Without government action Richard Price sees little hope for the future
“Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction”, ran a recent Guardian headline.
UN biodiversity chief, Cristiana Pacca Palmer added: “People in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020… the world has two years to secure a deal for nature to halt a ‘silent killer’ as dangerous as climate change”. Her assertions, based on scientific reports, concluded with the apocalyptic comment: “We have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe”.
This is clearly serious stuff. Ecosystems are collapsing. Biodiversity provides an indication of the health of the planet. Plants, insects, birds, and mammals are vital for global food production, carbon sequestration and clean water.
Costa Rica rainforest – biodiversity is a national priority
Individuals are already on the case; naturalist and BBC broadcaster Chris Packham organised ‘The People’s March for Biodiversity’ in London last September.
According to the Metropolitan Police 10,000 people peaceably marched to Whitehall carrying placards and playing birdsong and urging the government to reverse the decline in ecosystems by investing in wildlife-friendly policies. The protesters delivered a manifesto in which 17 independent experts suggested measures to stop the destruction.
Yet, strangely, the event wasn’t covered by either the BBC or ITV; the former refusing my Freedom of Information Request to know why.
Things may be about to change. In November, campaign group Extinction Rebellion protested at London Bridge and 80 people were arrested. The group’s website outlined three demands:
1. The Government must tell the truth about the climate and the wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
2. The Government must enact legally-binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025
3. The setting up of a National Citizen’s Assembly to oversee these changes; part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
Columnist George Monbiot has published an article stating: “Climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse.” He believes oligarchs have caused the collapse of civilisations and that they: “thwart rational decision-making, because the short-term interests of the elite are radically different to the long-term interests of society… the oligarchic control of wealth, politics, media and public discourse explains the comprehensive institutional failure now pushing us towards disaster.”
In America, President Donald Trump heads a government of climate change deniers. Philosopher Noam Chomsky said of him: “Trump is giving his actual constituency (super wealth, and corporate power) everything that they want. His role is to ensure that media focus is on him and his crazy actions whilst his team dismantle aspects of the government that work for the benefit of the population.”
“The worst policies he’s [already] carried out. The most dangerous are barely discussed. Those are the two existential threats that we face. We have to face the fact that humans are now in a situation which has never arisen In human history. This generation has to decide whether organised human existence is going to continue. And it’s not a joke, it’s global warming, and nuclear war. Those are the major issues. They ought to be big headlines every day and Trump’s actions are making both of them much more dangerous.”
Both the US and UK governments back fracking, the process of extracting gas by forcing open fissures in subterranean rocks via the high pressure injection of liquid. Politicians claim it’s a ‘bridged solution’ providing climate benefits over coal. However this is only true if the greenhouse gas emissions from the fracking site are less than from extracting coal. ’The three most prevalent gasses released are methane, propane and ethane. It is more difficult for scientists to measure methane leaks from fracking because they can be mixed up with those from farming but propane and ethane can be measured instead.
Two scientific peer-reviewed papers released in a February 2018 study should change the rhetoric of those politicians that use the bridged-solution argument. The first, in Nature Geoscience, showed emissions of propane and ethane released during fossil fuel extraction and distribution could be two to three times higher than was previously thought. The second, based on emissions data collected at Pennsylvania well sites, found the state’s oil and gas companies emit at least five-times more methane pollution than previously believed.
In July 2014 Hastings MP Amber Rudd was made junior minister at the Department for Energy and Climate Change and after the election was promoted to Secretary of State. I interviewed Rudd in 2015, quoting research from the Environmental Audit Commission and the Royal Society showing that if all of the oil and gas were to be extracted from the ground the result would be above two per cent in relation to climate warming.
She replied, “I don’t feel that extracting gas is going to be a bad thing on our climate change commitments because I believe it is a bridged gas extraction to a low carbon future. We can’t stop all fossil fuels now, however desirable that might be for the climate.”
It’s possible, despite recent scientific evidence to the contrary, that politicians will continue to argue for fracking because the government hopes the UK will become an exporter of related gas extraction technology.
If the survival of the human species is at stake shouldn’t something be happening urgently? Some urgent change to media coverage? How does the BBC source news stories?
Journalists have reported many times that corporate power has corrupted the state. Governments are supposed to keep corporations in check so that their interests are not detrimental to those of the electorate. The current paradigm seems to be to make as much money as soon as you can and don’t think beyond your own lifespan. Perhaps it’s human nature not to give a damn what happens after you’re dead.
ALL PICTURES: Dave Young
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