There is an utter disjunction between what science informs us is the predicament humanity finds itself in and what politicians are prepared to do. The science is clear: we need to get to net zero carbon emissions as fast as humanly possible. In the 1970’s we had the opportunity to reduce emissions in a gradual and orderly manner. That window of opportunity is now closed. Now our only hope for continued existence of our species is an almost unimaginably fast reduction in emissions, yet this year emissions increased. If they continue to increase for just a few more years it is simply ‘game-over’ for our species, and countless others. National governments everywhere are failing us. They range from the actively destructive, like USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil to the well intentioned but hopelessly under ambitious such as most of Europe.
As Greta Thunberg has said, our leaders are behaving like children. The thing that gives me most hope is the extraordinary explosion of citizen activism for climate action. The school strikes for Climate that Greta started in August has now spread globally and a whole new generation of activists are taking on leadership roles, many of whom are only children. Linked to this is the growth of the Extinction Rebellion movement, the Sunrise Movement and the Justice Democrats in USA, Green Parties across Europe and many other grassroots movements.
One of the key things these groups are doing is trying to get politicians to declare a Climate Emergency. Many councils in the UK and elsewhere have now done this, and this public acknowledgment of the problem is an important first step. Some of the declarations call for net zero emissions by 2025 or 2030, which is a scientifically necessary goal. Given the best organised and most dedicated local council in the world would probably struggle to achieve this the question then arises, how do we achieve it for the entire global economy, including in those places where governments are most actively hostile to such action. That bigger goal can seem hopeless, but hope is only born through action. Once people see dramatic and positive action in one place it can spread globally at lightning speed.
On Twitter I retweeted someone called Sydney Azari’s Tweet ‘We are on the event horizon of revolutionary change.’ This is an interesting concept. For humanity to survive in any kind of civilized state we need change on a scale and speed never envisaged before, the outcome of which is not knowable in advance, and for which there is no manifesto or political theory. It has to be powerful enough to sweep away dozens of governments, technologies, industries and the whole of global consumer society. What will replace our current systems has to fit within the biological and physical laws of nature.
The COP climate talks in Katowice, Poland, are drawing to a close. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said failing to agree climate action would ‘not only be immoral’ but ‘suicidal’. The path governments are committed to is suicidal. Hope lies out on the streets, with the youth, and with the millions of people trying to build that radically more sustainable future.