Friday, October 28, 2022

Climate Change: Bad news and hope

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins next weekend, and in the run-up we have the usual series of UN reports reminding us how bad things are getting, and that our leaders are essentially fiddling while the planet burns. Greenhouse gas levels are at record highs, and still rising. In order to avoid making the planet uninhabitable, we need to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, but at present we have no way of getting there: government pledges are insufficient, even if fully implemented. The climate is spinning out of control, with fires, floods and storms worse than ever before. And we may already have passed through key climate tipping points which will make it even worse.

And yet, we still have hope. The good news is that the International Energy Agency says that fossil fuels will peak by 2025, and their emissions will go down under all scenarios. Part of the reason for this is Putin's invasion of Ukraine showing that conflict fuels are unreliable and pushing crash investment in decarbonisation, but it looks like we are actually turning the supertanker around. And while our 2030 pledges are manifestly inadequate, and our 2050 ones not enough to get us to 1.5 degrees, they would (if fully implemented, and its a big "if") get us to 1.8. Which shows us that survival is close, if our governments actually do what they say they will, and we push them to do more.

So that's our job: pushing our government to meet its targets (currently a 21.8% decrease in emissions by 2030, and net-zero-except-for-cows by 2050), and pushing them to do more. Anything you can do personally is great, and will help, but real change comes from policy, and that means government. And that means democracy: campaigning, protesting, and above all voting to get governments who will do what is required and prevent them from back-sliding in response to loud and deep-pocketed industry voices.

("But we're just one small country!" scream the deniers and industry shills. Yes, this is a global struggle. While we do our bit here, others will be doing the same overseas, and against governments far more repressive than ours. We have the easy part of the job. We owe it to people in China and Russia and Iran and Egypt not to slack on it)

We can have a survivable future, but only if we fight for it. Get to work.