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Five precursors to saving the planet. Four we have. One is missing.

We (humans) are facing catastrophe.  A 27cm rise in sea levels is already baked in.  Urgent action is needed now to reach peak carbon emissions by the end of 2025, to have a chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees.  Even at that level there are risks of feedback effects from things like the thawing of permafrost, leading to runaway scenarios and flipping of climate systems.  As well as the direct effects of heat, drought, flooding, killing of wildlife and washing away of low lying urban areas, there will be knock-on effects of mass migration, civil unrest and war.

Big problem.  You’d think we might be doing something about it.  Especially since action is cost effective and generally good for physical and mental health as well (e.g. active travel, reduced pollution).  Furthermore, investment in green technologies could provide a huge boost to an economy going into recession.

But it’s difficult to get people interested in something which will only unravel over years and decades.  If you only had an immediate ‘burning platform’ you could use to motivate people. Like, I don’t know, huge energy price increases.

Of course, people still don’t necessarily see and feel the effects of climate change.  I mean, if you had a record-breaking heat wave with temperatures of over 40 degrees, that might help get it across to people.

But action on climate change is slow and long term.  These things take time.  Like it takes years to produce a vaccine.  Unless it’s an emergency and everyone works together to make it happen.  A massive investment in insulation and renewables would pay dividends in the immediate cost of living crisis as well as the longer term climate crisis.  Action six months ago could have been having an impact now.

Of course, it’s difficult to persuade people of the needs for action.  But actually, the public are already generally worried about climate change and taking action personally to do something about it.

So, we have:

One –  a major long term risk to human life and wellbeing.

Two – an immediate risk to people’s finances, health and wellbeing.

Three – clear evidence of what is needed and proof that ‘moonshot’ programmes can be achieved.

Four – public support for action.

The only thing that’s missing is:

Five – leadership from the government.  Despite the two Tory leadership candidates being committed to the 2050 net zero target, there is no urgent, consistent vision.  Rather than seeing a solution to multiple problems, there is talk of reviewing the ban on fracking, making it harder to build onshore wind farms and suspending the green levy.  In response to those trying to draw it to people’s attention, there are new laws reducing the ability to protest, and since Rishi Sunak supposedly thinks scientists were too empowered during Covid, you wonder how much he thinks we should listen to them now.

But in a democratic society, leaders are accountable to us, the voters and to some extent the wider population.  It’s up to us all, individually and collectively to do what we can to produce change.  Urgently.


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