'Inaction will have terrible consequences for our children'
Maya de Souza, environmental campaigner
- Credit: PA
If readers have been anywhere near the news, they will have found it hard to miss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently published report: the Physical Science Basis for the 6th Assessment Report.
It’s also been hard to miss pictures of the Greek Island Evia burning, German village homes washed away, poor air quality New York with fires burning out west, Siberia is on fire, and Namibians fleeing drought with empty stomachs.
The cliff edge we are on may hit home when you learn that the last interglacial period, around 125,000 years ago, is the most recent candidate for a period of higher temperature. Or that global CO2 concentrations are higher than at any time in at least two million years.
Many believe all is safely in the hands of government and the experts. “We will get on with our lives until all this goes away.”
Some feel powerless, blaming other countries conveniently – China, India and others.
Unfortunately, the experts have little-to-no say in policy-making. As short-termism defines the political system, decision-makers do not see the climate as a vote winner. Paradoxically, they are more likely to bet on inaction with respect to saving people and the planet. That means securing low energy prices, safeguarding the consumer from the net zero mission, protecting constituents’ freedom to drive around freely in the vehicle of their choice.
The upside is that people have power via activism on every front, as voters, consumers and savers. In terms of Britain, we may no longer be the workshop of the world, but as a global trading country we have the potential to insist on low-carbon goods - wherever they are from. We can choose how to travel, how to heat our homes.
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The challenge is huge. The IPCC projections show that we need to make reductions in the 2020s to keep temperature rise to 1.5C and go negative before 2050. But we can influence the market together and individually. For individuals, information is needed – from the council, NGOs, producers, and consumer-facing apps – and incentives will help.
Wise political decisions – societal choices – are critical. Now is the time for people to be treated as grown-ups: presented with real options, not pacified with treats and discounts. Inaction takes on a different meaning when we realise it will have terrible consequences for our children and grandchildren and poorer people around the globe. Hiding behind ignorance is not an excuse – we learnt that from the last war! The word on the street is that people want to get to grips with the facts and available options. They are tired of being treated like children.
Maya de Souza is an environmental campaigner and chair of the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum.