Hijacked by climate change?

Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, August 30th, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Richard Black, environment correspondent for the BBC News website asks an interesting question – Has climate change hijacked the wider environmental agenda? If so, why? And does it matter? He a number of leading environmental thinkers for a BBC Radio Four documentary, Climate Hijack. He says:

None of the people I interviewed for the programme argue that man-made climate change is not real or not important; there is no suggestion of a swindle here. Some believe a narrow focus on climate is justified – either because they feel it is so much more serious than every other issue, or because they feel there is real political momentum to solve it now and time enough to deal with everything else once that is done.

But others argue there is no time; that society needs, urgently, to see the wider picture of global decline in all its complexity – and that climate concerns have hijacked the broader agenda, to the detriment of us all.

Of course, right now we’d just like to see whether our ETS legislation is actually going to progress or not….

13 comments on “Hijacked by climate change?”

  1. Classical Liberal 1

    Black is right.

    Firstly, climate change activists have claimed climate change is causing every sustainability problem – and when this is plainly not true the sceptics can then use these over-claims to deny there is any problem. For example, climate change activists have claimed that the loss of snow on Kilimanjaro is due to climate change when it’s largely due to deforestation (due to population pressures) causing reduced rainfall. Claims that the death of the Murray-Darling River basin in Oz is solely due to climate change fail when it’s apparent that it’s largely due to water being given away to rice and cotton farmers.

    Climate Change is diverting attention from the unsustainable way we are using all the planet’s resources. For example, climate change has nothing directly to say about the unsustainability of using aluminium to make beverage containers. Climate change has nothing to say directly about outdated land use rules that militate against mixed use communities that don’t need commuting – it only addresses the commute without addressing the cause.

    The focus must shift to Sustainability where the case for change can be made with a few well chosen photographs, no arguments over the science just plain visual evidence.

  2. Ianmac 2

    It seems to me that many of the world’s problem including climate change, are caused by overpopulation. And the projection that in say 10 years we will have not 6 billion but 9 billion people to feed and energise, seems destined to multiply our problems. The solution? I have no idea but sometimes the planet may produce its own solutions like falling sperm potency?

    • gargoyle 2.1

      Indeed – it’s a perverse world where global warming might be the solution to it’s cause.

      At least we can be thankful that we’re not quite as fertile as rodents otherwise we’d have stuffed the world by now.

  3. Swampy 3

    Ah, some balance.

  4. Ianmac 4

    Gargoyle: “Indeed it’s a perverse world where global warming might be the solution to it’s cause.”
    Now that is a clever way of putting it. Wish I had thought of it. 🙂

  5. I think it’s a fair point to say that climate change has perhaps overly dominated the environmental agenda in recent years.

    Of course it’s important, but so are other issues like deforestation, the extinction of species, the overuse of resources, over-fishing, the pollution of waterways and so forth.

    A good example is when we look at the negative environmental effects of vehicles, we focus on their CO2 emissions when it’s probably the particulate matters that do the most damage, and contribute to poor air quality in Auckland killing around 300 people a year.

  6. Zorr 6

    I would have to agree with Dancr and say that the overall excessive focus on “climate change” and its effects has very much narrowed the discussion. However I doubt that correctly labeling all the issues would stop the deniers as anything that causes what that they would wish to enjoy (like open cast mining) being labeled as ‘bad’ is something that they would attempt to deny to the hilt.

    I mean, just look at our recent historical attempts with smoking. Clear and present danger. Provable, tangible health risks. How long was the science denied and fought by those that had a significant interest? Decades. And the truth is, we probably don’t currently have another 20-30 years to spend arguing about the science on any of the current environmental issues… but the science is a lot more far-reaching, more difficult to understand and a lot less selfish (it doesn’t focus on ‘human’ issues) so it is a lot easier to stoke the flames of resistance to science.

    Welcome to our educated modern world. Where we are just intelligent enough to be derailed by anyone with enough money to put an ad in the paper or on television.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Speaking recently at Mr Porritt’s Forum for the Future, a Chinese government official described the one child per family policy as having led to “400 million births averted” – which she then converted into the greenhouse gases those extra human inhabitants would have produced, and noted that no other country had done as much to curb climate change.

