Political disconnect from environmental reality remains

When it came to climate and environmental issues, the political parties’ manifestos were a mixed bag indeed. On a positive note, these issues have moved from being almost universally ignored as recently as the 2016 election, to being front-and-centre in Election 2020 – at least on paper. The fact that climate yet again failed to materialise as a crunch issue on the doorsteps was deeply disappointing, and reduces the likelihood that whatever coalition eventually emerges will truly place the climate emergency at the heart of all policy planning in the next several years. My report (below) ahead of the election appeared in the Irish Times on February 5th.

LAST MAY, the Oireachtas declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. That was the easy bit. Since then, political inaction has spoken louder than words.

Despite Election 2020 being framed against an increasingly apocalyptic backdrop of rolling climate-fuelled disasters such as the Australian fires, there remains scant evidence that Irish politics has begun to grasp the meaning of the term “emergency”.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the election manifestos of the main parties, with Fine Gael’s being perhaps the most disconnected from reality. While it alludes to the need to “prevent catastrophic climate change”, it offers little indication as to how this useful goal might be achieved.

In October 2018, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that in order to avoid locking in potentially catastrophic and irreversible impacts, global carbon emissions needed to more or less halve by 2030.

To put this in context, nothing on this scale has ever been attempted in peacetime. For Europe, it potentially represents the most far-reaching reboot since the Marshall Plan to reconstruct the ruined continent in the late 1940s

In terms of Irish emissions, the last 15 years have been quite literally an unmitigated failure, with improvements in the energy sector papering over spiralling transport and agricultural emissions. Our per capita emissions are now the third-highest in the EU.

Just days from the election, it remains extremely difficult to read the public mood on climate action. As recently as last October, more than half of respondents to an Irish Times poll regarded climate as a crunch issue, with most also prepared to personally accept a financial hit in tackling it.

With recent polling showing only 6 per cent of voters regarding climate as the decisive issue influencing their vote, can this extraordinary level of public concern have simply vaporised in the last few months, or is it lurking below the political radar, waiting to resurface as the X factor in this election?

Biodiversity goals

With the three main parties running neck and neck in the polls, it is looking increasingly likely that whoever goes on to form the next government will need to have the Green Party on board, especially if it achieves about 10 per cent of the vote.

Unsurprisingly, the Greens’ manifesto on climate is the most ambitious, framed in terms of bending all policies towards the overarching goal of delivering 7 per cent annual emissions cuts, in tandem with major biodiversity goals.

Should Fine Gael be in pole position to form a government, it is difficult to see how the chasm in climate ambition between the two parties could be bridged. One of the few areas where Fine Gael appears progressive is in its plan to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars after 2030.

The party’s commitment to planting 8,000 hectares of forestry annually is deliberately vague on whether this will be biodiverse-rich native species or just more dead zones of industrial timber.

Fine Gael plans to increase carbon tax to €80 a tonne by 2030, but its manifesto includes the clearly counterintuitive commitment to “increase the fuel allowance” as a measure to offset the impacts of the tax.

Should Fianna Fáil be wooing the Greens into coalition, their manifesto gives them a clear edge on the outgoing government. While all three major parties have run scared of proposing herd reduction to mitigate spiralling agri sector emissions, Fianna Fáil ups its game on biodiversity, and overall is felt to be pliable on key green demands.

Favoured interests

Fianna Fáil plans to sharply increase funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

This has been significantly eroded over the last decade. You have to seriously question our values when favoured interests like the (private) greyhound and horseracing industries receive vastly more taxpayer largesse than wildlife and biodiversity protection.

Fianna Fáil and the Greens would also broadly agree on commitments towards rewilding and marine protected areas, plus supporting a full ban on smoky coal and rapid rollout of a national retrofitting programme.

One Green Party proposal that could transform the apparently deadlocked agricultural debate is to increase the amount of Irish land farmed organically to 20 per cent by 2030.

At a stroke, this would cut emissions and pollution, reduce damaging and expensive inputs, boost biodiversity and reward farmers for protecting nature.

If Sinn Féin is in the mix, its flat rejection of carbon taxes (a view also held by People Before Profit) could present a serious roadblock to any agreed climate action programme, but there is common ground on issues like fracking. However, senior Green Party sources indicated scepticism around Sinn Féin’s actual commitment to a strong climate agenda.

