Climate Change: Ten reasons to be cheerful!

Simon Bullock

04 April 2014

** LATE APRIL UPDATE** 3 more reasons to be cheerful! See end of this post...

It was a gloomy Monday this week when the IPCC delivered its worst verdict yet on climate change – rows of sombre scientists intoning biblical warnings of a world wracked by extreme weather, food shortages and war.

Only the Daily Mail could lighten the mood, with their jaw dropping headline "Climate change will cause a boom in Arctic tourism!" This spectacular piece of reporting would be on a par with a headline like "The great news about cancer – you get flowers and grapes".

There is though one thing we can draw from the Daily Mail’s take on the IPCC report : that bad news is depressing, and it can lead people to lose hope.

So while some people will argue that it's too late to do anything about climate change, and we should just try and cope as best we can, I'm not impressed. What sort of lie-down-and-die attitude is that? Would Churchill have bleated that we can't do anything? That all is lost? That we might as well hide in our houses and wait for the end? No! The road ahead is difficult, but as in Churchill's time, we need to act.

And, there are reasons to be cheerful. Here are ten:

  • How much climate change we get in future is still largely up to us

The IPCC are clear – we can drastically reduce the amount of climate change we experience, by getting off fossil fuels fast. We might get a civilisation-wrecking 4 degrees of warming, or even 5 or 6 degrees. But we also still have a good chance of keeping under 2 degrees, which might be manageable, if we act now. It's down to us. Still. Just.

  • Denial is dying

Global society is overwhelmingly behind the scientific and risk-based case for action on climate change. The scientists are clear.  So are NASA, and Shell, almost every Government, the CBI and the World Economic Forum. Among UK newspapers, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail, who are long-time critics of climate science, have recently signalled that they may change their tune. The debate is almost over, it’s finally time to get on with action.

  • Most countries are acting

The UK is not going it alone. The Grantham Institute reports that 62 out of 66 countries responsible for 88% of the world's emissions have laws to tackle climate change. Climate plans are not adequate yet, but overall they get stronger every year.

  • China is acting

Some people often say "Oh what does what I do matter, it's the Chinese". But China is acting. Their emissions pledges are tougher than the UK's. They still have lots of coal plants, but they see the shocking damage to people's health it is causing in their cities. They built a colossal 16GW of wind and 13 GW of solar power in the last year alone. They are as committed to tackling climate change as the UK is, if not more so.

  • People are getting on with creating their own energy revolution.

Germany has seen an explosion in renewable power in the last decade – and over half of it is owned by German citizens, not big power companies. In the UK, more people are producing their own energy – either the half million people with solar panels on their roofs, or whole communities like Balcombe in Sussex joining together to go solar, rather than relying on polluting shale gas. As 10:10’s fantastic web board puts it: “it’s happening”, everywhere.  Twenty-first century energy will be renewable, increasingly decentralised, and more owned and controlled directly by the public.

  • Campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground are growing, and getting connected.

Grass-roots campaigns against dirty energy are joining-up, supporting and amplifying each other, and growing. A few examples include: the global Reclaim Power events; 350.org’s global campaign to get pension funds to divest from fossil fuels; Frack-off, Friends of the Earth and dozens of local activist groups in the UK holding back fracking; Frackaction in the USA. Lock the Gate against coal bed methane in Australia; The Council of Canadians against fracking and tar sands; and Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign. The tide is turning against fossil fuel companies.

  • Young people are leading the fight to stop climate change

Some of the most dynamic new campaigns on climate are coming from younger people –these young people are forming networks all over the world. Push Europe and Young Friends of the Earth Europe have come together to run Climate Spring – uniting young people under the banner of fighting dirty energy and promoting renewable alternatives. There’s also People and Planet’s stunts this week on Fossil Fuels Day, Young Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK Youth Climate Coalition and many others.

  • In the UK, we lead the world in offshore wind.

The UK has the world’ largest offshore wind farm – the London Array. This week the UK’s Green Investment Bank announced £460m investment in the Westermost Rough and Gwynt-y-Mor offshore wind-farms. Last week, Siemens announced it would build a huge turbine factory in Hull, creating hundreds of jobs.

 

This is not to say that everything is roses. There's a long way to go, and many Governments and fossil fuel companies will fight every inch of the way to keep the profits from burning oil, coal and gas for as long as possible.

But people will stop the worst of climate change: as we increase the pressure on our Governments, as we demand and produce and buy renewable energy, as we demand that fossil fuels stay in the ground, as we face down the corporate lobbyists for inaction, as we join with people demanding the same in other countries.

There are, undoubtedly, reasons to be cheerful!

Ps – you’ll notice that this list is 8 reasons, not 10. What are your reasons to be cheerful? Tackling climate change will mean less reliance on Vladimir Putin’s gas? It’ll mean less air pollution in our cities – like the shock smog in South East England this week? Tell us your reasons below, or tweet me at @simonbullock or with the hashtag #cheerfulclimate

LATE APRIL UPDATE: 3 more cheery bits of news this week:

 

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