In the face of the economic crisis climate change has been getting little attention from the media of late. To say that this is a mistake is both obvious and an understatement. Interest and belief in global warming was waning as a result of cold winters and ‘climate fatigue’ before the economy overshadowed the issue, which highlights the need to rejuvenate the ‘debate‘. Climate change looks set to be an almost forgotten problem, and it will be forgotten at our peril.
It’s not just that the issue of global warming has been overshadowed by the economic situation. It’s that the problem isn’t being presented correctly. For decades environmentalism has always been about saving the planet. But this is wrong. The planet will be fine. The Earth is very resilient, and has seen much harder times than what we’re putting it through now. Rather, the issue is saving ourselves. Global warming will change the climate in a way that makes the planet much less habitable for humans, particularly in the poorer parts of the world. By not acting on climate change we are slowly killing ourselves. This point needs to be emphasised over and above saving the planet. To use marketing terminology, it is a much more effective call to action.
Re-framing the issue is also crucial for the climate change ‘debate’. Argument has so far focused largely on whether climate change is man-made. No one is denying that the planet is warming up, sceptics simply point to other possible causes: natural fluctuation, solar activity and the like. These are entirely possible and are no doubt contributing factors. However, aside from the majority of the scientific community agreeing that global warming is man-made, and that faced with such a tide of expertise it is silly for non-experts to argue, whether it is man-made or not simply isn’t the issue. The facts are simple: average global temperatures are rising, carbon traps heat, rising temperatures will cause disaster for humanity.
Given these premises, the conclusion is simple: we need to reduce our carbon output. It doesn’t matter if we caused the rise in temperature or not. To not take what action we can is suicidal.
The source of climate scepticism seems to primarily be business interests. As ever, money is the overriding issue. Pavan Sukhdev, on secondment from Deutsche Bank, recently released a report on behalf of the UN stating emphatically that our economy is harming the environment. Businesses harm the environment; it is in their interests to do so. Or more to the point, not to do so would be expensive. However, as Sukhdev eloquently points out: it will be more expensive in the long run to not restructure our economy.
The problem is, the long run seems very far away.
As a society we are not encouraged to look at the long run, and this short-sightedness is only amplified in business.
For the sake of the survival of the human race, businesses need to stop pumping money into anti-environmental lobbying and phony science and invest in technologies and business practices that will contribute to lowering the global temperature. It is immaterial why the temperature is rising. It is, and we need to do what we can to stop it rising.
The problem with life is…it keeps getting hotter.