Who’s to blame for the Climate Crisis?

The U.K. is dumping tonnes of plastic abroad, floods are ravaging Belgium, England and Germany. Siberia and the actual Ocean are on fire. But are we to blame? 

Photo: Russian Aerial Forest Protection Service / TASS

Imagine you’ve spent the last few years watching your paper straws disintegrate into your drink. Imagine you have been showing up to work a sweaty mess from opting to cycle in; or you’ve tried to reduce your red meat consumption and had to find out the hard way that some veggie burgers are just unseasoned mashed up beans. Then imagine seeing images of the ocean on fire and major cities flooding. If you’ve spent time and effort trying to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life, then seeing images which highlight the full extent of the climate crisis may leave you feeling discouraged. Tackling the climate crisis may seem like an impossible task, but it is vital that we continue to strive for solutions. You may start to ask yourself: was it worth it? Does anything I do actually make a difference? How did we even get here? Well, the short answer to those questions is yes, yes and capitalism.

Over the past few decades the call to action to ‘save our planet’ has increased significantly, ignited by the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which brought the severity of global warming issues to center stage. Prior to that documentary there was notably less media attention on climate related issues. There was also a lack of research that could definitively say what is causing climate change. However, more and more research is being published finding that not only do we know why climate change is happening, but there are actually solutions. This sounds positive, until you realise - we have the answers but progress has not been made, namely due to the choices made by governments and large companies. 

For a long time, I’d say the majority of my life, the focus has been on cycling more, driving less, turning off lights and taps, reducing use of plastic straws etc. Whilst these aren’t bad ideas, it doesn’t matter how many times you reuse that tattered old Sainsburys bag, if billionaires rely on private jets the way most people use uber; or when 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1988-2015. Almost all of these companies are in the coal and/or petroleum industry which provide energy to various countries, and although having reliable energy and fuel is now essential to human life, the extent to which these companies pollute the planet is quite simply unacceptable. There needs to be a shift from the current level of fossil fuel extraction, and these companies have to start investing resources and money towards sustainable energy alternatives. Utilising renewable energy is one of the most effective ways we can hope to achieve our collective goal of slowing the rate of climate change. With that said, these companies are not the governing bodies that will decide the fate of our planet. Ultimately, governments and policy makers need to actively engage in creating effective climate policy. Governments actively engaging with climate policy doesn’t mean saying “we are united in our vision for a cleaner, greener world, a solution to the problems of climate change” after using a private plane to attend the G7 summit. Bojo, I’m looking at you. 

Photo: The Independent

The G7 summit is a prime example  of how much work needs to be done. One of the key talking points of the summit, heralded as a ‘sustainable and carbon neutral event’, was climate change and creating solutions, with an aim to achieve net zero. In the UK, the goal is to achieve net zero by 2050. However, the goal of net zero by 2050 will not be achieved if the UK government continues to subsidise the oil and gas industry and allow further extractions. It is estimated that fossil fuel companies receive subsidies  amounting to ~ $14 billion a year, in 2019 alone, Shell paid a negative tax of ~£100 million. This essentially means that the governments reduced the amount of tax the company had to pay. There has been a recent campaign to demand that the government prevent expansion of the Cambo oil field (located 125km from the Shetland Islands), setting up and powering the expansion is expected to emit more than 3 million tonnes of carbon over the course of the project. Currently the UK government is being taken to court over the lack of taxation on big polluters. This all sounds pretty bleak, but it’s important to understand what the real problem is. The problem doesn’t lie with your neighbour who forgets to recycle or the coworker who doesn’t have a reusable bottle. The problem is that often, the average person’s day to day actions don’t have the largest impact. That isn’t to say that every individual doesn’t have a personal responsibility in the fight against climate change, but it’s worth being aware that the bigger picture is holding governments and large companies accountable. For far too long cheques have been written that the environment pays for. Overhaul of industrial etiquette can only be enforced by conscientious politics, which can only be born from conscientious voting. Perhaps the biggest difference you can make isn’t in the cycling lane, but in the voting booth.

Article written by Josephine Ewoma


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