In 1997, the tawdry Tory world of my youth was overthrown. I was exultant for a time. While New Labour’s policies weren’t always as radical as I’d have liked them to be, my job close to government and politics made me more conscious of the art of the possible. A second landslide in 2001, confirmed my feeling that a less traditional labour route could deliver a progressive(ish) agenda – and what’s more – lock the Tories out forever.
The more un-electable the Tories got – the less interested in politics I became. To the point where I was falling asleep. But I have begun to have troubled nights recently, and its not nightmares about Michael Howard in government that’s doing it. It’s a much more clear and present danger than that. Yes… (drop a semi-tone, Huw Edwards serious face, pause) it’s global warming.
The fact that I have trouble taking this seriously myself indicates how difficult it is to deal with. Climate change as an issue has a number of facets that make it difficult to address.
Nobody really knows for sure how bad it will get, or how quickly. So it’s very difficult to judge what kind of political compromise will be needed to produce a solution. The worst predictions suggest it’s already too late. The best – that there’s no need to do anything. What’s more, it’ll take at least 30 years for any changes we make now to have an effect on CO2 levels.
But the balance of predictions is getting steadily worse. That means that any remedial measures would have to be more dramatic and painful for everyone. Which makes them more difficult to agree to.
It’s completely international in terms of both inputs and outputs – so the majority of countries in the world have to adopt similar actions. Getting a worldwide agreement on something that could have positive, and quite quick, outcomes for pretty much everybody is difficult enough. Just look at the trade negotiations over the last 30 years.
With the uncertainty over climate change and the measures required to combat it, an international agreement (worth having) looks virtually impossible. This is the killer problem. It’s so difficult that it might as well be impossible. And the US will never agree to anything anyway.
So why bother? Why worry…
Ah yes. My children. Bugger.
The balance of predictions suggests that I’ll probably miss the worst of it myself. But they won’t.
Now don’t think I’m getting all greenham commony about this. I am not about to braid my hair with beads (no sniggering as you picture this please) or take to wearing sloganising T shirts – unless they are post-modernistically ironic (or The Human League). I have had my dungaree period – and I am over it. Even the worst predictions are not bad enough for me to share a composting toilet with three other caravans… and you know what you can do with your VW camper van. Yes. Really. Right up.
But I’m starting to feel that it’s insupportable to do nothing too. And doing something means waking up.