Saturday, October 02, 2010

Climate change and conservatism

"You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others. Plentiful, affordable food requires reliable and affordable access to water and energy. Increasing dependence on coal, oil, and gas threatens climate security, increasing the severity of floods and droughts, damaging food production, exacerbating the loss of biodiversity and, in countries that rely on hydropower, undermining energy security through the impact on water availability. As the world becomes more networked, the impacts of climate change in one country or region will affect the prosperity and security of others around the world."

- William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, "The Diplomacy of Climate Change",
delivered 27th Sept 2010.

Read the full speech and keep in mind that this man is a Conservative, indeed, was party leader from 1997 to 2001. Climate change is not an issue of the left. It is not an environmental issue. There may be a variety of suggestions of how best to respond to it at a personal, communal and policy levels, about the mix of mitigation and adaptation (both are necessary), about the overlaps and tensions between this challenge and others that we face (especially the food, water and energy challenges that Hague mentions), but it is not an issue that is going to go away anytime soon or which will remain on the margins of our ethical, political and, yes, even spiritual discourse.

Simplistic silver-bullet solutions and bored cynicism are equally shallow responses. This situation, as part of the various aspects of ecological decline caused largely by our economic success over the last six decades, will significantly define the social, political and moral landscape for decades to come (at a physical level, it will define the actual landscape for much longer). It is not the only issue, and not the most important issue, but it is a critical issue of our age.


Michael Westmoreland-White said...

This proves that British Conservatives are far more sane than U.S. Republicans (or even conservative Democrats). Climate change may not be left/right or conservative/liberal, but it does take sanity--and a willingness to face facts. Too much of America is still in full denial mode--more than before the '08 elections.

byron smith said...

Well, it proves that at least one is. I guess the fact that he is not entirely isolated or a fringe figure in the party does indicate a wider cultural difference, but don't let me give you the false impression that there are not plenty of Tory (and more than a couple of Labour) deniers here in the UK. But it is not quite so thoroughly polarised. For instance, (Conservative) David Cameron ran on the promise of "the greenest government ever", which isn't turning out so well, but the fact that he felt it might be a vote winner is significant. The Conservatives also have a member named Zac Goldsmith, who was a very active ecological journalist prior to running for office.

And the UK currently has the strongest climate legislation and highest targets of any G20 nation (I'm pretty sure that's still correct, though I might have missed something).

Lee said...

Thanks for pointing this out. What's really disturbing is that conservatives in the US are actually moving in the other direction. John McCain, for instance, who supported policies to fight climate change once upon a time, is now spouting conspiracy theories about shady cabals of scientists.

byron smith said...

Yes, watching the public discourse in the US over the last twelve months has been quite depressing. It is not just McCain. There are a number of Republicans who have changed their public position, and some of the more moderate Republicans who were more open to climate legislation have faced challenges from candidates in denial.