George Monbiot is a British author and journalist with a history of inspired and untempered political activism. In his weekly column in The Guardian, he has illustrated a bleak and hopeless depiction of the future of addressing climate change through law reform. He claims that consequential action on the part of governments is unlikely with a result in Copenhagen that could only be described as utter failure and no considerable consensus on any matter between countries. Monbiot decries the feeble policies of the United Kingdom and European Union in no uncertain terms; in short, he claims that “the harsh reality we have to grasp is that the process is dead”.
With disproportionate weight given to those too hopeful, stupid or short-sighted to make a reasonable consideration of the evidence and comprehend its ramifications, governments have realised that it is politically undesirable to take any meaningful steps to combat this self-induced horror that has the potential to wreak unspeakable damage on all life on earth, including the basic mechanisms that allow society to function.
The domestic situation may seem slightly more hopeful now that we have a government that is prepared to introduce a carbon tax, but the international situation is far worse. Although Monbiot has presented a considered and well-informed view, he has underestimated the ability for people to changing circumstances. Despite the fact that system justification leads people to resist change, unavoidable developments are consistently adapted for more easily. The likelihood of any considerable action being taken by governments to slow climate change in the near future is unlikely. As a direct result, it can be concluded that little will be done to address climate change at all before the impact it will have on the environment and the economy becomes apparent. As soon as the full ramifications of climate change begin to take hold, however, there is little doubt that the governments and people of the world would acknowledge and address them. The environment will suffer and the economy will suffer; the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action. This will have been foretold in the Garnaut Climate Change Review and the Stern Review, but until an immediate and empirical imperative to act materialises no action would have been taken.
There is little doubt that serious and irreversible damage will have been will have been done to the environment and the economy. In the decades to come, it will be clear to all that the benefits of strong, early action would have outweighed the benefits of the acquiescence that was to be. International treaties will be signed and a colossal disaster averted. With the failure of Copenhagen, the approaching expiry of the Kyoto Protocol and the political apathy of developing nations contributing to a belated response to this situation, Monbiot is correct in his grim view of international politics in relation to climate change. Nevertheless, his claims do not amount to a disastrous set of consequences but a result that affirms the view that change of any sort is impossible without a serious problem. What is perhaps most disheartening about this likely course of events is that we will not learn from it and will gladly set about placing ourselves in parallel circumstances again. We are truly a dim-witted species.