Who cares about the climate emergency?
By Benedict Adam
The planet has reached tipping point, we are fast approaching a position from which we cannot return. The planet has been able to absorb a lot of human abuse, but is now dangerously close to the point where the impact of that abuse becomes irreversible.
We are on a downward trajectory, facing global temperature rises, extreme weather, starvation, mass migration, war and – it is not hyperbolic to say – the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
Scientists and environmental campaigners have spent years tirelessly bringing the severity of the situation to the world’s attention. While there has been some response – some action by dedicated environmental groups and more forward thinking nations – the majority of the world’s most powerful countries and industry powerhouses have failed to act.
It’s time for more substantial than piecemeal offerings, such as charging for plastic bags in supermarkets (while allowing the continued overused of plastic packaging), or setting “ambitious” carbon reduction targets by 2050, when the crisis is here, the crisis is now.
It sounds cliché, but we are stronger as a whole. Individuals don’t feel they can make an impact. Wanting to make a difference but paralysed – perhaps understandably – by the grand scale of the task, or worse still, desensitised by the necessary truths, a bombardment of catastrophic imagery and doomsday prophecies.
However hope is not lost and it is not too late. We are finally beginning to see the true side of humanity as its concern for the planet is increasing and more and more people are trying to pull the emergency brake.
Climate (Change) Emergency Awareness
Climate change awareness overall is a problem, with governments afraid of scaring people/being unpopular in the polls. This has been compounded by downplaying the situation e.g. green washing (the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice) and lies from fossil fuel companies over the last 30 years.
However, the tide is turning regarding public perception – holding governments more accountable around the world for not reacting and making changes quickly enough. As a result, parliaments and councils are declaring Climate emergencies in their area of the world / country, but so far little action to make impactful improvements has occured.
Climate Emergency, a moment to consider the IPCC’s 2018 report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change.
In October 2018, the IPCC brought the severity of the situation to the world’s attention.
The 2018 report found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.
Recent Climate Change Movements
Climate movements – such as the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion’s April and October uprisings and Greta Thunberg’s FridaysForFuture – have helped bring the Climate Emergency to the forefront of people’s minds, giving the media no choice but to report on it.
Sunrise Movement is an American youth-led political movement, founded in April 2017, coordinated by Sunrise, a political action organisation that advocates political action on climate change.
Greta Thunberg and FridaysForFuture
Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate activist, has started an international youth movement against climate change.
The Swedish teenager first staged a “School Strike for Climate” in front of the Swedish Parliament in August last year. She continued to gain international attention after speaking at the U.N. Climate Talks in Poland in December 2018, addressing the UK parliament and, most recently, caused a stir at the United Nations with her blistering criticism of world leaders’ inaction on climate change.
Her strike has inspired students from around the world, leading tens of thousands of students from Germany, Japan, the UK, Australia and many more to join her #FridaysforFuture demonstrations.
This culminated in September 2019’s global strike, where hundreds of thousands of adults and children protested around the world for action to improve the climate crisis.
Extinction Rebellion or XR, is a global environmental movement with the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
Extinction Rebellion was established in the UK in May 2018 and launched at the end of October by Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook and other activists from the campaign group, ‘Rising Up!’. In November 2018, five bridges across the River Thames in London were blockaded and in April 2019, XR occupied five prominent sites in central London leading to the UK parliament declaring a Climate Emergency. The October 2019 rebellion saw even greater levels of mass disobedience across two weeks in central London.
Extinction Rebellion have three demands that they want people in power to take action on.
1. Tell the Truth – They want the government to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and work together with other institutions to help spread the message calling for things to change.
2. Act Now – They want the UK to “act now” to stop loss of habitat and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
3. Citizens’ Assembly – They want a special group called a Citizens’ Assembly to be put together. It would be made up of people from across society, to decide how to solve the climate crisis, with advice from experts.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the US New Green Deal
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, popularly known as AOC, is an American politician and activist who serves as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district.
AOC rose to fame when she defeated Democratic Joe Crowley in what was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries.
She then defeated Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas, in the November 6, 2018 General Election.
At age 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress and an advocate of the Green New Deal, proposed as a revolutionary United States legislation that aims to address climate change and economic inequality in one foul swoop.
The Green New Deal is now central to the 2020 US presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders has declared the climate crisis a national emergency and launched his version of the deal – a $16.3 trillion plan that includes massive investment in renewable energy, green infrastructure for climate resilience, and money for research.
The most climate emergency aware countries
Ever wondered which of the world’s nations are the most concerned about the climate emergency currently facing the planet? We’ve compiled a host of search data to give the definitive answer – based on search terms relating to climate change, according to the latest search data from Google.
The results offer an intriguing insight into which countries’ residents appear to have the climate change crisis at the forefront of their minds and which aren’t so interested in the situation – even including searches for people doubting climate change even exists!
What is GOAT’s Climate Emergency Awareness score?
