Even people who do not believe that climate change is man-made must see that our fragile environment is getting a battering from current economic arrangements. In a hyper-competitive economy, where mega-corporations chase short-term profits, something always gets exploited.
Without systemic change, there is no chance of cooperation to achieve mutually beneficial solutions to the problems of resource depletion and climate change. Progress could quickly be made if the economic context and business incentives were to be altered.
There is no longer any doubt about the role of carbon emissions: the balance of evidence strongly suggests that human activity is driving climate change. If we wait for science to deliver conclusive proof it will be too late. Climate change deniers still punch above their weight in the media, but it seems likely that even their populist voices will soon be silenced by the growing mountain of scientific evidence and real-world impact.
There is still time to make the required changes. Most experts agree that the key objective should be to keep average global temperatures within 2°C of pre-industrial levels. Beyond this point feedback loops will come into play, causing warming to accelerate regardless of any subsequent reductions in carbon emissions. The good news is that most climate scientists think this goal is achievable if we start acting now. Delays of just a few years, however, will mean that we miss this crucial target. Then the numbers of lives lost to, or made unbearably difficult by, climate change will start to climb rapidly.
The omens are not good, though. In recent years, efforts to reach international agreements on trade, carbon emissions and solutions to the financial crisis have failed dismally. And self-interested politicians have not even started talking about the possibility of moving to an inclusive economy.
All that is required to force governments to start cooperating on these issues is for their electorates, with sufficient force, to demand it of them.
This may sound naively optimistic but ordinary people have the power to make change happen. And it is in respect of climate change that we need most urgently to use that power.
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