How to Confront Climate Change
In my previous post I was looking for some narratives and stories that are emerging as societies, organisations and individuals are becoming aware that their values, behaviours and safety are challenged and threatened by climate change.
These narratives were Arctic climate change (or unraveling as some call it), renewable energy and the lack of political, economic and social action to keep global temperatures ‘well below 2 degrees celcius’.
It is without a doubt that the Arctic climate is changing faster than global average and might pose an existential threat to societies everywhere on Earth. Not enough is known about the dynamics of the Arctic. What emerge are risks, and these risks are real and serious.
Pictures like this one really catch your attention. What is going on, why and how will it affect my life? What are the outlier risks, worst case scenarios? Can this be stopped? Should we go 100% renewable energy? Should some one spray aerosol particles in the atmosphere to stop this?
Instead of asking those kind of questions, it might be beneficial to look at some other approaches and think critically about what it means to live in the current society and what it takes to confront its short falls in addressing the risks of climate change.
It all begins from understanding what the reality is, both in terms of what an abrupt change in the environment really entails when systems become overwhelmed or change phases and the rapid rates this can happen at. These kind of events have happened in the past, both during and previous to human presence on Earth.
The key to understanding the current emerging situation is that they have not happened at the observed intensity during settled civilisations and especially not during the industrial revolution, rapid population growth and modern agricultural design.
The reality in this sense is that human societies are the driver, but not at the moment in control of immense natural forces. People are trying to get there by creating narratives, technologies and stories which go along and compliment the utter dread and child like obsession of not losing control.
Yet here we are, past 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The loading is increasing for other gases too.
The real irony here is that most of this is totally invisible for large populations of people, or ‘consumers’ as they are called, the effects of their behavior is wholly unknown.
The connection is hard to make but yet it is absolutely clear. Almost every action taken in society in its current form and state contributes to and increases the risk of climate and weather events so beyond any control that the current way of life for middle class in the Western countries cannot be sustained.
Yet we know that these events are coming and will be sustained for hundreds of years.
When this finding is absolutely clear for the majority of people who ‘consume’, politics and society can confront the risks of climate change and begin taking necessary action.
This has largely not happened yet.
I recently moved from Finland to Bodø in Norway’s Arctic and when I was driving up here I was under thunder storms for 12 hours. I have not seen weather like that in my life. During the summer, previous to my move the Finnish capital Helsinki was flooded multiple times by these storms.
During the previous winter we had really strange weather as well. Some months were abnormally warm by 6°C to 10°C deviations, one was extremely cold.
I feel that many people think they are secure from nature in their two tonne cars, in their large concrete buildings and in air planes, air ports, ships and super markets.
If there is no immediate sense of threat, people seem to be mentally incapable of understanding or reacting to what is going on.
However, as soon as one confronts both the scale and rate of this change, I think some real and honest mental and moral changes can occur. Firstly, the understanding that society in its current form is not a reality based construct can be immensely empowering.
You can now think freely, challenge lies and fictitious narratives.
You can take moral action in line with the best scientific advise humans have ever produced.
You can find people who think the same, live in reality and still keep on pushing on and finding what the truth is and speaking about it when ever some one is listening.
There are landscapes left, there are species and honest people still around. Nature is there, the night sky is still there, universities are places where these changes can be discussed and some small contingents in society are beginning to appreciate the emerging realities.
Secondly, you now have practical tools and a mandate to challenge any one and any thing in society to comply with the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperatures ‘well below 2 degrees celcius’. You have the carbon budgets which indicate how fast emissions need to come down.
The real opportunity arising from rigorous analysis of the facts and observations provided is not a business case, not a chance to extend your ego in front of the masses, not a world saving mission.
At this point the opportunity and moral imperative is to tell the truth when it is uncomfortable. This will not be rewarded, it will most likely be shunned but if you do it multiple times and keep your own narrative in tact, people will respect you.
I respect that some businesses and visionaries try to find images and futures which are even better than the current one.
This is okay but not yet deliverable. Sadly the current society has already so many comforting and addictive high-carbon behaviours that moral action on this issue requires restraint and revolutionary abandonment of cognitive dissonances that promote apathy and inaction as well as threaten moral coherence.
Consumption patterns need to switch immediately if the consumer society wants to avoid catastrophic climate changes and ensuing collapse of the social order in the later stages of this century.
How to do this? What could I sacrifice? How could I contribute to solutions? How could I live a better and a healthier life? How can I help others who will face tougher problems from climate change? Is there a conservative case for climate action?
The need for questions and answers has never been greater.