Shaun Britton on how our leaders have failed us on climate change.
Photo by Harrison Moore
A recent study has pointed to dangerous ecological tipping points in our future, and says that many of these environmental collapses are interconnected. These collapses, according to one of the authors of the study, have the power to amplify each other in ways that governments may be unprepared for. As we edge ever closer to the point of no return, we look to governments and industry to reassure us they have climate change in hand. But with the future of our planet at stake, can we actually rely on our governments?
Blind Eyes & Bias: A Worrying Lack Of Action
The extent to which we fear the threats facing our world are in direct correlation with whether we can rely on our governments to intercede them. Much like seeing a boulder rocketing down the hill to your village, it's a lot easier to trust the village elders when they say 'we've got this' if they are standing by with nets and barricades. But is climate change being met with barricades or platitudes?
According to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK is not on track to meet its carbon budget in the crucial years 2023-27, which according the CCC, will require more challenging measures.
Other countries also have concerning responses to our looming environmental crises.
A fascinating article in the official journal of the Beijing Climate Centre, describes the background behind President Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The article from 2017 describes how the President, himself a climate change skeptic having potential links to the petrochemical industry, and was sent a letter from 22 senators urging him to leave the agreement. According to the authors, these Senators have collected more than US$ 10 million in oil, gas and coal.
But isn't the Paris Agreement a sign that our governments are taking the issue seriously? Sadly, it seems that it might not be such a sweet story. Farhana Yamin, an independent climate change lawyer says that:
“...we’re rapidly making our way to climate devastation. Our fiscal policies and laws are tilted too heavily in favour of fossil fuels incumbents who fund lobbyists to kill climate legislation and buy off politicians.”
She continues to reveal that “Only 58 of these 157 countries have greenhouse gas reduction policies enshrined into law and few have legally binding policies in place that would fully achieve their own reduction goals.”
A better legacy and the power of choice
In 1920, Percy Redfern wrote in 'The Consumers' Place in Society' that:
“We – the mass of common men and women in all countries – also compose the worlds market. To sell to us is the ultimate aim of the world's business. Hence it is ourselves as consumers who stand in central relation to all the economies of the world, like the king in his kingdom. ...That we are not kings, but serfs in the mass, is due to our failure to think and act together as consumers and so to realize our true position and power.”
Perhaps, if we wait for a change of heart in the halls of the policymakers, we overlook our own potential and risk leaving a world unfit for the generations of the future. Recently, young people and children took themselves out of school to plea with and picket their government to take the situation seriously. Our future is already asking us to act.
In the power of choice, we have a powerful ally in the battle for our future. Our willingness to invest in our own potential may well be central to the outcome of our ecological future. Even something as simple as altering our shopping lists, can hold entire industries to account.
All the purchases we make and the permissions that we give, are at one end of a rope that leads right back to those in control of the resources that govern our future.
For me, it is summed up by a photograph of a placard held up at the Extinction Rebellion march in London. It simply reads - 'We are Nature Defending Itself' – Indeed we are. | Tru.🌱
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Rocha, J., Peterson, G., Bodin, Ö. and Levin, S. (2019). Cascading regime shifts within and across scales. Science 21 Dec 2018: Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1379-1383
Committee on Climate Change. (2019). How the UK is progressing - Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/how-the-uk-is-progressing/ [Accessed 14 Feb. 2019]
Zhang, H., Dai, H., Lai, H. and Wang, W. (2017). U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Reasons, impacts, and China's response. Advances in Climate Change Research, 8(4), pp.220-225.
New Internationalist. (2019). Extinction Rebellion – in or out?. [online] Available at: https://newint.org/features/2019/12/05/extinction-rebellion-%E2%80%93-or-out [Accessed 14 Feb. 2019].
Redfern, P. (1920). The Consumers Place In Society. WENTWORTH PRESS.
Sky News. (2019). Theresa May criticises pupils missing school to protest over climate change. [online] Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/theresa-may-criticises-pupils-missing-school-to-protest-over-climate-change-11638238 [Accessed 16 Feb. 2019].