The intergovernmental panel on climate change, which predicts how far the world’s temperature is likely to rise, hasn’t yet had time to include them in its calculations. The current forecast – of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees this century – is almost certainly too low.
A week ago, I would have said that if it is too late, then one factor above all others is to blame: the chokehold big business has on economic policy. By forbidding governments to intervene effectively in the market, the corporations oblige us to do nothing but stand by and watch as the planet cooks. But on Wednesday I discovered that it isn’t quite that simple. At a conference organised by the Building Research Establishment, I witnessed an extraordinary thing: companies demanding tougher regulations, and the government refusing to grant them.
I found this worthy of note simply because it shows the degree that political animosity and partisan loyalties cause a problem in dealing with reality.
Earlier in the article George Monbiot enumerates the phases that we have witnessed in the global warming debate:
Climate change denial has gone through four stages. First the fossil fuel lobbyists told us that global warming was a myth. Then they agreed that it was happening, but insisted it was a good thing: we could grow wine in the Pennines and take Mediterranean holidays in Skegness. Then they admitted that the bad effects outweighed the good ones, but claimed that it would cost more to tackle than to tolerate. Now they have reached stage 4. They concede that it would be cheaper to address than to neglect, but maintain that it’s now too late. This is their most persuasive argument.
I do not pretend to know which side is correct, but what is very apparent to me is that there is much too much investment in taking sides. And that is bad news for determining the truth.
When I read this:
The suits had come to unveil technologies of the kind which really could save the planet. The architects Atelier Ten had designed a cooling system based on the galleries of a termite mound. By installing a concrete labyrinth in the foundations, they could keep even a large building in a hot place – like the arts centre they had built in Melbourne – at a constant temperature without air conditioning(7). The only power they needed was to drive the fans pushing the cold air upwards, using 10% of the electricity required for normal cooling systems.
The man from a company called PB Power explained how the 4 megawatts of waste heat poured into the Thames by the gas-fired power station in Barking could be used to warm the surrounding homes. A firm called XCO2 has designed a virtually silent wind turbine, which hangs, like a clothes hoist, from a vertical axis. It can be installed in the middle of a city without upsetting anyone(8).
These three technologies alone could cut millions of tonnes of emissions without causing any decline in our quality of life. Like hundreds of others, they are ready to deploy immediately and almost universally. But they won’t be widely used until the government acts: it remains cheaper for companies to install the old technologies. And the government won’t act because to do so would be “an unwarranted intervention in the market”.
I was reminded of a couple things. Bear with me-they are kind of religious things.
One is that we have lost our awe of the natural creation. I remember reading somewhere that many of our most witty inventions came from observing something in the natural world and then using the properties to invent something for the benefit of mankind. Many of those things are architectural, but think about the uses of silk and things like that…. someone somewhere was paying attention to the natural world… but our present ideas are that we are too smart for that. Man is the measure, instead of some ( pffft silly!) idea of ‘God’. And there is your modern mindset. A disconnect between government, business, and science is bound to happen. Because Man will compartmentalize. That is how we understand things… and without perception of God our view of the whole necessarily disintegrates.
The other thing I see here is the worst part of what we think of as “Conservative”. I am one in all meanings of the word. I like to collect old things and I venerate traditions most of the time…. but liking the “old way” is not always in the best interest of the ‘spirit of the “old way”‘. For government to perpetuate the obviously harmful direction of old technology or knowledge on the short term cost basis is folly. It happens all the time, though. Government that intervenes in the name of not intervening.
Now there is a typical Catch 22 for you.
The reason this is so frustrating is that as long as we buy into political and secular thinking to the oblivion of every other call on us- we will plummet into destructive, blindered pathways, personally and politically.
I just thought this was an interesting article in several of its facets. I find it very unfortunate that as a people…which perhaps is always as it has been and will be in this world…. as a people we don’t get motivated to change unless we face a crisis. It would be nice in a best world scenario sort of way, to implement foresight and preparedness. Perhaps we have too heavily incorporated a “live for today” “get all the gusto””you deserve a break today” kind of philosophy for that.
But here it is folks, going green may be something quite possible in accomplishment… and good in the longrun. If only we are allowed to set aside our political prejudices, and stop penalizing those who have the vision to do so.