There are two sides to the climate argument. Don’t confuse this with the science, for which there is very little ambiguity.
In the hot corner: Europe is on fire, we’re getting closer to widespread crop failure and the potential for hundreds of millions of climate migrants in the not too distant future.
In the even hotter corner: voters in Uxbridge decide that climate breakdown is a bad thing but must be solved without any cost to themselves (ok I simplify, and will come back to this); the UK energy minister Grant Shapps has just said (yes, with fires burning around him) that he will “max out” the UK’s oil reserves; Sir Kier Starmer, the most likely next prime minister, has rolled back on some key climate pledges; and, of course, the world’s largest oil and gas companies want to continue drilling, pumping and burning as long as they can.
I struggle to see any solution. Renewable energy is already far cheaper than fossil energy. The economic argument for accelerating the transition is compelling. The majority of the world’s population want to reduce emissions. Yet the tiny number of people who are best placed to solve the problems (i.e. political and business leaders) are precisely those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.
But it isn’t a status quo.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is cumulative, so every year in which emissions stay the same (in fact they are still climbing year on year) the CO2 concentration increases. We’re now on 422 parts per million: this may sound a low percentage, but the 1.2 degrees of global warming (since pre-industrial times) that this has caused has already led to the endless stream of cataclysmic carnage we now read about daily.
Climate disasters has occurred this year in every continent, with wildfires raging on multiple Greek islands as I write. If every government maintains all current policies, the temperature will rise to 2.7 degrees above previous levels by the end of the century, according to Climate Action Tracker. If you think this year’s fires and floods are bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Let’s go back to Uxbridge. We’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis and buying a new car is not on many people’s agenda. London needs clean air, but Londoners need to survive the current economic turmoil.
Change must take place at the top, without passing the guilt onto consumers. We need a lower carbon power grid (where are those onshore wind farms?). We need better-insulated houses. We need incentives for industry to decarbonise and penalties for pollution. With these changes, consumers will be able to make green choices without it hurting the bank balance.
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Written by Nicholas Blain, Chief Executive.