Last year, before Covid struck, Australia was blitzed by devastating bushfires. Over 30 people died, many had to be evacuated from beaches, and it is estimated that more than one billion animals perished. Since then we have seen yet more serious fires most recently in Turkey and Greece, and horrendous flooding events across the globe. As if this wasn’t enough we have seen record-breaking temperatures in Europe and North America, recently reaching 49.8ºC in Sicily. July was the world’s hottest ever recorded month in history.
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark ‘code red‘ warning on the growing climate crisis, which is responsible for the floods, fires, and record temperatures we have witnessed. This is not news. Scientists have been warning us for decades that human-made global warming is real, and a threat to our futures. Global temperatures have already risen by more than 1ºC due to the continued use of fossil fuels and the fight is now on to restrict global temperatures from going above 1.5ºC.
This year, starting on 31 October governments, and scientists will assemble at COP26 in Glasgow to agree on a response to the climate emergency we face. The UK government is hosting the event. But what is the UK government doing about climate change? Although some progress has been made in recent decades the government needs to take real and urgent action to lower CO2 emissions from industry, agriculture, transport, aviation, and domestic premises. It appears, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is blocking measures that could reduce our carbon output on the grounds of cost!
A recent Guardian article revealed that:
“A string of policies, from home insulation to new infrastructure spending, have been scrapped, watered down, or delayed. Rows about short term costs have dominated over longer-term warnings that putting off green spending now will lead to much higher costs in future“ [my italics]
While Sunak quibbles about ‘costs’ this Tory government is putting all our futures at risk, and, as the article states, we know that spending now will save us from the need to spend much more in the future. It’s hard to comprehend this attitude. We know that the government has spent hundreds of £ billions on Covid, including the furlough – because it had to – to prevent the economy from crashing. Most of this money was created by the Bank of England out of thin air. It wasn’t borrowed. As a sovereign currency issuer, the UK can create as much money as it needs, so spending isn’t an issue – watch this video, in which Richard Murphy explains how it works.
So, not only can we afford to bring in the measures we need to avert further damaging climate change but we also have in place costed programmes which explain to us how it can be done, and paid for. In 2014 the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) produced a document called One Million Climate Jobs which showed how we could deal with the looming climate crisis and create valuable and much-needed work in the UK. Similarly, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has produced a Green New Deal document that provides a viable way forward. We have the tools at hand and we now need to get on and use them, the time for prevarication is long over, but our government continues to prevaricate and subsidise fossil fuels.
What can we do? We need to educate, agitate, and organise, in short, we all need to become climate activists, and we need to do this at the grassroots and nationally. Locally, there are many groups you can join and link up with, from the Transition Network to solidarity and mutual aid groups. In my street, we have a mutual aid network that was set up for Covid but is still active and can be used for the climate crisis. In my town, we have a community garden, orchard, and a regular climate cafe. Local action cannot prevent catastrophic climate change but it can raise awareness and increase community resilience.
Nationally we have to put as much pressure on the government and political parties to bring about real climate action as soon as possible. Now is not the time for factionalism, we need to put aside political differences and create an alliance with all those who are fighting global warming. We need to work with groups like Extinction Rebellion and CACC, and support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill.
This isn’t just about global warming it’s also about the wanton destruction of nature, driven by corporate greed. The threat to biodiversity is also a threat to our species. We need to rebalance our relationship with nature and get involved with the restoration of habitats. That means supporting rewilding projects, opposing roadbuilding, damaging construction projects, and deforestation.
One of the problems we face, apart from the climate denial and delay industry, which dark money backers, is that people can feel powerless and overwhelmed by the crisis we face. We need first, to be able to imagine and discuss a better low carbon future for all. That’s why I’m recommending Rob Hopkins’s inspirational book – From What Is to What If. It’s an excellent practical guide on how to create a world beyond extractive capitalism. The message is to learn more, get active, and do it now. We have no time to lose!
I’ve been a socialist and activist since I was a teenager. I’m retired now but still fighting for social, economic, and environmental justice.