Bountiful Bristol Bulletin


USA Climate change turnaround? by andykisaragi
January 15, 2007, 7:19 pm
Filed under: government, international, media

andykisaragi

A couple of (vaguely) encouraging articles in the Guardian today:

Firstly, this one which states that, according to Downing Street, Bush “is preparing to make a historic shift in his position on global warming” – ie, admit that it might actually exist – in his State of the Union address.

So is it all change for America? Is the USA going to take the lead on climate change? Well, it’s difficult to take Bush too seriously on this when he’s just commited 20,000 more troops (presumably increasing the budget from – last I heard – $10,000,000 an hour in Iraq) to policing some of the world’s largest fossil fuel reserves. And as the article says, Bush last year talked about how America is “addicted to oil” – and it’s easy to trace the action he’s taken on this because it amounts to precisely nothing. It’s hard, therefore, to hold out much hope for action by the Bush administration on this. His lip service to the issues, however, speaks of the American public’s concern with the climate change which in itself is massively encouraging.

Indeed, as this article states (also see the FT’s version), the outlook for the US’s manufacturers of big fuel guzzling cars as consumers turn to smaller, more efficient models is increasingly bleak. But, unfortunately, according to industry experts “any shift to greener motoring is led more by the price of petrol than by any new-found conscience on the part of buyers”. Of course you can argue that if the effects are a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels, people’s motivations are irrelevant. The worsening supply situation has pushed the price of oil up, and consumers are changing their behaviour, which in turn will mitigate some of the effects we are having on the planet. It’s an economists dream, it’s the market behaving just as it is supposed to, it’s lovely and neat. But, well, it’s not what we really need I don’t think. Because even if we are saved from climate change (or whatever other calamity we face) by the machinations of the market, this causes no change in the way people are thinking. We need to return to a culture of collective responsibility, to ensure that further massive crises do not happen in the first place. It’s not good enough to just wait for things to happen which will have mitigating side effects – we need to start with the intention of solving and avoiding these problems. Even if we survive what Kunstler with typically apocalyptic eloquence calls “the converging catastrophies of the 21st century”, we’re just setting ourselves up for further crises. One day the market won’t be able to save us; it’ll just be us.

I don’t want to end on a downer though, as I’ve said these things are encouraging. Bush even acknowledging climate change and a need to make changes to the American way of life is nothing short of a miracle and should probably be investigated by the Vatican. Westerners being frugal when it comes to fuel use can only be a good thing, and hopefully will lead to more frugality and awareness of where energy comes from, and eventually an actual desire to live sustainably.

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