What Happens to the Political Rhetoric on Global Warming When the Economy Slows?
By Eve Pearce, November 2012
Governments, conglomerates, major organisations, small businesses, the average man or woman on the street and primary school kids in class have been listening to the apparent effects of global warming for many a year now. Everything from shock tactics to subtle manipulation has been tried by those who believe in the principle that our world is heating up to dangerous proportions – and it’s all our fault. This theory has been taken on board by politicians around the world who use ‘data’ in a manner more convenient for their manifestos, to introduce a whole new wealth of taxes that never used to exist and to ‘educate’ the next generation into believing that green house gases are the main cause of global warming.
Back in the late nineties this debate was reaching fever pitch with former Vice President Al Gore becoming synonymous with the subject matter. Remember, he even made a film about it. Once his role as Vice President of the Clinton administration was over, Gore’s next major step was to go up against George Bush in the 2000 election with his eventual loss following an extremely close vote result. At this time the preaching sentiment of global warming seemed to be sensationalised beyond all recognition.
Skip a few years to 2008 when Barack Obama said that global warming was ‘one of the biggest challenges of our times’ during his campaign against Republican John McCain – a political rival who nodded his head in agreement that indeed it was. This was not just isolated to America, politicians around the world paid lip service to promising to reduce their carbon emissions and the knock-on effect saw a rise in companies providing a green-friendly way of providing energy. Green gas suppliers are now a major part of the energy supply chain and indeed supplying energy in an environmentally-friendly way is big business around the world. Although this remains so, the way in which Government’s deal with the overall issue of global warming and the priority they give it seems to have changed. A case in point is to look at how the debate, or rather the lack of it, is dealt with right now during times of financial crisis.
The debate on global warming is going through a cooling off period
Fast forward to now, and this time it’s Mitt Romney up against Obama for the race to the White House. The same all-American political campaign ensues with both men taking to the stage, microphone in hand, desperate to out-do the other. They have performed in several states in front of a live audience who are supposed to ask pertinent questions. These images are, of course, televised and beamed all over the world for us all to consume and analyse. The fervour with which the great and the good of politics tackle this subject seems to have waned somewhat and the ‘what are we going to do about it’ strategy, targets and pledges are being whispered rather than shouted about.
The point is that the global warming debate and its blame culture seems to have had its heyday in the political arena – at least for the time being. Why then should today’s President of the United States, the British Prime Minister and even Japan’s Yoshihiko Noda seem to be taking steps away from the global warming rhetoric? What has changed? The world is a very different place to what is was in a pre-credit crunch, pre-recession 2008 before the full effect of the world’s financial crisis took hold. There has been a shift in focus and speculating on the effects of greenhouse gases and how we should all minimise our carbon footprint to reduce CO2 emissions seems a condescending choice of words when compared with the life-changing issues of now.
Perhaps the politicians know better than to tell the everyday man who lost his job because of cutbacks, is struggling to heat the family home and can’t afford to fill the car with gas – that he needs to plan for the future of planet earth too. He has more pressing things to think about. So too, it seems, do the politicians.
Are the tides turning when it comes to politicians practicing what they preach?
Take the Prime Minister of Japan who is still quietly pledging to cut his country’s – the third largest economy in the world - global emissions at the same time as burning fossil fuels to maintain sustainable electricity following the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year. Japan had promised to cut carbon emissions drastically by turning to the nuclear plant but this was damaged after the earthquake and tsunami which devastated the Sendai region of Japan. Faced with a much more urgent issue of his country running out of electricity, Yoshihiko Noda’s attentions are turned in the opposite direction to cutting carbon emissions.
Similarly in Great Britain The Independent reported how the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne has described the Parliamentary climate change campaigners as ‘the environmental Taliban’ – a not altogether flattering title. This is the man who is currently responsible for all financial and economical moves made in Britain, so a fair guess is that he’s not going to devote too much money towards ‘green issues’ any time soon. There is also a row between British national newspaper, The Daily Mail and the Government’s Met Office, an organisation that provides climate data. The spat is over a story headlined ‘Global Warming Stopped 16 years Ago’, which makes very interesting reading. The Met Office says the journalist has misinterpreted data and dismisses the headline as being taken out of context, while the newspaper concerned stands by the story.
These are not the only examples; a closer look all over the world would reveal that Governments and heads of state have relegated the gravitas surrounding carbon emissions, the so-called greenhouse gas theory and man-made global warming. Long may the politicians stick to repairing the world’s economy and leave the science to real scientists.