Fringe Box



Opinion: It’s Later Than We Think

Published on: 9 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 12 Aug, 2023

Brian Creese

By Brian Creese

Former chair of Guildford Labour

I don’t read as much science fiction as I would like, but over the past couple of years I have been reading a trilogy, The Three Body Programme by Cixin Liu, allegedly Barack Obama’s favourite book.

The first book deals with the advisability or otherwise of trying to contact alien civilizations.

Despite reservations from many, contact is made between Earth and a nearby planet and a constructive dialogue struck up. However, this all goes downhill when it transpires that their planet is about to become unviable and they think Earth would suit them perfectly.

An invasion is underway. But here is the genius – they have not yet attained faster-than-light travel, so it will take the invading force 400 years to arrive. Mankind has centuries to prepare.

The succeeding books set out how mankind appears incapable of long-term planning. As nothing happens for decades the invasion is declared a fake, the actions of those trying to defend Earth are ridiculed, governments are elected on the basis of disbelieving the invasion myth. Bear in mind that this book was written in China before Brexit or Trump and you can see how insightful it is.

The most obvious parallel is Climate Change, although we do face other long-term threats. The vast majority of our population, and those across the world, understand that Climate Change is real and that we all have to make great changes in order to mitigate the most negative consequences.

And yet… We already see a government which thinks maybe 2050 is too rapid a timescale to reach net zero.

Would it matter if it was 2055 or 2060? And getting rid of petrol cars by 2030…. 2035 would still put us ahead of most countries. And surely the cost of living is more important, for now at least? And surely it makes economic sense to ‘max out’ our remaining oil deposits?

Even our Labour opposition has had a little wobble, wondering if saving hundreds of lives through improving air quality in London is really worth sacrificing a possible by-election victory.

It is a cliché to say that our politics is bedevilled by short-term policies and a lack of forward planning. But just because it is a cliché does not mean it is not true.

To meet the challenge of Climate Change and the multiple issues that arise from it, such as immigration, food security, biodiversity, housing quality, public transport and so on, will require long-term, cross-party agreements that prioritise the fate of the planet and our own population over short-term political gain.

We need leaders able to explain and educate the population in what is required, and political institutions which are robust enough to ensure long-term policies are delivered.

Do we have the political structures – and leaders – capable of doing this? That, I believe, is the real challenge we have to meet over the next few years.

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Responses to Opinion: It’s Later Than We Think

  1. John Perkins Reply

    August 9, 2023 at 9:37 pm

    “Before Brexit or Trump” makes the assumption that those two were unquestionably harmful and ignores mass migration, Covid and Putin, which undoubtedly were and are.

    It’s not just government which thinks “maybe 2050 is too rapid a timescale”. So does a large part, quite probably a majority, of the population. If the target dates for net zero have any basis in reality then events will overtake them and long-term forward planning is pointless.

    I fail to see how walking and cycling everywhere will put us ahead of most countries. And if people wish to prioritise the cost of living over other concerns then that is their right.

    If climate change is real (I believe that it is) then it is more likely that the entire human race will not be able to alter it, let alone a few on a small island representing one per cent of the world population.

  2. Pete Bennett Reply

    August 11, 2023 at 8:28 am

    I think John just reinforced Brian’s argument.

    “If(?) climate change is real…” – I don’t think you could find a single scientist who would now doubt that. You may find scientists funded by the oil industry who will still publish papers suggesting that it is not man-made, but the argument about whether it is real has long since been scientifically resolved. Unfortunately, there are large numbers of people who take their opinions from social media and fake news media.

    “…mass migration…” – with people leaving many parts of the world that are becoming uninhabitable because of climate change, is stopping them coming here more important than addressing the problem?

    “…a few on a small island…” So we should wait until China, USA and India get to net zero before we do anything other than talk?
    Britain is a member of the G7. Despite the cost of living crisis and Covid and the state of the economy, we are still, per capita, one of the richest countries in the world. If we struggle with the cost of converting to green energy, supporting people to drive less polluting cars, improving insulation, then what hope is there that the poorer countries can do the same? If we don’t take the lead, then who will?

    I despair that the Westminster parties are prepared to sacrifice the future of my kids for the sake of votes of people who, like me, will probably be dead before the worst effects of climate change hits this country.

    I suspect that if we had PR, the Green Party would take a lot of seats in the next election, but as it is we have a binary choice between a party that is sounding increasingly anti-green and one that is sounding increasingly luke-warm. Neither are showing the leadership this world desperately needs.

  3. John Perkins Reply

    August 11, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    Perhaps Sam Peters has misunderstood, though I made it absolutely clear that I do believe climate change to be real, so there is absolutely nothing to be gained by restating that it is as if I had denied it.

    Just because scientists publish papers suggesting that climate change is not man-made does not mean they are all funded by the oil industry – the debate has a much wider audience. And the fact that “there are large numbers of people who take their opinions from social media and fake news media” has no relevance at all.

    Whilst anyone is entitled to believe in “people leaving many parts of the world that are becoming uninhabitable because of climate change”, there is no evidence whatsoever that that is the cause. How does it explain the large number coming from Albania?

    The status of the UK in terms of wealth is entirely irrelevant, if poorer countries cannot afford to follow then they will not do so.
    The idea that the Green party would gain a lot of seats under PR is a little far-fetched, unless you think 25 is a lot. It generally receives about 3.5 per cent of the vote and so would likely have that proportion of influence. Just to avoid another misunderstanding, I have long been a supporter of PR.

    I do welcome a serious debate of the points I made.

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