Weird weather might just wake feeble politicians up to climate change


Weird weather might just wake feeble politicians up to climate change

Meteorologists are debating our role in bizarre weather events. We have the technology for change, but not the political will

Residents of St. Asaph, Denbighshire, North Wales make their way through flood waters

Residents of St. Asaph, north Wales, make their way through flood waters. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

On Monday, Amory Lovins, physicist, environmentalist, and unassuming colossus of the green movement, appeared in London to talk about energy use. I mention this in the context of the Guardian’s story that meteorologists are due to meet next week to discuss whether our bizarre weather is climate change-related (moreover, anthropogenic climate change-related) or just represents natural variation.

I have got into the habit of mentally and often literally shutting my eyes when I see a story like that; ditto, when I see the phrase “400 parts per million”. What else do you do about a looming disaster that politics refuses to address? How is it possible to stay hopeful, when the G8 is meeting and climate change isn’t even on its agenda? What’s the point of international politics if not to address this?

But then I heard Lovins talk about his negawatt revolution, and it cheered me right up.

He said the solutions are already there; we know how to make cars out of materials that make them so much lighter they could be powered on hugely reduced fuel. We know how to build houses with solar bricks so that they don’t need heating (he grows bananas in his house, while it’s snowing outside and without heating it. This blew my mind). We also already know how to make renewable energy work: Austria gets a quarter of its inland energy consumption from renewables; Sweden a third; Latvia more than a third.

What we lack is not expertise, but will. We’re living with politicians so feeble that they see wind energy as a local planning issue and they’re afraid to talk about saving energy for fear that it might sound expensive. Faced with a scientific consensus on carbon use that is as close as humanity will ever get to unanimous, their response is to find more carbon.

The discoveries we need to make are not technological; they are human. How do we imbue the political cycle with some long-term thinking, some altruism, some care for future generations?

What this situation needs is actual bad weather, actual negative events, that we can all see, that we can agree on the significance of, to spur us into action. In the meantime the answers are sitting there, waiting to happen.

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