Science fiction global effort needed for climate or we could face dystopia

The IPCC report is a big report in a big year. COP26 is less than 100 days away. A world still gripped with the pandemic is being urged to get to grip with climate change. Covid-19 has been in our communities. In our bodies. Debilitating and killing in real time. Climate change has been around the corner. Out of sight and too often out of mind.

No longer. Heat bombs, floods, droughts, all predicted consequences of climate change and the strains to which human activities are putting on our planet.

Yet, we still get contradictory messages from politicians.

In the UK, a legacy of fossil fuel addition has led to the approval of new oil and gas exploration and the stuttering progress of greening schemes. Worldwide, there is a growing consensus on the need for action but also an inertia against such action.

The great sci writers, Arthur C. Clarke and many others, envisioned the world acting together against galactic and universal forces at a time of crisis. There is an alternative vision of the future. Dystopia. And that could be our future if COP26 fails.

COP26 is perhaps the last chance to save communities worldwide from the worst effects of global warming. Are our politicians up to the challenge? Will they grasp the opportunity? Or will they just talk, bump elbows, take a photo opportunity, and go back to business as usual?

I was having a pint with a fellow councillor last week. He takes the view that climate change is happening but it has nothing or little to do with the activities of humankind rather than the natural ups and downs of temperatures on the planet. Today’s report from the IPCC demonstrates, as far as science can demonstrate otherwise, that his arguments are wrong. Even if he is right, if temperatures are swinging upwards naturally, we should be working even harder to ensure that we do not increase any trend.

Humans will react to disaster, including that caused by climate change. But can we leave communities to drown, to burn and starve? It is the nature of human compassion and civilisation to reduce suffering.

Today’s worldwide accord between 234 scientists from 66 countries is almost the stuff of science fiction. The great science fiction writers conjured up dreams of consensus across earth, planets and galaxies in the face of imagined threats. The threat of climate change is no longer imagined. A planetary consensus is emerging. But delivering action will be harder unless there is the strong world leadership that science fiction writers dreamt of. On that we await COP26 in Glasgow.

Alok Sharma could be the best president of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) of all time. But he has damaged his reputation by flying around the world to thirty countries for face to face meetings and claiming exemption from Covid-19 isolation rules on return. Boris Johnson is just Boris Johnson and we have seen during the pandemic that he goes with the political flow not the scientific realities. Even though Britain has on the paper one of the world’s most ambitious greening plans for its economy, it is still stuck in the groove of a fossil fuel economy.

If politicians don’t agree to act with consensus at COP26, the danger is that the world will descend from a vision of a world united in tackle the climate crisis. From the sort of action that many of the great sci fi writers of the second half of the twentieth century would have hoped for. Into that more contemporary expression of science fiction. Dystopia.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

40 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 9th Aug '21 - 12:33pm

    The real challenge for the world’s democracies is to demonstrate that citizens can be persuaded to vote for politicians who promise to make them poorer and restrict the current lifestyles they enjoy. ‘Less flying abroad for a holiday in the sun, unless you are rich’, does not appear to be the type of manifesto pledge that will lead to electoral success.

  • John Marriott 9th Aug '21 - 12:58pm

    Brad Barrows is of course perfectly correct. As the poster I saw back in the 1970s announced; “Everybody wants to go back to nature; but nobody wants to go on foot”. He is quite right to say that very few people are going to vote to make themselves poorer.

    The present COVID emergency is a perfect example of how mankind has encroached so much upon the natural world (unless, of course, the virus did escape from a laboratory in Wuhan). I am for some unknown reason reminded of a line uttered by Leslie Phillips in a comedy film years ago. It went something like; “Let Mother Nature take her course. After all, there’s nothing courser than Mother Nature”. Unfortunately I think he was referring to a different kind of ‘birds and bees’ in this instance.

    Joking aside, the other major problem facing us is the fairly long list of climate change sceptics we have including such sages as Lord Nigel Lawson. Remember him? He’s the ex Chancellor, who harangued us to leave the EU from his mansion in France. Then there’s ex President Trump, still alive and well and residing near a golf course in Florida, telling his still loyal fans that it’s all a massive ‘hoax’. Finally, unless China above all gets on board and unless we can save the Brazilian rain forests from President Bolsonaro, we really do stand little chance of turning the thing round.

