Climate - how UKIP and the Tory right will defeat themselves

Why are those so opposed to migration so blind to something that will cause it to increase so dramatically?

Flickr/dachalan

I’m not talking about the sheer barkingness and loose-cannonness of so many of UKIP's Councillors and MEPs; I’m not talking about how their plans to move to an American-style healthcare system (ie to dismantle the NHS) will doom them electorally once voters get to know about them; I’m not even talking about their barely-suppressed racism and anti-Muslim prejudice which will surely come back to bite them as Britain keeps becoming a more tolerant society. I’m talking about their outright climate-denial, and the consequences thereof, consequences that I think we are only just starting to understand.

The climate-denial of UKIP (and of the Tory hard right, the Democratic Unionist Party in Ulster, the BNP, the US Republicans and so on) will have disastrous consequences for them in one of two ways. For the sake of all the world’s children, we must dearly hope that it is in the first way rather than the second:

1 - With the ongoing flooding disaster in southern England, Britain is finally waking up to the reality that we, humans, have altered our climate - with dangerous consequences. The bizarre and unprecedented winter that we are currently experiencing is showing us this. Of course, there are still hold-outs, people who go on and on righteously about the fact that you cannot for certain attribute any one utterly unprecedented piece of extreme weather to climate chaos. Similarly one can’t attribute any one case of lung cancer with 100% certainty to smoking … and yet we have now all managed to get beyond the reprehensible failure to admit that smoking causes lung cancer, a failure that blighted our collective health for so long. The mention of this example is not coincidental: the very same forces that fostered cancer-denial for so long--the preservation of corporate profit--are still trying in some cases to do the same, for the same reason, with regard to climate-denial, vis a vis greenhouse gases (See here and here). 

And similarly: imagine asking whether any particular single victory in cycling races can be attributed with 100% certainty to a cyclist’s using steroids. The answer may well be ‘No’. And yet, we ban cyclists from using such performance-enhancing drugs, because of course they make victory drastically more likely. Just as human-influenced climate change drastically makes more likely events such as those we are currently experiencing and, tragically, turns ‘one in a thousand’ year events into one in a hundred year events, and ‘one in a hundred’ year events into once a decade events.

In this new situation, the climate-deniers are beached, left high and dry: Farage and his ilk are suddenly floundering, out of their depth, exposed to a media finally waking up to the issue. Suddenly UKIP and the Tory Right are looking like anachronistic hold-outs who have managed to dump themselves in the dustbin of history. As the climate-weather-wake-up-call gets ever louder, they will be marginalised, and they will fail. They will be beaten by those who showed leadership by telling the truth even when it wasn’t popular, and who understand the need to be cautious when faced with massive environmental threats, and who understand and are prepared to act on the climate science.

In other words, UKIP have fatally determined their own demise, by wilfully backing the wrong horse in relation to climate. Greens (and to some extent also the left) will profit from the dogmatic refusal to face reality of UKIP (and the right).

That’s the optimistic scenario, and for the first time in years perhaps it now looks likely. There is a more pessimistic scenario. This again will see the absolute rout eventually of the likes of UKIP but not until the world has been well and truly decimated:

2 - What if, collectively, we fail to wake up fast enough? What if the lunacy of UKIP et al’s climate-denial manages, with the help of the corporate press, somehow to cling on zombie-like for the next few years, or even longer? What if climate-denial acts as a drag on efforts by successive governments to actually act dramatically, as we need to, on climate and on other impending breaches to the limits to growth? Think about it: the weather chaos that climate change is already implicated in causing is happening with only about one degree of global over-heat. Climate-denial, if unchecked, would contribute to a rapid worsening of the world’s climate, as climate-dangerous emissions and ‘positive feedbacks’ push the earth into a new and unknown condition, what James Lovelock calls a ‘fever’.

This will lead, among other things, to an avalanche of climate refugees battering down our borders here in the UK. As countries like Bangladesh literally go under, and as many countries fail to be able to feed themselves any more, people are mostly not going to just sit and die. They are going to move. They are going to risk everything to escape nemesis. They are going to make the levels of migration that we have seen to date seem trivial in comparison.

In other words, climate-denial is actively contributing to the creation of exactly the kind of long-term immigration crisis that UKIP et al claim to want to prevent. If their climate-denial wins out during the next generation, then they will defeat themselves in a manner quite as definitive as that outlined in (1), above. Their own ostrich-like behaviour will, under this scenario, have contributed to their own nemesis: to a Britain over-run with desperate climate-refugees.

But, as I say, let us hope earnestly that it is scenario (1) that comes to pass. Let us work determinedly to ensure that it is. For scenario (2) would be incredibly awful, for all the citizens of the world: for Brits and the billions of climate-refugees both. Being able to point out to the last remaining anti-immigration climate-deniers that they had hoist themselves on their own petard would be cold comfort indeed.

About the author

Rupert Read was a Green Party councillor in Norwich and a candidate in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. He is Chair of the Green House thinktank.

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