Over dinner last night we were discussing climate change, as usual, and the thing that stood out by the end of the evening was that we have completely failed to communicate what’s going on to the general public.
Nobody is really aware that there is perhaps a 10 year window within which we can try to make a difference. Beyond that, if emissions continue rising as they are, its going to be increasingly hard for scientists to make a case that we can actually do anything at all to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. At that point I think we’re in real danger of a counsel of despair taking hold and all our energies getting diverted into adapting to the impacts.
I don’t think this sense of urgency, the idea that there is a window of opportunity, has been communicated at all.
The other fact that surprised our non-climate friends was that solving the problem pretty much comes down to money. It’s not that we don’t know what the causes are, or what the solutions are, it’s just we haven’t quite worked out if we can be bothered to pay for them. But any ‘cost benefit analysis’ of the situation – which always strikes me as a flawed way of approaching things anyway – clearly points to the fact that we have to pay, the alternative is just lunacy.
The dinner was in danger of having a mildly depressing effect on all of us but then we managed to pull back from the brink with some positive conclusions. If it is all about money then we can show decision makers we do want to pay and are prepared to put our hand in our pocket now to prove it. Federico already worked out months ago that it would only cost us about the equivalent of a cup of coffee a week – so that’s not that bad.
Let’s declare that the UK is not just going to reduce its emissions its going to pay for every tonne of pollution it emits from now on – with the money being recycled to pay for clean technologies. And let’s lobby the UN to make it a condition of a future international agreement that all rich countries like us have to pay for the damage they are causing – with some of that money going to help poor countries cope with the inevitable impacts.
Sounds a bit eutopian. But at least sandbag provides one way of showing we are prepared to pay – and by paying to cancel permits the whole price of polluting increases for everyone and cleaner technologies get cheaper, (ok only if lots of us do it but the theory still holds true). So pretty soon we will have an outlet for our frustrations and by lobbying we can try to speed up the pace of action even further.
But tonight I’m going to eat pizza and watch a movie.