Global warming is not the kind of phenomenon that the human mind has evolved to regard as a clear and present threatby Tom Clark / June 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
Look at the Earth from Mars or Venus, and it wouldn’t be hard to spot the biggest problem facing its inhabitants. From the vantage point of our barren planetary neighbours, where life is ruled out by a punishing climate, the potentially runaway rise in the temperature of our habitat would rank unambiguously as our gravest peril.
But as Britain, or more accurately the Conservative Party, picks a new prime minister, the climate is hardly registering. The defining issue—the thing that one candidate refused to rule out suspending parliament to achieve—is establishing unilateral control over aspects of trade policy by an entirely arbitrary date.
It is easy, and fair, to mock the Tories for their solipsistic fixations. But in truth, the failure to grapple with the looming climate catastrophe and all it might mean—flooded cities, parched rivers, displaced millions—is not the preserve of any one party, or indeed any one country.
School strikes and the activist group Extinction Rebellion have, through gluing themselves to the trains and other antics, recently created more of a conversation about climate, and reaffirmed the value of peacefully disruptive protest along the way. And yet the reality is that most of us are still a million miles from the climate conversation we ought to be having, a conversation with big implications for the way we live, work and travel. On TV, away from the news, climate change crops up only half as often as the subject of picnics, as Alice Bell reports.
The deepest problem may be that climate change is not the kind of phenomenon that the human mind has evolved to regard as a clear and present threat. It is not yet, at least in any ordinary use of the word, a crisis in day-to-day British life. The damage is diffuse, and the worst of it is delayed. The weather has always varied, so it is never possible to say with certainty that a particular hurricane or drought might not have happened anyway. The evidence is subtle and statistical. In sum, getting Earthlings to care as much as Martians would think they should is bound to be a challenge. And it’s all the more difficult when material conditions remain miserable for so many.
That last insight is the starting point for the former climate secretary and Labour leader, Ed…