The warnings about climate change have been sounding for decades and in recent years and months those warnings have begun turning into reality with extreme weather and cascading events. Now, a new report from the IPCC is out and it is clear we are in trouble – we are at the point of irreversible changes which can lead to devestating impacts as our planet heads for warming above the 1.5 degree maximum set by the Paris Agreement. There is no pretending this doesn’t exist anymore.
While the report from the IPCC is stark, our societies can still change direction to mitigate against the absolute worst outcomes from the Climate Emergency – but we ALL need to play a part. The time for gradual and relatively easy to accomodate changes has gone. Thanks to years of insufficient action, we’re now at the point where radical change is a necessity. And the longer we put it off, the harder it gets – until any reasonable level of mitigation becomes an impossibility.
As individuals, we may feel powerless to do anything about this, but we all have a responsibility to do what we can. That means making better choices for our lifestyles, and it means making this the NUMBER ONE political issue, to put pressure on our representatives to actually stop ignoring this catastrophe and do something about it. We cannot carry on with “business as usual”. Only swift and radical change is sufficient. It may highly unappealing and difficult – less flying, driving, eating red meat, and wasteful purchases; no more burning fires – but we are at the point where we have no choice. At an individual level, we must travel better, eat better, buy better, and vote better!
Of course, the most significant changes can only come about through national government policy, and here politicians must lead by example with real action – no more pleasant soundbites and greenwashing. Economies need to stop chasing ever-increasing growth, and must quickly rebalance on the basis of sustainability whilst maintaining a good standard of life for everyone. There must be no new fossil fuel based projects, no new major road building schemes, an end to the exploitation of other nations for the ‘clean up’ of our own by-products. Instead, there must be a programme of rapid and sustained investment in technologies to clean up transport, energy, food production, and waste disposal as well as policies to help consumers make better, informed choices when buying all manner of products.
With transport being a major contributor to carbon emissions, this is an area where individuals can make a simple choice… drive less and buy less! For local journeys, choose to walk, cycle, or use public transport wherever possible. If you must use a car, be efficient in your driving style, choice of route, and time of day to maximum miles per gallon. If you change your car, choose electric and charge from a renewable energy supply while still driving minimally. If you can reduce your car usage significantly, consider only using a hire car when its absolutely necessary rather than owning a vehicle outright.
Local governments need to start listening to their own climate emergency declarations, to actually make those proclamations mean something. This includes highways authorities recognising that it is no longer appropriate to re-develop roads (or build additional roads) to accommodate the movement of a growing number of vehicles. Instead, they must prioritise walking and cycling for local journeys and disincentivise private motor transport with the aim to reduce the number of vehicles using the road network.
Individual action may be a tiny drop in a very, very large pond and the actions of a relatively small country may pale in comparison to the biggest carbon emitters – but that cannot be an excuse to not make profound alterations to our society, to show the world a better way, to offer up real solutions. Otherwise, if we all take that view, then nothing happens except disaster. Everybody needs to work together to do what they can to meet head on this enormous challenge. We can do it, but we cannot stall any longer.
Cover photo by John Englart (CC BY 2.0) – https://flic.kr/p/p3cRkn