To avoid catastrophe, it is essential that there is a reduction in the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels gas such as coal or oil must stop now. Only governments can achieve this and ensure the survival of life on earth. Emissions have to be quickly reduced and a plan made of how we will adapt for changes in the future. This has to happen through policy changes by the governments of the world.
Currently, the global economic system is increasing climate change and harming humans and environmental well-being. It is also jeopardising the future of all species on Earth. Governments are supposed to protect the well-being of their citizens including those who are not yet born or too young to vote.
The four main challenges that climate change poses are as follows;
If we cannot answer the above questions and take action the economic costs and planetary suffering caused will be cataclysmic.
We might consider that where this new reality is needed what regulations and philosophical changes are necessary to achieve this.
Governments have an obligation to keep a check on corporate power and be independent. Governments should dictate the policies rather than corporations but often it is the other way. Consider how Facebook and Amazon have avoided paying tax in the UK. Large amounts of money can influence politicians. Money and power including corporate power has for decades been blocking environmental progress so that we now have an unfolding climate catastrophe. Big changes are necessary to avoid dooming future generations of all species including homo sapiens to utter misery and ultimately extinction.
Currently, the public are deceived into thinking that something is being done about climate change whereas the opposite is true. Since 1995 there have been twenty-seven United Nations Climate Change conferences. In these conferences delegates from the various countries agree emissions targets. However, they fail to meet those targets and there is no sanction for governments that do so. In this way the public are deceived into thinking progress is happening when in fact it is not. This inaction is compounded by the failure by governments and media in reporting the urgency of the situation. We are moving too slowly to a carbon free environment.
Climate change is a large-scale complicated problem with long term challenges that do not fit well with the daily practice of politics. Politics doesn’t work for the climate. A challenge to making long-term plans is that political planning. For example, the UK Parliament has a maximum of a five-year term. Sir David Attenborough said that they only focus on what happens on their watch. The effects of climate change are going to be felt much later. Politicians tend to focus on short-term issues that are going to get them re-elected. Climate change is low on the list of subjects canvassed because of constituents and immediate and local concerns.
A study by The Green Alliance found that although politicians understand the need for action, they find it difficult to make the case for it. Climate change action is not discussed as part of the political mainstream and consequently MPs don’t advocate it.
Because governments are not acting fast enough. In the Paris Agreement governments are setting targets in the future. Seventy-three countries have committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Unfortunately, the date is too far ahead because catastrophe is unfolding now. Governments are not cooperating with each other in a way that would resolve this dire emergency. Climate change has to be addressed internationally with cooperation across governments.
The government of each country should declare a climate emergency, create a Citizen’s Assembly Bill and appoint an independent Climate Change Minister. If you live in the UK join the campaign for the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill. There are eighty-eight supportive Members of Parliament (MPs). It is an alliance bill written by scientists, lawyers and activists which has the potential to become the most significant move forward since the Climate Change Act 2008, https://www.ceebill.uk/
At the 2021 United Nations climate change conference the seriousness of the unfolding catastrophe will be reinforced. If each government agreed to declare climate emergency and pass an environmental bill that contained proposals to drastically reduce carbon emissions and restore biodiversity it would be an excellent move forward. These environment bills could have the legislative aim of solving climate change by changing society and the economy. The concept of protecting future generations could be written into the legislation. Commitments to reduce emissions would need to be legally binding with significant fines imposed against any country that failed to do so.
Australia is a depressing example of how politicians can react when their country is hit by climate catastrophe. From June 2019 unprecedented wildfires raged across Australia for a year. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison said it is not "credible" to link climate change to the country's devastating bushfires. It is credible, scientists know that increasing heat and wildfires are a direct result of climate change. He also said, “Australia's not going to write a blank cheque with its own economy on this issue, which requires action from right around the globe.” His fear is that cutting carbon emissions will weaken Australia’s ability to compete economically. If the leader of a country has such a concern what can be done to assuage it? This siege mentality is the direct effect of neoliberal capitalism that will lead to an uninhabitable planet.
Adrian Parr’s book, The Wrath of Capital described the systemic problem with our economic model, “The neoliberal paradigm of economic activity advances deregulation, competition, individualism, and privatisation, all the while rolling back on social services and producing widespread inequalities and uneven patterns of development and social prosperity.” He goes on to describe how it, “focuses too much on free market solutions to the detriment of the world’s most vulnerable.” He defines the world’s most vulnerable as “the poor, other species, ecosystems and, future generations”. We have a system that eats everything to service the accumulation of capital. Neoliberalist capitalism is destroying biodiversity and destroying the planet that we live on. We desperately need another economic model. Neoliberalism has considerably increased the rate of climate change by ensuring that more carbon is emitted. At the same time, it’s made sure that a small number of individuals benefit by becoming unimaginably wealthy whilst the rest become poorer. Parr writes “in a world where financial advantage brings with it political benefits, these figures attest to the weak position the majority of the world occupies in the arena of environmental and climate change politics.”
The effects on the economics of dealing with climate change wil be positive. Research by The Global Commission on Climate Adaption concluded that bold action to tackle climate change by 2030 would yield an economic gain of about US$30 trillion whereas inaction would cost far more.
The challenge for the developed world is to abandon the ideology of economic competition and have new paradigms around measuring success. Currently, everything is measured by economic growth through gross domestic product. Countries compete with each other along these lines but it drives fossil fuel use.
Countries compete politically to gain regional and worldwide influence, to achieve this they also compete economically. Politicians worry that if they stop the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, it will give economic advantage to other countries. They believe that they cannot commit until the whole world acts together.
Governments need to consider an alternative financial system. One alternative to measuring a country’s progress via the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the Gross National Happiness (GNH). Bhutan have measured this for a decade. Happiness and wellbeing is considered to be the ultimate goal of the government. Economic growth for the sake of growth does not translate to wellbeing and a habitable planet but a happiness index would. There are other alternatives.
There are potential solutions for cutting emissions. The Contraction and Convergence Framework exists to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to combat climate change. The strategy consists of reducing overall emissions of greenhouse gases to a safe level (contraction), resulting from every country bringing its emissions per capita to a level which is equal for all countries (convergence). The Africa Group of Nations want it to be adopted because it is fair to poorer countries and creates social equity. We should all learn of the framework and promote it to policy makers.
There are a number of other proposed solutions to an economy that allow for a sustainable future with a habitable planet. There is;
Change the Political System so that Democracy Flourishes
Reform the Media so that there is media plurality and the Truth about Climate Change is Published. (See the link to our media and climate change page)
Phase out Carbon and replace it with Solar Power
Put Biodiversity First – Restore it to create a more stable planet
Slow Population Growth by Raising People out of Poverty
Create No Fish Zones to Protect Fish Stocks
Encourage People to Eat Less Meat and eat grass fed meat
Ensure we adapt to change such as sea level rises
Support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill, https://www.ceebill.uk/
Thunberg released a video which called leaders to account for failing to reverse rising carbon emissions. “We are still speeding in the wrong direction,” she said. “The five years following the Paris agreement have been the five hottest years ever recorded and, during that time, the world has emitted more than 200bn tonnes of CO2.