Want to learn how to do magic? Just watch George Osborne’s budget speech. As the chancellor knows all too well, It’s all about deception.
While we’re watching all the little bunnies popping out of the hat – help for first-time buyers, cuts to taxes on savings, drops in beer duties – the conjurer makes the elephant in the room disappear. It’s a trick that should get him an honorary admission to the Magic Circle.
In fact it was even better than that. It was not one elephant but two, the two big unmentionables of this budget – one is our right to free healthcare, the other the threat our very existence as a species.
The first was immediately seized upon by Ed Miliband, who called potential Tory plans to make massive NHS cuts “the plan that dare not speak its name.” But it's the second omission that is even more glaring and even more deadly: climate change.
It was a subject which, despite the fact that it could spell the end to civilisation as we know it within the next hundred years, received only 35 seconds of coverage in a debate lasting nearly one and a half hours. Most of this depressingly brief time came from Ed Miliband pointing out its absence, even less was spent offering alternatives.
Our government has spent 300 times more on fossil fuels than renewables, so it should come as no surprise that the most notable environmental references in this budget were to shooting Labour foxes, a fitting Tory pastime in more ways than one. In fact the only time fossil fuels were mentioned was in conjunction with tax breaks and schemes to support them.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
In as clear a statement as you could wish from the “greenest government ever” George Osborne said: “We back oil and gas” as he announced tax allowances and cuts totalling £1.3bn worth of support for the UK’s fossil fuel industry. Thus, at a time when we should be looking for ways to cut our ties to fossil fuels, Osborne is doing everything in his power to bind us more tightly to them.
At a time when scientists state that the world cannot risk releasing more than a fifth of the CO2 trapped in current fossil fuel reserves, let alone seek out new ones, Osborne announced further government investment to do just that – to seek out new reserves of oil and gas.
Where was the fiscal stimulus for renewable energy? Where was even a nominal glance of support to developing a greener economy that could, according to one report, create one million new jobs – jobs which aren’t, presumably, based on zero-hours contracts as many of the ones bolstering the government’s employment figures are. There was just one single plan mentioned to build a tidal lagoon near Swansea, but it is too little and sadly probably too late.
Pre-election budgets are notoriously short-sighted. We’re all too busy looking at the rabbits popping out of the hat. But in a world facing an existential threat from climate change, this could well be a budget we look back on in 50 years time and say "what on earth were we thinking?".Reuse content