  • It is far too late, we had the chance to avoid this and collectively stuck our head up our backside.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Aug '21 - 2:05pm

    Do people really have a much better time by going on holiday to Mexico, for example?
    Q at the airport, security checks, 12 hours in the plane, more q for baggage, and the same on the way back… Train to the south of france couid be just as sunny, and about the same travel time.
    Many people go on sunny holidays and just flop by the pool – you could be anywhere.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Aug '21 - 2:06pm

    “Fly to Australia, help to destroy the barrier reef”

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Aug '21 - 2:41pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    “Q at the airport, security checks, 12 hours in the plane, more q for baggage, and the same on the way back…”
    You said it.

    “Many people go on sunny holidays and just flop by the pool – you could be anywhere.”
    Developing skin cancer?

  • So much for the ambition of all those young people who hope to travel the world in a gap year or similar. to increase their understanding of other cultures and such!
    What once was lauded as a great cultural experience enhancing awareness of the need for international tolerance and cooperation must now be condemned as climate destruction, and selfishness, woe to the woke destroyers of Earth! 😂.

  • Jenny, I think you are oversimplifying, people who are looking to simply flop in the sun already tend to go to the nearest guaranteed sun, this is the ‘Ibiza’or ‘Benidorm’ crowd, the only reason they will travel further is if it’s cheaper.
    Those who tend to travel to Mexico, Australia and more exotic locations tend to be travelling to experience the history and culture of the place, along with the sun, or are travelling to see family.
    The fact is that travel by plane needs to be severely curtailed however pretending that there was never much point to global travel and crossing the channel is as equally fulfilling as crossing the Atlantic or the equator is a non starter.
    Unpopular restrictions on travel by the wider population will need to be socially modelled first by those who seek to impose it, unfortunately I see no sign that they recognise this or are willing to apply such restrictions to themselves.

  • Today’s worldwide accord IS the stuff of science fiction. It is the the result of international politicians negotiating with each other over what to say and is usually designed to frighten their own citizens out of their wits.

    The scientific report comes out in sections but probably not until after COP26. Sometimes the Summary for Policymakers (this one) bears no relation to what the scientists later say. We shall have to wait and see.

  • john oundle 9th Aug '21 - 5:51pm

    John Marriott
    ‘we really do stand little chance of turning the thing round.

    Agree,

    China 30% USA 15% India 7% Russia 5%
    Unless these polluters can be persuaded to change, it’s a lost cause.

  • Trying to change the atmospheric concentration of CO2 really is a lost cause. Have a good look at the Keeling curve as measured at Mauna Loa.
    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/bluemoon/co2_400/mlo_full_record.png

    Leaving aside the saw-tooth effect due to the Northern Hemisphere annual bioactivity when plants consume their CO2 food, the curve is almost linear and smooth. There are no steps or sudden changes in gradient due to changes in human activity or technology over the years. The recent massive change in activity due to the pandemic does not show up at all.

    The CO2 content of the atmosphere is controlled by the oceans which contain about a hundred times as much. The solubility of CO2 in water is a function of ocean temperature. As we gradually warm up from the Little Ice Age then the proportion of gas in the oceans decreases and the amount in the atmosphere increases. This gradual long term process gives the smooth curve.

    Human emissions still add to the total CO2 but is is a tiny proportion and does not show up. Even if we managed by magic to suck all the CO2 out of the atmosphere, it would just be replaced from the huge reservoir in the sea.

  • John Roffey 9th Aug '21 - 6:35pm

    @ John Marriott & John Oundle

    One approach to this problem might be to introduce legislation that banned imports from those nations that did not reduce net carbon to zero by 2030 or soon after.

    It seems very likely, now that the report has been published, that the US will do this – and provided that most of the developed nations followed a similar practice – China, in particular, would have little choice but to change its practices.

  • Given the UN Report on Climate Change that has been released today, and that Shetland has Liberal Democrat representation at both Holyrood and Westminster (and the current Lib Dem Leader Sir Edward Davey was the Energy Minister in the Coalition) what is the Liberal Democrat response to the calls not to proceed with the Cambo Oil Field to the North West of Shetland ?

    Having done a news search, I can’t find any mention of a Lib Dem press release on this issue.

    Current plans are to start drilling 150 million barrels of oil next year – the equivalent of the annual pollution produced by 16 coal-fired power stations.

  • Further to my previous comment, here’s what the (Glasgow) Herald had to say on 3rd August :

    “REMOVING harmful emissions produced by plans to extend an oil field near Shetland would require an area of land one and a half times the size of Scotland, new analysis has revealed. The Oxfam study adds further weight behind the case for the project by Shell and Siccar Point Energy to be rejected by UK ministers on climate grounds.

    If approved by the Oil and Gas Authority, part of the UK Government, the Cambo oil field could produce up to 255 million barrels of oil over its lifetime – releasing an estimated 132 million tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

    The International Energy Agency has warned that no new oil and gas fields should be developed if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C – a stance backed by the UK climate envoy, John Kerry”.