Sinn Féin’s proposal to trial a “basic environmental income” for farmers to reward them directly for stewardship is worth exploring. Some of its proposals appear inconsistent; for instance, it wants to strengthen trawler inspections while weakening farm inspections.

With just 10 years in which to radically transform Ireland’s energy, transport and agricultural systems, this election may well be the most significant in decades. This Saturday, think globally, then vote for the parties and people that best represent your values.

John Gibbons is an environmental writer and commentator

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Climate Change is (Sort of) Affecting Ireland’s Election

My pre-election analysis of where the parties stood on the climate issue was published on Desmog.uk.

LAST MAY, Ireland was among the first countries in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. In September, over 20,000 students took to the streets of Dublin demanding urgent climate action. And, plugging into the new ecological zeitgeist, RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, produced a week-long series of climate-related programmes and events that were broadcast in November.

In that context, Ireland seemed set for its first ever “climate election”, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dissolved the Dáil (parliament) and called an election for February 8th. Climate activists have been canvassing under the banner of “One Future Ireland”, with the slogan: “Act now for faster and fairer climate action”.

However, recent polls suggest that fewer than one in 10 people see climate as the most important issue when deciding how to vote. Parochial concerns have once again crowded out the bigger picture.

Election choices

The Irish electoral system involves proportional representation and multi-seat constituencies, which means that, unlike in the UK, the number of seats won by smaller parties tends to closely match their level of public support.

From the point of view of enhanced climate action, a coalition involving the centrist Fianna Fail with the Green party is considered a reasonable option. Ireland’s Labour party may also be in the mix, and is seen as pragmatic on climate issues.

However, the rejection by other left-wing parties of any form of carbon tax may scupper the chances of building a broader left-wing alliance to push a more genuinely transformative climate agenda.

So, where do the parties stand on climate action?

Fine Gael

Fine Gael’s election manifesto calls for a ban on all new fossil fuel cars by 2030, as well as supporting a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2030. It also supports planting 8,000 hectares of forestry annually and has committed to support a carbon tax rising steadily to €80 per tonne by 2030. It also favours a ten-fold increase in the amount of domestic retrofitting.

Fianna Fail

The other major Irish political party is Fianna Fail, which was widely blamed for leading the country into severe recession in 2008 and was almost wiped out electorally. It has since recovered and is now leading in the polls, and may well be the lead partner in forming a coalition government after this election.

It too supports an €80 per tonne carbon tax by the end of the decade, but unlike Fine Gael, it has committed to a nationwide ban on smoky coal. Its proposals on biodiversity protection are quite strong, and include supporting 30 percent of Irish territorial waters being designated as Marine Protected Areas. The party has traditionally been seen as having close links to the construction industry, and this is reflected in its ongoing commitment to road-building.

Sinn Fein and PBP Party

The third largest party in the state is Sinn Fein, though it has never been in government in the Irish republic. It supports a total ban on all offshore fossil fuel drilling, as well as banning the importation of fracked gas. For farmers, it proposes a novel “environmental basic income”, which aims to voluntarily transition them towards more sustainable practices.

Sinn Fein is supported by the left-wing People Before Profit (PBP) party in rejecting any carbon taxes. Sinn Fein argues that higher carbon taxes “will make people poorer, but will not make the state greener or cleaner.” While it is unclear whether Sinn Fein will participate in forming the next government, its absolute rejection of carbon taxes is a likely major stumbling block.

The PBP manifesto also suggests taking multinational agri corporations into public ownership.

Green Party

While currently having only three of 166 seats in parliament, the Green Party is hopeful of increasing that to between 10 and 15, and seems keen to be involved in government. Electoral support for the Green Party is currently hovering between seven and 10 percent in recent polling.

Its manifesto is by far the most comprehensive and coherent on climate action, and it includes the need for Ireland to commit to at least seven percent annual greenhouse gas emissions reductions (the government’s current Climate Action Plan aims for just two percent cuts per year).

On wind energy, the Greens propose an additional five gigawatts by 2030 and a massive 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2040. This would make Ireland a major net energy exporter. It also wants Ireland to aim for 30 percent tree cover by mid-century, as well as transitioning 20 percent of farming to be organic.

