Procrastination now killer of all time
As the Member for Epping, he failed to alert Parliament to the threat posed by the rearmament of Germany.
Despite Winston Churchill’s increasingly urgent warnings, it took the invasion of Poland to convince Britian to take action. The invasion of Austria, albeit bloodless, a year and a half earlier should have been ample indication of Nazi intentions. By the time Japan surrendered some six years later, the world war had killed more than 70 million people.
Signs of global warming are likely go largely unnoticed for a period of time far longer than the seven years during which Winston Churchill was ignored. While any number of recent global warming ‘invasions’ could be compared to Poland, the world, having no historical experience of it, lacks the collective imagination to envisage the reality of rapid climate change, and what its early signs might look like. Thanks to a graphic demonstration of the terrifying new technology that had helped terminate the second, little imagination was needed to envisage what a third world war might look like.
Initially, there was enormous resolve to create a united world order that would make it impossible for nation to wage war against nation. But luminaries including Albert Einstein and J Robert Oppenheimer were to be disappointed by the failure of the United Nations to progress to global federalism. Consequently, the avoidance of thermonuclear war was risked to the deterrent of mutually assured destruction. Global democracy may well have averted many of the 240 wars that have been fought since, including the most of the 37 ongoing conflicts, clashes and insurgencies.
Directly and indirectly, even deadlier carnage will result as today’s population of seven billion, ballooning to more than 10 billion, collides with the planet’s climate-diminished capacity to produce food, never mind preserving natural habitat for non-human species. Despite being credited with saving a billion from starvation, Norman Borlaug’s 1970 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech warning goes unheeded:
Man also has acquired the means to reduce the rate of human reproduction effectively and humanely. He is using his powers for increasing the rate and amount of food production. But he is not yet using adequately his potential for decreasing the rate of human reproduction. The result is that the rate of population increase exceeds the rate of increase in food production in some areas.
There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort.
Through persistent procrastination, the world now faces a debilitating backlog of economic, environmental, financial, health, justice, nutritional, political and social crises, right at the time fossil fuel use must be drastically scaled back. For Aotearoa, Christchurch exemplifies the instinct for business-as-usual that is set to play out on an international scale. Rather than build a low-carbon city further inland beyond the reach of sea level rise and liquefaction, at potentially crippling cost to the national economy sentiment is allowed to dictate, seeing the city being rebuild in situ and directly in harm’s way.
Fossil fuel is the principal source of economic wealth, not that neoclassical economists have noticed. Bizarrely however, the cost of energy is deeply begrudged, as though somehow it should be as free as the air we breath. Consequently there is little political support for taxing energy, particularly fuel. The Australian Labor party has succeeded in introducing a carbon tax, but only as a precursor to an emissions trading scheme, and only by exempting fuel for cars. Despite low and middle income households being compensated for direct and indirect effects of energy costs, the current 34% support for the party would translate into landslide for Liberal–National, if an election was held now. Although opposition leader Tony Abott’s ‘blood promise’ to repeal the tax may not materialise post the 2013 election, nor is it likely that motorists will be carbon-taxed, despite the significant contribution of light vehicles to greenhouse gas emissions—13% in Aotearoa.
The economic free ride that fossil fuel has provided the industrialised world is proving enormously costly to forgo. Germany has sunk billions into subsidies for renewable energy but with conspicuously little to show for it:
So by 2013, Germany will have committed to spending €77 billion (that’s over US$113 billion) for solar capacity equivalent to less than 2% of their 2006 electrical demand.
The orthodoxy that the free market can now somehow be nudged to become the planet’s saviour is fatuous, and rather rich given the spectacular financial sector losses that have been shamelessly transferred to taxpayers, present and future. Meantime, the faith was that peak oil would soon drive up the cost of fossil fuels sufficiently to make renewables competitive was more forgivable. Unfortunately, there are more than sufficient reserves of fossil fuels—two centuries’ worth of accessible coal—to raise atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to a height that would likely destroy life on Earth, before price alone intervened.
Despite the trading scheme adopted in Kyoto in 1997, global carbon dioxide emissions have jumped in two decades from the benchmark year of 1990 from 20.4 to 30.6 gigatonnes. The ‘You first. No, you first’ behaviour of sovereign states has demonstrated that the United Nations is profoundly incapable of exercising the global governance necessary to avert rapid climate change. Although Albert Einstein’s contention was in respect to war, it is doubly applicable to the greater killer that is global warming:
There is no salvation for civilisation, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government.
Clearly no procrastinator, Winston Churchill’s friend and publisher Emery Reves claimed:
There is no ‘first step’ toward world government. World government is the first step.
When those words were published in The Anatomy of Peace, humanity had only just weathered World War Two. It will be too late for much, if not all, of humanity for global democracy after the war on global warming. Since its inception in 2007, the online campaign organisation Avaaz has amassed more than 10.4 million supporters, recently at the rate of a million a month. This, Emery Reves’ assertion notwithstanding, could prove to be the first step toward global democracy.
Pray that procrastination is not permitted to be the killer of all time.