    A comment please, Mr Cole-Hamilton, Mr Carmichael or Ms Wishart.

  • Just read “Alien Embassy” by Ian Watson. When it comes to sorting out the mess that human beings have made of the planet, no lesser measures will have any effect.

  • Brad Barrows 9th Aug '21 - 8:41pm

    @David Law
    I really don’t think we should expect the MP or MSP for Shetland to demand that the oilfield off Shetland be refused permission to be developed – they will not wish to alienate voters who may remember at the next election.

  • @Adam, I’m not sure tantric sex is he solution, though certainly it may be an interesting diversion.
    Or were you referring to the world being governed by a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship which makes all the hard choices on our behalf and for the greater good, whilst we look on with a suitable mixture of awe, reverence and gratitude…..that’s why it’s called science fiction….

  • “I really don’t think we should expect the MP or MSP for Shetland to demand that the oilfield off Shetland be refused permission to be developed – they will not wish to alienate voters who may remember at the next election.”

    And therein lies the problem.

  • john oundle 9th Aug '21 - 11:26pm

    John Roffey

    ‘One approach to this problem might be to introduce legislation that banned imports from those nations that did not reduce net carbon to zero by 2030 or soon after’

    That could work, but who & how would a country like China be monitored?
    Bearing in mind they blocked the WHO from investigating the Wuhan lab. .

  • ‘One approach to this problem might be to introduce legislation that banned imports from those nations that did not reduce net carbon to zero by 2030 or soon after’

    A rather ironic approach given that you are writing this on hardware that is either made in China, or contains essential components made in China.

    Remember, we’ve outsourced much of our own carbon footprint…. but we still want the goodies!

  • john oundle

    Since it has been assessed that in 2017 China emitted 30% of global CO2 emissions – I think we must assume that this can be calculated without the cooperation of the nations involved.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

  • @ Adam

    “A rather ironic approach given that you are writing this on hardware that is either made in China, or contains essential components made in China.

    Remember, we’ve outsourced much of our own carbon footprint…. but we still want the goodies!”

    One important method of helping to reduce CO2 emissions is to ensure that consumer products can be repaired and that they last longer. This is particularly relevant to Apple [the computer I am using] who stop supporting their products after 10 years [from memory] and introduce new operating systems which will not function on their older devices.

    I think there is already proposed legislation in the US to correct these practices.

  • john oundle 10th Aug '21 - 9:01am

    Brad Burrows

    ‘I really don’t think we should expect the MP or MSP for Shetland to demand that the oilfield off Shetland be refused permission to be developed – they will not wish to alienate voters who may remember at the next election.’

    If the Shetland oilfield is not allowed to operate will the demand for that oil go away.No

    The oil will be shipped half way around the world & whichever oilfield produces it will no doubt leave a similar level of emissions.

  • John, While agreeing with you that we need to make some very hard decisions about hoe to face up to the climate crisis, I think the approach you mention might be just a bit too OTT. For example not being allowed to import spare parts for critical care medical equipment from an overseas manufacturer would probably not be considered acceptable.

    Perhaps adopting an increasing level of import duty – say 5% in year 1, 10% in year 2 etc could be a way forward. However this would undermine the international agreements like WTO and trade deals already made, which would be very difficult to renegotiate.
    However, if we had a PM whose attitude to agreements with foreign powers was as decidedly gung ho as that of Xi Jinping’s approach to the Hong Kong accord, who knows?

  • Brad Barrows 9th Aug ’21 – 8:41pm……………..I really don’t think we should expect the MP or MSP for Shetland to demand that the oilfield off Shetland be refused permission to be developed – they will not wish to alienate voters who may remember at the next election……..

    Would you feel the same if the MP were SNP, Tory or anything but LibDem; I very much doubt it..
    As for the argument that “If we don’t supply it they’ll get it from elsewhere”..That is the argument of the loan shark and drug dealer..

  • @ Brad Barrows, Could I gently correct your post which might be construed as implying I am in some way connected to a former very famous Scottish footballer.

    I’m afraid I take the rather old fashioned view that politicians are there to take a lead and to take a stand on issues.

    Odd as it may seem, this is very often viewed more favourably by the electorate. Imitating the three wise monkeys in the old Yorkshire proverb of “see all, hear all and say nowt” is neither inspirational or decisive.

  • David – my suggested approach was nothing more than that – it would need to be refined and the refinements you offer seem eminently sensible.

