The war against climate change

Climate change truly is a global, contemporary problem, with various debates and controversies attached to it. Thomas Augur asks whether the high profile agreements on carbon emissions are really enough to curb this problem. 

The recent US-China deal to limit carbon emissions stands as proof that the world’s two greatest carbon emitters – and economic powers – are willing to at least try to work together on global climate policy. This came shortly before a deal announced last week at the conclusion of the climate conference in Lima. The Lima deal, including the 194 countries who participated in the conference, is viewed as important step in the march toward the critical conference in Paris next year.

But is this really enough?

There have been a multitude of conventions and agreements since 1988 when, according to activist and author Naomi Klein,“Governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions”. And while many had limited successes, the failures continue to add up and contribute to anthropomorphic climate change.

Need for a new ideology

According to Klein, “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism”. Klein reminds us that deregulated capitalism has no use for moral leadership, as it would only potentially get in the way of its primary objectives: profit and growth.

©Adbusters/Creative Commons License

©Adbusters/Creative Commons License

In any era, under any circumstances, it is difficult to ask the global business community to reign in or cut back its emissions – businesses are designed to target growth and expand in their search for ever greater profit margins. Therefore, to ask the business community to cut back on emissions at the same time that globalization has erupted, seems – in hindsight – like an awfully big ask. And so it has been that the business community could not resist the lure of global trade and record profits over restraint, even with the steadily growing warnings around the harmfulness of emissions.

Why can’t we escape?

We know that it’s not a sustainable culture but for some reason we, as consumers and producers, seem unable to stop the cycle.

The aforementioned deals and pledges as well as the publicity surrounding the 2015 climate conference in Paris lull the public into a false sense of security where we believe we can in fact curb climate change without a large scale change to our society.

Anyone following the issue closely can see how big business has deliberately thwarted climate change action . Big businesses, on the whole, have chosen to use their immense wealth and power to actively fight against the policies and changes recommended to combat climate change. From a moral perspective, this is just plain sad. From a practical perspective, this represents possibly the greatest obstacle going forward in dealing with our climate crisis.

Overcoming these obstacles?

In order to offset the business community’s obstructionism, the climate movement must raise its game to another level. This is more than a battle – it is a war. And that is an important distinction, because until we come to see this crisis as a war – it is unlikely that we will mobilize sufficiently enough to go toe-to-toe with powerful business interests.

© Eden, Janine and Jim/Creative Commons License

© Eden, Janine and Jim/Creative Commons License

There is no historical equivalent to the current climate crisis: it represents a unique and unprecedented threat to all of us. Perhaps we can take inspiration from wars where, in times of extraordinary crisis, wholesale changes in ideology are made in the pursuit of victory. During the Second World War, countries such as the US and UK effected changes such as price controls, rationing, increased labour hours and higher taxes. Women took on a greater share of the workforce, with so many men in uniform. New civic organisations were formed and the feeling of solidarity and togetherness reached new heights. In short, in a time of crisis, people sacrificed in ways that would have previously been unthinkable.

The war is on, even if many people don’t (or refuse to) realise it. Let’s raise our collective awareness, and let’s increase the public pressure on business and government to enact aggressive, systemic change. Along the way, let’s trust that every bit of action helps – just as every bit of pollution hurts. Your planet needs you!



The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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