does not see the justification for causing his country short term pain in order to protect the environment, and so chooses the easy way out of promising a bit of money to research. This is clearly ridiculous, it is political short term thinking at its worst and should be thoroughly condemned.

But equally ridiculous is the notion that by endeavour alone we can prevent climate change, that by making economically painful decisions to cut carbon emissions by insignificant amounts we will save the planet. Because even if every country signed the Kyoto protocol and stuck to the targets we would only delay the current projected carbon levels for 2100 to 2106 (stats from some radio 4 program a while back). Even if every country on earth signed a much stricter treaty that allowed us perhaps 250 years rather than 200 years before the planet is a burnt out shell of its former self that would hardly be a victory for the environment (I made up the stats but they seem realistic to me). I think Blair made the right decision sign Kyoto because with a booming economy we are able to make the investments in renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency at the moment, and it is true that any long term environment strategy will probably have to look at these things, but lets not be fooled into thinking that these will save the planet single handedly.

Bush, despite his naivety about pretty much every political issue, has actually hit the nail on the head when saying that research is the answer. But we donít need a couple of hundred million dollars for research, we need the kind of money that the American defence budget gets to set up a huge team of well resourced scientists with the single task of halting the decay of our environment. Scientists have flown us to space, they have split the atom, they have learnt to clone us and they can genetically modify the food we eat, these projects all pail into insignificance compared with the prospect of a long term solution to climate change, I am sure it can be done but it needs big money and it needs to happen now.


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