Wise men head for Paris bearing gifts that are just not good enough
There was only one crisis in the Hepburn household last week. The central heating broke down. As I reached for a warmer woolie and huddled up to the one oil filled radiator, I thought of the desperate people fleeing across Europe bitterly cold in the night air. I wondered how my brave friend, Sarah Wilson, was spending the night in her bartered caravan at the camp in Calais. But mainly I worried about how quickly I could get a new boiler.
There was only one crisis in the Cameron household last week. The threat of jihadists on the doorstep led to recruitment of more spooks and a spending spree on new equipment for special forces that had the armaments industry rubbing its hands with glee.
Thanks to the crisis, the strategic military review was greeted with open arms. New airplanes will patrol the coastline searching for jihadist submarines and a further £6bn will be set aside for the next generation of nuclear submarines, taking the total estimated cost of retaliating against enemy missiles to £31bn.
Huddled in my unheated bunker with the radio permanently tuned to the BBC, each broadcast brought further bad news. In this crisis induced state of frenzied activity the Chancellor started throwing money at everything and the Shadow Chancellor threw a book back. Only Andy Murray can save the nation from complete disaster.
And next week British planes will probably bomb Raqqa in an attempt, as the Daily Express so aptly put it, to smash ISIS in a fortnight. The town is already so devastated by American, French and Russians bombs that there are no targets left to hit. The BBC never reports how many civilians are killed by the bombings but the WHO estimates that civilian casualties in Syria run at 27,000 a month.
There may have been a crisis in the Corbyn household last week though I suspect Jeremy may have had the good sense never to have had central heating installed. The poor man looks permanently harassed but has admirably kept his cool by opposing military action. He marched down Whitehall yesterday along with the Hepburn household in support of the 3.5 bn poorest people in far flung parts of the world who, according to Oxfam, are already facing unpredictable floods, drought and hunger as a result of the biggest crisis of all.
There is a beautiful irony that world leaders are linking arms in Paris today for a make or break conference to tackle climate change as opposed to Islamic extremism. The problems are even more intractable and cannot be solved by military means. You cannot send a gunboat to take out a coal powered power station.
The last conference in Copenhagen was ill prepared. Despite a last minute intervention from Barrack Obama, who five years ago did not have a single grey hair, it ended in chaos. And without any binding agreement.
This time delegates arrive with pledges to cut carbon emissions like wise men bearing gifts. Only the gifts are not generous enough. If all the plans were followed though, global warming would be limited to just under three degrees. It would still miss the two degree target which gives a reasonable chance of containing global warming.
George Bush Sr dismissed the first Earth Summit in 1992 by declaring that the “American way of life is not negotiable”. Since then carbon content in the atmosphere has risen from 365 parts per million to 398 ppm and is still rising towards the danger point of 450ppm.
The inconvenient truth is that the carbon driven economic expansion of the advanced world is the biggest obstacle to climate change. Our way of life has to be negotiable. A world that continues to expand by consuming more and using more natural resources will never find a sustainable way of living on the planet.
David Cameron admits that “climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world” It is, he says “not just a threat to the environment” but “ also a threat to our national security.” If so, why is the government cutting subsidies for solar power and onshore wind farms and planning to build new gas fuelled power stations. Prof Jim Watson of UK Energy Research Centre estimates these policy changes will increase U K emissions.
The next two weeks, according to Oxfam, “will determine whether the Paris deal reflects the power of the biggest fossil fuel emitters and elites, or is a turning point which starts to the address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.”
The climate change movement has come a long way from the early days of cycling and recycling. We cannot save the planet just by changing light bulbs. Campaigners now recognise that 80% of the current known oil, gas and coal reserves must be left in the ground as burning them would lead to disastrous climatic change.
This hits the pockets of King Coal and Big Oil who will buying the drinks in Paris for the next two weeks. It also knocks the fortunes of our stock exchanges and the pension funds which pay for my new gas fired boiler and much else besides. There could be another crisis in the Hepburn household.
( written for Newcastle Journal and published on 30th November 2015)