Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Interview with Mark Lynas, author of High Tide

Mark Lynas spent three years travelling round the globe in search of one of the greatest untold tales of our time. Convinced that climate change was no longer a concern just for the future, Lynas set off to find that global warming is already having a tangible effect on people's lives. His wry observations and suggestions for change are brought together in High Tide: News from a Warming World, published this March. Melanie Jarman found out what he had to say for himself.

April 1, 2004
4 min read

What were your motivations for writing High Tide?

I had been involved in environmental campaigning for several years, when I realised that climate change was going to become a much wider and more destructive force unless something was done about it fast. It was almost as if by focusing on the local level I felt I was missing the bigger picture. I also felt that there was this huge untold story of people and places being affected by global warming, but no-one had joined up the dots. Also, I wanted to try and get climate change put firmly on the political agenda. It’s so often something that politicians mention in passing before going back to business as usual. And this “denial” of the problem doesn’t just operate at the political level, it’s there throughout society: everyone who takes a cheap flight to Barcelona or commutes by car to London is to some extent denying the effects of their behaviour on the global climate.

Does climate change mean that we are doomed?

Nearly. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow, we’d still get twice the magnitude of global warming that was experienced during the twentieth century. This may be something that the biosphere can cope with, or it may not – no-one knows for sure. But what is certain is that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, the twenty-first century will see a climate quite unlike any that humanity has experienced before during its entire evolutionary history, and it’s very unlikely that “civilisation” as we know it will be able to survive unscathed. And just as worrying, so far as I’m concerned, is the effect on wider biodiversity: a recent study suggested that a third of species alive today may be wiped out by global warming by 2050.

In a recent New Statesman article you described yourself as a “former” left-winger. Why “former”?

I think inter-human squabbles about wealth distribution are now taking place within the context of a major destruction of the ecosystems which all of us depend on: rich, poor, black, white, homo sapiens or any other species. Therefore my argument is that the left-right political divide should no longer be the defining key priority. The struggle for equity within the human species must take second place to the struggle for the survival of an intact and functioning biosphere. This doesn’t mean giving up the fight on behalf of the poor, but it does mean that one’s position on the environment is going to be the crucial political divide of the next century. And many left-wingers are very anti-environment. Some socialists retain the old technocratic mindset where they think everything can be engineered and humans are all-powerful. Many more leftish people are also too polite to mention over-population, which along with climate is probably the key environmental issue. I think that we should give just as much thought to other species of life, who will presumably continue to suffer even if human society eventually gets more egalitarian.

How do you see campaigns developing around this issue?

In the book I suggest some ways that people can reduce their personal emissions – for example by having proper insulation in their houses or taking trains instead of planes. But there’s a problem here: even if the entire country makes big sacrifices in terms of people reducing their personal energy consumption, it will have no effect whatsoever if Americans continue driving around in gas-guzzling SUVs. So that’s why action has to be simultaneous and international. I support the equity-based “contraction and convergence” proposal from the Global Commons Institute as the best way forward. It’s the only thing which the global South is likely to sign up to, and this is a key issue given the rate that India and China are industrialising. But it also involves deciding a target for the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This element of certainty is its strongest suit – all the other political solutions, Kyoto included, involve guesswork rather than this “framework”.High Tide: News from a Warming World, Mark Lynas, Flamingo, March 2004.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe


4