THE BLOG

The Crowded Ironies of Climate Change

06/01/2014 11:09 GMT | Updated 07/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Arctic sea ice has diminished enough to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic, where the ice used to be before the seas were warmed by increased CO2 emissions, thus forming a vicious cycle of pollution. In other words, humans cause rising CO2 in the atmosphere, which melts more ice, which reveals more areas for drilling, which produces more fossil fuel to burn, which emit even more CO2 and warm the oceans further.

Climate change brings crowded ironies. Profits made by oil companies reach ever higher, and the call for even greater profits forces yet more drilling, be it fracking, undersea coal beds or just plain old deep sea drilling. More burning of more fossil fuels brings more climate change, but nothing counts except the balance sheet.

Exxon shareholders recently approved a pay increase for CEO Rex Tillerson, whose total compensation in 2012 was $40.3million. That is excessive. Living this well on the misery of others should not be so amply rewarded.

Meanwhile, more than one billion people worldwide will be living with inadequate supplies of water in just a few years, with southern parts of the US and Mediterranean countries worst affected. What people seem to forget, is that if those lands have become difficult to live in, the populations will not just lay down and die, they will walk. These are called climate refugees, and there is no legal status awarded to them. It's all too easy to label them 'economic migrants', but that is hardly the case when they are moving to survive man-made climate disasters.

Displaced people will move, and move again, always seeking a means of living - a job, a shelter, a bit of security - the sort of things most reading this will barely identify with. It has been a habit of humans to be constantly migrating for millennia. But man made artificial borders have denied our natural nomadic impulses. We build castles, walls, and checkpoints to keep the profits in, and the needy out.

It's not just the CEO of Exxon making millions out of misery. The heads of all the fossil fuel industries and their political cronies are milking it for all they can get, pathetically saying that technology will get us out of the mess, when no such technology exists.

It's all but inevitable that global warming will reach two degrees Celsius in the next couple of decades, and this will lead to much suffering. Countries with the most water will rightly experience the most immigration. Will the UK pull up the drawbridge at the very thought of showing compassion to the tired and thirsty?

On current form, it will. The notion of visitors from other EU countries having the same freedom to travel and work as we do, seems to terrify the ruling classes. The arrival of interesting visitors from Romania and Bulgaria is unlikely to force us all into the sea, or maybe, like the badgers before them, the Romanians and Bulgarians have moved the goal posts.

In the UK we have a rich and diverse gene pool. It is our great strength. It would be nice to think that compassion would also be a strength, but the politics of hate are all too evident. We are taught to see the stranger as a threat, the enemy. But in reality the newcomers being new ideas, new ways of working and add colour to the fabric of life.

Of course there are two things we could easily do to mitigate the effects of both climate change and unprecedented movement of people. We could stop seeking out ever more fossil fuels to burn, and never mind that this does not fit with the business models of the giant corporations - they have made more than enough money. Pursuing an aggressive agenda towards clean energy will stop the seas rising and slow the ethically uncomfortable rise in global temperatures. Secondly we could actually help poorer countries to be more sustainable by sharing expertise and people, by cancelling debt and revoking the so-called free trade agreements which enforce continued poverty on so many developing lands. It is the very lack of prospects forced upon them by the West which propels them to our shores.

Clawing our wealth to ourselves will not stop migration, nor will it mitigate the effects of climate change. The deification of money is leading many developed countries into a sterile siege mentality from which there is no long term good to be gained. The final irony is that the policies of the present government will make all that it seeks to prevent, much, much worse.