Chapter 12: Hope
In the aftermath of the corona crisis there are many who claim that we need to use this as an opportunity. That when we restart the economy we must adopt a so-called “green recovery plan”. And of course it’s incredibly important that we invest our assets in sustainable projects, renewable energy, technical solutions and research. But we must not for one second believe that it will be even close to what is actually required. Or for that matter that the so called targets set out today would be ambitious enough.
If all countries were to actually go through with the emission reductions they have set as goals, we would still be heading for a catastrophic global temperature rise of at least 3-4 degrees. The people in power today have thus practically already given up on the possibility of handing over a decent future for coming generations. Given up without even trying.
It sounds terrible, I know. But in reality it is actually even worse. Because even if they want to act in line with what is needed –which actually sometimes is the case– they can’t. And that is because we are stuck in already written contracts and business agreements.
It’s just simple math.
The United Nations Production Gap Report shows that the world’s planned fossil fuel production alone by the year 2030 accounts for 120% more than what would be consistent with the 1.5°C target. It just doesn’t add up.
So if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe we have to make it possible to tear up contracts and abandon existing deals and agreements, on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine today.
And that alone requires a whole new way of thinking. Since those type of actions are not politically, economically or legally possible today. The climate and ecological crisis can not be solved within today’s political and economic systems. That is no longer an opinion. That’s a fact.
I understand that all of this sounds uncomfortable and depressing. And I fully get why you as a politician or news editor choose to look away. But you must also realize that for us who actually have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives, that’s a luxury that we can’t afford.
Recently a new scientific report was published by scientists from Uppsala University and the Tyndall Centre in the UK. It shows that if rich countries like Sweden and the UK are to fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement’s well-below 2°C target they need to reduce their total national emissions of CO2 by 12-15% every year, starting now.
Of course there’s no “green recovery plan” or “deal” in the world that alone would be able to achieve such emission cuts. And that’s why the whole “green deal” debate ironically risks doing more harm than good, as it sends a signal that the changes needed are possible within today’s societies. As if we could somehow solve a crisis without treating it like a crisis. A lot may have happened in the last two years, but the changes and level of awareness required are still nowhere in sight.
Things may look dark and hopeless, but I’m telling you there is hope. And that hope comes from the people, from democracy, from you. From the people who more and more themselves are starting to realize the absurdity of the situation. The hope does not come from politics, business or finance. And that’s not because politicians or business people are evil. But because what is needed right now simply seems to be too uncomfortable, unpopular and unprofitable.
Public opinion is what runs the free world, and the public opinion necessary is today nonexisting, the level of knowledge is too low.
But there are signs of change, of awakening. Just take the #metoo movement, #blacklivesmatter or the schoolstrike movement for instance. It’s all interconnected. We have passed a social tipping point, we can no longer look away from what our society has been ignoring for so long. Whether it is sustainability, equality, or justice.
From a sustainability point of view all political and economic systems have failed. But humanity has not yet failed. The climate and ecological emergency is not primarily a political crisis. It is an existential crisis, completely based on scientific facts.
The evidence is there. The numbers are there. We cannot get away from that fact. Nature doesn’t bargain and you cannot compromise with the laws of physics. And either we accept and understand the reality as it is, or we don’t. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t.
Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that is up to you and me. Because no one else will do it for us.
This is the transcript of Chapter 12 of the Sverige Radio program aired on June 20, 2020 with the title Greta Thunberg: Humanity has not yet failed.
The full transcript was published by Time magazine on July 10, 2020. Here it is offered in chapters to make it easier to read.