Kieran Garrard

Why I’m Voting Green

Continuing our series of opinion pieces around the Election on May the 7th where people we know and respect tell us who they are going to be voting for, Kieran Garrard, scouser, Liverpool fan and currently studying a Masters in International Relations and Security tells us why he is going to be voting Green…

Why I will be voting Green on 7th May

Elections are won and lost based on what ordinary people think is the most important issue facing them, and which party they think is best equipped to deal with it. The political parties compete to convince us which issue should take centre stage. The Tories want the budget deficit prominent. UKIP are desperate to keep immigration in the limelight. For Labour, the NHS and the cost of living are the issues which must be prioritised. Each knows that the more ‘their’ issues make headlines, the more the undecided voters will lean towards them as the party most trusted to deal will the ‘problem’. Unfortunately they are all starkly wrong about what is the most important issue facing the public at this election. In fact if you line the issues up side by side, objectively examining the gravity of each, it’s not even a contest. Global warming is the most important issue facing the electorate, by a long way. Allow me to explain why.

Let us for a moment assume, as David Cameron would love us to, and despite it being complete nonsense, that the budget deficit is the most important issue facing the UK. For those who believe that to be the case, mitigating global warming should be priority number one. As the Stern review famously pointed out, ‘ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth… on a scale similar to… the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century’. There are now major concerns that another catastrophic global economic crisis is looming, due to the carbon bubble. The 2009 Copenhagen climate conference formally recognised the view that global warming must be limited to below two degrees Celcius, in order to prevent ‘disastrous’ increases in sea level, ocean acidification, and the intensification of extreme climate events such as floods and droughts. To achieve this, only a further 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide can be poured into the atmosphere. The Carbon Tracker Initiative estimates that there are 2,795 gigatons of carbon in oil and gas reserves still in the ground. These reserves are factored into the share prices of energy companies around the world. When it inevitably becomes clear that these firms ‘assets’ cannot be exploited – that these firms are grossly overvalued – the bubble will burst and insurance and pension funds around the world which have invested in these stocks will drastically reduce in value. Many will go bust. Perhaps some will be bailed out by the taxpayers like the banks were in 2008. Contagion will affect the entire economy. Anyone for whom the budget deficit is the biggest issue must realise that without global warming mitigation policies, any attempts to balance the books will be futile in the long term.

If UKIP’s priorities were to be accepted, despite them too being complete nonsense, then it is clear that their priority should be ameliorating global warming. If sea level rises and extreme climate events do become disastrous then the world will be facing a refugee crisis on a scale never seen before. If the UK was lucky enough to be unaffected, although there is reason to believe that would not be the case, then it would be faced with a choice of either ramping up its border controls or allowing many displaced people to settle here. The former would surely mean death sentences for many. As one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases throughout history, would we really be cold-hearted enough to turn our backs on those that our addiction to fossil fuels have hurt the most? My gut feeling is that Nigel Farage probably would, but to avoid having to answer this question, UKIP supporters should be prioritising policies which keep fossil fuels in the ground, to prevent the refugee crisis before it begins.

I have more sympathy with Labour’s goals, but it is clear that the cost of living problems would only be exacerbated by another global financial meltdown, and the NHS would be at breaking point with the refugee crisis and inevitable food shortages. It is staggering to me that their manifesto contains only a passing reference to global warming mitigation. Still, at least this is better than the Conservative silence and UKIP’s complete denial of climate change.

The Green Party, by contrast, put the problem at the core of their identity. Not only are they committed to ensuring the 2 degree target is met, and that fossil fuels are phased out completely, but they see the bigger picture. As Tim Jackson has shown, an infinitely growing economy is at the root of the problem. Reducing the carbon intensity of economic growth quickly enough to prevent dangerous global warming is unrealistic. We need an economy which does not grow its material throughput. The Greens are the only party willing to countenance an entirely new economic paradigm, in which we may prosper without the need for growth. Their policies on universal basic income and land-value taxation are important pieces of the jigsaw.

My frustration with the Green Party is that they don’t go far enough. They have seemed reluctant to publicise their ideas about ending growth, perhaps fearing it would make them seem too radical. But I believe radicalism is what is needed. Global warming is a radical problem requiring radical solutions. A new economic paradigm, drawing on the ideas of Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, Charles Eisenstein and the positive money campaign, is exactly what is needed. Not just for dealing with global warming, but concomitantly for dealing with the budget deficit, for dealing with immigration, for solving the cost of living crisis, and for saving the NHS. Global warming is by far and away the most pressing issue at this election because its catastrophic consequences will impact on all other issues. That’s why I will be voting Green, and that’s why you should too.


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