This story was originally published by The Guardian and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The human tragedy is that there is no connection between what we know and what we do. Almost everyone is now at least vaguely aware that we face the greatest catastrophe our species has ever confronted. Yet scarcely anyone alters their behaviour in response: above all, their driving, flying, and consumption of meat and dairy.

During the most serious of all crises, the U.K. elected the least serious of all governments. Both the Westminster government and local authorities continue to build roads and expand airports. An analysis by conservation charity WWF suggests that, while the last U.K. budget allocated £145 million for environmental measures, it dedicated £40 billion to policies that will increase emissions.

Astonishingly, it is still government policy to “maximize economic recovery” of oil and gas from the U.K.’s continental shelf. According to the government’s energy white paper, promoting their extraction ensures “the U.K. remains an attractive destination for global capital,” which is “the best way to secure an orderly and successful transition away from traditional fossil fuels.” It’s hard to imagine a more perverse argument. But when you pursue incompatible aims, the first casualty is logic.

So, as our house burns, the government sends in the tanker trucks to spray petrol on the flames. Doubtless unswayed by the donations the Conservative party has received from oil and gas companies, Boris Johnson appears to be on the point of approving the development of a new oilfield — the Cambo — in the North Sea. Yet, as climate scientists have long explained, there is no realistic prospect of preventing more than 1.5 C of global heating unless all new fossil fuel development is stopped. In fact, existing projects need to be retired.

Nor can we achieve the government’s official aim of net-zero emissions by 2050. This target, incidentally, in another sign of the gulf between knowing and doing, bears no relationship to the temperature goals in the Paris Agreement. It urgently needs to be replaced with a more stringent measure, but no one in power is prepared to discuss it.

The same goes for almost every government. As soon as Joe Biden’s green promises collided with business as usual, they collapsed in a crumpled heap. Since he pledged to ban new drilling and fracking on federal lands, his administration has granted more than 2,000 new permits. His national security adviser has demanded that Opec+, the oil cartel, increase production, to reduce the cost of driving the monstrous cars that many Americans still buy. We were told that Biden’s modest talk concealed an appetite for radical action. But talk sets the boundaries of action, and those who promise low deliver lower.

Unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, any commitment to stop climate breakdown is merely gestural. The atmosphere does not respond to gestures. It is unmoved by promises, unimpressed by words. It has no factions that can be set against each other, no voters who can be fobbed off and distracted.

This is one of the reasons why governments hate and shun what climate science tells them. If they took it seriously, they would tailor policy to scientific advice. But such constraints on political choice are perceived as intolerable, not only by politicians but by the philosophy on which our democracies are founded.

Governments still fear lobby groups more than they fear the collapse of our living systems. #ClimateChange #FossilFuels #COP26

Or are they? On behalf of commercial interests, governments are all too happy to be constrained. A U.K. oil company is currently suing the Italian government for the loss of its “future anticipated profits” after Italy banned new drilling in coastal waters. Italy used to be a signatory to the Energy Charter Treaty, which allows companies to demand compensation if it stops future projects. The treaty’s sunset clause permits such lawsuits after nations are no longer party to it, so Italy can be sued even though it left the agreement in 2016.

This is one of many examples of “investor-state dispute settlement,” that makes effective action against climate breakdown almost impossible. It represents an outrageous curtailment of political choice, with which governments like ours are entirely comfortable. I’m not sure how we can escape such agreements, but government lawyers should be all over this issue, looking for a way out. Otherwise, future corporate profits remain officially more important than life on Earth.

The global emergency requires new politics, but it is nowhere in sight. Governments still fear lobby groups more than they fear the collapse of our living systems. For tiny and temporary political gains, they commit us to vast and irreversible consequences. MPs with no discernible record of concern for poor people, and a long record of voting against them, suddenly claim climate action must be stymied to protect them.

The Treasury refuses to commit to the spending needed to support even the government’s feeble program. Johnson, charged with transforming the global response to climate breakdown at the November summit in Glasgow, blusters and dithers, seeming constitutionally incapable of making difficult decisions.

No government, even the most progressive, is yet prepared to contemplate the transformation we need: a global programme that places the survival of humanity and the rest of life on Earth above all other issues. We need not just new policy, but a new ethics. We need to close the gap between knowing and doing. But this conversation has scarcely begun.

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Why look with outrage and concern at UK and US political handling of the state of earth's climate and all life on this earth taking second place behind fossil fuel operations. In our own backyard, our Canadian Liberal Government bought a decrepit Trans Canada Pipeline against much obvious popular anger and discontent and is now "promising" to conserve old growth once re-elected while letting the RCMP, which is under federal jurisdiction, bully, manhandle and injure peaceful protesters. Let's clean up our own act and lead by example.

George Monbiot is the clear voice of stating the problem and the solution for the english speaking world. one of my beacons of sanity.
Yet I feel sick when I read the "news" of what is being (not) done to implement critical planet saving ( for current life forms) change after reading his pieces.
So I yoyo between hope when I hunt down positive action project write ups and despair at the business as usual equals death drivel emanating from mouths during this political campaign

The pernicious "Investor-State dispute settlement" clauses inserted into almost every trade treaty signed in recent decades has completed the Capitalist capture and enslavement of nation states. It is not only the oil/gas conglomerates who have made use, or threatened the use of lawsuits based on their "future profits".

Almost every penny ante fraudulent corporation has chanced their arm with these "frivolous" lawsuits and some have walked away whistling with glee over their ill-gotten gains.

They will continue suing and continue whistling while forests burn in wild holocausts and sue the countries enduring the tragedy - for "loss of future profits".

Capitalism and investment was once a gamble with fate. No more. Capitalism has "fixed" the odds and rammed fail-safe "insurance" down the throats of nations trying to improve their trading status to benefit (mostly) the very same corporations which are now employing extortion to cover their laziness, their failure to adapt, to innovate. Capitalism is now the plaything of the oligarchs who are interested only in stripping all the assets planet earth provides.