The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close.

January 10, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Posted in 2008, America, Apathy, Britain, Churchill, Climate change, Dangers, Delays, Election, Forecasts, Hansen, Issues, James Hansen, Locust years, Politics, Prescience, Primaries, Procrastination, Speeches, Urgency, Warnings, Winston Churchill | 1 Comment

Skip ahead to 1:44 (ignore 0:00 through 1:43) on this 5:20 video clip and you will hear a fairly recent, post-Bali at least, AccuWeather interview with James Hansen asking him why he continues to speak out about climate change. He thinks the message has still not got through to most of the public and politicians in America. The trouble is, it is extremely difficult:

  • to make the public appreciate that the dangers are approaching at an accelerating rate >>>
  • to make politicians understand that time for effective action is running out <<<
  • to make these points without being accused of sounding alarmist !!!


Even Winston Churchill knew this feeling of horror at the realisation of danger advancing relentlessly towards us, paralleled only by the failure of his colleagues to respond effectively and combat the gathering threat. He was, to put it bluntly, staggered, as you can read in his speech titled ‘The Locust Years’. He opened and closed with these prescient words (the plain-spoken, bread-and-butter of his rhetoric in which he sandwiched reference to locusts):

House of Commons

12 November 1936

I have, with some friends, put an Amendment on the Paper. It is the same as the Amendment which I submitted two years ago, and I have put it in exactly the same terms because I thought it would be a good thing to remind the House of what has happened in these two years. Our Amendment in November 1934 was the culmination of a long series of efforts by private Members and by the Conservative party in the country to warn His Majesty’s Government of the dangers to Europe and to this country which were coming upon us through the vast process of German rearmament then already in full swing. The speech which I made on that occasion was much censured as being alarmist by leading Conservative newspapers, and I remember that Mr Lloyd George congratulated the Prime Minister, who was then Lord President, on having so satisfactorily demolished my extravagant fears.

What would have been said, I wonder, if I could two years ago have forecast to the House the actual course of events?

I now turn more directly to the issues of this Debate. Let us examine our own position. No one can refuse his sympathy to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. From time to time my right hon. Friend lets fall phrases or facts which show that he realises, more than anyone else on that bench it seems to me, the danger in which we stand. One such phrase came from his lips the other night. He spoke of “the years that the locust hath eaten”. Let us see which are these “years that the locust hath eaten” even if we do not pry too closely in search of the locusts who have eaten these precious years. For this purpose we must look into the past. From the year 1932, certainly from the beginning of 1933, when Herr Hitler came into power, it was general public knowledge in this country that serious rearmament had begun in Germany. There was a change in the situation. Three years ago, at the Conservative Conference at Birmingham, that vigorous and faithful servant of this country, Lord Lloyd, moved the following resolution:

That this Conference desires to record its grave anxiety in regard to the inadequacy of the provisions made for Imperial Defence.

That was three years ago, and I see, from The Times report of that occasion, that l said:

“During the last four or five years the world had grown gravely darker….. We have steadily disarmed, partly with a sincere desire to give a lead to other countries, and partly through the severe financial pressure of the time. But a change must now be made. We must not continue longer on a course in which we alone are growing weaker while every other nation is growing stronger”

The resolution was passed unanimously, with only a rider informing the Chancellor of the Exchequer that all necessary burdens of taxation would be cheerfully borne. There were no locusts there, at any rate.

Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger greater than has befallen Britain since the U-boat campaign was crushed; perhaps, indeed, it is a more grievous period than that, because at that time at least we were possessed of the means of securing ourselves and of defeating that campaign. Now we have no such assurance. The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. We have entered a period in which for more than a year, or a year and a half, the considerable preparations which are now on foot in Britain will not, as the Minister clearly showed, yield results which can be effective in actual fighting strength; while during this very period Germany may well reach the culminating point of her gigantic military preparations, and be forced by financial and economic stringency to contemplate a sharp decline, or perhaps some other exit from her difficulties. It is this lamentable conjunction of events which seems to present the danger of Europe in its most disquieting form. We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now. Surely, if we can abridge it by even a few months, if we can shorten this period when the German Army will begin to be so much larger than the French Army, and before the British Air Force has come to play its complementary part, we may be the architects who build the peace of the world on sure foundations.

Two things, I confess, have staggered me, after a long Parliamentary experience, in these Debates. The first has been the dangers that have so swiftly come upon us in a few years, and have been transforming our position and the whole outlook of the world. Secondly, I have been staggered by the failure of the House of Commons to react effectively against those dangers. That, I am bound to say, I never expected. I never would have believed that we should have been allowed to go on getting into this plight, month by month and year by year, and that even the Government’s own confessions of error would have produced no concentration of Parliamentary opinion and force capable of lifting our efforts to the level of emergency. I say that unless the House resolves to find out the truth for itself it will have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel in its long history.

Sir Winston Churchill


This is why I, for one, want to see climate change addressed over and over again by presidential hopefuls in the primaries. We have no second chance. Our era’s locusts have feasted well.


1 Comment »

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  1. Yes, we must do everything we can to keep climate change in the spotlight and on the minds of the public and the politicians.

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