With the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect and the shock of the Tsunami, climate change has been big news over the last few months. It seems to be taking the place of the "nuclear threat" as the front line in contemporary apocalyptic thinking.
This weekend’s Independent published an interesting analysis of the recent meeting of climate scientists that makes this connection:
But it was last
week at the Met Office’s futuristic glass headquarters, incongruously
set in a dreary industrial estate on the outskirts of Exeter, that it
all came together. The conference had been called by the Prime Minister
to advise him on how to "avoid dangerous climate change". He needed
help in persuading the world to prioritize the issue this year during
Britain’s presidencies of the EU and the G8 group of economic powers….
through I realized that I had been here before. In the summer of 1986
the world’s leading nuclear experts gathered in Vienna for an inquest
into the accident at Chernobyl. The head of the Russian delegation
showed a film shot from a helicopter, and we suddenly found ourselves
gazing down on the red-hot exposed reactor core.
It was all, of
course, much less dramatic at Exeter. But as paper followed learned
paper, once again a group of world authorities were staring at a crisis
they had devoted their lives to trying to avoid.
The consensus of scientists seems even clearer than ever in spite of all the neo-con crowing about a great liberal conspiracy typified by Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear. What is interesting about the Independent article from a media analysis point of view is the dramatic list of possible catastrophies that ends the article. Each possibility is outlined in brief in a three part format:
- What could
- How would this
- How likely is it?
While this provides great capsule information the creation of lists like this is likely to increase both the sense of crisis and passivity in the face of the seemingly inevitable. the independent’s cxatageories include:
- WATER WARS
- DISAPPEARING NATIONS
- UNINHABITABLE EARTH
- RAINFOREST FIRES
- THE BIG FREEZE
- ACID OCEANS
These kinds of lists end up functioning as a kind of secular version of the biblical "signs of the times."