Their transport policies are detailed and support a full modal shift from car dependence to high quality public transport and cycling. The Greens also support reducing the national herd by 50 percent – a target also supported by the PBP party.

Agriculture attention

The apparent slump in public interest has been mirrored by media coverage, where climate action has once again been pushed to the margins of the national discussion. In the first televised leaders’ debate featuring all seven parties, the only climate-related question discussed over the course of two hours was whether parties supported reducing the suckler herd to cut emissions.

Ireland’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the third highest in the EU, and while mandated to cut emissions outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme by 20 percent by 2020, according to government figures, it will only have achieved “at best” a reduction of around one percent. Emissions from the agricultural sector have in fact risen by around eight percent since 2015.

While agriculture is a relatively small part of the Irish economy, it produces 34 percent of total emissions, and the agri-industrial lobby has been highly active in downplaying the need for climate action, fearful that it will lead to a reduction in cattle numbers.

The Irish Farmers Association recently hosted a conference featuring Dr Frank Mitloehner, of UC Davis, California, an agricultural scientist and self-described “GHGguru” with strong ties to the meat industry, in which he downplayed the global warming influence of methane from ruminant livestock.

Mitloehner has been described as “a representative example of the growing manner in which animal agribusiness has been able to utilise the strategies already used by climate change deniers in order to distort the debate on livestock production and its environmental effects.”

The outgoing government has been led by Fine Gael, a centre-right party with strong ties to both industry and agribusiness. It has given ongoing political shelter to the agri industry’s attempts to downplay emissions, worried about a possible political backlash in rural constituencies.

So while climate change remains an important part of the conversation, it seems unlikely it will decide the nation’s vote.

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Mitigate, Adapt, or Suffer – stark choices in Election 2020

Below, my article, as it appeared on Green News on January 24th, ahead of Election 2020.

GENERAL ELECTION 2020 must be the ‘Climate Election’. As the global climate and biodiversity emergency deepens, it is surely inconceivable that Irish politics can continue to ignore and sideline the greatest crisis in human history. After all, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

Yet, this is manifestly the case. In his comments announcing the General Election for February 8th, Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar stated: “We are beginning to make real headway on climate action and the environment”.

However, over the last decade, successive Irish governments have grossly failed to act on climate change, choosing to listen to vested interests rather than to the scientific advice. The strong recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on climate action helped shape an ambitious report last year by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA).

However, its recommendations have since been whittled away through the influence of lobbyists seen in the anaemic Climate Action Plan. And now, the long-awaited Climate (Amendment) Bill has fallen with this Government.

No time left to squander

We do not have three, four or five more years to squander in half-measures, easy options and lazy compromises. The next Government – whatever its political hue – must place strong climate action in line with science and put equity at the heart of its programme for government. None of the significant problems faced by the next Cabinet can be solved in isolation from measures to tackle climate breakdown.

Every action undertaken by every department and every State and semi-state agency must, as and from 2020, be ‘climate-proofed’ to ensure it is compatible with the overwhelmingly urgent need to rapidly decarbonise all aspects of our economy. At the same time, we must also prepare our communities to cope with worsening climate impacts and climate shocks in the decade ahead.

The media too have a solemn responsibility to reflect the scientific reality in its coverage and to ask the hard questions of all political candidates in terms of fully thought out commitments on climate action. In this regard, RTÉ’s refusal to host a debate focusing on the climate emergency is deeply regrettable.

Until our media hold our politicians to account on crunch climate and environmental issues, there is little or no prospect of the kinds of breakthroughs we so urgently need. We cannot afford to see Election 2020 as simply another ‘horse race’ where politicians and pundits frame the debate as politics-as-usual.

The climate strikers of 2019, many of whom are still too young to vote, are demanding that we act decisively to tackle the deadly threat of climate breakdown. The apocalyptic fires in Australia that have already razed an area the size of the island of Ireland are yet another warning call that climate breakdown is real – it’s here now, and it’s getting worse.

There is no room for complacency in Ireland. We are particularly vulnerable to extreme flooding, coastal inundation and storm damage, although as the summer of 2018 also illustrated, drought conditions are also becoming more frequent.

