Climate change

Trump's coming ‘climate moment': and why we should be careful what we wish for...

Electoral democracy has largely failed. It has been captured by big corporates, suborned and crudified (de-deliberationised) by the corporate media, and sidelined by neoliberal globalisation (and the consequent minute-by-minute power of ‘the markets').

Perhaps the most spectacular ever instance of the failing of electoral democracy has been very recent indeed: it is the election of Donald Trump to (what is still, even now) the most powerful office in the world.

Peak stuff: the 'growth' party is over. So what next?

This week, the front pages have been plastered with the news that trillions of dollars have been wiped off global markets, a dramatic shock which has been felt by all the main share indices worldwide.

The significance of these events depends on who you ask: some urge 'optimism', while others predict we may be on the cusp of a new Great Depression, at least as dangerous as the Great Recession of 2008, although different in kind. One thing is certain - we are entering a period of enormous uncertainty.


Spring 2007: the high-water mark of self-confidence for economic neo-liberalism. In March, both Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke publicly stated that they saw no danger of recession, and that the subprime fiasco had been ‘contained’. As late as mid-May, with the sub-prime crisis in full throe, still Bernanke felt able to say this: Importantly, we see no serious broader spillover to banks or thrift institutions from the problems in the subprime market. In July, Paulson claimed: This is far and away the strongest global economy I’ve seen in my business lifetime; and on August 1st, I see the underlying economy as being very healthy. Neo-liberalism remained a movement triumphal around the world. No bunch of poverty-stricken mortgage-defaulters – who could conveniently be blamed for the little local difficulty – were going to derail this ideology.

The real reason why libertarians become climate-deniers

We live at a point in history at which the demand for individual freedom has never been stronger — or more potentially dangerous. For this demand — the product of good things, such as the refusal to submit to arbitrary tyranny characteristic of ‘the Enlightenment’, and of bad things, such as the rise of consumerism at the expense of solidarity and sociability — threatens to make it impossible to organise a sane, collective democratic response to the immense challenges now facing us as peoples and as a species. ”How dare you interfere with my ‘right’ to burn coal / to drive / to fly; how dare you interfere with my business’s ‘right’ to pollute?” The form of such sentiments would have seemed plain bizarre, almost everywhere in the world, until a few centuries ago; and to uncaptive minds (and un-neo-liberalised societies) still does. But it is a sentiment that can seem close to ‘common sense’ in more and more of the world: even though it threatens to cut off at the knees action to prevent existential threats to our collective survival, let alone our flourishing.

Progress: beyond the growth fetish

The UK has just experienced its annual budget announcement from the Government. It contained an extraordinary attack on the eco-agenda, including cuts to energy costs for manufacturers. On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, backed this policy to the hilt. The budget celebrated instead ‘economic growth’ that has been achieved in the last year or so: Balls’s only cavil was that there could have been even more of it.

This GDP growth that is being celebrated by the Chancellor, George Osborne, and seemingly by nearly everyone else, is another unsustainable boom in consumption that is leaving behind those dependent on food banks and the long-term jobless. We will never have a stable, resilient economy, and we will never cease wrecking the planet so long as we chase economic ‘growth’ rather than economic resilience and rely on ‘trickle-down’ economics to look after the poor. In a wealthy country like Britain, we don’t need GDP growth; we need shorter working hours, flexible working, a Living Wage, family life, leisure time and rewarding work.

How UKIP and the Tory right will defeat themselves

Why are those so opposed to migration so blind to something that will cause it to increase so dramatically?

I’m not talking about the sheer barkingness and loose-cannonness of so many of UKIP's Councillors and MEPs; I’m not talking about how their plans to move to an American-style healthcare system (i.e. to dismantle the NHS) will doom them electorally once voters get to know about them; I’m not even talking about their barely-suppressed racism and anti-Muslim prejudice which will surely come back to bite them as Britain keeps becoming a more tolerant society. I’m talking about their outright climate-denial, and the consequences thereof, consequences that I think we are only just starting to understand.

A burning issue: embodied emissions

I recently submitted evidence to a key Parliamentary Select Committee on a key issue of our time: the huge increase in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels relatively inefficiently in parts of the world which have low levels of state regulation (e.g. China). This ‘outsourcing’ or ‘offshoring’ of emissions completely undermines Britain’s supposed reduction in carbon emissions since 1990.

The real scandal in the hacked climate change e-mails controversy

It is day six of the 'scandal' over the hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, in which a thousand or so private email messages between climate scientists were hacked into and made public. According to the ostriches hoping that Copenhagen will fail, these emails demonstrate that climate-science is in serious trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Emergency talk

Some people think the rhetoric of climate change is too emotive. But faced with a global catastrophe it would be unwise to tone down our language.

We are all familiar by now with the shrill voices of climate change deniers. But with every passing week they become more and more irrelevant, as their 'scepticism' about the reality of man-made climate change is exposed as risible. The issue now is not whether we are certain that dangerous climate change is real and is happening - the issue is only how we are going to tackle it. So how do we motivate people to act? How do we persuade them not to seek refuge in psychological defence mechanisms of the kind Leo Hickman chronicled in the Guardian last week?