Climate change – the last call?


December 6th, 2015

Not a history lesson but a reminder of the urgency of moving from talk to practical action.

In 1972 a group of scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a highly respected US university) published a report ‘The last call’.  In it they argued that the planets resources were finite and we were getting close to the limit.  We could slow down, change course, find a new pattern to our existence slowly or continue as now eventually leading to catastrophic change.

Whichever way change was coming.

A few months ago I sat in the House of Commons and watched a film about the report and what followed. The Club of Rome published a book called ‘The Limits to Growth’ which sold 30 million copies. President Carter embraced the idea and talked to the American people about change. But President Reagan who followed revoked the idea, insisting growth was good, growth was essential to the American way of life.

Forty plus years on it was a history lesson. But in some ways the Carter – Reagan tension continues played out on a bigger, now global scale.

Change is happening.

flooding in BangladeshFor many poor communities catastrophic change is already happening with the increased frequency and strength of cyclones, more flooding, more drought. In Ethiopia they are facing the worst drought for 30 years. In Zimbabwe when I was there earlier this year I heard people talking about changes in rainfall patterns that were devastating harvests.

In the UK this weekend in the North of England and Scotland we’re experiencing severe flooding. And over the past decade in the UK we’ve seen record breaking rainfall (and our records go back to 1879). It’s impossible to link any individual severe weather event with climate change – but these increases in the severity of rain i.e. harder, more intense rainfall, tie in with the predicted impacts.

The reality is that poorest and therefore most vulnerable people – whether in the developing world or in the UK – feel the impact of climate change first and hardest . We need to take action.

The Time for Change is now.

The perceived tension between protecting our planet and economic growth continues to polarise the climate change debate. But if we grow in a way that destroys our ability to inhabit our planet – how does that make sense?

As world leaders gather in Paris for the UNFCCC meeting I read in the press that there’s optimism a deal can be agreed – not enough to keep warming below the vital limit of 2 degrees but a step in the right direction.

I also read that we may have hit a peak in emissions.

And that renewable energy is now outperforming fossil fuels.

Maybe change is starting?

But for change to happen it needs to move beyond political agreement

Agreement in Paris will be a first step in the right direction. But even if there is agreement the ‘devil will be in the detail.’  Fine words are relatively easy but implementation more difficult – and sometimes easy to ignore, or just too difficult to make happen.

So sadly to repeat the words of MIT 43 years ago – change is coming, it will happen, we can plan or we can have it forced upon us but the days of choice are getting shorter and the human stakes much higher.

I believe that if we care about poverty reduction, about people and our planet, we will make immediate, deep and binding change happen now. And plan so that what I hope will be the amazing rhetoric of the UNFCCC conference, the great agreement becomes experienced reality.

This next week is a time of opportunity – lets hope our world leaders step up and make change happen.

 

 

One response to “Climate change – the last call?”

  1. vero Says:

    First and foremost let us address the pollution in most of our towns.

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