We used Google’s Keyword Planner to research the average monthly searches undertaken within the top 50 GDP countries in the world. These search term that was identified to have the most consistent use and volume:
- climate change
- global warming
- climate emergency
- causes of global warming
- causes of climate change
- effects of global warming
- evidence of climate change
- climate change solutions
- consequences of climate change
- effects of climate change
- sea level rise
- sea level rise predictions
We translated the search terms, where relevant into that country’s native language.
As not all countries use Google for searching the internet, we have used Google’s ‘Reach’ values to see how many people are searching in Google in each country. We have then divided the total monthly searches around climate change by that value to create the GOAT Climate Emergency Awareness Score (CEAS).
Countries on the front line of Climate Emergency, those that are seeing substantial direct impacts already, have higher percentages e.g. Australia, Philippines (i.e. those people are most concerned with what will happen to their country if nothing is done to improve the situation).
Developed countries, whilst not feeling the effects as tangibly, have progressive enough leadership and media that people are aware and have concern.
It appears that developing countries have less awareness of the climate emergency.
5 of the top 10 could be considered as developing countries.
Finland has the highest CEAS score, with a total of 46. This is perhaps because of its close proximity to melting sea ice or the fact that temperatures are rising faster in the northern hemisphere. This appears to have been understood by the Finnish government, who have carbon zero targets set for 2035.
The researchers found that the Arctic has lost nearly 95 percent of its oldest ice and could be ice free by 2026 with catastrophic consequences to not just Finland but for all life on Earth.
The Australians concern should come as no surprise, with widespread bushfires and damage to coral reefs and rising temperatures. Meanwhile, the current government are trying to take yet more fossil fuels out of the ground, Australia is literally on fire, with extreme and lengthened forest fires raging, while the government refuses to connect the obvious dots.
In 2013 and 2014, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology released reports stating that Australia is becoming hotter, and that it will experience more extreme heat and longer fire seasons, droughts and floods, which have all been linked to climate change.
As mentioned above, there is also the impact on one of Australia’s wonders, the Great Barrier Reef, with coral reefs on target to decline by 70-90%, due to climate change.
Similarly to Australia, Peru is on the frontline of the climate emergency, directly and severely affected by global warming.
Potential sea level rise and glacial melt are two of the effects of climate change that has turned Peru’s glacial lake into a deadly flood time bomb. Lake Palcacocha is swollen with water from melting ice caps in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. Below, 50,000 people live directly in the flood path.
In 2010, the Peruvian government pledged to cut deforestation down to zero percent by 2021.
The Philippines is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, an archipelago of 7,000 islands with no natural barriers to separate much of the population from sea level rises.
The Philippines is also feeling the effects of the Climate Emergency right now. With five of the 10 deadliest typhoons to hit the Philippines coming since 2006.
Mexico faces extreme heat increases, droughts and water shortages and crop failure, which could quickly lead to a collapse of civilisation.
Arnoldo Kramer, Mexico City’s chief resilience officer, states: “Climate change has become the biggest long-term threat to this city’s future. And that’s because it is linked to water, health, air pollution, traffic disruption from floods, housing vulnerability to landslides — which means we can’t begin to address any of the city’s real problems without facing the climate issue.”
There’s much more at stake than this city’s well being. At the extreme, if climate change wreaks havoc on the social and economic fabric of global linchpins like Mexico City, warns the writer Christian Parenti, “no amount of walls, guns, barbed wire, armed aerial drones or permanently deployed mercenaries will be able to save one half of the planet from the other.”
The full top 50
|Climate Emergency Awareness Score||% of climate denial searches|
|United Arab Emirates||382,575||6||1.24%|
Climate change denial
It’s a sad indictment on the human race that, in 2019, despite being faced with huge scientific evidence, people would still rather kid themselves about the dangerous situation we are in.
Unsurprisingly, these climate denial searches are seen most in developed countries with lack of global awareness. For example, in the USA, where the president denies climate change and the Irish PM extolling the benefits of global warming for Irish winters, while countries in the southern hemisphere face extreme weather, rising seal levels, drought and starvation.
Australasia and New Zealand have high interest in both climate change awareness, as well as a relatively high level of searches relating to climate change doubt / denial.
The Top 10 Countries with Climate Denial Searches as a %
|% of climate denial searches|
Awareness is increasing, whist the UK makes it in to the top 10 in climate denial searches, it is just outside top 10 for its GOAT Climate Emergency Awareness Score, in 12th position.
However concern about climate change has reportedly reached record levels.
- Half are now ‘very concerned’
- Three in four think that Britain is already feeling the effects of climate change, up from 41% in 2010
- The majority think the UK should bring all emissions to net zero more quickly than by the current government target of 2050
Many would argue that the UK should be leading the way in reducing emissions and righting the wrongs of the past (the UK being the 2nd most pre-industrial contributor of carbon cumulatively). Unfortunately, little action has been seen by the UK government.
For example, whilst British government states it has reduced emissions by more than 40% since 1990, this is purely creative accounting, with the UK government not including emissions from global flights or shipping.
The Swedish campaigner, Greta Thunberg, accused the British government of “very creative carbon accounting” after the government defended its work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Another example is the British government claiming to have passed a Climate Emergency in parliament on the one hand, yet on the other, planning to open Coal mines and continuing to allow exploration into fracking.
