One of my favourite ever political cartoons is by Joel Pett in USA Today. It features an enraged audience member arising from his seat at a climate summit exclaiming: “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” In front of him in giant letters is a list of everyday benefits from tackling Climate Change. Sometimes it’s very easy for Greens and other environmentalists to keep carping on about saving the planet, or protecting our world for future generations. These statements are certainly admirable, but are also abstract and detached from the here-and-now of everyday life. There are some great arguments for tackling Climate Change, even if you are skeptical of its existence, and becoming a greener nation will certainly have huge, beneficial side-effects.
Reduce Air Pollution & Lung Disease
Air pollution from burning fossil fuels has been linked to tens of thousands of deaths per year in the UK alone. If you live in a congested city, or have even experienced the displeasure of walking down your own local high street at a time of high traffic, you’ll know that vehicle emissions can be choking. On a larger scale, these emissions are let loose in the atmosphere every day by power stations and aeroplanes. We’re all well aware of the dangers of second-hand smoking, and we’ve even banned smoking in pubs to improve public health and protect our children from its harmful effects. Reducing our carbon emissions serves exactly the same purpose. Healthier lungs for adults and children alike.
Safer Drinking Water & Cleaner Oceans
The carbon dioxide in our air is slowly dissolving in the oceans and increasing their levels of acidity, which is then absorbed into fish and other marine animals. Not only is this bad for the fish, but it’s also bad for us when we eat the fish. A similar problem arises not from CO2, but from oil and chemical spills that occur in our mad rush to extract more fossil fuels from the seabed. Our fresh water supply is also under threat from fossil fuel exploration. Fracking, the government’s new favourite way to destroy the environment, involves pumping water and toxic chemicals into the ground below our communities to force out natural gas. This has already led to the contamination of drinking water in far bigger and less densely-populated countries than our own, the results here could be even more disastrous. If we reduce our need to keep digging for new fossil fuels, we reduce the risk to our health.
Healthier Citizens & Less Strain On The NHS
An obvious conclusion to be drawn from combining the two sections above is that we will all be healthier if we reduce our fossil fuel consumption and make the move to clean energy. Not immediately obvious, perhaps, is the knock-on benefit of reduced strain on the National Health Service. If fewer people become ill each year because of air pollution or water pollution, there will be more money and hospital beds available for other patients.
Energy Independence From Some Pretty Shady Regimes
One of the arguments used most vehemently by opponents of EU membership or NATO membership is a lack of democratic power held by the UK. But there’s a far greater risk to our democracy than political union, and that’s our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Britain imports nearly half of its fossil fuels from abroad, which means that we have to cosy-up to some pretty nasty regimes in order to keep our power stations running. Successive governments in the UK have failed to challenge oppressive states like Saudi Arabia and Russia over human rights abuses because we fear that we could be denied the oil and gas we need to keep our homes and businesses powered. If we invest in clean, widely available energy like Solar and Wind, foreign interests will have less influence on our politics.
More Co-operative, Competitive Energy Markets
Fossil fuels are finite by nature, and therefore they can be easily hoarded and controlled by powerful corporations. Energy companies can effectively lobby against the imposition of price caps by the government, and they can turn off your power supply when you fail to pay. The profits of the big six energy companies have increased massively over the last decade, and that money goes straight into the pockets of shareholders and directors, fueling inequality in the UK. By contrast solar power and wind cannot be hoarded by large companies. Sunlight and wind exist all around us, which means local communities and individuals can choose to build their own wind and solar farms to meet their energy needs. Energy co-operatives can ensure that the profits from renewable energy farms are fed straight back into the local community, rather than being swallowed up by a few rich executives. In the long term, this means cheaper energy for all, and more money in all of our pockets.
Thousands of New Jobs in Green Energy
Building wind turbines and solar panels requires all kinds of resources. Engineers, construction workers, managers, customer service technicians, and health & safety inspectors are all required, along with many other professionals, for a successful renewable energy revolution. These employees could transfer from existing power stations as they are decommissioned or be trained up through our schools and colleges. The opportunity is available to create thousands of new, green jobs for our young people and experienced professionals alike. More people in work means a stronger economy and more money contributed to the treasury through taxation, as well as decreased spending on welfare payments like job-seekers allowance. These new jobs could boost several areas of the economy from PR services to Steel production, if only we would give the renewable energy industry a fighting chance.
We can see how tackling climate change would actually have several enormous benefits for areas of the government spending ranging from health and the NHS to welfare and social security. The biggest barrier to action on climate change is the corporate press, whose vested interests result in them publishing article after article about how climate change is a myth. It isn’t, but even if it were a myth the benefits of tackling it are no less compelling, and it’s those benefits that cannot be denied by the corporate press. Taking action to tackle Climate Change will create a better world, so why not start right away?