    But, he continues: “You don’t have to accept the China route to that logic.

    “You can look to all kinds of alternative ways of reducing human numbers which aren’t done as coercively as the one child per family policy was done in the past.

    “However, when I was director of Friends of the Earth, could I get our local groups or my colleagues to go along with that? I have to admit complete failure.”

    It’s a short summation but that’s about it. People seem to have an innate belief that humanity is more important than all the rest of the life on the planet and so when it becomes obvious that you would have to curb humanity and capitalism to save the environment it gets brushed under the carpet. This can readily be seen in this thread (and others) especially in response to my first reply.

    NZ, I believe although I have no numbers to support that, is at the limit of her carrying capacity. What we need to be doing is bringing our food production (and everything else) down so that we produce what we need and no more. The marginal farmland that’s no longer being used as farmland gets regenerated back into native forest etc.

    it’s a perverse world where global warming might be the solution to it’s cause.

    No, it’s a free-market but Gaia’s much better at it than we are – she doesn’t try to expand beyond the resource limits.

  8. T 8

    Climate change has an international panel of scientists. Have a similarly credible international panel of scientists focussing on eco/bio-diversity and you’ll find that the media have something that much more robust to latch on to, thus helping to foster a global discussion similar to the climate change discussion.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Global Environment Outlook (Geo-4)

      The problem, as the article says, is that it’s not reported the same way as ACC:

      Has the media contributed? A couple of years ago I added up the number of articles we had written on the BBC News website within the preceding nine months about various issues.

      The scores were four for deforestation, four for desertification, 17 for biodiversity – and on climate change I stopped counting when I reached 1,000.

    • Gareth 8.2

      See this interview with E O Wilson at New Scientist: Saving Earth’s biodiversity will take nothing less than an IPCC for species, says the world’s leading biologist and ant guru.

      Meanwhile… Climate change gets the focus because it’s the “big” problem (many other environmental problems are also addressed by dealing with the roots of warming, for example, ocean acidification and tropical forest destruction), and because it requires significant and far reaching changes in energy usage and generation. And if we don’t fix it, we’re f*cked.

  9. rave 9

    Or more correctly has climate change hijacked debate about the root cause, capitalism?
    We just heard how Socialist China controlled its population growth by the one child policy i.e. birth rates. (I don’t think China was socialist, but it certainly wasmt capitalist either).Arguments about China polluting are true enough, but you could say it has to be selfsufficient from a standing start.
    Capitalism controls population by death rates. It has an inbuilt drive to destruction. Its harnessing of nature destroys species and the biosphere. If you want sustainability you have to get rid of capitalism end of story.
    The good thing about climate change is that it wakens people up to the destruction of capitalism and poses the need for a society in which production is for need and not profits. Needs include survival in harmony with nature – hence sustainability. Impossible under capitalism, necessary under socialism.

  10. chris 10

    I agree to a point. But i think it goes further, maybe it’s just my personality type (ENTP for those who are into that stuff) but I like considering things across the whole environment, yet so many of these groups just champion one or two causes at the expense of the taking a broader outlook. I mean this is an inherent (and not necessarily bad) problem with capitalism in that problems can only be solved specifically, not generally, especially by the right cos gummit’ is baaad and co-ordinated responses are communism. But i still find this whole niche aid and cause thing a waste of time and wholeheartedly ignorant.

    Take saving the whales, for example, sure now the world probably has more whales and after free willy we all have an emotional attachment to the creatures, but what about everything else in the ocean? What about the fact that the oceans are so fucking polluted that they make the land actually look 100% pure? yet nothing. This has disillusioned me from environmental causes and environmentalists and driven me to apathy. Especially – as a musician down here in dunedin – as I see gig after gig happening to raise money for some niche cause I just can’t be bothered, people up the chain need to take responsibility to do something eventually, but i doesn’t seem to be happening so I guess I’m just lucky i’ve probably only got 50 as opposed to 70 or 80 years left here.

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