Wednesday, 4 February 2009

February 2009 - What are legitimate actions in the (public) face of climate change?

In December Ed Miliband said there needed to be a New Social Movement behind climate change:

"When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilisation," said Miliband. "There will be some people saying 'we can't go ahead with an agreement on climate change, it's not the biggest priority'. And, therefore, what you need is countervailing forces. Some of those countervailing forces come from popular mobilisation."

Ok then, Ed suggests that it is hard for elected politicians (even the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) to make tough decisions when there isn’t popular support to legitimate them.

In January Geoff Hoon also revealed this line of thinking in his public slanging match with Emma Thompson over the third runway at Heaththrow, he said: "I worry about people who I assume travel by air quite a lot and don't see the logic of their position, not least because the reason we have got this problem in relation to Heathrow is that more and more people want to travel more and more.” Interesting that Geoff calls the heathrow issue in these comments “the problem” a departure in language from his usual line about it being a wealth consolidating/creating opportunity for Britain. Also Geoff is, in actual fact, wrong to suggest the public are tacitly legitimating the governments action because a Government Consultation reported back to him a vast majority are against it. (

Thompson for her part came up with the baffling line, right back at Hoon “Get a grip Geoff this is not about Flying”!

To add to this heady mix, as the heathrow issue was debated John McDonnell took an action deemed unjustified (by his fellow MPs) in the course of his arguments against the runway (on behalf of his constituents who are directly affected) and FOR a vote on the issue picked up the ceremonial mace in protest (Heseltine style) and was told he had “Conducted himself in a grossly disorderly manner” and was suspended from parliament for 5 days. (

Meanwhile in January while the Government implored and then ignored the public the majority of the scientific community was reportedly set to do the very same. The Independent ran a front page saying that scientists (including James Lovelock) were ready to prepare a “Plan B” a geo-engineering solution to use if the political and social effort to reduce emissions doesn’t show results soon. (

We know science can act unilaterally and take extraordinary risks on behalf of people that are not always aware or in agreement with scientific actions - the Atomic Bomb for instance! Also right now Richard Posner senior US judge believes this is the case in respect of the Large Hadron Collider experiment, in relation to the (disputed) claim that the experiment has a 1 in 50 million chance of creating a black hole that could swallow the universe! The ‘Plan B’ response to Climate Change may lead us more frequently down this risky road.

In January the Japanese launched a CLIMATE CHANGE ROCKET!(

There has been continued consideration of the legitimacy of direct action on climate change especially following the Plane Stupid action at Stanstead in December and of course the ground breaking (public!) jury decision on the Kingsnorth protestors. Shockingly in December the Attorney General Baroness Scotland was reported to be looking at barring public juries from climate change protest cases and appealing against the kingsnorth protestors. (

Lets take Ed at his word and UP the participation of the general public... to continue to have public Jury trials for principled climate change protestors - what better way to judge the legitimacy of the protests. And for those Plan B experiments let us use citizen referenda to decide on the legitimacy of those actions which may be of massive benefit but may also present massive risk. In any case if politicians and scientists show faith in the citizen then a New Social Movement may grow UP that starts to tackle Plan A.


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