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Heatwave? No, it’s a national emergency, disrupting lives and threatening our health.

Will Hutton: Heatwave? No, it’s a national emergency, disrupting lives and
threatening our health. The idea of climate change as a distant problem
won’t survive the next stifling week. Tomorrow, as we seek shelter from a
burning sun, climate change will feel all too real.

Britain has suffered ever more vicious storms and floods over the past few years but the next
couple of days will drive home the menacing discontinuity with our idea of
normal, a step change in our collective awareness. The expected heat –
temperatures that may exceed 40C warns the Met Office – are not only a
record, but life-threatening.

Only some 70 parliamentarians turned up to last week’s presentation on climate change led by Sir Patrick Vallance and other scientific officials. None of the Tory leadership candidates was
among them.

The accepted Tory wisdom, driven by its right, is that, at
best, climate change commitments should be deferred until the cost of
living crisis is over – at worst, they should be scaled back indefinitely
or wholly reframed.

Finally, at Friday’s Channel 4 debate, three candidates
publicly committed to the legally enshrined target of net zero by 2050:
Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt. The right’s frontrunner, Liz
Truss, offered a commitment, but carefully not to a date; and Kemi
Badenoch, the insurgent candidate from the right, wanted the whole issue

If Badenoch and Truss were to watch Vallance’s presentation, they
would surely change their view. Global temperatures are rising. So is the
cumulative amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The polar ice caps are
melting at bewildering and accelerating speed. Sea levels are increasing.
So are extreme weather events. All are unambiguously the result of human
influence, says the Met Office.

A global commitment to net zero by 2050
could limit the temperature rise to 1.5C. The right is massively out of
step with science, evolving public opinion and the business opportunities –
a triple whammy of misalignment that will prove deadly.

The science is incontestable. So is our daily experience. What is less discussed is how
acting presents a massive opportunity. Already the best in business and
finance are committed to net zero by 2050. In the City, argument rages
whether it’s best to disinvest completely from fossil fuel companies or to
support them as they transition to a new business model; what is accepted
in a world far from rightwing thinktanks, columnists and chat rooms is that
the change must be made.

On climate change scepticism, the right is
unambiguously wrong – it might not even prove the route to the Tory
leadership. It is certainly not the route to winning general elections.

Observer 16th July 2022

July 16, 2022 - Posted by | climate change, politics, UK

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