By now, you might be sick of hearing about climate change. After all, didn’t the doomsayers forecast Armageddon for decades now, and yet, here we still are? Surely that proves climate change is just a big old scare story, right?
I suppose to some degree at least you may be forgiven for thinking like that. After all, the world has been subjected to an extremely well-financed PR campaign, stretching over decades, trying to make us believe climate change isn’t real.
Climate change IS real, and is terrifying. You should be extremely worried. Scientists warn of a tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius increase in the world’s average temperature. Two degrees sounds like nothing to you, and it’s not uncommon to have a change in temperature between one day and the next of ten degrees, so why should two degrees worry you?
Simply put, that’s the global average temperature. A 48 degree heatwave in the southern hemisphere might be balanced by a -20 degree cold snap in the northern hemisphere (though that is a vast oversimplification of an extremely complex issue).
The science is overwhelming and undeniable: man-made climate change is heating the planet at an extreme rate. YOU (and me!) are responsible for that. However, not all people on earth are equally responsible for it – poor people in developing countries typically have a far smaller CO2 footprint, though are disproportionately at risk from climate change.
Also, when you were a kid, did you ever stand on the middle of a see-saw, and tried to balance it? If so, you’ll recall how a small shift can at first cause a very slow movement, but that movement then speeds up, and before you know it, you’ve wildly overshot the point of balance.
Climate change is much like that – though it’s becoming increasingly severe, we’re still only seeing small changes. The problem is, we know the changes are speeding up, and are already faster than even the most negative forecasts predicted.
Yes, the scientists got this part wrong: climate breakdown is happening faster than what anyone expected.
Now some will have told you that climate change is killing the planet. It really won’t kill the planet. Oh no! The planet will survive each and every one of us. What runaway climate change will do is kill the planet’s ability to offer an environment that human beings (and many other species) can survive in, but the planet itself will continue.
There are other certainties, too: most people, when given the opportunity to do so in a safe environment, enjoy cycling. Another certainty is that cycling is a massive part of the solution to climate change.
The single biggest cause of climate change is our addiction to fossil fuels. Yes, that includes your driving (and mine, of course – nobody is innocent here). The next biggest cause is our Western lives of over-consumption. Combined with a throw-away, single-use society, we’re literally killing ourselves, and our children.
To have a future, we need to stop using fossil fuels, and clamp down on rampant consumerism. Start seeing buying brand-new stuff all the time for the shameful, selfish and harmful act that it is. That starts with brand-new cars, but also includes clothes, phones, and almost everything else.
Start seeing driving for the violent act of destruction that it is, and actively seek out alternatives. Yes, even if those take longer and costs more money. Believe me, in a worst-case scenario of runaway climate change, you’d willingly give all the money you had to roll back the clock, but it would be too late.
So what does that mean in the real world?
There are a number of things almost all of us can do right now:
Drive less, ideally not at all. This cuts emissions, hurts oil companies, who are hugely responsible for the mess we’re in, frees up road space for those that really need it, and is healthier for you (and others)
Cycle more. I’m not talking about cycling for leisure, exercise, or sport. I’m talking about cycling to the shops, to go visit friends and relatives, and to go to work. Get panniers, or even a trailer, and suddenly what you thought was impossible becomes possible.
Eat less red meat (ideally none at all). Livestock farming is responsible for a huge proportion of greenhouse gases.
Convince a minimum of two other people to join you in making these changes.
Finally, go to FlightFree UK‘s site, and pledge to not fly (then keep that pledge!). No, your foreign getaway isn’t worth killing our future for, and jetting off for a holiday remains one of the most selfish and shortsighted things anyone can do.