Can we tackle climate change?
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.Franklin D. Roosevelt, first inauguration speech
Those words are truer today than when Roosevelt spoke them. It’s true, we need to act now, but the temptation is to be so overwhelmed by the climate change crisis that we don’t act at all.
The need for change
The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Centigrade, published 8th October, 2018, urged the world to make deep emissions reductions, and rapid far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.
Just reading the summary of the report, it is easy to imagine that we will never, as a species, really get our act together and change. Yet, the truth is that capitalist societies have regularly changed and adapted to all sorts of problems. And that we are already starting to do so in spite of the inactivity of our politicians.
The real challenge is to look at ourselves, and to believe we truly can do something about it; and the good news is that change, as I shall hope to show in this blog, is happening.
So who to blame?
There’s always a temptation to blame the government, or big business, or some other (often impersonal) organisation, and indeed a lot of the governments of the world are showing little appetite for real change.
The most often criticised of the lot is Donald Trump, of course, who even claimed that the scientists at the IPCC have a very big political agenda and “we have scientists that disagree with manmade climate change.”
This is such an absurd notion that it barely deserves a response, and yet, if we look beyond the actions of this one man, the fact is that the US continues to make dramatic improvements in its switch to renewable power.
All is not lost, as people effect change.
The rising sense of panic might also lead us to believe that what we really need is truly drastic action. Groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, thrive on this fear. Super-gluing themselves to politicians’ fence posts, or operating drone protests at Heathrow certainly attracts attention and, as it seems beyond a doubt that their motives are noble, it may be tempting to support them.
But we would question whether their approach is likely to be productive. Yes, they raise awareness but may lead many to think that small, everyday measures are worthless, precisely because they aren’t radical or demonstrative; thus they too paralyse action.
Yet change happens all the time around us.
Smoking in public places is, increasingly, socially unacceptable; veganism is going mainstream, with synthetic meat companies attracting huge influxes of venture capital; and the idea that you should lose your job for being racist, sexist or homophobic in the workplace has been normalised.
So too will the environment be saved by the actions of millions of ordinary people changing their everyday behaviour.
Consumer power is making a difference
So do we need to go and live in a cave?
Do you need to switch to a seaweed diet?
No. We must, most of all, simply demand change by the way we make buying decisions. The people via markets, drive change, and huge energy companies will respond to the demands of customers.
In Britain, in 2013, there was only one green energy supplier, Good Energy, who pioneered the supply of 100% renewable power in the country. Now, however, at our last count, there were no fewer than 16 such suppliers, just six years later.
The fact is, green energy is selling well and the big energy companies know it, and are, therefore, falling over themselves to supply it. Good Energy had the field to themselves, but not for long, because people demanded change.
The more we all do so, the more easily and affordable it will be to get it, because those 16 companies, and the ones that join them in the future, will compete on price for our business.
This is how the world changes, imperceptibly but often quite suddenly, led by the practical choices of ordinary people like you and me.
And if you’d like to find out how Local Carbon Clubs can help you save money whilst going green, take a look here.
Nigel and Charles