Up Front 04/15

Last month The Guardian launched its campaign to tackle climate change by suggesting that the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust should commit to taking their money out of companies that are driving global warming. Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger explained that our only hope of living secure and stable lives thirty years or so from now, is to ensure that we don’t mine all the reserves of oil, coal and gas that are currently underground. Keep them underground he says. If we mine them we will burn them and then face catastrophic consequences. He is promoting a campaign of ‘divestment’ to encourage large businesses to sell their shareholdings in fossil fuel compa01nies. Although he explained that some huge endowments and investment funds have already suggested they would be ‘decarbonising their portfolios’ and investing in cleaner alternatives, the Wellcome Trust rejected the call saying that a seat on the board of such companies would have more effect. The serve and return of this debate is a problem that political scientist and philosopher Daniel Hausknost of the University of Klagenfurt in Austria has grappled with in a recent paper about climate change and politicians. ‘Liberal democratic systems’ he says, tend to create half-hearted restructuring as opposed to concrete decisions. ‘For politics, decisions represent the most uncomfortable factor. It is difficult to justify them to the public, as they force one to choose a position among diverse political rationalities or worldviews. Each decision simultaneously produces losers. This result is frequently feared in the political arena.’ And why wouldn’t such decisions be feared in the political arena? As we enter into the final stretch of election campaigns who is going to step into the climate change minefield and suggest that we swop economic growth for survival? No one is, politics is here and now whilst climate impact seems a long way away. Which is why The Guardian’s campaign to make change via industry is getting support. It recently announced that the global divestment movement is growing rapidly ‘with over 200 organisations worth over £33bn signed up’. In the words of Deep Throat, ‘Follow the money.’