Editorial – politicians fiddling with climate change
Last month, for anyone broiling in the record-breaking temperatures of western Europe’s furious heatwave, or smelling the wood smoke from unprecedented wild fires in east and south London, the question of who was going to be the next Tory leader and UK Prime Minister could not have risen far up their political thermometer. As the temperature tipped 40°C, road surfaces warped, rail tracks buckled, and power went down in parts of England, London Fire Brigade was obliged to declare a major incident with fields, forests and buildings on fire. It wasn’t just hot weather for all though, because when the poor can’t stand the heat, they generally don’t have the option of getting out of the kitchen, literally so for underpaid catering workers, but figuratively too for poor inner-city residents who tend to suffer even worse extremes due to the well-known urban heat island effect.
Indeed, if they thought about the Tory leadership contest at all, they must have seen it as an irrelevant sideshow at best, and at worst, a bunch of Nero impersonators fiddling while Rome burned. For climate change scarcely rated a mention in the proceedings and instead all leadership contenders identified the issue of cutting taxes as the one most likely to motivate the venal Tory membership, while incidentally calling each other ‘socialist’ (big joke), all that is apart from one contender who, mystifyingly, seemed to think an anti-woke agenda was the most pressing political issue of the modern era.
Although posterity has justifiably branded the original Nero as one of the worst emperors ever, no small achievement given how many of them were corrupt, incompetent, megalomaniac or outright insane, in fairness he almost certainly didn’t start the Great Fire, and wasn’t even in Rome at the time, but did hurry back immediately to direct massive rescue efforts entirely out of his own pocket. But what is posterity going to make of all these modern Neros, who turn up to COP meetings only to mouth pious platitudes about ‘net zero by 2050’ which they know, and we know, they have no intention of sticking to? The 1.5°C ceiling has almost certainly been passed already, and the 2° limit is sure to follow, despite all the promises of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Devastating wild fires now rage seasonally in dozens of countries as a dramatic reminder of how little these petty emperors of capitalism have achieved.
And why have they achieved so little, you might ask? Are they corrupt, or incompetent, or possibly insane? If that were so, getting a different set of leaders would solve the problem. But the real truth is, they simply realise what socialists also realise, that to do anything serious about climate change, they would have to pull the plug on capitalism itself. And that’s something they can never admit, and never do, no matter how many cities spontaneously combust.