February 7, 2019 by Cláudia
Last week I went to an event called La Nuit des Idées (The night of ideas) hoping to hear some new perspectives on climate change. Two things struck me as worthy of mention: firstly, at least one-third of the panel was about climate change. Secondly, I heard nothing revolutionary or that I didn’t know already. There were some prestigious scientists in there with some fancy graphics and thoughtful questions about the part that we as Humankind play in the world and about why we are so keen to neglect our impending extinction. But revolutionary new scientific findings on causes, impacts or solutions were not present. Everything I heard I had already heard before from previous conferences and scientific articles.
Despite what it may seem, this is actually great news. This means that (real) scientists are in agreement when it comes to the science behind climate change: the gist of it is that climate change is caused by human action, specifically by the rapid emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and that it carries a very real risk of complete disruption of the world we know today. Whether it is through the increase of extreme weather events, the spread of epidemic diseases or the rising sea level, climate change promises to turn our world upside down and create a whole range of new social and environmental problems both expected and unpredictable.
So why exactly is it good news that we seemed to have plateaued in the scientific knowledge about climate change? Well, right now we really know everything we need to know in order to be prepared for this challenge and start tackling climate change. We know the causes, the consequences and we know exactly what we should be doing in order to minimize the damage. Basically, we are no longer getting crucial information and we are way past the time when acting on climate change was doing investigation. We are at the time to act.
The next two years will be decisive in terms of what our world will be like in the future. We will have to choose: either start something completely new and build a world that’s healthier, fairer and based on solidarity as a value, or, on the contrary, keep going on this destructive path of over-consumerism, greed, narcissism and accumulation of wealth, intensifying the resource scarcity, the inequalities, creating numerous unnecessary deaths and deadly conflicts, possibly a world war. Just imagine a world with at least 150 million climate refugees (who had to move due to sea level rise and intense weather events), with less ability to produce food, to have access to clean water etc.
We already have enough information to start local and global change in direction to climate stabilization. And the good news is that what we need to do in order to tackle climate change is also what we needed to do nevertheless to create a much better world in general: to have cleaner air, healthier foods, more opportunities for local commerce, fewer inequalities etc. We have all the solutions at hand – now we just need the political willingness to put them into practice.
Even though I also feel some level of scepticism that Governments will suddenly put climate change before their own agendas, like Naomi Klein says in This Changes Everything, “the only thing politicians fear more than losing donations is losing elections” (152).
So this next year, for our own survival, we need a massive movement of people demanding the local and national governments that climate change mitigation becomes the number one priority in their electoral programme. I refuse to vote on a party and politician that doesn’t have a clear plan on how to tackle climate change and I’m letting them know this. We cannot afford wasting any more time in sterile debates, dangerous geoengineering options or useless market solutions. We only barely have time to get this under control and our action in the next year will absolutely have to be the real deal.
So we need to get together massively and demand change. There are already realistic plans of emissions reduction, now we just need to demand no more procrastination. We need real effective action on climate change now.