Faster, fairer climate action

As an open, highly trade-dependent economy, we are especially vulnerable to supply chain or market disruption arising from escalating and ongoing weather disasters and the likely political or economic ‘domino effect’ consequences arising.

The UN’s median projection is that by mid-century, there will be some 200 million climate refugees worldwide, though it concedes that this number could be as high as one billion people.

Any government coming to power in the 2020s that is not focusing on developing climate resilience, while working equally hard to meet our Paris Agreement targets on climate mitigation, is grossly negligent.

I fully support the One Future campaign that launched earlier this week, and want an incoming Government that:

  • Delivers rapid emissions reductions of no less than 8 per cent per annum
  • Prioritises high quality public transport, making it both accessible and affordable to all, while investing heavily in protected infrastructure for cycling
  • Dramatically ramps up a national home retrofitting programme, to deliver warmer, safer houses requiring little or no fossil fuel heating
  • Fully withdraws support from all fossil fuel extraction and importing projects from peat burning to importing of fracked LNG
  • Supports a radical transition of our agricultural system away from low-margin commodity production to resilient, sustainable agriculture focused on meeting the food security needs of Ireland while helping restore Ireland’s battered biodiversity
  • Strongly supports and puts finance in place for renewable energy projects, large and small. Every home, school, office and farm in Ireland should be offered a fair, predictable price for delivering clean indigenous electricity to the national grid
  • Protect nature as a key national objective and redirects harmful subsidies for the likes of sheep grazing on hills and mountains towards supporting farmers to be custodians of these vulnerable landscapes
  • Protect our waterways, coasts and estuaries that are under pressure from pollution and overfishing as trawlers wreak havoc on the sea floor, destroying the breeding grounds for many species and killing huge numbers of sea creatures as ‘by-catch’

As John Holdren, a Harvard energy expert and former climate adviser to Barack Obama, famously noted:

“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be.”

That is the real choice we all face in Election 2020.

John is an environmental journalist and commentator. This article is based around a recent release he wrote on behalf of An Taisce.

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Out of the frying pan? A tumultuous decade draws to a close

The hottest month ever recorded on Earth occurred in July 2019, during what has been yet another year of record-shattering extremes. France was hit this summer by two ‘once-in-500-year’ heatwaves in rapid succession. Expect extreme weather to dominate the 2020s.

The most dramatic manifestation of this dangerous new world were the more than 80,000 fires that swept across the Amazon jungle this summer, destroying more than 2.2 million acres of forest. Meanwhile, massive blazes from Alaska to Greenland and Siberia burned millions more acres of boreal forests, in a vicious spiral of heating and fire begetting more fire and more heat.

At the beginning of October, Ireland braced for hurricane Lorenzo, the largest recorded storm ever to appear so far east in the north Atlantic. Just two years earlier, hurricane Ophelia became the worst storm to hit Ireland in over half a century. Continue reading

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RTÉ finally spins spotlight onto concerted climate action

Over the last decade and more, I’ve been in an uncomfortable position regarding RTÉ. On the one hand, I’ve long been a stout defender of public service broadcasting as a vital bulwark against total domination of our media landscape by agenda-peddling billionaires and the vagaries of advertisers.

Public funding should, at least in theory, free our state broadcaster to be able to give due attention to what is genuinely important in society, not just what is popular at a given moment. Some of its output, such as the ‘RTÉ Investigates‘ unit, fulfils this public service mandate superbly, uncovering wrong-doing and investing resources in journalism that looks past the headlines to the stories hidden from view.

On the other hand, its output over the last decade and more on climate change, biodiversity and crunch environmental issues generally has been, with one or two exceptions, abysmal. A recently published paper by DCU researchers noted the overall low amount of media coverage climate issues receive in Ireland compared to other European countries, adding: “Climate change is predominately framed as a political or ideological game, emphasising the personalities or parties involved, rather than the extent of the challenge”. Continue reading

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Meat & dairy sector turns to chemical industry PR playbook

Below, my article as published on the investigative website, Desmog UK on October 4th. Ireland’s meat and dairy industries have been feeling the heat, both from a public turning increasingly towards vegetarian and vegan options as concern over the environmental impacts of ruminant agriculture mount and from the high profile Go Vegan World billboard campaign drawing attention to the ethical issues involved in animal farming. The rapid rise of social media mean that the once-mysterious workings of abattoirs as well as the horrors of much of the live export trade (especially involving very young calves) are now there for everyone to see. However tempting it may be for Agri industry interests to blame do-gooder environmentalists, these trends are real and aren’t going away. The question now is whether the new ‘Meat and Dairy Facts’ campaign is going to be, well, factual, or just double down on cherry picked industry talking points while ignoring all inconvenient data. Time will tell.

