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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Emails to Councillor Brfan Calway, re the role of the police in climate change


Thank you for your email and your comments (see attachments at the end of this message)

I am always willing to learn and be corrected!! I would be extremely interested in your thoughts on how our society will hold together under the future scenarios that are going to be played out as a result of climate change.

I believe that we are rapidly moving towards a situation which is so far removed from today’s society that all the normal assumptions which we base our systems upon will be invalidated.

To give you an analogy, the last time a spike in CO2 levels occurred similar to the one we are creating now was 250 million years ago, known as the Permian–Triassic event. This was essentially a runaway global warming event due to a build up of CO2 in the atmosphere from massive volcanic activity. It is estimated that 95% of all the species were wiped out. Those that survived owed their survival to random chance and luck. The ability which the species of the time had adapted to their environments had no bearing on their chance of survival, because the environment had changed so much. So I believe it will be with our society. Our society is currently based on economic growth and our laws and institutions are predicated on supporting this model. Economic growth is unlikely to be our future. We will experience the same type of discontinuity that the earth experienced 250 million years ago.

As a further matter of consideration, after the Permian–Triassic event it is estimated that it took 5 million years for the CO2 levels to return to previous levels and 50 million years for the planets eco system to return to the same level of bio diversity, which subsequently heralded the start of the dinosaurs. It is also important to remember that the sun was a lot cooler then than it is now. With the same spike in CO2 happening now, it is not certain that the planet would ever recover. And rather soberingly, the temperature increase at the time was in the order of 6 deg C, which is comfortably within the confidence limits of many of today’s computer simulations, and within the upper bounds published by the IPCC.

I believe that what we are experiencing today are the perturbations normally seen before a major shock or step change in system, in the same way minor earth tremors warn can warn of a massive volcanic eruption. We are currently see rapidly rising food prices as food production around the world decreases due to climate change and bio fuel demands. We are experiencing oil prices (now around $100 barrel) which would have been unimaginable only a year ago. We have seen a run on a bank in this country, which we did not even experience in the Second World War, the Cuban Missile crisis or the 1970's oil crisis. We are seeing waves of environmental migrants coming to this country. We are seeing a population becoming increasingly disenfranchised with the political leaders. It is all making for a very disturbing picture of the future when we are still only at the bottom of the temperature curve predicted by IPCC.

For those of us that have dared to challenge the assumptions that underpin our society and persuade people to change, it is a dispiriting and depressing exercise, because so little of where we are going as a society makes any sense. I have been branded an extremist and fanatic. I believe I am neither, I am simply a realist. I have tried and will keep trying to persuade people to be realists and take responsibility for their actions, however it is easy for a few people to decide to ignore the overwhelming evidence and pursue paths with the full legal backing of the state, which ultimately has the legitimate right to violence.

My experience at the Heathrow climate camp this year was an eye opener for me. On a protest that was a best token, (walking to the empty BAA offices on a Sunday afternoon having given the company 1 weeks notice of the event), 300 of us were surrounded by 1500 riot police and many around me were badly beaten. I was staggered to hear on the radio the police commander’s justification, see my email to him on my blog. Equally, I was staggered to hear within a couple of weeks of the demonstration, that Lord Stevens (the ex commander of the Metropolitan police) had accepted a position as a non-executive director on the board of BAA. And finally, in the face of all evidence and mounting public opinion Ruth Kelly announces that she is giving the go ahead for a third runway, and is simply bowing the interests of a few corporations at the clear expense of my children’s future. No doubt, in the coming battles at Heathrow, which will be far more intense than at the climate camp, the police will be used to up hold the law, so siding with BAA and their cohorts, against those that are fighting for the future for our children with no legal rights.

In these circumstances, the idea of a politically neutral police force is clearly an illusion when, the main political parties are offering little concrete action to tackle climate change and the right to protest is becoming increasingly restricted.

So what does this mean for up holding law and order at a local level? The police are in danger of being dragged into more and more confrontational situations and may loose the respect of the community at a time when the amount of policing that a community needs will increase. Philip Bobbitt in his highly acclaimed book "The Shield of Achilles," argued that in the future it will be countries that operate on similar systems to the US were individual citizens have the right to bear arms and defend themselves that will survive. An uncomfortable thought for this country.

Thankyou for reading this far.



Dear Mr Lister,

I have read with interest your numerous commentaries on climate change. Your latest to Councillor Garnham was also of interest. As a retired police officer and a former member of the Police Authority I would suggest with the greatest respect that you are not totally aware of the function of the Police Service and its role within society.


Brfan Calway

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