[As appeared on Liberal Conspiracy]
Even as Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc and devastation along the US East Coast, climate change was absent from the US presidential debates[i], sidelined at the UK party political conferences, and shunned by world leaders at Rio Plus 20[ii].
But climate change is now interwoven throughout our lives. Not just in times of adverse weather, climate change is impacting the way we live, daily – affecting anything and everything from water security, to fuel prices, energy bills and transport.
No longer the prediction of a few – climate change has turned upfront and personal, and as such, there is a real opportunity for the Left to win votes on issues reaching far into voters’ everyday lives If they lead the way in tackling the change.
To demonstrate my point, below I describe just a few of the western problems which are the result of climate change, and will soon affect party preferences at a voting booth near you.
In 2012-13, over 200,000 Britons will be fed by food banks, an 800% rise from 2008-09[iii]. This trend of deprivation is only set to continue as food prices continue their inexorable rise[iv]. And this is an issue of climate change. Wheat yields are at their lowest levels since the 1980s[v], having been decimated by extreme weather across the US and Europe, and the UN is now issuing warnings of increasing meat and dairy prices. Meanwhile ocean acidification is affecting our fisheries[vi] and water scarcity (driven by climate change) is causing concern for our future productivity[vii]. Agriculture’s dependency on oil is only set to deepen the crisis, while the food banks will empty.
Food security is a hot topic and votes will be won by those standing up for affordable food for all. To do this, our leaders will need to address climate change.
The financial impact of flooding has doubled within the past ten years[viii] and the very real concern is that climate change will soon price people out of insuring their homes. Even those inland are at severe risk of flash flooding from rain. As Charles Tucker, chair of the National Flood Forum commented just a few weeks’ ago: “Anyone can be hit. That is a message which has got to be got out across to people without scaring the living daylights out of them”[ix]. The links to climate change are certain and well recognised by the industry. As long as ago as 2004, the Association of British Insurers acknowledged that: “Climate change is …impacting on insurers’ businesses now”[x].
We all want to insure our homes, to be protected against in the eye of the storm. And so the risks of climate change are high, as are the rewards for tackling it.
Between 50 and 200 million people are estimated to be displaced by climate change by 2050[xi]. And while tropical countries will often bear the brunt of emigration, the Northern hemisphere will receive the majority of immigrants[xii]. The security implications of such mass migration are vast, not to mention the ethical and resource implications for public debate.
Whatever your political leanings, immigration is an attention grabber of an issue. To gain ground on this issue, political philosophies, policies and public support need to be sought now. Future and current votes and ideologies will be won by those with a clear stance on an issue that is presently tricky and about to become a whole lot trickier.
The problems caused by climate change are here, now and everywhere, and certainly worth a care for those pursuing equality, liberty and social welfare. While intimidating, the opportunity for political leadership is clear.
Grasping and tackling climate change is a real opportunity for the Left; one that sits with our philosophy, one that will win votes, and one that could ultimately, save human life as we know it.
[x] Association of British Insurers (June 2005) “A Changing Climate for Insurance: A Summary Report for Chief Executives and Policymakers”