Thursday, December 03, 2009

When Physics & Politics Collide

If he wins the next UK General Election, Conservative leader David Cameron is going to have a problem. His first act to decontaminate the Tory brand was to fly to a melting glacier and hug a husky. Vote blue, go green was the slogan. But a recent survey found that the top ten Tory or Tory-leaning bloggers are all proudly in the climate change denial camp. If Dave is going to match his talk with action if and when he wins, will he be able to bring his party with him?

Going further to the right, the small party UKIP are renowned deniers and at the extreme end of the scale, the racist BNP are also deniers. In the US and Australia the situation is similar - as you move from centre to the right, climate change denial goes from rare to the gospel. And what do these people tell you? That climate change is a socialist hoax to enslave the individual in a communist new world order. Those of us who "spread alarm" about climate change are 'watermelons' - green on the outside and red in the middle. This is clearly preposterous - are (almost) all the climatologists and world leaders involved in some humungous socialist conspiracy? In any case communism has been just as polluting as capitalism.

Going leftwards, there is a tendency for Marxists to deny - the Great Global Warming Scandal declared that Margaret Thatcher had created the whole thing to smash the mining unions (crikey...). But you have to go much further from the centre before you hit such crazy conspiracy theories.

I find all of this bizarre. Climate change is about physics, not politics. You have to look at the evidence and decide whether or not you accept it. Your political orientation shouldn't come into it. Politics is about people, not physics.

So why does it happen? Previous environmental crises have been regional in source or impact - acid rain from the UK would damage European forests - or involved certain chemicals (eg DDT, CFCs) which could easily be substituted or phased out. What climate change does for the first time is fundamentally challenge the status quo. Our economy is built on cheap fossil energy and that is rebounding on us in a big way. The solutions are political and difficult and will be very hard for a free marketeer with their abundance mentality to accept.

It is much easier to deny the science than accept the reality. But in my book the laws of physics will always defeat political argument every time.

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