The Politics of Climate Change, by Anthony Giddens (Polity, £14.99)
Apart from a few sceptics, whose scepticism is fuelled – I choose the word deliberately – by the vested interests of global mega-corporations who put their own short-term profits ahead of the survival of the planet, everyone agrees that climate change is happening. But it is not enough to understand this. As Marx said, in a rather different context, the point is to change the possible, the probable outcome.
This is the purpose of this densely argued work, which puts the necessity for political change at the top of the ecological agenda, though it falls short of putting forward a strategy for achieving this.
Giddens is somewhat dismissive of any “return to nature”, as advocated in the early days of the Green movement. “Conservationism may be a defensible value,” he says, “but it has nothing intrinsically to do with combating global warming. Indeed, it may even hamper our efforts.”
Giddens’ conclusions are irrefutable, though unlikely to appeal to the David Camerons and Barack Obamas of this world: “There has now to be a return to greater state interventionism, a conclusion that is reinforced by the failure of deregulation.”
Interestingly, though China is often cited, with the United States, as one of the world’s greatest polluters, he points to the way that country is moving steadily in the direction of more environmentally friendly policies. For instance, despite its widespread dependence on coal-fired power stations, the older technology is being phased out in favour of new, which is 30 per cent more efficient than the old.
Despite this example of a rapidly expanding economy controlled by socialists, Giddens says climate change is “not a left-right issue”. His alternative to this seems to me to be utopian. But in providing the data upon which political action must be taken, his book serves a valuable function.