It is heartening to note a growing consensus on the need for firm action to avert catastrophic climate change which threatens life as we know it on our planet.
For years we have listened to global warming denyers but now the pace of change has been such that even the most stalwart defenders of the status quo are being outnumbered and out argued.
The recent encyclical Laudato si, (On the care of our common home) by Pope Francis has brought the crisis into universal public debate and today the White House, admittedly a late but an important convert to the idea of the need for action, issues what President Obama describes as the biggest, most important step the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change.
For years the distant treat that rising sea levels would endanger the very existence of remote Pacific islands that hardly anyone could name has fallen on deaf ears in the developed and the developing world. Politicians fiddled and temporised as the planet’s resources burned, spewing their emissions into our atmosphere at ever increasing rates.
The latest UN International Climate Conference takes place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. This will be the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the course of more than 20 years there has been much talk, much disagreement as to who should cut what, and some planning of cuts to take place, but the latter always in the too distant future.
According to the organising committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. It is a tall order indeed. Having regard to past performance one would doubt the prospects for urgent and decisive action on this occasion but for the fact that the signs of the climate change crisis are now crystal clear for all to see. The world has seen an increase in Co2 levels, a year by year increase in global average temperature, an accelerating loss of polar ice, an increasing loss of species, and more frequent weather events which now threaten not only distant unnamed islands but places much nearer to the centre of global economic power and decision making. It is clear now that the world’s coastal cities and communities are under serious threat and the cost of keeping the rising oceans at bay is beyond the resources of even the richest countries.
The Native Americans long ago reminded us that we do not inherit the Earth from our parents, instead we borrow it from our children and grandchildren, a thought that each of us could usefully bear in mind as we pull into a petrol station to extract yet another transfusion of mobility from the dwindling and finite resources of Mother Earth. Each and every one of us must do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint but the task must also be taken up with vigour by governments and global corporations. They can and must understand that for us to survive as a species we need to protect the Earth and its creatures and learn to copy nature in the way it takes and gives in a harmony that has held the planet in a natural balance since the dawn of life on earth.
Climate change conferences are taking place across the world in preparation for Paris, among them a conference in Dublin on 28 October 2015 hosted by the Planning for Climate Change Conference Series organisation. The Guardian newspaper has been active in drawing attention to this urgent problem in its Keep it in the Ground series of articles. There appears to be a groundswell of public opinion calling for remedial action, one of the advantages of a globally connected society.
We look forward to Paris with hope. The time for action is now. With forest fires raging in some places and droughts and floods threatening others the Paris conference seems to me to be perhaps the last opportunity for the global community to come together to save our civilisation from man made catastrophe.
Looking back though history we can see that empires and civilisations have come and gone. Our civilisation is no different. If the planet becomes unsustainable for us it will return to its own natural balance in future years when the unfortunate descendants of the survivors of our excesses eke out a primitive existence that we in our comfort cannot even begin to imagine.
But with our resources of information and technology and with a will to co-operate we can and we must work together to reduce our impact on the environment for the common good and for the generations that we hope will follow us. Paris, Pope and President, 3 P’s for the protection of the people, property and prosperity of the planet. May they succeed at last.
Tony – 3 August 2015