Yes, yes, I know that greenhouse gases come from agriculture and transport and energy generation and deforestation. But take a different angle on the cause and effect of the situation we’re in.
How long have we had to take serious action on climate change? 25 years, give or take. Of course it’s been a long process of getting it into the public awareness, in the face of a hostile media and wealthy corporations working hard to keep their racket going. But that’s happened now. The climate on climate shifted some years ago.
The people we choose as stewards of our society, who we pay to run things on our behalf, who have an obligation to be well informed and take a strategic view. Where have they been? Did they look at the potential consequences and start ramping up action to reduce the risk?
Around 1990 when I was involved in Friends of the Earth, we criticised the government of the day for having no coherent energy policy. As far as I know, no UK government of my adult lifetime has had one.
The politicians, barring a few rare champions, are averse to change and see the fossil fuel companies as ‘people like us’. They’ve fudged, prevaricated and misdirected to try to keep things working with duct tape from an outdated toolbox. It’s still seen as tenable to be a climate change denier at a high level in UK politics.
If you travel round Britain today, you’ll see wind turbines and solar panels. That’s because of the enterprise of companies and communities and householders, who see a future shape they want to be part of. It’s not because of a government mobilising support on a grand, enthusiastic and reliable scale. That support has been grudging, limited and unreliable. Indeed, numbers of solar installers have recently been driven out of business by sudden changes.
A new report by Oil Change International has used industry data to show that if we use all the oil, coal and gas resources currently in production or being developed, we’re probably going to bust the 2C target for temperature rise. The international climate conference in Paris in December 2015 pledged to hold it to well below that, and hopefully 1.5C. So basically we need to stop opening up new fossil fuel resources right now, and try not to use all the ones we already have. George Monbiot writes about it in the Guardian.
PM Theresa May has recently said she will ratify the Paris climate treaty on behalf of the UK – but commenters have not been slow to point out that her government is continuing to force through fracking schemes against local community opposition, and to shy away from investing in renewables and efficiency. It’s transparently inconsistent. One of many examples of vital issues being obscured by the Brexit debacle.
The tide has long since turned on climate change. The scientific consensus is there. The knowledge of consequences and urgency is there. The public awareness is there. The support for renewables and other solutions is there. The economic benefits of massive action are there.
When we look back on these times, and a youngster asks us what caused the climate change that’s transformed their world for the worse, here’s one answer. Politicians, a tragically limited lot who failed to engage with reality in service to the people.