Monday 9 August 2021

'Out of control' climate crisis or 'ping-pong sweat'?


"We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control". Jeremy Corbyn 


"There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong." Boris Johnson


"We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. This is no longer about the distant future. We are talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes … Parliament rarely leads change. It usually drags its feet. Think about the huge transformations to our society: workers’ rights, women’s rights, gay rights. The impetus has always come from outside. From social movements and communities … Let’s work more closely with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe, especially those at the sharp edge. Like the Maldives – so vulnerable to rising sea levels. They told the UN climate talks last year: “we are not prepared to die” and implored countries to unite … And Bangladesh, whose foreign minister recently warned of the “existential threat” posed by climate breakdown to the 160 million people of his country as he urged others to adhere to their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement... we must be absolutely clear-eyed about the Paris Agreement. As significant as it is – it is not enough … If every country meets its current pledges temperatures will still rise by three degrees this century. At that point southern Europe, the horn of Africa, Central America and the Caribbean will be in permanent drought. And major cities, like Miami and Rio de Janeiro will be lost to rising sea levels. At four degrees, which is where we’re currently heading, agricultural systems will collapse. This isn’t just climate change. It is a climate emergency … Around the world we’re seeing ice caps melting, coral reefs dissolving, droughts in Africa, hurricanes in the Americas and wildfires in Australia. Cyclone Idai killed more than 900 people in south east Africa, largely in Mozambique, and affected 3 million more, only to be immediately followed by the current horrors of Cyclone Kenneth. The heating up of our climate is contributing to the terrifying loss of animal and plant species – something we are only just recognising. According to the WWF, humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. Earlier this year the first global scientific review of its kind found that insects could become extinct within a century unless action is taken. Insects pollinate plants and keep the soil healthy. Without pollination and healthy soil there is no food and without food there are no humans. Meanwhile intensive farming is pumping the earth full of fertilisers and taking its toll on our soil. A more sustainable farming system will actually lead in the longer run to better yields and less cost in pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser….It’s those here and around the world who are least to blame for it who bear the highest cost. A 2015 study found that children living in inner city areas can have their lung capacity reduced by up to 10% due to air pollution. And of course it is even more extreme for those children growing up in the polluted cities in India or China. Children shouldn’t have to pay with their health for our failure to clean up our toxic air. And it is working class communities that suffer the worst effects of air pollution – who are least able to rebuild their lives after flooding and who will be hit hardest by rising food prices while the better off, who are responsible for most emissions, can pay their way out of trouble. And internationally, in a cruel twist of fate, it is the Global South which is facing the greatest devastation at the hands of drought and extreme weather. This fuels poverty and war and creates refugees as people are forced to flee their homes. Some of the 65 million refugees in the world right now are climate refugees. Those people are paying the price for emissions that overwhelming come from the richer Global North … That’s the magnitude of what we are talking about. The future of life on Earth. It’s too late for tokenistic policies or gimmicks. We have to do more than just ban plastic straws. Individual action is not enough. We need a collective response which empowers people instead of just shaming them if they don’t buy expensive recycled toilet paper or drive the newest Toyota Prius… The hidden hand of the market is not going to save us… Technological solutions are not going to magically appear out of nowhere … An emergency of this magnitude requires large-scale government intervention to kickstart industries, to direct investment and to boost research and development in the green technologies of the future … What we need is a Green Industrial Revolution with huge investment in new technologies and green industries… It will be about harnessing manufacturing to avert climate breakdown while providing well-paid, high-skilled and secure jobs … The solution to the crisis is to re-programme our whole economy so that it works in the interests of both people and the planet … That means publicly-owned energy and water companies with a mandate to protect the environment instead of just seeking profit. It means redesigning public agricultural funding to benefit local businesses and sustainable farming that supports wildlife and plant life and not unnecessarily flying in basic produce from across the globe. It means funding home insulation schemes, particularly in our poor quality private rented sector. It means investing in bus routes, cycling infrastructure and improved railway lines in public ownership so people can travel quickly and cheaply without cars. It means planting trees to improve air quality and prevent flooding and it means expanding our forests that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and provide habitats for native wildlife … We must take serious steps on debt relief and cancellation to deal with the injustice of countries trying to recover from climate crises they did not create while struggling to repay international debts … And we must end UK aid support for fossil fuel projects in the Global South. The government will boast that the UK is reducing its carbon emissions, but I have to tell them it’s too slow. At the current rate, we will not reach zero emissions until the end of the century. More than 50 years too late. By that time our grandchildren will be fighting for survival on a dying planet ...The science says this is an emergency. But an emergency does not have to be a catastrophe. We could use it as an opportunity to rebuild our economy so that it works for the many, not the few. This is not a time for despair. It is a time for action … We have the chance to act before it’s too late. It’s a chance that won’t be available to succeeding generations. It is our historic duty to take it." Jeremy Corbyn, 01/05/2019


“It is fantastic news that the world has agreed to cut pollution and help people save money, but I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation. There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong." Boris Johnson