Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE THICK

THE underlying supposition of Pope Francis's encyclical last week is simple: to avoid unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem there is no alternative but for us to make do with less; a message framing the global challenge in moral terms.

Ethics will hopefully colour economic debate this week as figures due on Thursday are predicted to show child poverty is on course for the biggest rise in a generation. Leading charities and independent experts claimed this on Saturday while tens of thousands of anti-austerity protesters marched in London, Glasgow and Bristol.

Linking calls for a change of tactic in climate and welfare politics is the pursuit of growth at all costs. If capitalism is to be sustained, it cannot continue to despoil the planet while entrenching inequalities.

Scientists forecast impending "limits to growth" due to environmental and resource constraints. British and US government agencies are slowly taking seriously longstanding scientific data showing that a business-as-usual trajectory will lead to massive biodiversity loss, and food shortages triggered by climate change, water scarcity, soil erosion, and political instability.

Gloomy scientific data does not account for the reality, surely, that people will react to escalating crises; scientific innovation can come to the rescue but innovations have to be placed within an agreed global framework of needs and policies. Hopefully, the encyclical will put pressure on the powerful business and fossil-fuel lobbies pressing for a weak agreement at November's UN conference on climate change.

Growth in the global renewable energy sector helped stave off increased greenhouse gas emissions in 2014. Research shows most people want renewable energy solutions in the future. We read in The Journal of the mixed response to slashed subsidies for wind turbines. Perhaps the North East can take the lead in research and development, and by legislating an integrated approach to wind energy and solar power for generating electricity cleanly and cheaply.

There has to be action locally. I was alarmed to read Newcastle is among the UK's 13 most polluted cities, causing 30,000 deaths yearly.

Local authorities can encourage a shift from motorised transport to walking and cycling to reduce vehicle emissions, including the particulate pollution contributing to heart disease and cancer. …

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