Our environment is under threat. Are we doing enough to combat the climate crisis?
The need for climate action has never been greater. We have just 12 years to limit global temperatures to a 1.5C warming or face catastrophe.
But is that urgency being felt by the general public?
There is still some public doubt that climate change is caused by human beings. Of course, this doesn’t change the facts — but it does inform government and industrial action.
So is the climate crisis being taken seriously? Let’s look at the change in public attitudes and some causes for optimism.
Scientific and public consensus
The scientific consensus on climate change is clear: it is extremely likely that human beings are the cause of the Earth’s current period of warming. 97% of climate scientists agree.
Those numbers come from an analysis of 12,000 climate science papers. They form a conclusion that is hard to underestimate. We are now clear on the cause of our climate crisis.
That certainty has changed public opinion, too.
There’s evidence that people are now more accepting of the science and more optimistic about tackling the problem at hand. This is huge when it comes to influencing politicians and companies to take action.
With this groundswell of support, climate action will likely define the coming decades.
The rise of veganism
While most of us acknowledge the facts, it’s another thing entirely to know how to combat the climate crisis.
One way that has grown in popularity is reducing our consumption of meat and dairy.
A study into the effects of agriculture — the biggest of its kind — showed that reducing meat and dairy consumption is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the planet.
That’s a big claim, but one that has been greeted positively.
The number of vegetarians and vegans in the UK has grown to around 3.5 million, up from 540,000 in 2016.
In the US, a quarter of millennials are now vegetarian or vegan.
While the animal rights movement struggled to discourage eating meat, the climate crisis has galvanised people on a huge scale. The benefits are almost universal, with our environment benefiting hugely.
The nature of this action is massive. When people make changes to their daily lives, that’s when real change happens.
As well as everyday action, more people than ever are taking to the streets. This year, we’ve witnessed the world’s biggest ever climate protests — and that’s not the end of it.
The FridaysForFuture movement, that sees school children strike every Friday, is growing globally. The principal belief is that if governments are not listening to the science, why go to school?
It’s a call to action from the younger generations. We must listen to them.
And with other protest movements going strong, there’s a reason to believe that governments will soon wake up to the message. Civil disobedience has shown throughout history to be an effective tool in the fight for justice and action.
With more people than ever striking for the climate, including those who have never taken to the streets before, there’s cause for optimism.
Cause for concern?
But despite all that progress, there continues to be heel-dragging by powerful people and organisations.
Not least by the President of the United States. His blatant climate change denial serves only to cause uncertainty, despite the scientific consensus.
When Donald Trump hosts the G7 meeting in June 2020, the issue of climate change will not be on the agenda. This is despite all the other attending parties being signed up to the Paris climate agreement — which the US under Trump withdrew from.
His — and others’ — denial about the foremost issue of our time is staggering. Giving oxygen to his anti-science beliefs will only embolden those who think 97% isn’t enough of a consensus.
So there is cause for concern in the years to come. But despite regressive figures like Trump, there are many millions of committed, informed activists doing great work for our environment.
Now is not the time to take political sides on a scientific issue. The global movements for the climate show that when we work together, we can make a difference.