Citizen Action Monitor

If public reaction to worsening climate change is anything like our reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic…

… there is no way the majority will ever put up with the level of sacrifice required to even slow climate change, much less reverse it. —

No 2686 Posted by fw, November 24, 2020 —

Tim Watkins

“What, then, might the real lesson from Covid-19 be? I would argue that Covid-19 has changed nothing. …. Governments will continue to pay lip service to climate change; but the economy will always come first. Activists will continue to protest, but will continue to fail to offer a viable alternative policy programme. The majority of people will continue to go about their daily lives, comforted by the erroneous belief that ‘clever people somewhere else’ are dealing with it. As eight billion of us grow to become ten billion we will continue burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and despoiling what remains of the Earth’s resources; because this is the only way so large a population can hope to feed itself. Meanwhile, states and entrepreneurs will reach for any hi-tech alternative to reversing course in the vain hope of maintaining infinite growth on a finite planet.  Because when all is said and done, what the end of the lockdown demonstrated was that all of us – young and old, left and right, blue and red – can only tolerate a change in our lifestyles for a short time.”  —Tim Watkins, Consciousness of Sheep

 

Climate and Corvid head to head

Tim Watkins is a British social and economic scientist with a background in public policy research.

Below is my repost of selected passages from the opening and closing paragraphs of Tim’s recent article – unclear in places, foggy — on what, if anything, the pandemic has taught us about dealing with  worsening climate change.

To read Tim’s full article on his website, click on the following linked title.

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What the pandemic really taught us about climate change by Tim Watkins, Consciousness of Sheep, August 31, 2020

It is entirely probable of course, that the lockdowns will cause a massive economic crash beginning in the autumn when governments withdraw the various stimulus packaged.  That being the case, then the pandemic may well result in a big drop in carbon emissions. 

This though, is not the lesson climate activists want to draw, because if the only way of lowering our carbon emissions is to inflict economic misery upon billions of people worldwide, then the economic objections to climate action will have been proved correct.

The lockdowns themselves – partial and largely benefitting the metropolitan liberal class – were not widely accepted either.  From the beginning, libertarian and conservative-leaning people took exception to the draconian powers taken by government (not all of them used by the way) to enforce the lockdowns.

By the end of May, groups from both the far-left and the far-right were routinely breaching the lockdown provisions in order to take to the streets in protest.

And although the majority of people accepted the measures – largely because they did not want to unknowingly infect vulnerable family, friends or neighbours – the protests suggest a limit beyond which people will begin to break the law.

Given that the measures required to reverse climate change would be far more draconian, and would have to continue, year after year, for decades; the more appropriate lesson to draw is that people are not going to accept them… not least because the Covid-19 science has proved wildly inaccurate.

Going into the pandemic, doctors and public health scientists were among the few groups of officials not to have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the public.  In the aftermath, they will be lucky not to find themselves lumped in with bankers, journalists and politicians.  This is largely due to their habit of projecting certainty outward while entertaining doubt behind closed doors.

On the pandemic at least, the science was far from settled.  Indeed, most of the pandemic plans which had been developed were based around an outbreak of influenza.  As a result we were treated to a medical version of [a hammer], since the only tool available was a response to flu, Covid-19 was treated as if it was an exotic strain of influenza. 

This undoubtedly killed people because those features of Covid-19 – such as micro-clotting damaging multiple organs – which didn’t fit with the symptoms of flu were ignored, while symptoms which only apparently fitted – such as breathlessness caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood – were inappropriately treated by ramming steel ventilator tubes deep into patient’s lungs.  Even the incongruous loss of taste and smell, which is now accepted as a central symptom of Covid-19, was dismissed by clinicians to begin with.

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The idea that these politicians – who have become specialists in nothing else but conning people into voting for them – are the best people to lead our response against climate change is an article of faith which detracts from the evidence so far. 

Long before governments will be fit to lead the response to climate change, we will need to create a radically different system of government to the current neoliberal version. 

But that opens up an even deeper level of conflict and distrust, because I don’t want to live in your version of an ideal governing system any more than you want to live in mine.

What, then, might the real lesson from Covid-19 be?

I would argue that Covid-19 has changed nothing. ….  

Governments will continue to pay lip service to climate change; but the economy will always come first. 

Activists will continue to protest, but will continue to fail to offer a viable alternative policy programme. 

The majority of people will continue to go about their daily lives, comforted by the erroneous belief that “clever people somewhere else” are dealing with it. 

As eight billion of us grow to become ten billion we will continue burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and despoiling what remains of the Earth’s resources; because this is the only way so large a population can hope to feed itself. 

Meanwhile, states and entrepreneurs will reach for any hi-tech alternative to reversing course in the vain hope of maintaining infinite growth on a finite planet.  Because when all is said and done, what the end of the lockdown demonstrated was that all of us – young and old, left and right, blue and red – can only tolerate a change in our lifestyles for a short time. 

There is simply no way that more than an inconsequential minority will ever put up with the level of disruption needed even to slow climate change; still less reverse it.

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