Why Is the Green Party So Futile On Climate?
For years the scientists have been telling us that there was little chance of triggering runaway global warming so long as we kept atmospheric carbon to below 450 ppm, but to be on the safe side we needed to aim at not exceeding 400. Even as late as 2010 it seemed reasonable to think that such a goal could be achieved without too much difficulty. According to the Hubbert Curve oil would peak between 2008 and 2014 , and as it became scarcer and dearer renewables would come into their own.
In the last five years the situation has changed dramatically. Even the most pessimistic had thought that the iconic 400 would not be breached before 2015. In fact we passed it in May 2013. The Hubbert Curve has turned out to be totally misleading. Since 2010 a staggering, mind-blowing amount of oil has been discovered. There is more oil in Texas alone than is left in Saudi Arabia. In 2012 scientists calculated that the world could afford to burn another 565 gigatonnes of carbon safely ( InsideClimate News 14/2/2013). Currently we are burning about 30g a year, so that gives us roughly twenty years to save the planet. But also in 2012 the Tracker Initiative, a body of accountants in London who advise businesses on future economic trends, calculated that the oil companies already had 2,795 g in proven reserves (Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math Rolling Stone July 2012). Even worse, much of that oil has already been sold on the futures markets. Because of the intricate interconnections of finance, if it is left in ground and those futures have to be written off, every bank, big corporation, government and pension fund in the world will be in serious difficulties. On the other hand, digging it up represents profits unimagineably immense. Are they going to be so easily foregone? The commercial momentum that will take us past 450 is now almost unstoppable. Then on top of all this there is now fracking. Three major scientific studies done by Cornell in 2009, Harvard in 2012 and Tyndall, have all concluded that fracked gas is even worse than coal because of the methane emissions. Over twenty years methane is seventy two times worse than CO2.
Co-incidentally two other trends have also emerged during the last five years. On the one hand, the scientists have now reached virtual unanimity that current global warming is man-made, and unless we move decisively to quite fossil fuels as soon as we can we could find ourselves facing terrifying environmental catastrophes later this century, not least of which might be vicious resource wars that could well go nuclear. There is a growing body of scientific opinion, too, warning us that the logic of runaway global warming, once it really gets going, is that it feeds itself. There is no reason to think that it would stop even at the six degrees that was at the far end of the I.P.C.C.’s forecast in 2007. In two or three hundred years it could reach twelve, which would spell the end of most, if not all, human life and that of most other species. Yet on the other hand public concern about climate has simultaneously waned during the last five years and has now virtually died. The victory of the sceptical newspapers over the scientific consensus has been almost complete.
You would have thought that in face of these dire scientific warnings people would have been beside themselves with anxiety for their futures, and even more for those of their children. But not a bit of it. You might have thought too that the Green Party would have put all else aside to warn us in the loudest and clearest tones of the great peril we are all in. But not much of that either. All too often in the party you hear remarks like ‘people don’t react well to doomsday scenarios’; ‘people are beginning to take us seriously, we mustn’t exaggerate and make the mistakes we made in the eighties’; ‘my concern is dustbins in Brighton’; ‘we have to show people we are not a single issue party, climate’s only one of our concerns’; ‘we’re making progress, twelve more Green councillors this year’; ‘our aim is to bring about a greener world’; ‘let’s not go overboard, we need to retain credibility’.
The Green Party’s policy on climate is fine and well in line with the science. It is its feeble presentation of it in such quavering and timid voice that has failed to inspire the public. Is the party bringing it home to people in no uncertain terms that our children will almost certainly inherit a terrifying and increasingly unliveable world if large numbers of people don’t vote Green? It is not. Best not, people might not like it. If the Green Party won’t shake them out of their apathy and ignorance who will? I am in despair.