Good news on climate change

There is a simple image that Jesus gave of a farmer who had two sons. He asked them to go and work in the fields. One said he would go but did not go. The other said he would not go but thought better of it and went. Which did the right thing?

A huge conference has taken place in New York on climate change. Fine speeches were made but at the end of the day what came out of it? Are we anywhere further along the road of serious action to halt ‘global warming,’ a harmless sounding phrase but one that conveys devastating consequences for our children? Each world conference on this subject has baulked at taking the painful action needed to stop the dangerous warming of our planet. Like the son in the gospel they say they will do something but they don’t do it.

But it seems the other son also comes into the picture. A well placed commentator has said real action is taking place at the local level. Countries are not prepared to commit themselves on a grand scale but they are doing something at their own level:

“Leaders from the United States to China [have] moved forward [over the past five years] with domestic climate policies despite the absence of a solid international foundation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, announced regulations aimed at coal-fired power plants earlier this year despite no international agreement requiring that it do so.” (Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations).

Levi goes on to explain the many reasons why governments quietly get on with their own programmes while at the same time watching what others are doing. They do not want to be the only ones making an effort. Domestic politics in China, for instance, is pushing the authorities to take action.

“Suffocating pollution is wrecking public health, hurting productivity, and boosting the risk of social unrest. Chinese leaders have responded with a plan that includes a gradual shift away from coal toward natural gas and renewable energy. A happy by-product of this is reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

So there is some good news. If at the global level a consensus to act is painfully slow in emerging, at the local level it is becoming clear that governments must act. Doing the rational thing benefits everyone. Moral behaviour is rational. Sometimes it is hard to act morally. But if it is seen to be also rational, it helps. It does not solve everything because people still like to behave immorally and irrationally. But it is good when examples occur where people “think better of it.”

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *