… as a Kiribati man failed in a bid to New Zealand courts to make him the world’s first legally recognised global warming refugee, global warming deniers continued to scrabble for something vaguely sensible to say – a task which seems to be getting harder. Specifically, the so-called debate continues over the warming pause – the apparent fact that the pace of warming seems to have slowed over the last decade or so. Setting aside the rather obvious consideration that any such fluctuation is meaninglessly trivial either way, given the vast timescale of the changes involved, some are now suggesting that the whole idea of a pause is an illusion, created by flawed measurement of temperatures around the Arctic. The related problem of methane gas escapes is prompting some of the direst warning yet on global warming blogs. The denialists, meanwhile, are claiming that global warming is a ruse cooked up by poor nations to bully money out of rich ones, and, for such people, fracking is part of the fightback. UN talks on climate change have been just about hauled back from the brink of total collapse, but remain essentially stalemated.
Still, it’s not all bad news for planet earth, and those of us who choose to live on it. One whole country – Denmark – has spent one whole day running on wind power. Another whole country – Tokelau – runs permanently and entirely on solar. Another – Bangladesh – is installing 1000 solar power systems per day. Britain, meanwhile, obtains one-sixth of its energy from renewables – that’s half as much again as a year ago. A crowdfunded wind turbine in the Netherlands raised 1.3 million euros in 13 hours. There are many such hints that a quiet revolution of practical common sense may be taking place around the world – unnoticed by the news media, for whom, it seems, that there’s no story without at least one of the two C’s – conflict and crisis. The option to join the quiet revolution remains open.
Not that everyone wants to join in. In Britain, plans for a big windfarm were turned down. Energy companies tightened their stranglehold on consumers, to sometimes lethal effect. Such sobering facts remain only one symptom of an ongoing plutocratic stranglehold on Britain, which involves keeping the rest of us poorly educated, harrassed in some cases apparently to death, and fully occupied managing our own poverty, against a background of pevasive media snobbery which usually passes without comment, amid an ongoing assault on the resources of what’s left of the labour movement.
Still, the plutocracy may not last – in its current form, at least. Britain’s ruling Coalition continues to show more cracks than a melting ice-sheet, with Conservatives and Liberals split on green taxes, and David Cameron having to edge away from what he notoriously called green ‘crap’ in order to appease his own party’s right wing – a Coalition-wrecking job for which Boris Johnson seems better suited than Dave. But Labour’s still edging ahead in the polls, and the mood in Britain remains sullen but restive, with protests spreading from campus to parliament.
On the international stage, the headlines have moved on from the ongoing horror in Iraq, but there are emerging reminders of why the Americans in 2003 were so keen to secure airbases in the Middle East for forward operations against the Far East.
Finally, a more progressive new pope seems to be drumming up trade for the Catholic church – and an art historian has proposed an arresting theory for the origin of the Turin Shroud. He suspects it’s the world’s oldest extant photograph.