Irish Examiner View: Climate should be election priority - We will pay dearly for indifference

Irish Examiner View: Climate should be election priority - We will pay dearly for indifference

Last week’s survey showing that almost two thirds of public service workers might vote for parties they had not supported before if they were promised pay increases above inflation was as revealing as it was depressing.

A survey for Fórsa found that 79% of public servants would change loyalties to any party that supported a four-day week without loss of pay or productivity.

The survey showed how fickle we are, all of us probably, and how we focus on short-term reward rather than principle, social ambition, or pressing realities.

It also showed how easily we are seduced and see an election, despite crushing lessons, as a transactional process where every vote demands a material dividend.

That may be why the issue of our time — climate change and our last-ditch efforts to contain its impact — has hardly featured in this campaign.

It has certainly not shaped it in a way commensurate with the threat it represents.

When it has featured it has been almost apologetically, when one group or another was reassured that it was, and will be, business as usual.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have committed to decarbonisation. However, they both ruled out cutting the national herd.

This seems a classic combination of auction politics and disingenuous evasion.

Not only that, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised national funding to make up any shortfall in farm subsidies after any Common Agricultural Policy reform.

This is as bizarre as it is reckless — and economically unattractive too.

Against that background it was hardly necessary for climatologist Prof John Sweeney to point out that the major parties have not shown the necessary ambition and are “being held to ransom by the agricultural lobby”.

Though farming is not by any means the only sector facing sweeping change these examples show how nearly all politicians avoid unpopular change.

Where candidates should show leadership they open the cookie jar and we are, not to put too fine a tooth in it, bought off again.

That tried-and-tested silencing may be why parties are so unambitious and offer minimal detail on how we might meet 2030 Paris pact targets or the EU’s Green New Deal (GND) objectives.

Fine Gael hopes to cut emissions by 2% a year though Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton has supported the GND target of a 55% cut over 10 years.

Irish Examiner View: Climate should be election priority - We will pay dearly for indifference

Fianna Fáil has backed an 8% annual cut but has not indicated how that might be achieved.

Difficult choices around transport — more roads or public transport — housing and energy in a changing climate or how our seas might be saved barely warrant a mention.

Crisis, can, road, kick, etc. This response comes despite daily reports on the chaos climate change has brought.

Yesterday’s, from Nature’s Calendar, recorded that wildlife is being confused by “lost” winters and that butterflies, newts, and nesting blackbirds are active earlier in the year than was normal.

Climate change is a consequence of broken systems and this detachment shows how politics — not just ours — struggles to meet the greatest challenge of our time.

That may be why, tragically, public sector workers and so many others are happy to sell their votes to the highest bidder.

But what a price we, our children, and grandchildren, will pay.

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