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Climate Change - 'The Ultimate in Boring Conversation'?

07/01/2014 15:21 GMT | Updated 08/03/2014 10:59 GMT

German magazine Der Spiegel recently conducted an interview with Randy Olson, a renowned biology professor and producer of documentaries, primarily surrounding the topic of global climate change. He's also written a couple of books on the subject, the latest of which he was being interviewed to promote.

So, when I was reading it, I didn't expect him to be calling climate change "the ultimate in boring conversation".

It's "all the same shots of melting glaciers, polar bears, carbon emissions...blah, blah, blah," he claims. "I think this issue of climate change is truly important, and it is a major tragedy how poorly it's been handled."

But is he wrong? The concept of climate change has worked its way into the psyche of pretty much everyone in the Western world. Energy saving light bulbs are everywhere, recycling and separating rubbish has become part of our daily lifestyle, we're cautious about using the heating and electricity too much (even if just on expense grounds), every TV chef wants to source his/her ingredients locally (especially Nigella, who apparently gets her special ingredients from a chap with a very long coat), and the majority of household appliances are rated for their energy efficiency.

Yet I think Mr Olson has a point. This ingrained knowledge about the climate means we don't actually think about it or discuss it that often. It's like a wartime mentality: keep calm and carry on, do your bit and we'll pull through, it'll all be over by Christmas. Sadly, research has proven that it won't be over by Christmas, but we don't want to think about it because it's not only boring to list numbers and percentages to prove the point, but daunting, intimidating even. I just used the phrase 'research has proven' because it's so boring, I couldn't be bothered to link to some actual research.

It's also not in the news that often, either. The odd report makes the headlines, but that's because it will come from 'newsworthy' institutions or people like the UN or one of the top-end universities. Some put it down to a conservative media bias, but I don't believe in such a conspiracy of silence.

It's just not good news in the modern sense. It doesn't fit well into pictures. No TV-friendly person really wants to debate what should be done about it. The Green Party here in the UK seems quite frankly amateurish compared to its right wing competitor, UKIP.* It's considered too left-wing for the BBC to report on it sensibly - one 2012 Horizon documentary called it "weather weirding".

There should be an iPlayer window below here showing a clip from this documentary - if not, click here to see it.

'What about economics?', you might well ask. True, economics and finance, a topic which is incredibly dull to me and millions of others, has wound its way into the news over several other arguably more pressing issues over the past twenty to thirty years. Why? Because economics has complete nutcases to make it good for TV, an industry term often used in place of interesting, because interesting things take time and money to make.

Take, for example, Alessio Rastani, the famously honest banker who appeared on BBC News, who said he goes "to bed every night and dreams of another recession". It caught the nations attention like Nigel Farage has for the immigration debate. Climate change science doesn't have that pin-up figure - the closest it ever got was Al Gore, in An Inconvenient Truth, which "itself, stripped of its celebrity element, was boring," says Randy Olson in his Spiegel interview.

How do we turn this situation around? (I'm going to presume now that you do actually believe in global warming and care about the climate and haven't just read the rest of this post to laugh at the stupid tree-huggers.) Well, Mr Olson suggests we should turn to his new book, which is doubtless available at all good booksellers, etc etc. I have an alternative which uses much less printed paper.

That attitude of 'doing my bit' has to end. We need to get other people to care about what is happening to the climate, and presuming we live in a fully democratic and representative society (big presumption, I know), that should make our governments start to care too.

In the UK, as much as I regarded it amateurish a few hundred words ago, I think the way to do this lies in the Green Party. As UKIP have proved (and Russell Brand has famously proposed in the form of 'revolution'), there has never been such a good time for a new political party to rise up.

Firstly, the Green Party need to get their act together. In the Sheffield constituency which I grew up in, the Green Party don't submit candidates for anything, and I remember the BNP came a close second in a couple of wards. I never saw publications by the Green Party like we would get from Labour and the Liberal Democrats (I think the Conservatives gave up there many years ago).

People see it as a one-issue party, and while that seems to have done well for UKIP, that's probably because it's one issue that people are interested in, unlike green climate science. I appreciate that the Green Party do have stances on other issues, but they need to make those clear. Perhaps a rebrand would help; naming yourself after one issue tends to defeat the object a bit.

More importantly, though, we as UK citizens need to get our act together, to try and get involved with the system to achieve a better climate, both scientifically and politically. I have met Green Party members, and as nice as they are, they've all been white, middle-class, and middle-aged (or older). Those of us with supposedly youthful enthusiasm need to step up to the plate to represent our generation, because when we're snowed under or flooded out, that will be incredibly, mind-numbingly boring.

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* Footnote: I call UKIP a competitor of the Green Party only because their party sizes at the last parliamentary election are comparable, and also because their name suggests they are one-issue parties, not because of any ideological link.