Why is this the case?
For an issue that has such overwhelming support from the scientific evidence (over 97%), and such extensively developed plans and initiatives drawn up in order to address it (carbon pricing, renewables, etc.), how can climate change policy become so divisive as soon as it enters the political forum?
Climate change policy – a political football like no other
Whilst the democratic approach to government has a great many benefits, there are a couple of notable flaws (the potential for corruption, and the sometimes extensive time required to action relatively simple things, for example). In the case of climate change the debate has fallen victim to one that is particularly troublesome; the populist, short term nature of modern politics.
Certain topics on the governmental agenda are easy to get behind and champion, usually regardless of political affiliation; education, healthcare, transport, etc. These subjects provide almost immediate feedback and an instant opportunity for political gain. Additional funding is allocated to healthcare for example, a new clinic is opened, and politicians can straightaway point to the increased medical coverage in the area, the reduced wait times, and the improvement in the lives of the local citizenship. The timeframe from conception to delivery is subjectively short and politicians can increase their level of popular support with relative ease.
The same cannot be said of climate change.
Comparatively, the timeframe for delivery of the benefits from any action taken to address climate change is extensive. To truly reverse the damage to our planet’s atmosphere will take decades. Even when it succeeds, there will be little in the way of opportunity for political gain; it’s difficult to pose in front of a disaster that didn’t happen, especially if the steps taken to prevent it weren’t enacted personally but rather by predecessors several cycles prior.
In addition, climate change is not simply a domestic affair. A single nation’s government can work as hard as they like to reduce their own emissions (widely agreed by the scientific community to be critical to addressing climate change), but if none of their fellows follow suit their efforts will be for naught; climate change catastrophe will still arrive, and their actions will be seen as little more than a ‘tax’ to no real benefit.
At the end of the day, the modern political system is simply not setup to tackle climate change policy. As a matter for debate, despite the growing support from the general public, the subject lacks the instant gratification and return that drive most political initiatives.
Unfortunately, climate change remains a critical issue, one which we can no longer afford to ignore. Rather than replace the governmental system which is ill-equipped to handle it however, a far more reasonable step is to decentralise, bypass the political forum entirely, and address the issue ourselves. Removed from governmental debate, meaningful action can finally be taken to tackle climate change, and we can price carbon without the politics.