A Warming World

James Garvey, Secretary of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, examines the facts which necessitate a

The debate about the existence of human-caused climate change seems finally at an end. If you are in some doubt, have a look at the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [http://www.ipcc.ch/]. I’m happy to discuss scepticism in the comments, but for now consider just the changes apparently already underway and the prospects for us on our warming world. Brace yourself for a few numbers.

The average surface temperature of our planet has increased by about 0.7º C over the twentieth century. That might not seem like much to you, but those who know how to read the bubbles in ice cores tell us that the speed of the change is without precedent over at least the past 10,000 years. As the world heats up, a number of changes have already been set in motion. The average sea level has risen by an annual rate of 2mm since 1960, with the rate increasing to about 3mm towards the end of the century. Sea ice is thinning; permafrost is melting; glaciers are in world-wide retreat; El Nino events are becoming more frequent, persistent and intense; and on and on.

The changes to our planet are already having disastrous effects on the lives of many plants and animals. It’s not just the poster boys for climate change, polar bears and mountain gorillas, which are in danger. According to a report in Nature, anything between 15 to 37 percent of all plant and animal species could be locked into extinction by 2050 as a result of climate change. We know from the fossil record that we are now living through the 6th major extinction event in our planet’s history. The last one did in the dinosaurs.

Human beings, too, are suffering and will continue to suffer. The Red Cross argue that as of 2001 there were as many as 25 million environmental refugees, people on the move away from dry wells and failed crops. It’s larger than the number they give for people made homeless by war. One sixth of the world’s population gets its water from the melting snow and ice tricking down from mountains, a source which looks set to dry up in the years to come. Industry, agriculture and homes on coasts will be adversely affected by the rising sea.

It’s worries associated with human beings which raise moral problems for me. There is a lot of unnecessary human suffering in our future if we do not make certain choices now. Those choices ultimately depend on what we think is right, on justice, on responsibility, on what we value, on what matters to us. You cannot find that sort of thing in an ice core. You have to think your way through it. We’ll make a start on that in the next post.

James Garvey has a PhD in philosophy from University College London and is Secretary of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He is author of some books and articles, most recently, The Ethics of Climate Change (Continuum 2008)
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Are there “tens of thousands” who still don't have their Labour leadership ballot paper?

Word has it that swathes of eligible voters have yet to receive their ballot papers, suggesting there is still all to play for in the Labour leadership contest. But is it true?

Is there still all to play for in the Labour leadership contest?

Some party insiders believe there is, having heard whispers following the bank holiday weekend that “tens of thousands” of eligible voters have yet to receive their ballot papers.

The voting process closes next Thursday (10 September), and today (1 September) is the day the Labour party suggests you get in touch if you haven’t yet been given a chance to vote.

The impression here is that most people allowed to vote – members, registered supporters, and affiliated supporters – should have received their voting code over email, or their election pack in the post, by now, and that it begins to boil down to individual administrative problems if they’ve received neither by this point.

But many are still reporting that they haven’t yet been given a chance to vote. Even Shabana Mahmood MP, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, still hasn’t received her voting pack, as she writes on the Staggers, warning us not to assume Jeremy Corbyn will win. What’s more, Mahmood and her team have heard anecdotally that there are still “tens of thousands” who have been approved to vote who have yet to receive their ballot papers.

It’s important to remember that Mahmood is an Yvette Cooper supporter, and is using this figure in her piece to argue that there is still all to play for in the leadership race. Also, “tens of thousands” is sufficiently vague; it doesn’t give away whether or not these mystery ballot-lacking voters would really make a difference in an election in which around half a million will be voting.

But there are others in the party who have heard similar figures.

“I know people who haven’t received [their voting details] either,” one Labour political adviser tells me. “That figure [tens of thousands] is probably accurate, but the party is being far from open with us.”

“That’s the number we’ve heard, as of Friday, the bank holiday, and today – apparently it is still that many,” says another.

A source at Labour HQ does not deny that such a high number of people are still unable to vote. They say it’s difficult to work out the exact figures of ballot papers that have yet to be sent out, but reveal that they are still likely to be, “going out in batches over the next two weeks”.

A Labour press office spokesperson confirms that papers are still being sent out, but does not give me a figure: “The process of sending out ballot papers is still under way, and people can vote online right up to the deadline on September 10th.”

The Electoral Reform Services is the independent body administrating the ballot for Labour. They are more sceptical about the “tens of thousands” figure. “Tens of thousands? Nah,” an official at the organisation tells me.

“The vast majority will have been sent an email allowing them to vote, or a pack in one or two days after that. The idea that as many as tens of thousands haven’t seems a little bit strange,” they add. “There were some last-minute membership applications, and there might be a few late postal votes, or a few individuals late to register. [But] everybody should have definitely been sent an email.”

Considering Labour’s own information to voters suggests today (1 September) is the day to begin worrying if you haven’t received your ballot yet, and the body in charge of sending out the ballots denies the figure, these “tens of thousands” are likely to be wishful thinking on the part of those in the party dreading a Corbyn victory.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.