[Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series running Thursday through Saturday.]
The relentless pursuit of economic growth promotes the unsustainable consumption patterns that underpin the climate crisis. Only a clearer understanding of the causes and greater public engagement can finally urge governments to act on climate change, argues Rajesh Makwana.
Despite the scientific consensus on the urgent need to address the causes of climate change, a stubborn attachment to economic growth by policymakers threatens to dis rupt any effective response to the growing environmental crisis. Interim updates in the run up to December's major Climate Conference in Copenhagen revealed that emissions and temperatures are accelerating more rapidly than expected - leading many to ask why governments and political leaders are doing so little to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.
This long-standing gulf between government rhetoric and action was preoccupying scientists attending the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in the Danish capital during March, and many of these specialists have since engaged in activism of a kind not seen since the period of nuclear proliferation during the 1950s and 1960s. Acknowledging the failure of governments to date, experts at the meeting urged world leaders to resist the influence of vested interests and act decisively to avert a series of devastating ecological and social consequences.
Whilst Nicholas Stern, one of the UK’s leading climate change scientists and author of the Stern report, berated the British government’s failure to pursue strong and effective policies, other outspoken and prominent scientists took to the street in protest. Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), joined more than 1,000 campaigners in Coventry (UK) as part of a Climate Change Day of Action in March.
Demonstrators similarly voiced concerns over government inaction at the Put People First and Climate Camp protests during the G20 Summit in London. Dr. Hansen, like many in the climate change movement, believes that our politicians are failing the planet, and that direct action through protests is now crucial in order to combat heavy lobbying from the business sector that has prevented the necessary legislative interventions.
What these scientists-cum-activists now faced is the same barrier to progress that campaigners have expressed for decades: a stubborn adherence to economic growth and corporate welfare by policymakers. So entrenched is the attachment to continually expanding the economy that Gordon Brown, acting as ‘chancellor’ of the G20 Summit, made the resumption of global economic growth a key target for the meeting.
Ministers hope that the trillion dollar stimulus that was agreed upon will go a long way to re-establishing economic ‘normality’. More recently, the same ministers pledged billions to the world’s lender of last resort – the IMF, to provide additional debt-based credit to stimulate growth around the world. The underlying rationale behind these policies is that governments must preserve economic growth at all costs, and the best way to safeguard growth is by protecting those businesses that generate the most income.
[come back tomorrow for part 2, entitled "Profiting From Climate Change"]
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 Share The World’s Resources, Kyoto to Copenhagen: A Dangerous Gulf between Policy and Action, STWR, 2 April 2009.
 David Adam, Stern attacks Politicians over Climate 'Devastation', The Guardian (UK), 13 March 09.
 Tony Hake, NASA Scientist says Democratic Process not working in Fight on Climate Change, The Denver Weather Examiner, 19 March 09.
 Share The World’s Resources, The IMF's New Lease of Life: A Bad Idea? , STWR, 28 April 2009.