With leaders like Theresa May and Donald Trump, no wonder the world is facing climate catastrophe

Our leaders don’t care about climate change because we don’t – or not nearly enough of us

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
@montaukian
Thursday 29 September 2016 17:55
comments
Donald Trump has been attacked by his challenger Hillary Clinton for his suggestion that climate change is ‘a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese’
Donald Trump has been attacked by his challenger Hillary Clinton for his suggestion that climate change is ‘a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese’

A bunch of experts think the world is heading for dangerous global warming within the lifetimes of most of the people alive on Earth today. So what? We don’t listen to experts any more, do we? We know better than those self-interested swindlers with their biased “evidence”, distorted “facts” and rigged “figures”. They can’t even be trusted to read a thermometer.

No, instead we see conspiracies, hoaxes and grand plots so extravagant they make David Icke’s claim the world is run by alien lizards posing as humans almost seem credible.

Speaking of alien lizards, the next “leader of the free world” could be Donald Trump, a man who has ridden the tide of post-truth politics to the verge of the White House with a cold-blooded and otherworldly efficiency.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, appears to take climate change seriously but may end up as hamstrung as Barack Obama by a Congress where bringing in snowballs as evidence that global warming is not happening counts as a sensible thing to do.

Clinton went out on a limb politically by taking the Donald to task in the recent television debate: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.”

Trump predictably denied he was a climate change denier – a stance somewhat undermined by some of that evidence people just ignore nowadays, such as at least four tweets by the social-media savvy tycoon in which he poured scorn on “mythical global warming”, “global warming bullshit” and blamed China.

In the stupid olden days, when stuff like this mattered, Trump would be a million miles from becoming US President, but we live in different times.

Like many intelligent, thoughtful and decent people, Obama appears to struggle to know how to react. Speaking to students at Rutgers University, the current leader of the free world recently felt the need to say this: “If you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.

“It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. And yet, we’ve become confused about this.”

We Britons have a certain fondness for laughing at Americans. And it is clear our climate change sceptics are of much better quality than the snowball-wielding loons across the pond.

Nigel Lawson, the former Tory Chancellor and leading light of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, recently told a House of Lords committee that essentially all those experts were correct, climate change is happening.

However he then went on to claim it would be “crazy” to do anything about it “because of China”. (I’m paraphrasing, but is anyone beginning to see a pattern here?)

The Baron of Blaby (that’s his title, I’m not making that up) argued something along these lines: a really big country produces lots of carbon emissions so it’s pointless for little old Blighty to do its bit. Let’s just ignore the fact that the average Chinese person’s emissions are much lower than the average Briton’s.

In the early days as Tory leader David Cameron portrayed himself as a “green blue”, a right-wing politician capable of seeing conspiracy theories for what they are and who trusted scientists to do science. A sensible, modern sort of chap, most unlike Baron Blaby.

It didn’t last long. After a short stint in office, Mr Cameron decided it was time to “cut the green crap”.

And among Theresa May’s very first acts as Prime Minister was to scrap the Department for Energy and Climate Change, merging it into the renamed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or, as I think it should be called, the Department for Business, a specific kind of Business, and Business (again).

She also appointed the Trump-esque Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary. This was a politician who decided to publicly reveal her first question to government officials on being appointed Energy Minister in May 2015 – May 2015!!! – was: “Is climate change real?

Opposition politicians hardly seem like sources for optimism.

Jeremy Corbyn gave climate change a single passing mention in his speech to the Labour conference this week. And even the Green Party seems to have taken a political decision to concentrate on social issues, rather than banging on about the 'Inconvenient Truth'.

The title of Al Gore’s film was meant to be a call to action, not to be polite and stop talking about it because people were busy distrusting authority figures, transferring their road rage onto social media and pontificating about celebrities.

But it seems harsh to criticise the Greens. Their election strategy was doubtless based on the reality of who we have become. They are trying to live in the real world.

It is the experts, bemused intellectuals and those among us who still trust them who inhabit an imaginary dreamland where sense prevails and opinions are based on hard evidence and harder maths.

That is why it is proving so hard to convince some people that climate change is real. Reasoned argument is not enough and the scientists, who foolishly put such faith in their method, are stumped as to how to find another way to explain it.

Our leaders don’t care because we don’t – or not enough of us.

So, fellow humans, get ready. Because we are now careering towards a world of storms, floods, droughts, starvation, extinction of species, the mass movements of desperate people, Biblical plague-type stuff. The only hope seems to be that nature will give us an early taste of what’s to come that is so dramatic it galvanises us into action.

But given the 1C rise in average global temperature, the infamously impassable Northwest Passage becoming navigable for the first time, the imminent prospect of an ice-free Arctic for the first time in about 100,000 years, disappearing glaciers, disappearing islands in the Pacific… oh sorry, facts, I was forgetting.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments