Mikhail Gorbachev has written an article for The Times arguing that there are similarities between the battle against climate change today and the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago:
Addressing climate change demands a paradigm shift on a scale akin to that required to end the Cold War. But we need a “circuit-breaker” to escape from the business-as-usual that currently dominates the political agenda. It was the transformation brought about by perestroika and glasnost that provided the quantum leap for freedom for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and opened the way for the democratic revolution that saved history. Climate change is complex and closely entwined with a host of other challenges, but a similar breakthrough in our values and priorities is needed.
There is not just one wall to topple, but many. There is the wall between those states which are already industrialised, and those developing countries which do not want to be held back. There is the wall between those who cause climate change, and those who suffer the consequences. There is the wall between those who heed the scientific evidence, and those who pander to vested interests. And there is the wall between the citizens who are changing their own behaviour and want strong global action, and the leaders who are so far letting them down.
He also calls on the leaders of the US, UK, India and China to attend the Copenhagen summit personally.
Of course, there are major differences between the two cases. The Berlin Wall was effectively a mechanism to hold people back from acting as they wished to, halting the movement of people from East to West Germany, and beyond. Dealing with climate change isn’t about allowing the energy people already have to be put into application, but rather about encouraging and compelling them to behave in better ways, largely for the welfare of others. That being said, it is good to see the historic importance of success or failure on this issue recognized. Hopefully, Copenhagen will go better than people are predicting.