We have known for more than a century that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet. Since the late 1960s, we have known that this could destroy our way of life. But, five decades later, scientists have had to release another report saying what will happen if we don’t act.
The Mail & Guardian this week highlights three ways things could go from here. One is catastrophic, where we follow the example of Trumpian America and ignore global warming. The middle-of-the-road option sees life getting much worse, but we make it through. The hopeful path sees humanity undertaking a Herculean effort to reduce our carbon emissions. Critically, that path isn’t a difficult one. Wind and solar energy, batteries and all sorts of industrial efficiencies mean we can do it.
This is a moment in history when humanity could be amazing. The only things stopping us are politicians and their funder masters. What we have is not a climate-change problem but one that drills down to the core of our obsession with neoliberal capitalism.
Large corporates aren’t doing anything about climate change because they only care about returns on profit this quarter. Deep down, they also believe that people who fail do so because they don’t work hard enough. This means the corporates don’t think climate will affect them. Their work and wealth will insulate them.
And politicians only care about the next electoral cycle.
It is this thinking that’s driving us down the Trumpian climate path. A path that leads to people killing each other for access to resources, and we kill most of the living things on our planet.
This thinking is at odds with our basic humanity because, ultimately, our problem isn’t really climate change. We should be able to handle the climate- change tools and ideas that already exist.
It’s no coincidence that we worked out in the late 1960s that burning fossil fuels would destroy the world and that we almost had a global agreement to do something about it in the late 1980s. Then companies realised they could own politicians, and politicians realised that letting companies do what they want would fund their election campaigns. So the science behind climate change was attacked. As media, we were complicit, as we tried to report with balance by quoting two sides of a story that only had one side — reality.
The real problem that must be amplified is the vested interests inhibiting real change from happening. In South Africa, it is kleptocrats who make energy decisions based on what cut they can take. It is the lie of trickle-down economics, favouring big projects by big companies that then don’t pay taxes.
Breaking this system is in all our interests. It can be a moment when we break the 1% neoliberal stranglehold over us and make this a great place to live. We cannot afford to fail.