Climate of fear

Laura White
Laura White

By Jack Hughes

Global warming, climate crisis, whatever we call it, can be overwhelming to the point where we have to switch off and give our attention to things we have an outside chance of controlling.

We may not be able to stop Greenland melting, but we can surely stop the ice cream from dripping onto the floor. We may feel anger or grief for what we see happening in our own lives and for the seemingly endless stream of climate related disasters all over the world.

We may feel paralysing fear for our children and future generations beyond them, as we contemplate the trashed-party planet we will leave behind. But these negative feelings do in fact have a positive side. Anger is a thirst for justice, grief reflects compassion and fear can be unleashed as action.

So what can we do apart from individual efforts like eating less meat, reducing flying and trips in the car? We can do what we in our society have always done when enough people come together to demand fundamental change for the better. This is how we won universal voting rights, and abolished the slave trade. The only thing that is different about global warming is the urgency. The timescale in which we can make a difference is much shorter.

In 2015 The Paris Agreement on climate change was signed by 196 countries. A goal of keeping temperature increase to well below 2° at 1.5°C above preindustrial levels was set in order to head off the worst consequences of global warming such as increasing incidence of drought, flooding and crop failure.

To achieve this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that emissions would have to decrease to net carbon zero by 2050. This means, in effect, that for every ton of carbon dioxide we add to the air, the equivalent amount must be taken out; this is usually achieved by carbon offset through planting trees.

While the UK Government has adopted the 2050 target, many scientists think that this is far too late and on present projections it looks like we will miss it anyway. As a result, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party last year put forward draft legislation in the form of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE). This is designed to accelerate efforts to decarbonise our society. The main proposals are:

  • Measuring the total carbon footprint of the UK to take into account the supply chain of goods and services created elsewhere for consumption here. This means we can identify and deal with reducing emissions from aviation and shipping more effectively.
  • Negative emission technologies, such as carbon capture and various forms of geo- engineering would not be relied upon. This removes the possibility of kicking the single use plastic bottle down the road while government does nothing of substance. These new technologies will eventually come online and prove incredibly helpful; they are just not ready yet and we don’t have the time to wait.
  • Protecting and preserving the natural world both here in the UK and across the world.
  • The implementation of a citizens’ assembly to enhance and extend our democracy by giving so-called ordinary people a voice.

On the 26th March, the supporters of the CEE would love it if we could all write to our MPs in support of the bill and use social media, in particular Twitter at 12 noon on that day to broadcast support loud and clear using #CEE and #FaceTheFuture. Do take a look at the website of the CEE Bill Alliance, for more information. And of course look at the counter-arguments and see if they stack up. If you agree there is merit in the bill, then you could write to your MP. You can find out who your MP is here –

When you write you need to say that you are a constituent and give your address, then briefly say why you think the bill is important. You could mention some of the points above or you could let them know you are deeply concerned by just saying something like: “I support the CCE Bill because 2050 is too late a deadline for net zero carbon. I want tough legislation to make it happen sooner. Will you support the Bill?”
The pandemic of the past year has been horrifying in so many ways. However, it has also shown what we can do when we pull together, whether as small communities, or on a global scale.

We are containing the tragedy and we have managed to produce several vaccines within 12 months that are proving effective. If we put the same focus, urgency and effort into dealing with the climate crisis we can pull back from the edge of disaster. The time to do that is now; it’s the only time we ever really have.

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