IRELAND’S embattled beef and dairy sector has taken the unusual step of bringing in a public relations and lobbying firm with links to the tobacco and agri-chemicals industries to defend the sector against a growing chorus of critics.

Continue reading

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How flawed logic puts the world in danger

Below, my review of ‘The Irrational Ape’ by David Robert Grimes, which was published in the Irish Times on September 22nd last. In an era of fake news, with crackpot theories and conspiratorial nonsense ricocheting around social media at dizzying speed, it’s well worth taking a few hours to step back from the fray and read Grimes’s thoughtful foray into the neverlands, where fact and fiction lose all meaning. If you’ve read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, you’ll be broadly familiar with much of the ground covered here, but Goldacre’s book is now a decade old, and the world has changed almost beyond recognition since then so The Irrational Ape is as timely as it is readable.

SPARROWS are hardly your typical counter-revolutionaries. Yet, in 1958, the Chinese government, under Chairman Mao Zedong, declared the humble sparrow to be “public animals of capitalism”. What happened next is where farce meets tragedy. Having seen that sparrows eat grain, the authorities ordered a nationwide persecution of the hapless birds. Within a year, more than a billion sparrows were dead, and the species was functionally extinct. Continue reading

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Why you should take to the streets with your children

Below, my article as it appeared in the Irish Times on September 20th, to coincide with the Student March for climate, which saw some 20,000 take to the streets of Dublin, with thousands more joining protests in cities and towns across Ireland and around the world. In all, an estimated 7 million people marched that day for climate action, making it the single largest such day in the history of environmental activism.

YOU COULD call it the Greta effect. In recent decades, as the global climate and biodiversity crises deepened, the environmental movement has at times seemed almost moribund. It has been essentially the same tiny handful of activists facing off in an asymmetrical struggle against public indifference, media disengagement and political apathy.

That this wall of wilful silence could remain intact in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence about the depth and gravity of the global ecological crisis is of itself astonishing. What is no less remarkable is just how quickly things can change. Continue reading

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The Story of the Decade – Media and Climate Change

Below, my piece as commissioned as one of a series of retrospective articles to mark the 10th anniversary of the Irishenvironment.com website, run by Bob Hernan.

THIS TIME 10 years ago, the portents for real climate action seemed genuinely encouraging. With the science-literate Obama regime in Washington, Merkel in Germany and a Labour government in the UK that seemed prepared to listen to the advice of experts, steady political progress was being made towards the crunch climate conference to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

That was then. With the clarity of hindsight, it should have been obvious that despite all the political posturing and media column inches, there was almost no clear public awareness or understanding of the true depth and existential nature of the climate and biodiversity crises. Continue reading

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2029 – A letter from the future

We live in consequential times. “What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years”, is how former UK chief scientific advisor Prof David King put it recently.

There is no shortage of scientific evidence presaging the grim price our civilisation will pay for failing to prevent climate breakdown while in the process inflicting near-fatal damage on the natural world. What is however most striking in 2019 is just how rapidly the climate system is unravelling. For instance, scientists had not expected the permafrost within the Canadian Arctic to begin melting at depth until the 2090s. Instead, it is happening on a wide scale right now, 70 years ahead of schedule.

