Ahead of the Paris climate summit I want to write a few thoughts about my own perceptions of where we’re at in regards to climate change.
News about climate change is something I’ve been paying attention to for over a decade. I’m definitely not an extremist in any sense and while I do admire many of the more extreme environmental activists, I also think it’s important for the wider public to see that living a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be extreme in any way. Ten years ago — even my fairly moderate suggestions such as “perhaps we could turn our computers off when we go home at night”, or, “could the office thermostat dip below 23 degrees?’”— actually were often viewed as somewhat extreme and part of wanting us to all go back and live like cave men.
A decade on things are changing. But only a bit. It feels like stalemate to me. People are much more aware and, to some extent, concerned about climate change — but not really prepared to do anything about it. The blame though, I don’t think, is so much with the individual but the Establishment. Those at the top who control the multi-billion pound businesses, the media and the government. They have an egomaniacal obsession about increasing their own wealth and power that trumps concerns about the environment. And they will be the last people to feel the real effects of climate change because they have the money to build comfort buffers between themselves and other hardships.
The extreme comforts we’ve built for ourselves — the consumerism — is what is fuelling climate change and also sheltering us from seeing how the planet is changing. For now climate change has been relatively moderate (in the scheme of what is predicted to happen) and our comfortable urban landscapes have been able to protect us from real impacts. The real threats predicted remain many years away — so we have carried on, hoping technology (or a miracle) will mean we figure out a way to deal with climate change without having to change our lifestyles.
If this were possible then great. But I don’t believe it is. I’m certainly not willing to gamble everything on it happening, as the Establishment have so far persuaded us to do.
Some countries are already seeing devastating impacts likely brought about by climate change — but they are not powerful countries. So their voices are mostly not heard. In the west, we’re not sure how long we have before more devastating effects of climate change will really hit us — but a lot of people are thinking in decades. Long enough to make its solution a job for tomorrow.
Personally I’m a bit more pessimistic. I worry we’ll see a snowballing effect of rising temperatures, extreme weather, displacement of people, food shortages, water shortages — and on and on, that will see a destabilisation of the current status quo (rocky as it already is) and introduce much greater problems for us in the west in a much shorter timeframe (5 or 10 years perhaps).
Dealing with the climate is not going to solve all the world’s problems. But it can go a long way to helping. So I’m really interested to see what comes out of the Paris summit.
I’m interested but not hopeful.
I fully expect the agreements to be nowhere near the levels we need to significantly reduce pollution and even then to be watered down and achievements fudged through dodgy accounting in the following years.
If our species is still around in a century — I fear it will be a very different society from what we have now. Possibly much more primitive. And their history lessons will be looking back at a generation who knowingly destroyed everything they and their ancestors had built up over the previous millennia.
If you’re told to jump off a bridge, would you? In our case the answer seems to be yes. A very tall bridge where we’re hoping to pull a parachute, literally, out of thin (or smog heavy) air before we hit the bottom.
We’re the generation who know the Establishment is corrupt but continue to be led by them. Who push back against groups out to represent our interests. Like peasants we continue to kowtow to our feudal lords, fearful of what will happen if we display signs of rebellion.
A bleak view.
I do have some hope. I really, really do hope meaningful progress can be made at the climate summit. And if the agreements are totally unsatisfactory — I can only hope it will push us peasants into action. If it’s seen our leaders have let political power displays get in the way of protecting the greater interests of the public and our planet, maybe it will finally spur us on to taking matters into our own hands.