Like coronavirus, climate change will devastate our way of life – so why the inaction?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Steven Lake

We are undoubtedly living through historic events at present. The word of the moment when describing governments’ response to the crisis created by the spread of this virus is “unprecedented”.

Here in the UK, our governments have all felt compelled to both restrict personal freedoms and provide funding for our health services as well as the incomes of employees who lose their jobs (although not yet, as I write, the self-employed) to a level which is, well – unprecedented.

While the Westminster government had already indicated that public spending would soon be ramped up for infrastructure projects, their response to this latest danger has been a promise to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat the COVID-19 virus. This spending is on an entirely different scale altogether – unprecedented, in fact.

They have also asked us all to stay home when our journeys are not essential ones, ensuring that large parts of the economy will grind to a halt.

And the public reaction to all of this? Notwithstanding some reluctance here and there to conform to pleas for social distancing, there’s been little public opposition in principle to either the curtailment of our personal freedoms or the scale of public spending. Whatever it takes is fine, it seems.

So far, so good. But I can’t help wondering why a similar approach hasn’t been taken by the powers that be towards the other existential crisis facing us. I refer, of course to climate change.

As well as his solemn promise to spend “whatever it takes”, Boris Johnson also insisted that he’d follow scientific advice to defeat the virus. He also took pains to point out that many tough decisions would have to be taken. The same principles of following scientific advice, spending whatever it takes and making tough decisions apply to fighting the climate emergency.

But even though the climate emergency is already well advanced no such determination has been displayed. Why not?

 

Urgency

Could it be that the virus has no respect for wealth or privilege and – being invisible – is almost impossible to avoid, whereas climate change mostly impacts the poor and powerless, most of whom live elsewhere, out of sight and out of mind?

I’m thinking here not just of the Pacific islands gradually disappearing under the rising seas but also the houses washed away in these islands as our own coasts are eroded by increasingly severe winter storms or – even closer to home – our coal tips sliding into Welsh valleys following the sustained and severe rainfall which we can expect to experience more regularly with rising global temperatures.

There is also a feeling of immediacy to the threat of coronavirus, while the gradually building climate emergency is – wrongly – perhaps thought of as a problem for that future generations will have to deal with.

In terms of solutions, though, the parallels between the two crises are unavoidable. Both are potentially devastating to our way of life – indeed, to human life itself. Although the financial and societal costs involved in addressing them are enormous, these are dwarfed by the costs of inaction.

Last – but by no means least – there’s widespread public acceptance (indeed, eagerness) that such action can and must be taken.

Any leader worthy of the name would address both issues with the same urgency.

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Hywel Moseley
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Hywel Moseley

Boris the Buffoon is not a leader worthy of the name; so the preparations for resolving climate change are likely to be as tardy and inadequate as his preparations for tackling the virus. High time we had our own independent government rather than a satellite of the English parliament.

vicky moller
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vicky moller

And the solutions similar, relocalise essentials including skills, self governance, productive capacity, use short supply chains. Nature has finally sent us to our rooms for disobeying her rules?

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Agree. One other thing, these huge chicken and pig farms are surely a disaster waiting to happen?

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Reducing the number of cars and pets, will be tricky for politicians. Getting rid of wind turbines, set on concrete bases and the roads leading to them, and re-planting the million trees grubbed up to plant these eyesores might be easier.

Elf
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Elf

So you are suggesting making climate change worse by ripping up wind turbines is best the way to fix climate change?

I think a more constructive approach would be to stop nimbys from dooming us all by complaining about nonsense things like “ooh it ruined the view”.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Are you employed by one of the grant grabbing organisations that make a profit out of building and running these wind farms ? Are you totally blind to the cost of fabricating and erecting turbines + related infrastructure, both in terms of £million and the unrestrained unquantified destruction of the preexisting topography and related wildlife habitats ( which no one in the industry cares to talk about !)?.

Harnessing wind power, like tidal power and solar energy, ,needs more creative engineering input and less posturing and virtue signalling.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

People have been warning us since 2007, that draining upland bog to install these things, plus the access roads and concrete bases would cause flooding. Uprooting 330,000 trees from Brecha forest, or 737, 600 from Pen Y Cymoedd, surely contributed to recent floods. Maybe greenies like white towers more than trees? Weird.

Huw J Davies
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Huw J Davies

Ivory white?

Kerry Davies
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Kerry Davies

There is an opportunity in smaller countries like Wales to create the culture of competitiveness that has already seen Wales accept “green” initiatives better than England. There is some pride in our recycling record and in planting more trees per head but if that pride was reinforced with positive messages I think we could do even better.
The future generations will be the ones that have to live with the problems but all generations can be encouraged to make these changes our mission.