Somebody should buy the prime minister a bicycle. That was an idea suggested to me earlier this evening, or more accurately somebody should blog asking for donations to buy him one, to cycle from number 10 to the houses of parliament. It probably wasn’t a serious suggestion, but it actually might have been a good idea had it been suggested earlier for one simple reason; it would almost certainly be newsworthy. Timed to coincide with this weekend’s Global Climate March, it would have catapulted one the most important good causes into the front pages of all the newspapers and the first item on the TV news. I’m certainly not saying that the media’s celebrity interest is a good thing, but it is a fact and one we could perhaps have taken advantage of.
Some progress has been made towards addressing climate change, for example the UK has slowly been moving to cleaner sources of electricity. But there is more to be done and an ambitious agreement to accelerate at the forthcoming Pairs summit would help spur us on. While decarbonisation of the electricity supply has begun, the government has put a dampener on progress, whether to a slight degree or a large one I am not quite sure, and other sectors (like transport) are lagging behind.
There is so much more we can do, some of it difficult but there are some easy big wins as well. For example, reducing air travel would be a win-win, less flights meaning less high-altitude greenhouse gas emissions AND less disturbance to people living under the flight paths. One way to do this could be introducing taxation for aviation fuel, which would require international agreement but would raise funds for the exchequer to avoid the need to cut subsidies for public transport, for example. Alternatively, the tax could be targeted at frequent flyers, so that the small proportion of the population who are responsible for most flights and poorer people are not prevented from making a single ‘holiday of a lifetime’.
Climate change is a big problem but an insurmountable one? We’ll only know if we try, and we do have some things in our favour. Most of us humans are good citizens and are happy to work together to help each other out, and to help the myriad of other species that call this planet home so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy their company. Collectively, we also have a lot of brain power; we may have got ourselves into this mess by using our intelligence, but by using it in a slightly different way we can, and have, think of ways to tackle the problem. a need for to accelerate across the board.
Its happening, there are some great initiatives out there which look very promising. Even organisations who you might expect would disagree with science have started to back climate issues, for example the pope emphasising that we have a moral duty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. There are still opponents, who back schemes like Heathrow’s extra runway that could in one fell swoop undo a lot of the good work, but theirs are starting to look like outdated policies. It is high time the government realised that it needs to lead by example in the fight to cut emissions, and we need to follow that example.
Right now, we are not in a good place, but I have a found a quote for that. “If you don’t like where you are, change it! You’re not a tree.” (from Jim Rohn).
Good luck this weekend at the Global Climate March.
Originally published Nov 27th 2015 at 23:55.
UPDATE: Dec 1st 2015:
A deeply regrettable, but fairly common, item on the news is war. These stories come from across the globe, and often the conflict is apparently religiously motivated, at least partially. Yet on climate change religion stands united; Archbishop Desmond Tutu has published a list of statements, from Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, and I’m sure there are plenty of non-religious people, such as myself, who also share the position that we need to urgently address climate change. The Archbishop’s petition to prime minister David Cameron and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for 100% renewable energy by 2050 is available to sign online.