Is it too late to avert climate chaos?
Despite stirring words and repeated conference pledges, it has always been the case that in the main, governments around the world have tended to react to climate change catastrophes rather than act to prevent them. But this year, with floods sweeping through parts of Germany and Belgium leaving death and destruction in their wake, with soaring heatwaves bringing unprecedented drought and fire threats to millions throughout vast areas of the US and Canada, and with massive regions of Australia overwhelmed by a devastating months-long plague of mice caused by drought and then extreme rainfall, it’s clear that climate chaos is upon us. It’s here, and it’s set to get much worse.
At their conference earlier this year, the G7 nations committed to a “green revolution” that would limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C and by 2030 halve man-made greenhouse emissions compared to 2010 levels. They also promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, end almost all government support for the overseas fossil fuel energy sector and phase out petrol and diesel cars. It all sounds good, but is it enough, and is it soon enough?
Recent events appear to have prompted further climate change action, as US envoy John Kerry has called on China to increase the speed and depth of its efforts to cut carbon. He said that without sufficient emissions reductions by China, the G7’s promised global goal of keeping temperatures under 1.5C was “essentially impossible”. Not an encouraging sign. World leaders, or their PR offices, are good at coming up with slogans and pithy phrases to grab the public’s attention. “Build Back Better for the World Plan” was the phrase that emerged from the G7 conference, and recently “build back better” has frequently tripped off the tongues of politicians here in the UK.
But ultimately, these are just words, and while politicians talk the talk the public want action. In our survey, only the pandemic, public health and the state of the economy were considered to require more urgent action than the climate and environment. And the difference between the first and third in importance was just 6%.
The climate crisis was judged far more important than immigration and asylum and the UK’s departure from Europe. We also asked if climate change chaos was already here, and after the events of recent months, it was probably unsurprising that a combined 78% either “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” that the extreme weather around the globe is the result of man-made climate change.
And is the UK government doing enough to combat the climate crisis? Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that green policies are at the heart of his agenda, but the majority of our readers remain unconvinced. A combined total of 61% either “tend to disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the idea that he is doing enough, suggesting that he and his government need to be far better and far speedier at “building back better”.