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Editor’s blog – Extreme weather and climate change: has the world given up on reducing emissions?

By Dean Carroll

In recent months and years, extreme weather has become commonplace across the world. Rising temperatures in the southern hemisphere have caused widespread drought. But while some southern lands are drying out, others in the northern hemisphere are facing a deluge of snow, rain and powerful gales.

Against this backdrop of misery, every year world leaders convene in a far-flung venue in order attempt to put together a new United Nations framework to reduce carbon emissions. Europe is desperate to retain its role and influence as a global leader when it comes to tackling climate change. This is admirable but the desire to reduce CO2 is rapidly evaporating, as the persistent dark clouds of the eurozone crisis loom large over the continent. Politicians, companies and citizens seem to be losing the goodwill towards all things green. Instead, they are focused on staying afloat financially as unemployment remains high, profits plateau and pensions devalue like never before.

And it is evident that the emerging powerhouse nations like India and China have no real interest in holding back their industrial revolutions by prioritising ‘going green’ above chasing exponential economic growth. Why would they? Certainly, the West was quite happy to pollute its way to higher standards of living for the masses. The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India and China – understandably feel they should be able to replicate this path to affluence without any lectures from the likes of Europe and America along the way.

But things have moved on. Our collective knowledge of worsening environmental problems like the deteriorating ozone layer, rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps and higher carbon emissions resulting from anthropogenic climate change is now highly advanced. If we proceed down the route we are on – with gross domestic product as our only god and without any consideration of green issues – we may be forced to tell our suffering children and grandchildren that we knew what was coming but decided not to act because the funding and political will could not be found.

However, controversialist Dr Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation think-tank has advocated Europe abandoning its emissions reduction plan altogether. “The enduring gridlock of international climate diplomacy is almost certain to continue for many years to come,” Peiser has claimed. “Yet, Europe’s political isolation on CO2 emissions is a growing burden for families and businesses alike. The European Union’s unilateral climate policy puts businesses and, in particular, energy intensive users at a disadvantage with regards to cost and international competitiveness.

“It does not make any sense to make industry and manufacturing, in particular, increasingly uncompetitive – or to drive it out of the continent; and, therefore, further weaken Europe’s crisis-ridden economies by driving up energy costs. Nor does it make sense to increase fuel poverty in this way. To escape from this green trap of its own making, Europe needs an exit strategy. Given the manifest reluctance of the world’s big emitters to accept any legally binding carbon targets and, Europe should undertake a comprehensive review of its economically damaging carbon targets and – in the absence of an international agreement – should consider the suspension of all unilateral climate policies that threaten our economic recovery.”

Quite a bold statement and one that will have the green lobby deriding the GWPF and asking why Policy Review would give oxygen to such comments. Well, beyond the fact that this website is impartial and willing to be a forum for all views and debates, within reason, Peiser is certainly right about one thing. If we do not have a serious discussion about getting the likes of India and China on board, then Kyoto Protocol-type deals will be of negligible value and result in little progress. The time for shouting from the sidelines is over; the debate over man-made climate change must be elevated to a more mature discussion about just what sort of world we want to create in the 21st century. Without such measured dialogue, it could soon be too late.

Dean Carroll is editor of Policy Review. Follow him on Twitter @poljourno and follow Policy Review @Policyrev

  1. Petro-economy struggles against any attemps to free energy approvisionnement. The world has not given up, but our leaders did.

    Comment by riekl on March 26, 2014 at 10:10 am
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