Blah, blah, blah....
(picture from Glasgow Live)
A month ago the leading climate activist, Greta Thunberg, caused a stir with her speech at the Youth4Climate summit in Milan. She accused world leaders of making endless empty promises: ‘They have now had thirty years of blah, blah, blah and where has that got us?’ She continued: ‘Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah’. She added: ‘Hope is not blah, blah, blah. Hope is telling the truth’.
Two weeks later her views were echoed by someone at the other end of life, a person with a still higher profile – Queen Elizabeth II, no less. In a stage whisper, she was overheard to say that she was ‘irritated by world leaders who talk about climate change but do nothing to address global warming’.
So after nearly a week of COP 26 began what is the ‘blah, blah, blah’ level? Has any progress been made in protecting our fragile planet? It seems there has been some progress on trees – reducing the rates of deforestation in the world’s ‘lungs’, the important rain forests which reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere considerably. There are many signatories to an agreement to cease the use of fossil fuels. But some of the biggest users like China, USA, India, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia have not yet signed up. If sea levels continue to rise then a lot of island groups – The Maldives, Fiji, the Marshall Islands – will be inundated. And closer to home, so will Great Yarmouth and the East Anglian coast.
It is difficult to gauge the progress made. Much of the important negotiation is slow, detailed and done behind closed doors. We only hear the bare headlines and opinion pieces of various journalists.
The best hope of COP 26 is to ‘keep 1.5 alive’. In other words to act so that the rise in temperatures does not exceed 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The current levels of warming would see temperatures rise by 2.7C to 3C unless some new emission pledges are agreed and honoured. It’s a big ask.
But none of this is news to our reader who have, I trust, been following the stories about COP 26. So how do we react to all the fuss around COP 26?
We can continue to recycle. We will avoid unnecessary air and car journeys. We can’t simply fulfil all our travel whims as our generation used to do. We will continue with recycling, use more plant-based foods, be careful to use sustainably sourced products in our homes. All that and more.
But there’s one more thing. We find that the climate crisis probably does not figure prominently in the conversations we have with friends and family. We pretend perhaps that it’s not there. Maybe we don’t want to frighten the children. Somehow it’s not polite conversation. Maybe because if we really think about it, it is too frightening – the prospect of floods, fires, heatwaves, tsunamis in our postcode. So maybe it’s time for a little more blah, blah, blah in our conversations. Don’t just do something – talk about it!
We can run a quick test on your own green credentials by asking how we react to those climate protesters who block motorways like the London orbital M25. Do we admire them, applaud them even, or despise them or get irritated by them? After all they disturb people going about their normal business. But normal business is not sustainable long-term – that’s the difficult truth.
And as Greta Thunberg says ‘hope is telling the truth’.