There’s little to admire about this year’s Reith lectures, delivered by ex-governor of the Bank of England Dr (a title conspicuous in its new-found usage) Mark Carney, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Finance, and now Finance Adviser to UK PM Johnson for COP26 in Glasgow next year. Sure, they are well-structured and tightly argued. But Carney is deliberately ambiguous. His words often hit the right notes but they are open to a very wide degree of interpretation. If we take his words literally, then they could be interpreted as progressive. But when we take a moment to reflect critically on what Carney is really saying, it’s much less clear. Carney has a role to play, and he plays it very well. Don’t be fooled.
If you’ve been listening to this year’s Reith Lectures, delivered by ex-governor of the Bank of England, United Nations special envoy on climate finance and adviser to the UK Government for COP26 Dr Mark Carney, you may be feeling a tad depressed – especially if you caught his final lecture: From Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity. If you are, good, because it shows that you are alive to the reality of the climate and ecological crisis we are in. If you aren’t, you’re probably a financier.
When I quit Twitter on Wednesday, 0.000021% of the world’s population (7.8bn) were following me (1600 followers). You laugh, but even if you were a global health social media god with 150,000 followers, that would still be an all-but-invisible 0.0019% of just about everybody. I quit because I watched The Social Dilemma (TSD) on Netflix (an irony not lost on my students today when we discussed the documentary during our webinar) and realised that I was addicted to this particular brand of social media.
I’ve written about World Health Organisation (WHO) funding a couple of times before (see AC/VC: The shock of WHO funding and Who’s funding WHO), and it’s come up again this week because the United States, or rather its current Republican leadership, has decided to halt payment to the Organisation. It’s worth reviewing the US’ financial contribution to WHO because various figures have been bandied around in the media, most of which are inaccurate.
I’m not a big fan of David Fidler’s global health writing. Sometimes I wonder why. He was quite prolific a few years ago; less so nowadays. But given that he’s well-known, has written a lot and most people I know think he’s great, self-doubt creeps in from time to time. So sometimes, when he writes something new, I give his work another go, just to make sure.
He wrote an article recently for Think Global Health entitled The World Health Organisation and Pandemic Politics and, inevitably, I found myself reading it. I’m not going to critique the entire article, just the first paragraph. Because, to be honest, that’s really all you need to read. Let me break the paragraph down for you, sentence by sentence.
I will be appearing before the City of London Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, charged under S14 of the Public Order Act 1986. This is my defence:
If academics are good for anything (are they good for anything?), then it’s reading stuff that people are interested in (but don’t themselves have the time to read it), synthesising that stuff and presenting it in an accessible way. I’ve spent much of this year reading reports on carbon emissions produced by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (focusing in particular on its report ‘Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’), and also reports from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (mostly Working Group III’s contribution to its 5th Assessment Report and its Special Report ‘Global Warming of 1.5C‘). The output of that reading was a talk I gave at Shrewsbury’s Hmmm Squad yesterday evening at The Old Post Office.
The UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) recently published its report Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming. If you’ve never heard of the CCC, it was established under the 2008 Climate Change Act “to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change”. As with all reports of this scale, the amount of work that has gone into writing it is considerable, and credit is due to the report’s lead authors Chris Stark and Mike Thompson. It’s also an important report: whenever you hear politicians or advocates talking about the UK’s commitment to climate breakdown, you can be sure that it is the arguments and data presented in this report that inform what they say. As the title of this post suggests, the report is best known for one number – 2050 – the date by which the UK is now legally obliged to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero. However, as I argue in this post, there is no scientific basis for 2050 to be the target date. Furthermore, and more importantly, 2050 is too late. If we continue to focus on that mid-century target, whoever writes the epitaph of our species will inscribe that date on our tombstone.
In preparation for this year’s World Health Assembly (I will be attending again this year as a WHO ‘watcher’ with the Peoples Health Movement), I’ve been reading a couple of documents produced by the WHO Executive Board that summarise the Organisation’s current thinking on health, environment and climate change (both currently in draft form): WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments (EB144/15); and Global plan of action on climate change and health in small island developing States (EB144/16).
Planetary health expert Howard Frumkin tells us that there isn’t a single global challenge that can be resolved within just one discipline. “If you’re not working outside of your disciplinary comfort zone most of the time, you’re not being brave enough”.