The climate of this particular planet is going to hell in a handbasket. The reasonable, sensible, moderate types who got us into this mess all declare that the only solution is to allow trade of the carbon which pollutes our atmosphere. It is the only option on the mainstream table. But carbon trading isn’t just ineffective; it serves as a stalking horse for the commodification of our last public good. The natural environment.
I’ve tried to write about other things. But my mind keeps coming back to the one thing which has haunted me. Something which I said I wouldn’t write about, because it was just too damn depressing. Climate change.
The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC was released two weeks ago, chronicling in exhaustive detail the impacts of worldwide studies on the impact of climate change. The relative impacts of holding warming to 1.5ºC instead of 2. Projected pathways to get there, and how many magic beans would be needed to keep us there. The long and the short of it is – we’re fucked.
The ‘only credible plan‘ is dead. Much like Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) was a spineless compromise between reality and the intransigent conservative elements of his own party. As it passes into the nether realm, our PM is set to soon follow. The future of the Liberal Party and Australia’s action on climate change hang in the balance.
Companies deploy elegant public relations masks in order to appear a positive influence on our society and lives. BP claims to deliver services that “help drive the transition to a low carbon future“. Northrop Grumman are “committed to maintaining the highest of ethical standards, embracing diversity and inclusion, protecting the environment, and striving to be an ideal corporate citizen in the community and in the world.” But beneath the hollow sheen of advertisements and corporate branding is an ugly demonstration of what is really important to the corporations who run our lives.
The infamous vampire squid – Goldman Sachs – released a report to investors on gene therapy developments a few days ago. In it, their analysts raised concerns with the profit potential of such companies, asking “is curing patients a sustainable business model?” Treatments like gene therapy do not offer the recurring revenues of the pharmaceuticals currently used, and “could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.”
Those investors who can afford the fees of Goldman Sachs don’t want platitudes about corporate responsibility. The lives of those who might be saved with new innovations have no importance when there are profits to be made. These ghouls can extract more money from a patient who needs to take a pill every day for the rest of their lives than from one who can be fixed with a single treatment. The patient’s entire future earnings are available to pilfer, rather than just the savings they may have accrued to date.
This rigid focus on money and profits regardless of the consequences is not merely confined to corporate investors but has spread throughout our society. While public relations departments might paint a different picture, those who wield corporate power continue this rigid focus on economics. Petrochemical giant BP’s submission to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight was recently unearthed, in which their real vision of the world was laid bare.
BP claimed that in the event of an oil spill, “in most instances, the increased activity associated with cleanup operations will be a welcome boost to local economies” with no social impacts. This displays the very same worldview as the Goldman Sachs report – that the only consideration is monetary. The massive environmental degradation which would result from any oil spill is of no importance, except that the locals might be benefit from temporary jobs cleaning the slick from their once pristine beaches.
Within the ideology embedded in our society, life is simply a game where each player’s score is measured in dollars. Profit isn’t just the most important thing. It is the only thing.
They would be cowboys again,
Roaming wild on plains so free.
The mob’s fiendish head led a chant
“Burn the red tape, release the economy!”
Let me tell you the tale of Tara
Bubbly, energetic, with a spirit ever so free,
Laugh like a babbling brook
And a smile as wide as you’d ever see.
We believe that climate change represents one of the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age.
Australia now stands ready to assume its responsibility in responding to this challenge – both at home and in the complex negotiations which lie ahead across the community of nations.
For Australians, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is no longer a scientific theory. It is an emerging reality. In fact, what we see today is a portent of things to come.
In Australia, our inland rivers are dying; bushfires are becoming more ferocious, and more frequent; and our unique natural wonders – the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests – are now at risk.
This will sound familiar to many of our Pacific neighbours who are experiencing the impacts of rising sea levels, more frequent severe weather events and diminishing access to fresh water. And regrettably it is now an increasingly familiar story across the globe, as reflected in the critical conclusions of the Fourth IPCC Report released last month.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. Our choice will impact all future generations. This is, therefore, a problem which requires a global solution. It requires a multilateral solution. Unilateral action is not enough. We must all share the burden.
– Kevin Rudd, in his 2007 address to the UN.