It is refreshing to see that a recently formed group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion are showing dedication to the cause of reversing climate change via direct action . The direct action includes demonstrations in the middle of London’s busy roads and bridges etc. Morally I think this is perfectly justified , however the question remains as to effectiveness ..
So I thought I would write about potential political and personal pathways to stopping and reversing climate change.
The reason for the emphasis on political and personal pathways is that technically it is not difficult at least in theory to reverse climate change. While I do have a degree in Physics the science involved in understanding and reversing climate change is mostly high school level stuff. Stop pumping the atmosphere with heat retaining gas’s and also take some measure to extract those present one way or the other.
The real challenge is the political one. How do you motivate and organize a sufficient mass of humanity to take the required political steps.
It is easy for us to dispense advice to politicians do this , do that. What many people do not realise are the many pressures on politicians. Having taken part recently in an election campaign at the local level I am quite aware of this. During an election campaign one has to connect with voters and assure them that you will look after their interests if and when you may be elected. The long and short of it is that people elected in a democracy have limited scope for advancing policies which do not enjoy the support of the electorate.
The restraints on elected officials in implementing measures to combat Global Warming have recently been demonstrated in France where quite modest measures to raise the price of diesel have been met by demonstrations and violence. In this case their may have been outside forces involved in stirring up the demonstrations and violence. However what has been demonstrated is that effectively combating Global Warming must involve a large measure of public support.
Democracy in its simplest form is based on the ability to persuade a majority to support a given position . The rest can be coerced by the majority.
It is true that even within a democratic framework influence is not evenly distributed among the population. Those that bother to vote will be more influential than those that don’t. Those who are a member of a political party may well be more influential than those that are not. Those that are elected and those that hold other positions within society may well be more influential. People who have money and are prepared to use it to further some agenda may well also be more influential. Last but not least people who are willing to halt the traffic in London or elsewhere and are prepared to pay a personal price may well have more influence than others.
Still the question remains , how do we motivate and organize a sufficient mass of humanity to take the required steps ? For a start there is at least some recognition that the problem is a serious one, at least there is such recognition in Europe and the Americas. The real obstacles as I see it are:
- Many people feel quite helpless seeing as it is a global problem.
- The costs involved in cutting emissions and absorbing carbon and methane are perceived to be significant.
- Some people and countries have a vested financial interest in fossil fuels in one way or another.
I have sympathy with Extinction Rebellion as they are at least providing people with something to do about this dire problem. However I do think just placing all the onus on politicians is not optimal.
In the first place each individual should take personal responsibility for their own actions. When all is said and done global warming is caused by individuals. The average citizen in the industrial nations is producing around 11 tonnes of co2 per capita per year. Climate change is principally caused by the consumption habits of people in the developed countries. So in the first place people can and should ensure that they at least are carbon neutral. It is actually quite easy to do this although it does cost something. One can calculate ones own emissions . One can also pay for some scheme to offset those emissions.
If enough people are persuaded to actually balance their own emissions then these people will be the political base for the demand that their own country should balance its own emissions. Countries and nations which are prepared to balance their own emissions will be the political base for achieving global balance of emissions and hence solving global warming.
All of which is not meant to discount political activity of one sort or another. Ultimately action on a number of fronts is needed ..
As a last note for now I will add that if and when one or more countries are prepared to balance their admissions within a short time frame it is quite obvious that they will need to implement tariffs on imports from other countries in order to avoid making their industries noncompetitive.