Three articles in this morning’s Observer illustrate perfectly the paradoxes surrounding the climate change debate.
First we had this piece on England’s wettest January for 250 years. The culprit is identified as global warming:
Flooding has been identified as the most dangerous impact of climate change for the UK and is hitting harder and faster than expected, according to scientists. Thousands of homes have been flooded since December, and much of the low-lying Somerset Levels remains under water.
It went on to detail the price to be paid both in flood defence expenditures and annual flood damage which will result from increasingly erratic weather patterns.
Then there was a piece in the Observer’s New York Times supplement entitled Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change which detailed the concerns that large US corporates like Coca-Cola and Nike are now expressing about the adverse effects of climate change on their businesses.
“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”
Finally, back in the main paper, this piece on the exciting opportunities which the melting of the polar icecap are opening up for the energy and shipping industries. The effects of climate change are being felt faster in the northern pole than elsewhere on the planet with the prospects that a northern sea route will open up and swathes of the arctic can be explored for oil, gas and minerals.
Confidence that the Arctic will become economically important is seen in the rush of countries and companies to claim a stake. Eleven countries, including Poland and Singapore, have appointed Arctic ambassadors to promote their national interests.
It is splendidly ironic that the burning of fossil fuels causes the planet to warm up so that the north pole melts and we can find more fossil fuels to burn, thus continuing the cycle. There is a wonderful comment in the comments thread of the article online which sums it up perfectly….
And the New Yorker cartoon (above) earlier this week illustrated the short-termism appositely.
One thing is clear, until we price carbon correctly and align short term economic interests to the long term interests of the planet (and the human species) we will see more and more of this schizophrenic behaviour.