Climate change — the only-catastrophically-bad good news

I motivated for the creation of our Mail & Guardian Good News Edition. It’s a celebration of the people and groups that keep this country going. As dark as things are, with Eskom sputtering and another recession in full swing, this country is packed with ingenuity and hope.

Not unreasonably, reporters have said that I need to get on board with the good news. That’s a problem. When you report on the industrial pollution by humanity of everything around us, which is driving the sixth mass extinction and locking in catastrophic climate change, it’s hard to see the light.

I have also been reading The Uninhabitable Earth : Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells as my bedtime book. During the day, this week, I’ve been looking at the data models going into the next mega United Nations climate report. Neither of these activities are comforting.

But, on Tuesday, I saw numbers crunched by reporters at Carbon Brief, saying that the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions have gone down 29% in the last decade, to their 1888 levels, while gross domestic product has grown 20%.

A shift at that rate is staggering. We are definitely in a moment where things are changing, dramatically, after years of very little happening about global heating. The UK’s drop is less about being a good global citizen and more to do with efficiency meaning you save money.

But that financial logic is increasingly driving markets around the world.

Markets decide where money goes. If it goes into fossil fuels, we guarantee carbon emissions.

If it goes into batteries and wind turbines, carbon emissions drop.

In the last two years, the markets, mega investors and pension funds have started to move money away from fossil fuels.

BP said last week it was leaving an industrial lobbying group, after committing to zero emissions.

Mining giant Anglo American is building the world’s largest hydrogen mining truck as part of a larger fleet. Companies are lining up to be at least seen to be responding to students’ demands that they take climate change seriously.

None of this is enough to avoid the 2°C of heating that will probably tear apart our current version of civilisation. But projections are starting to show that it could keep us to about 3°C.

That’s bad. Catastrophically bad. But probably not apocalyptically bad.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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