[Image description: a large fire in a forest]
In politics, a middle ground is often seen by many as an acceptable compromise – instead of doing nothing, or everything asked for, let’s do half of what’s asked for. Politicians have been applying this principle to things for decades, and many of them seem to have decided this is an option with the climate crisis, as with other things. Let me be very clear: it is not. There is no time for a middle ground option, and unless radical action is taken now the effects will be irreversible.
When activist groups like Extinction Rebellion demand challenging targets such as net-zero emissions by 2025, they do not do so out of some malicious desire to destroy the economy, they do so because it is the only option to prevent a catastrophe. And climate activists such as myself understand what a difficult thing we are asking for. We know it is going to be incredibly difficult, but we also know that this is necessary to prevent some much, much worse disasters than an economic crisis.
Making the current covid-19 pandemic political is unwise, but we need to admit something that environmental campaigners have been saying for years – climate breakdown makes pandemics more likely. Human destruction of the natural habitats of other species leads to extinction of said species, and so viruses that presently use such species as hosts are more likely to jump to other species, including humans. And novel viruses such as this coronavirus strain can cause pandemics.
We are already seeing the effects of climate breakdown: this is not about the future, this is happening right now. California is the obvious recent example, with wildfires becoming worse and worse every year leading to the destruction of communities and loss of life. Examples from the Global South are even more stark, but receive less media attention due to the relative economic status of such nations compared with the economic giant of the US. Looking back at pre-covid times, Australian wildfires were also a sign.
There are smaller visible examples too, that do not seem as obvious as effects of climate change but nevertheless prove that nowhere will be immune. If one googles the average temperature of Glasgow, where I live, data from 1985 to 2015 indicates that summers should have an average temperature of 15 Celsius in the hottest month (July). Now, anyone who has been to Glasgow in the last couple of summers would laugh at this – the average temperature is obviously much higher.
Wildfires, flooding, yearly heatwaves – these are all related to climate change. It is no longer something that will happen in the future, climate change deniers can no longer say it is a hypothetical. Climate breakdown is here, it is not going away, and now all we can do is try to mitigate the worst of it. But to do that, we need to act now and aim for targets that seem difficult but are necessary. It’s time to put pressure on politicians, because without the political will we won’t be able to move forward – and we really, really need to.