To paraphrase that old joke about the weather, everybody complains about climate change but nobody does anything about it. But let’s face it, climate change is the one thing that most politicians like to virtue signal about but damned few do anything substantive to slow it down or stop it.
But what Machiavellian cynic in 2022 can blame them? After all, as is true with most screwings, unfair distribution of wealth, unfair voting rights, unjust tax laws, the cost of healthcare, both the covid and the fascist pandemics, it’s the voiceless, the dispossessed, the indigent and the ethnic minority who suffer the most. I never yet knew a heartless coward who didn’t prefer his or her enemy without teeth. Global warming is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable of the world’s population. Some think only they will ever suffer.
This false idea is predicated on the mistaken notion, of course, that, in the case of global warming, the most economically and politically powerful among us will somehow escape its wrath. Their leafy suburbs will stay leafy, their golf courses will remain green and they’ll always have enough money for air conditioning.
That lullaby will no longer get them to sleep. According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it has finally happened. Just as we reached so-called Peak Oil a few years ago, we have just passed Peak CO2. That is to say, the amount of CO2 that the world has emitted in the last decade is the same amount that’s left to us to stay under the key temperature threshold. We have, in effect, finally done it. The roller coaster finally made it to the top of its first summit and we’re about to find out what the ride is really like.
I know what you’re probably thinking. This endless series of nightmares, when will it end? First there was Trump, then the pandemic, then Russia and now this. I don’t blame you for thinking that way and I understand why. Part of the problem is that we have come to think of global warming as “just another problem” in a long series of problems. We can largely blame the press and our own reaction to the news for that. Global warming isn’t newsworthy. People switch it off. It’s not a real problem anyway.
But that’s just not the case. Global warming is THE problem. Everything else is just window dressing. We have been rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and thinking all along that once we get those deck chairs well-arranged our mission is accomplished. We need to understand now more than ever that in a few short years this ship could be at the bottom of the Atlantic.
What can we do? I hope I don’t have to tell anyone by now what we can do as individuals. You all know the strategies for being carbon neutral, net zero and climate positive, and if you don’t you can find out how on YouTube. But we also have to elect politicians who understand the dire emergency and are prepared to do what is needed right now. As Greta Thunberg puts it, we don’t want to hear any more, and I quote, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if preserving the planet isn’t your number one issue then you have no business calling yourself an enlightened liberal. Nothing else — and I do mean nothing else — matters if we don’t have a planet to live on any more. This is our last chance. It really is now or never. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.