Friday, July 22, 2011

Revkin, again

This year has been ripe with climate-related news. Tornadoes, torrential rains and heat waves. Today the BBC reports that the deadly heatwave that has been lingering in the US midwest is moving east, and affecting approximately 50% of the nations inhabitants. As always, some are more affected than other's.

2008-07-11 Air conditioners at UNC-CH

A few months back, when tornadoes, not heat waves, was the big problem, Andrew Revkin  provoked the Green mainstream, including me, by saying that protecting people against disasters is a more urgent problem than lowering co2 levels in the atmosphere. He was wrong, but at the same time strikingly right.

It is obvious that anyone concerned about disaster protection, must urge for radical cuts in co2 emissions. Business as usual will make more severe storms occur more often, and render any current disaster protection useless. The only protection that lasts more than a decade will be to address the cause of the problem, not the symptoms.

Against the backdrop of climate change, it is very tempting to regard the world of day to day politics as futile and irrelevant. When the world is four degrees warmer now, we will have much more serious problems than budget deficits or Rupert Murdoch's media politics.

Unfortunately, Revkin was right about one thing: while we wait for the disease to be cured, the symptoms will have to be treated. Huffington Post illustrates how the bickering in politics affects a population reeling under climate change: several US states have cut money to help poor citizens pay their electrical bills. So when the heat now is on, many poor Americans can't afford an air conditioner, which means long days in potentially harmful temperatures.

Not surprising at all - when climate change strikes, we are no omniscient semi gods, but human beings stuck in the same spider web of petty politics as we has always been.

Personally, I see alternatives to public spending in cases like these as Utopian. But this is what we should discuss. Politicians shouldn't be caught up in a 18th century ideology where a balanced budget is the aim of politics, but address the real question - how do we as a society make sure that as few people as possible suffer as little as possible from climate change.

Be it trough public spending for electricity bills, incentives to build better houses, or encouraging the suffering people to invent their own solutions. The only thing that is really wrong, is ignoring the problem, and pretending that a balanced budget is going to help.

No comments: