Wednesday, 26 July 2017

No Business on a Dead Planet

London Morning - our carbonated capital
 The Government's announcement today that it is banning petrol and diesel cars on British roads from 2040 onwards has been trumpeted as powerful action to counter both the clean air emergency now affecting all urban and even many rural areas of the UK as well as global warming. Tories have lauded this as a evidence of their concern for the well being of the five citizens who die every single hour from pollution emissions and parts of the lick spittle media have touted it as a bold green initiative. On the BBC, a reporter fretted about how millions of motorists would be angered and inconvenienced over the coming decades.

Yet while it is welcome that the debate has moved from not if but to when we ban carbon vehicles from the roads, this move was increasingly becoming inevitable as public awareness of pollution has rocketed and faith in both car manufacturers and government regulation have plummeted following the growing scandal of cover ups on diesel toxins. It may indeed be one of the last impacts of European Union action on domestic British policy before Brexit, as the EU has played a leading role in bringing the manufacturers to account.

More than this, though, the timescale is appalling. A growing number of climatologists and environmentalists, surveying the exponential increase in the speed of climate change, are now confirming what Greens have been arguing for some years - that we are already at a tipping point and if we have any time left at all to act decisively to stop runaway climate change, it can be measured in single-digit years, not two and a half decades or more (or infinitely in the case of Trump's USA). The 23 year wait speaks much more the Government's being in thrall to the motor vehicle and oil lobbies than it does to Environment Secretary Michael Gove's risible imitation of an eco-warrior.

Not so funny - risible Gove
Norway has set a target to remove carbon vehicles by 2025 and the huge economy that is India is aiming for 2030, alongside its rapid adoption of solar power, which is now seeing many Indian coal mines close. China, plagued by dreadful city smog for much of the year, is now investing more in clean enery than the rest of the world combined and getting carbon wagons off the streets of Beijing is a high priority.

With time running out, Britain's laggardly approach is appalling, especially when the same Tory-DUP regime is slowing down development of clean energy. This leaves the possibility that electric cars could simply remove pollution from the streets and release it elsewhere from racheted-up power stations. It's not just cars that need to be carbon emission free - it's everything and there is little real sign of that happening.

Five deaths per hour equal 45,000 lives lost on the altar of carbon  worship every single year, with cars accounting for as much as a fifth of that. That means over a million lives could be needlessly lost and many millions more degraded in Britain by 2040. To put that in context, that is three times the number of fatalities suffered by the UK in the entire Second World War. Surely, then, we should be treating both our filthy air and global warming at least as great a threat to our future as Hitler was and invoke a national emergency. Just as the state harnessed Britain to survive and strike back at the Nazis, so it can and must direct all its efforts now to creating a nationwide infrastructure of renewable energy production, emission-free transport and clean industry. Public ownership is a must, as it was in World War Two, to ensure that resources are directed effectively and fairly.

This crisis will define not only our time, but the times of the generations to come, if indeed our species survives that long. We will need in this much, much more than the dilettantism of Gove and the vested interests of his party funders. The threat may be invisible and its impact slow and not directly obvious on its victims, but it is the greatest our species has ever faced. There is no time for delay so that shareholders can stop to scoop up their dividends while condemning us to a collective carbon suicide.

Maybe we should appeal to the one thing they might just understand: there will be no business on a dead planet.

The clock is ticking.

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