This post is a little different from my usual – but it’s something I feel passionate about. I always have ever since I was little. And now the clock is ticking….
I worry about my children’s future – as any mum does. But when it’s October and the temperature gauge in the car says its 23 degrees and its warm until their bed time alarm bells start ringing. This, just a day after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we have 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. And that’s just the human aspect – consider the effect on wildlife as coral reefs die, ice melts, seas warm and forests disappear.
I have worked in environmental politics but I’m not an expert. If you have the time, listen to this podcast. Climate expert Joseph Romm talks in depth about what climate change actually means and the outcomes for the world if dramatic action isn’t taken. 1.5C might not sound very much but this seemingly small rise is hugely consequential. Overnight Hurricane Michael hit Florida – the third strongest in American history. This follows some of the costliest storms; Hurricanes Sandy (2012), Maria (which affected Puerto Rico) and Harvey (2017) and Katrina (2005). Such mega storms are becoming more frequent.
Digging a bit deeper and a couple of things strike me. First, to borrow Rumsfeld’s infamous quote, there are the unknown unknowns. Climate models can only predict so much – there are unforeseen consequences of climate change that we still don’t fully understand. The world exists in a fragile balance and we’re tipping that balance. Secondly, there is a growing chasm between environmental issues and politics. The US has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement and and the potential election of Bolsonaro is a further worry as he too pledges to withdraw from Paris and merge the Brazilian agriculture and environment ministries and open up more of the rainforest for mining and logging. Third, it’s the sheer numbers of people that climate change will displace. Millions upon millions of people will be left homeless. There will be no where for them to go and no way to feed them.
But there are positives – remember the hole in the ozone layer? Acid rain? We don’t really talk about those anymore because, thanks to sustained global campaigns, we got together and joint action was taken. So it can be done. Other countries are still committed to taking the Paris Agreement forward. Increasingly China is stepping up and taking a lead on climate change action. There is a lot of movement towards decarbonisation of the economy, and if you want some happy stories read this.
I lay in bed last night thinking there needs to be some kind of ‘World Environmental Organisation’, to drive a climate revolution, to bang heads together and counter the lobbying of those companies and countries rich from fossil fuels. A movement which ensures that climate change transcends all politics and all borders because it affects us all. There will need to be a major shift in all our lifestyles – eating less meat, driving electric cars, more renewable energy and perhaps (whisper it) there needs to be a move from always pushing for more growth within our economies. Perhaps too a rethinking of our political institutions which are too myopic and leave all the difficult long term decision for others in favour of short-term election victories. Either way we can’t keep going as we are. After all, the world and its resources are finite.
I have briefly skimmed over many big and complex issues here and these are just my opinions. I know I don’t always do enough to help the environment. I could do more. We all could. We all need to be the change. We are all too used to our convenient ways of life. It might cost us to radically alter how we live, but the long term cost of not doing anything will be far greater.
My children will be 17 and 19 by 2030 – what will their world be like?