Get Real on Climate Change

I generally think that most governments haven’t got a firm grip on reality, the Bush administration more than most, but I read something today that takes the biscuit. Regarding the issue of climate change, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said:

“I believe that the people who run the private sector, who run these companies – they too have children, they too have grandchildren, they too live and breathe in the world.

“And they would like things dealt with effectively; and that’s what this is all about.”

He apparently went on to add:

“Those of us in government believe it is the job of government to create an environment such that the private sector can really do its work.

“It’s really going to be the private sector, the companies… that are ultimately going to be the solvers of this problem.”

And it appears he’s not the only one suffering delusion. Australian industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, told reporters:

“The real emissions are coming from industry.

“And it’s industry which needs to embrace the technology, it’s industry which needs to be in a partnership with government to involve this new technology, to take up its corporate environmental community responsibility, to set about ensuring that in 50 years’ time our emissions aren’t 50% higher than now.”

Now that is reassuring because, lets face it, industry has a fantastic history of looking after the interests of the future by sacrificing some money in the here and now. Hello? Is it just me? Industry is interested in just one thing: making as much money as fast as it can. Give most companies the option of higher profits this year or greater long term sustainability and they’re all picking the short game, that’s what investors want, that’s what keeps the CEO’s neck safe. To paraphrase from the back cover of Ben Elton’s Stark, big business has more money than God and the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn.

The only reason the environment is still in a liveable condition is due to environmental laws and the possibility of bad PR that keeps heavy industry inline, otherwise it’s be far worse, there’d be PCBs, DDT, CFCs and God only knows what else clogging up the food chain until we wiped ourselves out.

Frankly, I’m concerned that people in the governing bodies of the US and Australia have this view, their proposals have been suggested to be a cover to divert some flack as they don’t support the Kyoto treaty (it’s guessed because both have big coal industries — Australia’s power supply relies almost exclusively on coal-powered power stations — that there’s no way they’d ever sign up to something to damage it). So they’ve decided that they don’t need targets and heavy legislation so that they can turn round and say, when they’ve missed the targets, well, we didn’t miss them because we never set any. Instead they can bring out some more stats that show how well they’ve done. Funny how they’re talking about industry having social conscience when they, elected representatives, appear to have abandoned it altogether.

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