Hi, I’m Alice; New Left Project’s new climate change editor. We haven’t had one of these before. It’s a bit of an experiment. So I thought I’d do a short post introducing this new line of content.
Climate change has been a worry as far as I can remember being politically aware. Like many people, I’m pretty used to it. It’s almost become mundane. I watched public interest rise and fall around Rio in 1992 and Copenhagen in 2007. I took part in bits of this activity, watched some from afar, argued over others, and ignored more. Honestly, as a teenager, I was a bit frustrated by my greener family and friends. Who cared about trees and ice and animals, when people were suffering? I focused on war, education and health policy. But that was, arguably, a bit myopic. Climate change is all about people, including issues of war, education and health. It’s about the people who will be affected, the people who can tell us what’s going on and the people who can work together to do something to mitigate the damage. Trees and ice and animals do matter not only in their own right but because we are connected to them.
At a seminar at the Policy Exchange last May, I heard someone from the audience blithely say he'd believe climate change when he saw it with his own eyes. That sort of hardline empiricism has a whiff of rigor to it, but is somewhat lazy too, dangeriously so. It’s just too late, too narrow. The abstract ideas and datasets we have developed to tell us about the natural world (i.e. the science) may seem far off, but allow us to see further than our everyday experience and are worth taking into account. Later in the summer, I saw a leading climate scientist glumly argue poor people will die and the rich won’t notice. Or worse, they’ll notice, but watch while it happens. I left both meetings thoroughly depressed by the lack of vision for the future, the lack of hope; wondering at what point the fictional dystopias I consumed as a kid became the realities of my adulthood.
The editors of New Left Project feel climate change is a pressing problem that the left badly needs to re-engage with, and so have brought me on board. As ever with NLP, the aim is to inform activism and activists by providing substantial analysis from left hand side of the political spectrum, written in an accessible but intelligent style. Aside from that though, I’m not sure what exact sort of content I want to see here yet. It’s an experiment, and I’m happy to see how it goes.
Three initial thoughts though:
1) I think we can start from the assumption that anthropogenic global warming is real, happening and we should do something about that. I’m all for upholding the great scientific principle of scepticism, but on this basic idea I'll hold my doubt. Maybe I’m wrong. Awesome if so. But I’m pretty sure the science is right on this question and, perhaps more to the point, there are more than enough other people out there ready to lend a dose of uncertainty. If that’s your game, go hang out on Bishop Hill. Or read Merchants of Doubt.
2) Equally, I think we can do something other than climate science 101; just because you can already get that elsewhere. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Green Alliance/ Imperial College's “Climate Science Explained” overview. It’s hardly flashy, just a pdf, but it’s very clear. The FCO's climate change YouTube channel is pretty good too. Let's focus on the politics of energy and climate change here (even if science may well be part of this).
3) We should be careful about being too simplistic when we talk about the relationships between capitailsm and climate change. There are, arguably, connections (if you haven't read Naomi Klein's "Capitalism vs the Climate", do). My own green tendencies are deeply embedded in my redder ones, but to reduce enviromentalism to socialism, or vice versa, devalues both. I also think it limits ways of thinking about how to deal with climate change. The New Left Project wants to discuss the the left and climate change, but I think we should remember that many on the right have a long history of environmental thought too, for reasons that may well overlap as well as clash with our own.
Maybe I'm wrong on those points though. If you’re inspired by something and want to share it, let me know (see also the NLP notes for contributors). I agreed to do this because I thought I'd learn something, inluding having my views challenged, and look forward to what new lines of thought we might find.
Alice Bell - New Left Project’s climate change editor - is an academic and writer interested in science's relationships with the rest of society. She’s currently a research fellow at the University of Sussex and keeps a personal blog. http://alicerosebell.wordpress.com/