The truth is, we're fighting for survival

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Amid the trivial political squabbles, a stark truth lies hidden: humanity is staring global catastrophe in the face

By Joss Garman

From The Guardian August 8, 2008

Up to 4 billion people left without water. Up to 5 billion at risk of flooding. Half a billion left hungry as agricultural yields decline by 15-35% in Africa with entire swaths of the world ceasing food production altogether. More than 80 million exposed to malaria in Africa. The Amazon collapses and 50% of species go extinct. It’s basically the end of the world. And it’s reported in this morning’s Guardian.

There is such a gaping chasm between the matter-of-fact reporting of this nightmarish 4C scenario that government scientists now say we should be planning for, and the total failure of apparently rational people to understand what is happening on the Hoo peninsula this week.

Reports from Kingsnorth, the site of this year’s climate camp, completely fail to scrutinise the pin-striped criminals who are pushing the planet towards the brink. Instead, the Press Association runs stories on apparent conspiracies to attack police with knives without even phoning the accused activists for a reaction to these smears. What other set of people could be accused of conspiracy to commit cop killings without being asked for any reaction? This is a victory for the police and the rightwing media they leak to.

Equally, E.ON UK’s greenwashing PR campaign is run without any question. Every report repeats the myth that the proposed new power station would be a “cleaner coal” plant. No one reports that in fact, this coal plant will pollute as much as more than 30 developing countries combined, that there will be no use of carbon capture and storage (CSS) technology, and that the plant will be so inefficient as to waste half of all the energy it creates. No mention of the fact that Chris Davies, the Lib Dem MEP, who is notoriously pro-CCS coal, has pledged to attend the camp precisely because Kingsnorth won’t be a “cleaner coal” plant.

E.ON UK keeps pumping out the spin that “we need coal to keep the lights on,” even following reports in the Financial Times that independent energy experts, Pöyry, have proven (pdf) that if the UK hit its existing renewables and efficiency targets, no new coal would be required. Even when emails expose close contact between E.ON UK and the business department, they are only reported in the Guardian.

As the prime minister has a last look at a bit of beautiful coastline already succumbing to the sea, the media frenzy focuses on the same old soap opera personality politics. Is so-and-so too remote/young/jaded/damaged to be the next majorette marching us over the cliff? Whoever it is, we know it’ll be one of the same crew who got us into this mess and can’t get us out because the solutions don’t fit the electoral cycle. There is an echo here too of the US media’s response to Iraq. Even now, anyone who opposed the war is on some sort of “radical fringe,” and having supported the war, at least at the time of its inception, is a necessary qualification to be seen as “serious.”

With climate change, in order to be “serious” you need to acknowledge that the end of the world is an interesting detail in the broader pattern of economic “progress,” but never succumb to the incredible naivety of the protesters, who fail to realize that the survival of life on earth is a bourgeois luxury which we can ill afford in these times of economic constraint.

The harsh reality is that there is no way we could plan for a 4C rise. No amount of adaptation is going to make that livable for most of the world’s population, and it’s going to be pretty damn nasty for those lucky few of us living in the north as well. Despite this, we end up with two possible stories — the front page banner “dangerous anarchists threaten chaos,” or, tucked away at the back of the paper, “peaceful protest passes without incident.”

And all the time, not even the liberal press is concerned that, even if every single person at the camp arrived with a heavy machine gun, they couldn’t kill half the number of people who will die as a result of the effects of climate change.