Natalie Bennett wrote in Politics Home that ‘You can’t fix broken food, energy, or economic systems – let alone environmental systems – with the practices that broke them’, making the point that we need a complete systems change to save our planet.
A global “code red”, the “clock is ticking”, a “wake-up call”. The metaphors were flowing in response to the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest update report on the state of our planet.
But no figure of speech has the power to match the practical reality of the condition of our world. The apocalyptic fires from Greece to California, the bleached coral reefs and the rotting beds of shellfish, the flooded communities and melting permafrost.
And this was only, the IPCC concluded, 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. The changes that will come with 1.5 degrees, should we continue on our current course by at the latest 2040 or sooner, are greater on an exponential scale.
With Covid-19, we’ve all learnt about rates of exponential growth. To quote what’s said to be an old Chinese proverb, disaster lies in a pond being choked by exponential growth of lilies, and the gardener who says: “it’s only 50% covered today, I’ll deal with it tomorrow”.
So perhaps it is best to be concrete, rather than metaphoric. The carbon budget states the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted before we exceed 1.5 degrees and reach uncontainable levels of destruction far above those of today, 500 billion tons. At today’s rate of emissions, we’ll pass that in 14 years.
In 2007, 14 years ago, the first iPhone was released. British troops withdrew from Basra. Northern Rock was bailed out. It really wasn’t that long ago. Projecting into the future, that’s where we go over the edge, unless we utterly change course.