As a member-led CLP, we like to engage with issues that concern our members, and also report back when officers have represented the party at conferences and meetings.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The Situation Now (talk given by Wendy Mead at our All-Members’ meeting on February 14 2019)

This is a discussion on ‘Climate Change’, or as George Monbiot prefers to say, ‘Climate Breakdown’. He thinks calling it ‘climate change’ is ridiculous; like calling a foreign invasion ‘unexpected guests’.

Climate breakdown is the elephant in the room, everyone knows it’s happening but no-one is talking about it. We live in a state of cognitive dissonance. Like death, we would rather not think about it and, even though we know death is inevitable, we live as though it wasn’t. It’s the biggest existential crisis we have ever faced in the history of the planet but it never hits the headlines.

Who are the adults in the room?

Apparently the children. Thousands of young people in this country are planning to join others a global school strike this Friday because of their concern about the climate crisis.

This movement started last August when an autistic teenager in Sweden walked out of school one Friday to protest about the climate crisis. She has continued protesting every Friday since then and now each week on Fridays some 70,000 children around the world follow her example. In December, this young lady, Greta, was invited to the Climate meeting in Poland and there she accused world leaders of acting like irresponsible children. She was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month and said ‘I want you to panic! I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act. To act as you would in a crisis, as if the house is on fire, because it is!’

What about the grown ups? There have through the years been a few lone voices crying out in the wilderness. Then in 2018 an international social movement was established called ‘Extinction Rebellion’, which aims to drive radical change through non-violent resistance. It’s members are prepared to be arrested and go to prison for the sake of the planet.

The History

Climate change isn’t something discovered only recently; the greenhouse gas effect was known about 150 years ago. And in 1959 we found out that CO2 in the atmosphere was increasing dangerously fast. But nothing much was done. For some time now scientists have recognized that if temperatures go beyond 2 degrees C (above pre-industrial levels) then the warming will be irreversible.

Since the first UN summit on climate in 1995 global emissions have risen by 60% and continue to rise. We had the Paris Climate agreement in Paris in 2015 but still no major nation is on track to meet it’s commitments, and even if all of them did that would still take us to over 3 degrees of warming. At the recent IPCC meeting in South Korea it was agreed that the accepted 2 degree ceiling was too high and we should now be aiming at a limit of 1.5; at the moment temperatures are already 1 degree higher than pre-industrial levels.

And no-one mentions the greenhouse gases already locked in the system or that air pollution is hiding a warming so that when we stop burning fossil fuels we already have an extra level of warming perhaps as high as 0.5-1.1 degrees C.

If we don’t act?

So what are we facing if we don’t take urgent dramatic action? In 30 years or so many of India’s cities will be too hot to live in, there will be 500 million or more climate refugees, a devastating increase in wildfires, heatwaves, hurricanes, floods, typhoons, disease, famine, conflict. It will be the poor who will suffer most. In order for poor countries to catch up in providing the basic needs of their people, rich countries need to get their emissions down to zero in the next 10 years or maybe earlier.

The last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report said we have 12 years left to cut CO2 emissions to 50%.

Environmental Breakdown

Just as urgent and important is ‘environmental breakdown’ which is only partly due to climate breakdown. We are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction with up to 200 species going extinct every single day. The extinction rate is now between 1,000 and 10,000 times what is seen as normal. The topsoil is being eroded; if nothing changes then we have only 60 years of harvests left, then famine. The pollution of both the air and the oceans is at a dangerous level. A football pitch size of rainforest was destroyed each second in 2017 and is accelerating. A rubbish truck load of plastic is dumped in the ocean every minute.

The earth is in a death spiral; our planet’s ecosystems are finely balanced and interdependent and only one of our many life-support systems needs to fail for everything to fail. Sea ice, soil, rainfall, winds, sea currents, insects, plants, animals; all are vital to life on earth.

There was meeting yesterday of the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research). Their report was titled ‘This is a Crisis – Facing up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown’. I saw no mention of it in the news today.

The Solution

But it isn’t actually the climate crisis that is the problem; the solution to the climate crisis is radical but very simple and very possible. The real problem is:

1) The Politicians. The politicians, paralysed by fear of telling the unpalatable truth, just want the issue to go away; it questions all the premises upon which our politics and economics have been created. There is no political will to act.

2) The Multi-millionaires and Billionaires….. this includes the owners of the media and the dark money network, the think-tanks that never say who is funding them. The wealthy are blinded by their greed and cannot see beyond their own short-term gain.

So we cannot save the planet without challenging the control of the wealthy and powerful elite. So this fight is the same fight as that for true democracy and justice.

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