    There is little doubt that a significant reduction in China’s export income, while Xi Jinping is their leader, is likely to release the pressure on a number of surrounding regions/nations – not least Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan. However, it is possible that his attitude may begin to waiver as the full impact of the IPCC’s report sinks in.

    Rising sea levels are going to seriously reduce China’s land mass – if this video is accurate [it covers all major land losses] which might encourage him to work more closely with the global community on this matter.

  • Barry Lofty 10th Aug '21 - 1:16pm

    It is being so cheerful that keeps us going! At least I managed to escape this governments culling of my generation during this Covid pandemic, so far anyhow!

  • David Evans 10th Aug '21 - 6:27pm

    Indeed John, I understand and accept exactly what you say and my comment was meant exactly in the sense you proposed it, as a start, not a finish. That is why I referred to ” the approach you mention” rather than “your approach” or even “your suggestion.”

    There are huge unanswered questions in the approach I mention, but at least it makes a start, or rather builds on the opportunity given by the approach you mentioned first.

    Take care and all the best.

    David

  • David Garlick 10th Aug '21 - 9:16pm

    Do nothing and we burn, drown or die of hunger.
    The choice is ours.

  • It may be a very, very small thing but I’d like to push my (Labour run) council into planting some more trees – there is a green space / small park near me where some trees have fallen in relative recent times – and actually they have kept the stumps/trunks which I believe is good as micro-environments but obv. there is a thought that replacements should be planted. And also more trees in residential streets which I believe help “clean” the air. The local civic society has a scheme to help sponsor trees in residential streets but it also needs local residents in a street to contribute and I am not aware of the council making any contribution. So we are not talking great new woods but a few more trees…..

    But any pointers to what Lib Dem councils have done, what central government funding if any is available, any thoughts etc. I believe all the political parties said they would get millions of streets planted…. I note there has been the urban tree challenge fund but the most recent round of funding for that closed on 25th July (annoyingly!).

    I obv. ask the council what it is doing but any thoughts, pointers etc. welcome If I get one extra tree planted…. !!!!!!!! Think Global… Act local.

  • John Roffey 11th Aug '21 - 7:07am

    David – thanks for your comments.

    You raised the issue of the WTO – I found this on Wikipedia – which seems to provide a possible solution:

    “The WTO facilitates trade in goods, services and intellectual property among participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements, which usually aim to reduce or eliminate tariffs, quotas, and other restrictions; these agreements are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their legislatures. The WTO also administers independent dispute resolution for enforcing participants’ adherence to trade agreements and resolving trade-related disputes. The organization prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Organization

    Interestingly in 2019 UK exports to China were worth £30.7 billion; imports from China were £49.0 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of -£18.3 billion.

    If the import of new products from China were banned [as opposed to spare parts for repairing earlier imports] it should, in theory, provide new jobs in the UK and help reduce or eliminate our current balance of trade deficit of around £12 billion.

  • Climate change is all very interesting. It could potentially affect us as much as anyone else.
    We need though to look at the reality of what life is like for so many people in the world. People are being killed by wars, by famine. They are being forced to live in conditions of poverty because of the greed of others.
    We continue to pollute the air, the sea and the land.
    Figures I have seen for the total biomass of mammals on our planet are –
    Livestock and pets. 60%
    Humans. 36%
    Wild animals. 4%
    We are busy destroying the remaining ecosystems which enable animals and plants to live in ways that aren’t controlled by humans.
    The problem is created by the fact that humans have not developed ways of organising themselves in ways that will enable us to decide the sort of lives which we want to live, and then to organise our planet accordingly.

  • David Brunnen 11th Aug '21 - 1:48pm

    Andy Bodington’s article was a plea for more creative communication about climate challenges. Forgive me if I’m wrong but looking through the responses I haven’t spotted any references to The Climate Fiction Writers League. ( https://climate-fiction.org ) where many eminent researchers and writers express their insights through very readable works. I would particularly recommend Bill McGuire’s ‘Sky Seed’ – an appropriately chilling story of geo-engineering gone wrong,

  • John Roffey 11th Aug ’21 – 7:07am:
    If the import of new products from China were banned [as opposed to spare parts for repairing earlier imports] it should, in theory, provide new jobs in the UK and help reduce or eliminate our current balance of trade deficit of around £12 billion.

    A basic tenet of the WTO is that members should treat all other members equally (other than where overridden by a registered Free or Preferential Trade Agreement). The rules don’t allow targeting a particular WTO member. Any import restrictions or tariffs imposed on environmental grounds would need to be based on an objective criteria and applied non-discriminately. What criteria would you use? If, for example, you banned imports from countries where more than 20% of electricity was generated from coal, that would also stop German imports. That really would cut our trade deficit.