The scorching European double-heatwave of June and July saw all-time heat records smashed right across the continent, with temperatures approaching 35ºC within the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. Both these heatwave are considered to be once-in-500-year events, yet six such episodes have now occurred in Europe since 2003. Continue reading

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Drafting a roadmap for a climate-altered world

I was delighted back in May to receive an email from Andy Revkin letting me know he was coming to Ireland in early June and offering to meet up for a chat when he was in Dublin.  We spent a very pleasant couple of hours in a city centre café one Sunday morning, where we were joined by environmental broadcaster, Duncan Stewart for an animated conversation. Afterwards, myself and Andy headed across to Stephen’s Green and found a quiet spot where I recorded an interview with him on his thoughts and insights after more than three decades in the front line of climate and environmental reportage. Below, is the interview, as carried on the Life Science page of the Irish Times in early July (since this was recorded, Andy has taken on a new role as head of a new communications initiative at Columbia University)

ANDREW Revkin is an acclaimed US science and environment writer who has reported on the climate crisis since the late 1980s for the New York Times, Discover magazine and ProPublica. Author of several award-winning books, in 2018 Revkin joined the National Geographic Society as strategic adviser for environmental and science journalism. He is also a musician and song writer. Continue reading

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Rout of global biodiversity comes with a heavy price tag

Below, my article as it appeared in the summer edition of ‘Irish Wildlife’, the magazine of the  Irish Wildlife Trust, an organisation well worth supporting. I gave a one-hour presentation followed by a Q&A at an IWT ‘Green Drinks’ event in Dublin in early March, and was really taken by the level of interest and engagement among the audience that evening, and so was delighted when asked to chip in an article for their magazine.

VETERAN Harvard biologist, Prof E.O. Wilson first achieved fame through his study of the complex social and communal lives of ants – myrmecology, to give it its proper title. Wilson, who turns 90 this summer, is also known as ‘the father of biodiversity’.

Apart from his stellar career as a scientist, he is also a gifted writer and commentator. In his 2002 book, ‘The Future of Life’, he wrote presciently: “An Armageddon is approaching at the beginning of the third millennium. It is not the fiery collapse of mankind foretold in sacred scripture. It is the wreckage of the planet by an exuberantly plentiful and ingenious humanity.” It’s a phrase that has stayed with me since I first encountered it. Continue reading

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Thirty years closer to the End of Nature

Below, my review of ‘Falter’, the new book by veteran environmental writer, Bill McKibben, as it appeared in the Irish Times in May.

UNLESS you’re an economics graduate or a billionaire, chances are you may have never heard of Ayn Rand. Although she died in 1982, her legacy as arguably the most important political philosopher of our time casts a lengthening shadow. Her influence is no reflection of the quality of her output.

“Rand might as well have written in crayon; her ideas about the world are simple-minded, one-dimensional and poisonous,” Bill McKibben writes. But, he adds, “you don’t have to be right to be influential”. Former Exxon chief executive and US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson calls one of Rand’s volumes “my favourite book”, as does his erstwhile boss, the US president Donald Trump.

It might seem incongruous that a celebrated environmental writer finds it necessary in his new book to undertake such an in-depth excursion into the neoliberal swamp watered by far-right thinkers like Rand, but McKibben feels it’s worth the detour. Continue reading

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Eerie media silence as climate breakdown gathers pace

Below, my article as it appeared in the Irish Times on April 26th last.

BY ANY objective standards, the global climate and biodiversity crisis should be front page news almost every day. Rationally, you would expect updates on the battle to maintain a habitable biosphere to also be leading most TV and radio news bulletins. We do not, it seems, live in a world governed by reason.

Some years ago, a former editor of Fortune magazine ran a thought experiment: imagine that the world’s scientists had confirmed, with 90 per cent confidence, that a huge meteor would collide with the Earth within a decade. “The media would throw teams of reporters at it and give them the resources needed to follow it in extraordinary depth and detail”, argued Eric Pooley. “After all, the race to stop the meteor would be the story of the century.” Continue reading

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A society of altruists, governed by psychopaths

Below, the article I filed for Village magazine’s first edition of 2019, which appeared in the middle of March. The Guardian’s George Monbiot has long been the gold standard for excellence in environment and climate reporting, analysis and campaigning.

Like many others, I’ve been an avid reader of his works for many years, but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet with him until his visit in March to Queen’s University, Belfast, in March. They say beware of meeting your heroes, as they usually disappoint. Happily, this was anything but the case.

Monbiot remained polite, engaged, cordial and good humoured throughout, even though clearly fatigued by the end of what turned out to be a long evening (he has also had to contend with serious ill health in recent months). Continue reading

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