Article - Climate change

Often enough, in this column, I have sought to draw attention away from the national news of the day and to focus instead on aspects of the real life that is being led by all of us in the towns and villages of West Dorset. 

I think that such attention to the fabric and texture of our everyday lives can be a useful corrective to the obsessive attention that is paid to the more newsworthy, but frequently more ephemeral national drama. 

But sometimes the corrective we should apply is instead to widen the angle of our lens so that we can observe the larger scene beyond our shores. 

I was reminded of this at the end of the last, again, rather tumultuous week in Parliament, when we had a relatively rare opportunity to discuss the global effects of climate change and the need to continue playing our part in transforming the global economy so that it eventually emits no greenhouse gases after account is taken of the capture or sequestration of gases already in the atmosphere. 

During this interesting debate, one point made very forcefully by many speakers, that climate change and its effects would be with us long after Brexit is a distant memory, rang true.

Although, it seems difficult to believe at present the truth is that the lives of our children and grandchildren are likely to be much more affected by the extent of climate change than by whatever changes to our trading relationships eventually emerge after we have left the EU. 

It was not, however, only the long-term global effects that were discussed. 

There are much more immediate and very serious climatic risks both in Bangladesh and in the Himalayas. 

Rising sea levels threaten to send 20 million people scuttling northwards from the coastal plains of Bangladesh, with what may be devastating consequences not just for them and for Bangladesh as a whole but also for the peace of the region given that India has constructed the world’s longest fence and has stationed tens of thousands of troops along it to prevent any such exodus creating a mass movement from northern Bangladesh into Indian Bengal. 

It does, as they say, make one think. 

But this is not the only example of immediate risks to global security being caused by climate change. The sometimes rather lurid and slightly zany propositions of the more extreme environmentalists tend to distract serious people from attending sufficiently to the dire warnings now being regularly issued by the defence establishment not only in NATO but also in India and China. 

More than a third of the world’s population depends partly or wholly for its water supply upon the rivers that flow down into China and India from the Himalayas. But massive and sustained economic growth in both of these Eastern giants has led to a huge increase in water extraction and - at the same time - the Himalayan ice caps have been melting at an alarming rate. 

If one had to guess which potential conflict is most likely to dominate the middle years of the century, the battle for water between the world’s two emerging superpowers is as good a guess as any.