Dangerous climate changes are right around the corner, and some are even happening now. Science tells us this very clearly, very consistently and very unequivocally, but almost nobody in Westminster seems to get it. Some politicians sometimes say some of the right things, but ‘politics’ allows business to grind on just as usual. Which means fossil fuels, fossil fuels, fossil fuels. Business as usual while the planet overheats. While it approaches the final tipping point beyond which ‘politics’ won’t actually matter anymore.
Maybe it’s time for us to get cross? All of us – not just the thousands of desperate protesters with their banners and high viz jackets. All of us. The guys who collect our bins, mums and dads on the school run, that nice nurse in A&E, those teenagers chilling under the town clock, that elderly bloke in the post office queue, the lady who drives the school bus, the kids on that bus, him, her, them, you, me. All of us. Maybe it’s time for us to get cross?
If not now, when? If not us, who?
And it’s real. For example: Richard Hughes, chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility, spoke to Laura Kuenssberg about climate change. It was a jaw-dropping conversation. Hughes, a sober and serious man, said that if we continue as we are and allow climate change to roar on unabated, we will reach “a cataclysm well before 2100”. This is within the lifetime of children now in school. “Our Debt to GDP ratio will rise to some 289%” he said. Kuenssberg asked: “What would that look like?” and Hughes replied:
“… our economic model will cease to work. Our infrastructure will be underwater or unusable … our agriculture will be non-viable”!
Apart from a few scientifically illiterate climate change deniers, everyone agrees that climate change is exactly as dangerous as this. Civilised life as we know it could end rather quickly and very nastily. It is an obviously existentially urgent matter, but you wouldn’t know it if you only watched what our ‘politics’ does.
The world’s scientists agree about climate change. They agree overwhelmingly and have done for years. There is no reasonable room for doubt and it’s actually terribly simple. Scientists agree, overwhelmingly, that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. They agree, overwhelmingly, that we already have more of these fuels to hand than we can safely burn. They agree, overwhelmingly, that if we do burn it, we’ll send the global temperature rise to at least 4C. Runaway climate change will take over at that point and we will have lost any hope of control or row-back. Earth will become increasingly hostile to human life and all we’ll be able to do is watch.
As a result of this terrible understanding, the world’s scientists also agree, overwhelmingly, that we must immediately reduce our fossil fuel use and immediately deploy alternatives. And these already exist. They agree, overwhelmingly, that looking for, and exploiting, more fossil fuels is lethal madness and must stop right now. They agree, overwhelmingly, that if we don’t do this, then the catastrophe Hughes described to Kuenssberg will overtake us, our children and their children. Civilisation will disintegrate around us, and we’ll have allowed it to do that.
Climate science is painstaking and large-scale, but it isn’t rocket science. It’s simple and easily understood. There is no excuse for politicians who either will not grasp the science or will not act upon it. They (mostly) don’t deny climate change – they just won’t grasp the nettle and leave fossil fuels behind. In any other profession this would be called negligence because that is what it is. It’s criminal negligence.
“Going green” is, as Boris Johnson said at the UN, “… easy, lucrative and right”. Mark Carney describes it as “… possibly the greatest commercial opportunity of our generation”. The recent Skidmore review, the not-so-recent Stern report, the Grantham Institute and the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) all point out that we can quite easily afford it. The CCC reports it as “doable” at a cost of around 1% of GDP. We spend this kind of money all the time – most recently on Covid, for example. It’s absolutely doable.
And, as the Native American saying has it:
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
So enough already! We’re entitled to be cross! It’s time for fury and it’s time to do something with it. But what?
What can we do?
Well, in a perfect world we’d all go outside right now and lie in the road until such time as the government started to tell the truth and act on it. That’s not going to happen, so what else can we do?
It boils down to voice. We all have one, and if enough of us used it we would be heard. We all know that climate change is – in my own Conservative and ‘delayist’ MP’s words – “the most significant, existential issue of our generation”. But he, and the whole political tribe, seem paralysed nonetheless. Maybe they will only be able to move in the right direction if pushed really hard – and that means us.
We know that most of us are very worried about climate change and do not believe our government is doing enough about it. The evidence shows we are right on both counts. So we need to let our MPs know this, forcefully, factually and frequently. If they’re not pushed, they won’t move, and move they must.
We need our MPs to understand that we understand. Delay will be vastly expensive at best and catastrophic at worst. We need them to understand that this is an electoral trend which gets firmer every day and that they may be on the wrong side of it – with an election in the offing. If enough of us tell them we’re anxious, and angry, they’ll see it as the seething electoral issue it increasingly is and act accordingly when up in Westminster networking and voting.
So – write to your MP! Go to speak about climate at constituency surgeries! Email! Use social media! Make very clear what you know and how you feel. Do it loudly and do it often. Talk about climate everywhere – tell your friends and colleagues that they need to tell their MP how they think and feel, loudly and often. It’s now or never, after all, and we all know only too well that doing nothing changes nothing. It’s time to get mad – and it’s time to act.
It’s very late, but there may still be time. So let’s do it, starting right now. Let’s make absolutely sure that Westminster is absolutely sure what we think and absolutely sure what we want. That they hear our voices. But in order to hear our voices they have to have them first. So let’s make absolutely sure our MP hears us – loudly, clearly and all the time. Enough already! Let’s do it!
More information can be found at this Witney-based action group Robert Courts Watch, which makes their local MP aware of climate issues.
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