Monday, March 01, 2010

Elections in a time of climate denial

As has been noted over the last couple of weeks there is a considerable effort at the moment to discredit the notion that climate change is happening and that if it is it has nothing to do with the things people are doing.

Niggling over numbers, the difference between climate and weather and the misunderstanding that whilst individual scientists or departments may make mistakes this does not necessarily discredit everything everyone has done in the field to date.

This is dangerous on two levels. Firstly, and most importantly, it moves the debate backwards away from what needs to be done about climate change to whether it is occurring at all. If, as seems likely, the Tories win the next election the climate measures they take may well be shackled by the climate denial wing of the party.

Secondly, and less important in many ways, it means that the Green Party is in a dilemma on the issue. One of the common comments you get on the doorstep is that the Greens are a single issue party. That's clearly not true but if people haven't noticed that we're an anti-war, anti-privatisation radical social democratic party then it's up to us to help get that across.

That means we often don't emphasise environmental issues because everyone knows roughly where we stand on climate change, and the decline of the bee population, to take two random examples. We tend to promote the stuff that has had a less high profile to help counter these misconceptions - that's all well and good.

However, due to the hefty attacks on climate science it is also up to the green movement as a whole and the Green Party as part of that movement to help counter those attacks and move the debate forwards out of the boggy swamps of myopic anti-science denial. It's actually quite difficult to convince people we're not just about the environment and lead the defense of climate science simultaneously and I'm sure we wont be able to get the balance exactly right between these conflicting tasks.

I've written a little series of articles in the Morning Star on climate change over the last few weeks as my small contribution to the debate. Tomorrow's is on how the fight against climate change is also the fight against inequality and injustice and can be seen here. The previous parts of the series on is climate change happening? and addressing the climate deniers I hope hang together in a loose but coherent way.
Anyway, it's going to be increasingly difficult to draw this balance as time goes on because climate change is clearly *not* one of the themes of this election so the Greens (and a few notable others) will have to crow bar the issue up the agenda if we're to make it an election issue.

Even if we're successful in that it's not necessarily going to be a comfortable conversation once we get it there. But try we must, even whilst trying to demonstrate that the Greens are not *only* about climate change - even if it is the most important issue facing the world today.

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