Even More Planely Stupid

In yesterday’s post, I forgot one aspect of the idiocy of the Invasion of Stansted Airport.  The demo was timed – presumably deliberately – to coincide with the start of the climate change talks in Poznan, Poland.  Indeed, one delayed passenger interviewed on the radio had been trying to fly to the conference.  (Listening to this, I was a little bemused as I thought good form was to travel to these shindigs by train, however inconvenient, let alone admit, on national radio, to contributing to high altitude emissions).

Far from drawing attention to the underlying global warming issues, Plane Stupid have distracted us all.  They’ve put people’s backs up at a time when there was an opportunity to educate them a little on the GW disaster.  The attention of the media has drifted over the last year or so away from climate change and on to the economic crisis.  It’s as if a background theme is required for the news.  Now, every story refers to the economy, often when it is irrelevant (“especially in a recession”), whereas a couple of years ago there would have been a comment about rising temperatures or sea levels.

I admit I’ve read the reports in yesterday’s Guardian (prominent on pages 4 & 5) on the fun and games at Stansted, but not (until now) their other Poznan-synchronised articles.  A shame, because the paper included a fascinating “carbon atlas” (p.20-1 – the print version includes tabulated data, the online version is impressively interactive), showing the worldwide distribution of emissions, and growth over the period 1996-2006.  Looking at these sorts of charts, I’m always struck by how much work there is to do: stopping global warming is basically a European project at the moment and our blobs are only around a fifth of the total.  And most of the circles representing other countries are growing faster…

… a visual impression reinforced by the Guardian’s commentary on the next page (we’re at 22 now).  Focusing on “climate scientist Kevin Anderson”, the article notes that far from reducing our emissions, globally they are increasing rapidly.  But the mantra that the damage can be limited (to 650ppm and a “4C average rise” – I see we’ve dispensed with the annoying little degree symbol), “only… if rich countries [adopt] ‘draconian emission reductions within a decade’ ” no longer makes any sense.  What has to be done is persuade the rest of the world (the biggest blobs are China, US, Russia and India, and of these, only blob no.2 is “rich”) to make “draconian reductions” as well.

The idea of Kyoto was that the “rich” world led the way.  I suggest that, now, though, it’s clear that we have to decarbonise the entire global economy at the same time.  To put it another way for those who don’t think in terms of just one global economy, “we” have to persuade developing countries to do something “we” have only just started doing.  This logic happens to be true even if, as is the case, a large proportion of the emissions of some developing countries (China, in particular, of course) is attributable to the manufacture of export goods.

As usual, emotion overwhelms reason.