So the European Union is already finding ways to wriggle away from its ambitious carbon emissions reduction target.
It is a difficult time for those who argue climate change is our most pressing priority. The global recession will give Governments an opportunity to disguise a cyclical downturn in emissions as a structural reduction (rather like Labour has encouraged us to see the consequences of the dash for gas as evidence of its environmental commitment). Hard pressed consumers will be asking ‘which is the cheapest?’ rather than ‘which is the greenest?’. But the falling price of energy will mean less incentive for us to turn down the thermostat and get on our bikes. And, as I said yesterday, the public’s willingness to trust experts and obey leaders may well be further damaged by the implosion in the financial sector.
Add to this – and please someone tell me if I’m wrong – the fact that aggregate global temperatures actually fell last year. Apparently this kind of mini blip in the overall upwards trend is not unexpected and does little to disprove the climate change thesis. But this won’t stop the climate change deniers (amongst whom there are a couple of vociferous Fellows) offering us all the opportunity to hear what we want to hear; that the whole thing was got up as an excuse to make us pay more tax and have less fun.
This is the backdrop to a talk I am supposed to give in two hours to a WWF event about how you change social values and influence behaviours in the direction of sustainability. I hate being to voice of doom (well, OK, like everyone else I enjoy it - it but it’s not very responsible) but as I write I’m grasping for a more positive spin.
Dear readers (mum are you there)? What shall I say?
In the final chapter of his A Way Through essays series, Anthony Painter reflects on the now from the future after the Great Ecological Crash.