The Guardian revealed this week that the previous Labour government in the UK had an internal report from 2007 warning it of the likelihood of Peak Oil, possibly as early as 2015, and the probable economic and social effects, instead preferring the more optimistic Wicks report which foresaw no difficulties into the 2020s. The story has been going around the environmental blogs, but, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t made it into anything mainstream. Even at the Guardian it’s only been reported on the Environment section of the website, yet on the day the story was reported, they found a full page to cover the options and possible dangers of geo-engineering.
Leaving aside the question of timescale, which was, to be fair, somewhat uncertain in 2007, but now rather clearer, two questions come to mind:
Given that both reports forecast a substantial risk of problems within a generation, did not the government of the day have a moral duty to inform the general public? After all, they expect us to make major life-decisions over a longer period – planning for our retirement some decades ahead, and choosing A levels and degree options in preparation for careers that become more or less likely to exist in a world with considerably higher energy prices.
This charge applies both to the previous government and the current Coalition. Perhaps more to the latter since the situation is now apparently more urgent, and they have a greater stated intention that we should take care of our own individual needs.
But the second question is why the Guardian, as one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, great radical newspapers, is not doing more with this.
As I commented after the RESOLVE conference yesterday, one of the problems facing sustainability is that people don’t know about the issues, or what they should do. Telling them won’t conquer apathy, but it will at least give those who have some willingness to do something!