    ‘Controversial German Coal-Fired Power Plant to Start This Week’ [May 2020]:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-27/controversial-german-coal-fired-power-plant-to-start-this-week

    The plant is the latest flash point in a fractious debate over Germany’s exit from coal, a fuel that still provides about half the country’s electricity.

  • @Jeff

    I have no problem in banning imports from Germany [or any other country] – on the same basis I suggested banning them from China. However, I think you should keep in mind the reason I made the suggestion – namely that many people see CO2 emission reductions as a hopeless task – because China mostly use coal in their power stations and are currently building many new coal power stations.

    The argument goes on: That since China is responsible for 30% of CO2 emissions and they are a major nuclear power – they will continue to do exactly as they wish.

    My suggestion was aimed at tackling this problem – effectively using financial penalties to dissuade them from continuing with their present plans.

  • I’m so often reminded of the world ‘created’ in Make Room! Make Room! (Solyent Green) by Harry Harrison…. How much will be done to prevent it happening is debatable; after all those able to bring about change will be those isolated from the results of their inaction in secluded splendour

  • Never mind the Sci Fi books, for a decent review of the key problems and how the world has already been impacted try the beautifully produced ‘Terra Incognita: 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years’ by Ian Holden, he provides a no holds barred narrative, but then who needs it, as they say,a picture is worth a thousand words. The books been around for Skittle while now, so the situation is undoubtedly worse. Some of the maps can be viewed online.
    My opinion is we will miss the target of keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 C, the question is will the world work together fast enough to prevent an increase of 2.5 or more? Personally I doubt it.

  • John Roffey 10th Aug ’21 – 12:25am:
    This is particularly relevant to Apple [the computer I am using] who stop supporting their products after 10 years [from memory] and introduce new operating systems which will not function on their older devices.

    That’s due to rapid technological advancement and not (usually) because the hardware fails. For secure online use a current browser is required which in turn requires a recent system and hardware.

    Apple typically provide around four years support for their operating system releases. As new system releases are usually compatible with all hardware sold during the previous six years or so that makes it possible to keep old hardware running with a supported system and software for around 10 years.

    A decade is a long time with the Internet. You’d have to put a low value on your time to want to run today’s Web 2.0 sites on much older hardware even if the system and software was supported.

    ‘Apple’s OS updates will support nearly all of the same devices this year’ [June 2021]:
    https://www.macworld.com/article/348268/apple-isnt-dropping-support-for-barely-any-old-hardware-this-year.html

    Apple might not guarantee OS updates when you buy a new Mac or iPhone, but it leads the industry when it comes to supporting older hardware with new software. And this year, it’s not removing any of the devices it currently supports, meaning the six-year-old iPhone 6s will get iOS 15 and the seven-year-old iPad Air 2 will get iPadOS 15.

    The only OS that is losing support for the newest version is macOS, which drops a few 2014 MacBook Air and iMac models and the 2015 MacBook from compatibility. But it’s still an impressive level of support for a company with a massive installed base.

    ‘Why Windows 11 is leaving so many PCs behind (it’s not just TPM)’ [July 2021]:
    https://www.pcworld.com/article/3623713/why-windows-11-is-leaving-so-many-pcs-behind.html

    If you’re still wondering just why your relatively recent computer may get abandoned by Windows 11, it’s likely because your CPU’s performance would take a nose dive when all of the security features in the new operating system are enabled.

    Microsoft kicked over a wasp’s nest of anger last week when it announced that Windows 11 would not support 7th-gen and older Intel CPUs, as well as AMD Ryzen 1000 CPUs and older.

  • John Roffey 15th Aug '21 - 7:39am

    @Jeff

    Do you work for Apple – or a PR organisation employed by them?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    @ Lorenzo @ Katharine, So your constitution is 'only' an ideal? A bit like the ten commandments, perhaps? Or the sermon on the mount? So, policies have to be...
  • Brad Barrows
    After the result of the 2011 election, there was a belief that the New Democratic Party could go on to win power. This possibility probably ended with the tragi...
  • David Raw
    Paul Barker asks for comparative past information about the Kendal byelection. Not much comfort for Paul, Lorenzo, or Keir Starmer I'm afraid. The Tories mar...
  • Matt Wardman
    Typoo: "over-detrimental impacts on society"...
  • Michael BG
    Keir Starmer has just written a pamphlet and he too wants a fairer Britain he wrote, “It is a vision of a better, fairer, more secure and prosperous Britain....