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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Kofi Annan to star in Spooks [Lurks]

Well, obviously not but the thought of that headline being crawled by Googlebot was too much to pass up. There is a point to this though, I read this story on the BBC about Kofi Annan (he's the UN Secretary General for our American readers) saying that country leaders are being a bit slack when it comes to agreeing action, particularly on a timetable, on climate change.
The other bit of my faux-headline was Spooks, having recently aired the last episode in this series and one of such low quality that I think we can now safely declare the series dead and buried. They even snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to drown the horrendously miscast foppish lead 'Adam Carter' at the end of the show, thereby paving the way for several hours of television next year that I wont be watching.
Back to the point, if I may. This episode was about some eco-terrorists who hit upon the existence of a document called Aftermath. The reason for this blog is because I think the writers of the series have stumbled across a concept that might be worth exploring. The idea of Aftermath is that it was a draft policy/agreement document between the US and the UK on what to do in the face of catastrophic climate change. The synopsis being that catastrophic climate change is inevitable, countries will not agree to any meaningful global consensus. The central concept of our economy is growth and anti climate change measures hamper growth so why bother? Make a grab for the natural resources that remain and prepare to try be last man standing in a drowning world.
Alright, it was hammed up a bit too since they threw in a silly bit about this all justifying a new nuclear weapons program to act as a deterrent, but still I found the idea kind of interesting.
I mean look at it, the core idea is depressing close to where we're at. The UN or indeed any other International negotiating body proves that age old adage that it's impossible to get anything done by committee or 'too many cooks spoil the broth' to quote an even older one. The central gamut of our Western capitalist civilisation is build around the idea of growth. Companies will do anything they can to grow, they're not in the business of holding steady to avert a possible catastrophe in the future. It's all about delivering a return on investment.
And then we have the problem of the third-world hitting their own industrial revolutions. They're trying to work out how to get industry and mass manufacturing and consumerism to lift their populace out of poverty and don't really have the luxury of mandating what EU standard of emissions each farm tractor should comply with. Then there's China and India building coal power plants as fast as they can, China alone built 117 new coal power plants last year.
Each nation has it's own interests and beyond the really rather abstract idea of there being a bunch less land around by the time of the patterning of feet of your grandchildren's children, what immediate pressures are there upon the governments of the nations of the world? All the usual stuff. Feed us, care for us, do it now and do it better right now or we vote for the other guy.
Each nation with their own interests, all of which motivated by short-term pressures and with that ever present drive of Western consumerism grinding on, encouraging you to spend, consume. Grow, grow, eat more, make more money. Yay! So what real chance, what real chance at all is there of the world reaching a genuine wide-reaching agreement on the massive changes required to combat climate change? If I was a betting man, I'd have to say not much.
So would our governments be remiss to consider the possibility that catastrophic climate change is inevitable? I think they would be, I think it's their duty to consider that possibility and, at the end of the day, they were voted in with one mandate only and that's to deliver us what we want and generally speaking, that's a better quality of life or at least to preserve the one we have.
Looking to the UK, our energy situation just like the US doesn't look particularly great. Ignoring the imports of petroleum from all the usual suspects in the middle east, we're basically becoming reliant on natural gas from abroad. This has been problematic already because it basically starts off in Russia and goes along a pipeline where each of the ever-more-hungry European states grabs a share. There have been warnings about a lack of supply and us being at the mercy of the continental markets. For that reason a massive pipeline has been built, the longest undersea pipeline in the world, to the Langeled gas fields of Norway. This should ease some of our short term worries but longer term we're actually in the same boat as the United States.
To be fair, we talk a much better game about what needs to be done to combat climate change than the US does. Our population is better educated and already a good deal more frugal with resources than our American allies. Even our government is starting to make the right noises and necessary steps, unlike the US, have already started to filter down to your average British citizen. I look out my window and I see two bins, one of which is for recycling, and the council ceaselessly bombards us with information and motherly chiding about how to run a more efficient household.
So I think there ends up being two distinct schools of thought. If the waterhole is going to become a scary place with the lions circling, do you become a lion too or do you learn to live from mountain streams?
I think in this day and age, our government would be almost certainly considering both, especially if your best pal is the biggest lion at the water hole.

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