Tuesday, January 20, 2009

End of the world

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

This is going off on a tangent, because I haven't done much today. My money's come in, it's the New Year sales in Spain, and I need a coat for winter. Gosh, my head hurts from all this shopping. 

Anyway, Obama's going to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States some time today. And the expectations that have been placed upon him are enormous. I read a few days ago that 70% of Americans believe he'll solve the economic crisis in his first year. I read today that drastic action on CO2 emissions will have to occur within his first term, or the greenhouse effect will pass the tipping point. And then there's all that symbolism about him being young and black, and able to heal the legacy of slavery, energise a jaded populace, forge a new kind of politics for the 21st century..... 

You got to feel sorry for him. After eight years of Bush, he's got a lot to fix. And even if he was hideous Frankenstonian figure with the brain of Jefferson, the guile of Adams, the ethics of Lincoln, the charisma of Kennedy and the simple, salt-of-the-earth goodness of Truman, he'd struggle with all the expectation. 

Yes, he can? Not bloody likely. 

I'm bringing it up because of the aforementioned article from the Guardian. According to Jim Hansen, we've four years to fix the planet, and Obama's the only guy who has the political leverage to do it. Personally, I think we're stuffed. Not because it can't be done, but because it won't be done. We lack the willpower. Climate change won't really inconvenience people for another twenty, thirty years. To put that into perspective, that's three generations of footballers away. No one can imagine that far into the distance, especially a politician who's being judged in four year terms. 

To make any headway, you've got to introduce a carbon tax that will make renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, etc,) competitive with coal and oil. You've got to do that in an economic system that's grinding to a halt. To pass any of this, you're going to need bipartisan support on a scale unprecedented since WW2. And you've got to do that in your first term as president. 

It's political suicide.

Plus, you got countries like China, with a government that's only in power as long as it can it expand the economy fast enough to keep up with the expanding aspirations of its rapidly expanding middle-class. I use the word "expanding" a lot because it's a bit like blowing up a balloon - if the economy doesn't keep stretching like the rubber skin, the whole mess will end up snapping back on the Chinese government's collective faces. And that's a more pressing issue for them than what will happen in twenty, thirty years time. 

Jim Hansen's wrong - Obama can't save us. The only man who can do that now is Batman.

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