Thursday, 13 March 2008 - 12:21 AM BST
I know that you are interested in the climate-change debate. I regularly get emails at university from the accounting, finance and management society, regarding this issue. I haven’t ever really paid much attention to this issue but am starting to as people seem to becoming obsessed with this subject.
I copied and pasted a recent email below as I thought you might find this subject interesting.
Below I'm forwarding an email from Freddie Supple, an AFM student, who responded to my Heathrow Expansion email. I'm very happy to take up his request to forward this to staff and students in the School, as I have had similar reactions from a handful of people over the past half a year or so. So, Freddie's response is perhaps indicative of a certain mood amongst some people who feel that the whole climate change debate is vastly overstated, and even wrong, as they (still) believe that there are no scientific bases for the claim that humans are changing the planet's climate.
OK. Let me then start with the scientific basis for climate change. It is really surprising to see that there are still some people who think that there is insufficient or even no scientific basis for the climate change thesis. In fact, the opposite is true. There IS overwhelming scientific consensus that humans ARE changing the climate. There have been numerous reports by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (http://unfccc.int/) that show exactly this consensus. The UNFCCC is the official body of this planet to deal with climate change. It incorporates scientists from around the world, and it has recently made very clear that we, humans, are changing the climate, and that this climate change we are causing is ALREADY having significant impacts on the lives of many people in this world. They also warn that if we don't start doing something about it, then even more catastrophic events will take place later on in this century. It has therefore urged governments and people around the world to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Again, the UNFCCC is this planet's official body to deal with climate change, and even the Bush administration in the US is now accepting that humans are the cause for the climate change that we are seeing around the world. So, even the most conservatives of 'first world' countries now accept that something has to be done, and the real battle at the moment is not whether climate change is happening or whether humans are causing it. Instead, the struggle and controversy is about what to do about it, and whether, for example, China and India (and other emerging 'developing countries') should be brought into a climate change action framework in the same way as the first world countries like Britain, which have caused climate change in the first place.
So, I'm afraid to say that the world has really moved on since the days when the US government and a few scientists even denied that climate change is happening. So, let's not reproduce yesterday's debate.
Just for the record though, it is interesting to note that many of those scientists who for years have provided the US government legitimacy for not doing anything about climate change, have been directly or indirectly linked to ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil producer (and key supporter of the Bush administration). Greenpeace USA has researched the webs of ExxonMobil in quite some detail (www.exxonsecrets.org), and it is interesting to see how they have funded so many climate change sceptics. This is no coincidence, as it is the oil industry, amongst many other polluters of the world, who have most to lose if real climate change policies start to be introduced. ExxonMobil have therefore had the strategy to spread confusion amongst the public and politicians about the scientific basis of the climate change thesis, and this apparent confusion was then used as an excuse for not doing anything. This was an explicit strategy, and it worked for about a decade, in which not much happened in terms of coming up with concrete policies to reduce greenhouse gases. But this is all in the past. As I said, even the most arch-conservatives have now realised that the world and public opinion has moved on.
Even McCain, the Republican hopeful for the next US American elections has acknowledged this. And he's got a nice phrase: even IF we are wrong about the climate change thesis, then all we are doing is to provide our kids with a more liveable environment. And he's got a point, precisely because it is so obvious that human beings have such a detrimental impact not just on the world's climate but the whole eco-space that we inhabit on this planet. Most of the earth's species are in decline; most eco-systems are in decline; most of the world's natural forests have been cut down; most of the oceans are fantastically polluted, and this decline has accelerated dramatically over the past 50-100 years, as capitalist modes of production have swept around the world. I don't call this progress, and many others don't either.
The legitimacy that my post as AFM Environment Officer carries does not just come from the climate change thesis. It is good to see that so much popular attention is now paid to climate change. But this also takes attention away from the multiple other environmental problems we are facing: dramatic threads to biodiversity; chemical and nuclear pollution; general air pollution; dramatic fish stock decline; the list goes on and on...
So, on that basis I feel that it is absolutely justified for an academic institution to argue the case for greater environmental protection. In fact, I think it would be unethical if we didn't take this seriously.