Don’t press the forget button!
It's slightly creepy, the way that no one wants to talk about climate change any more.
Climate change is the anti-issue of this election. It's slightly creepy, the way that no one wants to talk about it any more. At times, I feel like the only person on the Doctor Who spaceship who didn't press the "forget" button. It is all still on, isn't it? We are still facing environmental catastrophe? Or was it all a mistake and am I the only person rude enough to keep bringing it up?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the world's key climate data-gatherers, last month was the hottest March since records began. But it doesn't make any difference. It's not just the politicians who don't want to talk about it - even the activists are a bit "off" climate change. One protester recently told me that they were concentrating on more specific targets, such as airports or nuclear power stations (the latter is particularly confusing: can you really move from campaigning against climate change to campaigning against nuclear power stations in one seamless leap? Only if you are in that category of activists who like to believe seven impossible things before breakfast - otherwise, you would surely hesitate).
The result is that the tar sands campaign, for example, is building a good head of steam. Oil firms, including BP, are planning to suck oil out of the Canadian tar sands in a procedure that either emits, according to oil companies, 10-15 per cent more CO2 than extraction from old-fashioned wells, or, according to some green campaigners, 300 per cent more.
This campaign has been running for well over a year, powered by NGOs such as World Development Movement, WWF and Greenpeace, as well as the grass-roots groups Rising Tide and the think tank Platform. And they've gone at it from every angle - producing reports, targeting stakeholders, organising actions such as occupying petrol pumps, buying shares so they can get into the AGM, and more. They've even tried legal action - asking for a judicial review of the Royal Bank of Scotland's funding for the tar sands' exploration on the grounds that because RBS is
a publicly owned bank, it should be held to the government's carbon-reduction targets.
Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign once described this to me as the mosquito tactic, where you hit the target with something different every week. It's an apt phrase: there really is a sense of a huge cloud of bugs descending over the water buffalo that is BP (no offence to water buffaloes), tickling him into irritation and possibly movement. Fifteen per cent of shareholders supported a resolution at the AGM looking for more information and consideration of the tar-sands project. That may not sound like much, but when you have newspapers describing a segment of BP shareholders as "environmentally aware", you know something is going on.
The aviation campaigners, similarly, are making progress. These issues are all benefiting from a bit more focus from campaigners who spent last year thinking and dreaming about nothing but Copenhagen.
But what about climate change? Is it just going to be abandoned until all those nasty sceptics stop talking nonsense? Is it just too painful to open all of that up again? Where is that "forget" button anyway?