As Cumbrian MP, Tim Farron, puts it “a kick in the teeth in the fight to tackle climate change”.
Vulnerable countries who emit the least CO2 suffer the worse
When you’re living in a place where access to adequate healthcare, food, water, and education is already difficult, climate change can make just getting by a near superhuman accomplishment.
What can we do?
Reduce consumption – live less ‘wealthy’ lifestyles.
We all love a holiday once in a while, but the with the percentage of people flying on the rise, some frequently for business and pleasure, alternative modes of transport where possible, or holidaying closer to home are viable options.
In Norway for example, a 2019 study showed that 25% of people surveyed have cut out flying in response to climate concerns.
While that is positive, the focus – by definition of the total emissions a large organisation produces through business meetings, product shipping etc. versus that of an individual – should not be on individuals and the odd holiday here and there – but more so on encouraging, or even putting legislation in place for companies to reduce their impact.
The Green Party’s, Caroline Lucas, rather succinctly highlighted the point on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. In the interest of openness, Lucas said:
“My son lives in the United States and so I do fly, not often, but occasionally I do.
“Focusing on individual behaviour lets big companies off the hook”. She added people should not be “sitting in judgement on each other.”
Better understand the imapact of the supply chain of things you buy:
Websites like the Ethical Shopping Guide are a great place to star.
Eat less meat and diary
Avoiding meat and dairy produce is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet, published in the Journal of Science in 2018.
The analysis showed that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.
“It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,”
Leave fossil fuels in the ground
Energy demand grew worldwide by 2.3% in 2018, with much of the demand coming from China and India – the main source of the problem being developed countries over reliance of cheap manufacture in these countries for everyday products, and of course, often luxury items, such as electronics.
China’s own outlook on environmentally friendly energy supply should be commended, leading the way in a 2017 with $132.6bn of investment in eco energy, a new high. The amount of solar installed in China also increased by more than three-quarters year on year. In contrast – and rather damningly, the UK’s own investment in green energy actually fell by 57% in 2017.
The problem is compounded by lack of sufficient investment globally in clean energy. While wind and solar energy supply grew by 31% in 2018, the global energy demand is still met in the main by Fossil Fuels (such as oil, coal, natural gases) – supplying 70% of the world’s energy demands.
This cannot continue – as the production of fossil fuels continues to cause the degradation of land, water pollution and dangerous increases in air pollutants that cause illness and premature death.
Our wildlife suffers hugely from the use of fossil fuels – critical wildlife is running out of places to migrate and breed, and even if they can find alternative locations – they are then forced to compete with other wildlife in environments they are not conditioned to survive in. The cycle continues until mass extinction is a very real and catastrophic truth.
Burning fossil fuels might meet our energy requirements, but it is simply unsustainable – only serving to amplify the global warming crisis, through the carbon emissions released during production of energy.
Divest from fossil fuels
Savings and pension plans are currently invested by bankers into financial portfolios which finance environmentally destructive companies.
By turning a blind eye to this you are potential inveting in fossil fuels and directly funding companies most responsible for the climate emergency.
As customers, you can demand that your money should be managed to take the climate emergency into account. Start here: www.cleanupyouract.org.uk
Rewilding and carbon sequestration
There is a magic machine, that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called…a tree.
Carbon sequestration is the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to mitigate of defer global warming. It has been proposed as a way to slow the atmospheric and marine accumulation of greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels.
By far the best opportunity in Carbon Sequestration is rewilding. Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself. It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.
Projects are popping up all over Britian and Europe, and there are many opportunties to support, invest in and volunteer for these projects. Take the restoration of Wallsea Island nature reserve in Essex – It took 10 years to complete and offers 670 hectares of area that will aid carbon capture and support wildlife that had to adapt to the impacts that climate change put on their habitats.
The pace needs to step up if we are to slow and reverse the current climate crisis.
Vote for parliamentary representatives who prioritise the environment
According to a 2018/19 report by the European Comission, The UK leads the European Union in giving subsidies to fossil fuels. The report found €12bn (£10.5bn) a year in support for fossil fuels in the UK, significantly more than the €8.3bn spent on renewable energy.
If your MP is restanding in the coming allection, use Guadian’s tool to checkout their past record on 16 climate votes or if they’re not, see how key government figures, the cabinet and the shadow cabinet voted.
As an example, Borris Johnson has a Guardian Climate Score of 0% and the Cabinet just 17%.
If you care about the future of our planet for yourself and future generations, it’s imperative the green agenda high on your list of priorities when deciding who to support in local and general elections.
As referenced above – individuals combining to make a collective force can have a huge impact on disrupting current inaction towards improving the climate crisis. You can make a very real difference by taking part in peaceful protests, marches and climate change events that keep the climate crisis at the forefront of people’s minds.
From Global Climate Strikes through to supporting groups, such as Extinction Rebellion and other campaigns, get involved and get out there to speak up for the protection of our planet. Speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
Resources for protests and climate change campaigns: