“My name is Greta Thunberg, and I am inviting you to be a part of the solution. Five years ago, world leaders signed the Paris Agreement, and they promised to keep the global average temperature-rise to well below two degrees Celcius, and to pursue 1.5 degrees to safeguard future living conditions. Since then, a lot has happened. But the action needed is still nowhere in sight. The gap between what we need to do and what is actually being done is widening by the minute. We are still speeding in the wrong direction. The five years following the Paris Agreement have been the five hottest years ever recorded.
But I am telling you, there is hope. Because the people have not yet been made aware. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. Nor can we treat something like a crisis, unless we understand the emergency.
So let’s make this our main priority. Let’s unite and spread awareness. Once we become aware, then we can act. Then change will come. This is the solution. We are the hope. We, the people.”
~ Greta Thunberg, 18-year-old Swedish climate activist
Greta’s Paris Agreement Anniversary speech about ‘The solution’, reminded me of a booklet I wrote and published in 2012, titled just that: ‘The solution’. The moral of the story I wrote back then was exactly the same as what Greta is telling the world now: It begins with awareness. Then change will come. Much more quickly than you ever imagined possible.
In my vision story, as in reality now, the action was ignited by a single child who saw what the problem was. Who had become aware.
A Swedish teenager has stepped up to become that global climate action leader I was calling for among the youth back then, in 2012, when I had just launched this website, ClimateSafety.info. That piece – where I discussed how we can create a popular movement for climate safety – remains one of the most read pages on this site, and it has been great to follow how much of what I called for and predicted back then, has since become reality.
700 more articles and podcasts have been published since then on this website. Creating awareness can be a painfully slow process when you don’t have the support from those leaders and journalists who have access to the mainstream media. Even if your name is Greta and you have the ears of millions of followers on social media around the world.
What is most needed in a world of complexity is simplicity. Greta masters the art of speaking in simple terms. And she does it gently and with kindness, which is the way to do it if you want people to listen. She calls on all of us to spread awareness and start a person-to-person social movement.
Not that we haven’t been trying this for years, but we’ve got to give ‘education’ and ‘spreading the word’ even more emphasis and renewed focus in 2021. Hashtag #VoicesForGreta.
However, we do need more than that. Solution… rhymes on Revolution. That’s a big word to take into your mouth, however, this is what we need to do now. Hang on, I’ll tell you why.
“While our carbon dioxide emissions began to increase after about 1750, when industrialisation began, half of all human-caused emissions have occured since the climate treaty in 1992.”
~ William Moomaw, lead author of several reports for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC
If I were to speak for what Greta terms “we, the people”, I’d say that we want is safety and order. We don’t want emergency, chaos or collapse. We don’t want to see our children killed in wars over water, or in bushfires caused and increased in intensity by runaway heating.
We want safety.
But that is not what we are getting. As IPCC scientist William Moomaw indirectly pointed out in a video conference on 12 January 2021, what we have so far been in dramatic shortage of is responsible and honest political leaders, who – if they were responsible adults and parents – would do what they actually promised when they were sworn in: protect the people, keep us all safe.
Half of all human-caused emissions since industrialisation began have occured after the first global climate treaty was signed by world leaders in 1992. In other words: the real crime against humanity has been committed during the last 30 years.
In the United States in 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen’s congressional testimony brought the issue into the open. In Australia, the government and CSIRO organised two climate conferences the same year, and in 1992, the Rio Earth Summit marked the first halting attempts at something like international negotiations to address it. Since then, the United Nations have gathered nations’ leaders to discuss climate change solutions every year in December.
Scientists, politicians and journalists have of course known about the issue much longer than that. During over than 150 years, our leaders have been behaving like irresponsible children in a kindergarten, playing with fire while ignoring the science for short-term, personal gains, driven by fear of not getting re-elected if they were to take any effective legislative action on the problem.
“When a child makes a mess, who cleans it up? The adults clean it up. A culture producing messes without cleaning them up is a culture at a child-level responsibility. The modern consumer society makes messes with no intention of cleaning them up. It is a society at a child-level responsibility”
~ Clinton Callahan, management consultant
So, that is what our parliaments look like today: a kindergarten.
Globally, 2020 ties with 2016 for the warmest year recorded ever. This makes the last six years the warmest six on record, according to EU Copernicus Climate Change Service. Europe saw its warmest year on record at 1.6°C above the 1981-2010 reference period.
The largest annual temperature deviation from the 1981-2010 average was concentrated over the Arctic and northern Siberia, reaching over 6°C above average.
CO2 continued to rise in 2020, increasing by 2.3 pm, slightly less than the previous year’s growth rate. CO2 global column-averaged maximum reached dangerously high 413 ppm. We need to stay below 350 ppm to be safe.
Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? A new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.
The paper reviews more than 150 studies to produce a stark summary of the state of the natural world, and it outlines the likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption and planetary toxification. 17 leading scientists from Flinders University, Stanford University and the University of California in Los Angeles clarify the gravity of the human predicament and provide a timely snapshot of the crises that must be addressed now.
“The problems, all tied to human consumption and population growth, will almost certainly worsen over coming decades,” they write. “The damage will be felt for centuries and threatens the survival of all species, including our own.”
→ The Conversation – 13 January 2021:
Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp
“Our message might not be popular, and indeed is frightening. But scientists must be candid and accurate if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face.”
→ Eurasia Review – 14 January 2021:
Earth To Reach Temperature Tipping Point In Next 20 To 30 Years
“Earth’s ability to absorb nearly a third of human-caused carbon emissions through plants could be halved within the next two decades at the current rate of warming, according to a new study in Science Advances by researchers at Northern Arizona University, the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the University of Waikato, New Zealand.”
“Hellooo! Do we have an adult in the room? Someone who actually understands what this really means?”
Yes, luckily Greta Thunberg, who is now 18 years old, has entered the room with her intelligent and sharp questions directed to these naughty children in fine suits who like to play with fire.
Fossil fuel industry leader Trump was so naughty he was told to leave the room. Having been unashamedly proud about his dishonesty and flawed morals as the president of one of the world’s most climate-destructive nations, the worry remains, though, that this man was – and still is – considered to be a role model by millions of Americans, Australians and Europeans. Trumps way of thinking is deeply embedded in the modern Western culture, and this is in itself the very reason we are now confronted with this emergency. Reminder: It didn’t have to be this way – we could have responded 30 years ago, when the world first started to acknowledge the problem.
“Most of our current generation of politicians are just not up to this leadership task,” says Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at Britain’s University of Exeter, who is acutely aware of the rate at which we appear to be approaching several dangerous and irreversible tipping points. “Younger generations are looking at them with dismay and rightly rebelling.”
Certainly, you can’t fool Greta. She cuts right through and points at the naked emperors, just like any oracle and truthteller of her caliber would be expected to:
Call to action
Greta Thunberg elaborated on her call to action recently. This was what she told the Dalai Lama and two leading climate scientists in a live streamed video conference on 10 January 2021:
“We are right now at a time where we need to start to speak clearly, and we need to educate ourselves. What we need the most right now is of course climate action, but in order to achieve that, we need awareness, and we need the people to understand these kind of global mechanisms and what is happening right now with the planet, and maybe also what is not happening.
That is my call to action. If I could ask one thing of you, it would be to educate yourself. To try to learn as much as you possibly can – there is unlimited amount of information – and spread that knowledge, spread that awareness to others.
We need to create a social movement. We need to shift the social norm, because if we are enough people who demand change and who are advocating for these things, then we reach critical mass, and then we will no longer be possible to ignore. So that is what we need to do right now. It is not a small task, but it is something that we need to do, because there is simply no other option.
Focus on solutions. And also, restoring nature is not only a solution to the climate crisis, it is also a solution to the biodiversity crisis. We no longer have the possibility to choose between different kinds of action, we now need to do everything we possibly can. And then restoring and rewilding nature is perhaps one of the most important things to do. To change the way that we see nature.”
~ Greta Thunberg, 18-year-old Swedish climate activist
To that end, it is good to see spiritual leaders come onboard, as the event ‘The Dalai Lama In Conversation with Greta Thunberg and Leading Scientists’ was an example of.
The organisers of the event, Mind & Life, published this recipe for restoring planetary health:
- Educate yourself on climate change issues
- Hold leaders accountable to support science-based climate action
- Raise awareness in your community about the climate crisis
- Make changes in your daily life to reduce your own carbon footprint
It is a start – surely. But these four points appears to me to be a very polite and modest ask from us, the people. In The Sustainable Hour podcast, we came up with similar advice some years ago.
I might be impatient, but I’ve got scientific reasons for being that. I’ve been missing the powerful word Revolution in all these different lists for climate action which are being published at the moment, inspired by the New Year and the tradition for making new year’s resolutions.
That was until I saw American meteorologist Eric Holthaus’ blogpost, ‘How to Become a Climate Revolutionary in 2021’, about working revolutionary change. “Today, like every day, can be revolutionary,” says Holthaus, and then he gives three tips that will help you become a climate revolutionary:
1. Let others help you
Subscribe to newsletters, join groups, ask for help.
2. We each have a special skill; offer it
Being a climate person means you do what you’re good at, and you do your best. If everyone did that, it would be enough.
3. Live in accordance with your values as best you can
Each one of us should try to live in a way where we are actively creating revolutionary change every single day. There is no difference between individual action and systemic action.
→ Medium – 7 January 2021:
How to Become a Climate Revolutionary in 2021
“If you want to make climate justice part of your New Year’s resolutions, here are some things to get you started.” By Eric Holthaus
This is the thing: Unless we dare to say that things need to not just change a little bit, but actually need to radically and inconveniently transform the way we live our lives – just like Covid-19 did, only with ten times more impact – we are going to lose the race against time.
We discussed in a recent Sustainable Hour podcast what it would look like if an individual was to take the word emergency seriously and act accordingly at the personal level. You’ll see a list of suggestions if you scroll down on the page. We often get feedback from our listeners on the topics and questions we raise, but on this one… so far the silence has been striking. Not a single response. And why is that?
In the last months of 2020, we started talking about the concept of ‘The Sustainable Revolution’ in The Sustainable Hour podcast. Maybe we should go with Eric Holthaus and call it The Climate Recolution.
Change – what will it look like?
On 8 January 2021, the American author Bill McKibben wrote in his weekly newsletter for The New Yorker:
“The big, hard breaks with the status quo have to come in the next nine years. What does that look like in practice? An immediate end to new fossil-fuel infrastructure, be it giant pipelines from the tar sands of Canada or natural-gas hookups to new homes and businesses. A retrofitting of buildings around the world to make them both efficient and fully electrified, so that they can take advantage of what needs to be a breathtaking rollout of renewable energy. An epic change in the way that we move ourselves and our stuff around the world—electricity and muscles need to replace hydrocarbons. An end to deforestation, and rapid research into and development of ways to grow foods that soak up, instead of spew, carbon. A halt to the flow of money to the epically irresponsible fossil-fuel industry.
These things have to happen everywhere; doing them in scattered countries doesn’t get the job done. And they have to happen against the backdrop—really, now, against the foreground—of a climate-stressed world, where all the effects we’ve seen so far will only get worse. It’s clearly physically and financially possible to do what needs to be done. (Much of the cost of the transition can be covered simply because each year we will be spending less to buy fuel.) But beating both inertia and vested interests will be, as usual, the trick.
It should get easier as time goes on: ExxonMobil is no longer the giant it was a decade ago, and each new electric car cuts its power a little more. The world’s governments are increasingly saying the right things, and none more so than the incoming Biden team. But they will need the forces of the past decade—the engineering triumphs and the movement-building—to keep accelerating in order to provide the required push. Most people alive today will see how this story comes out. A decade is a hundred and twenty months. That’s about five hundred weeks. It’s all the time we’ve got.”
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling — their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.”
~ Arundhati Roy
“Tipping points could fundamentally disrupt the planet and produce abrupt change in the climate. A mass methane release could put us on an irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 metres. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.”
→ World Economic Forum – 19 January 2021:
Climate change will be sudden and cataclysmic. We need to act fast
Greta Thunberg calls for action five years after Paris Agreement
“It seems to me that we have unleashed energies we are not yet mature or wise enough to stop. By the first “we”, I mean the machinery of progress initiated by Western Europeans in the Renaissance and potentiated by the banking system and fossil energy. And the second “we” is the current fractious mob of tribal humans, caught in the jaws of destruction, who will not budge. Retribution, belonging, fear of banishment, fear of judgement, norms, and the ballast of normalcy are all powerful magnetic forces binding members of tribes together. Tribes of territory. Tribes of shared pain. Tribes of whoever they hold as the one true God. Tribes of class. Tribes of race. Tribes of the music, drugs, TV programs you prefer. Tribes of the victims, banding together. No enlightened, conscious, evolved “we” can open such jaws. Somehow, we the people need to become a “we” that can choose to stop the machine.”
~ Vicki Robin, social innovator, writer and speaker
“The policies we need to cut emissions – including an end to fossil-fuel subsidies, a meaningful carbon price, and investment in renewable energies – have been fitful, inconsistent, and uncoordinated. As we move from Paris to 2030, global leaders, businesses, and citizens alike should expect to be judged by the actions that are (or are not) taken today. Neither our descendants nor the planet will tolerate more selfish short-termism.”
~ Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chair of The Elders
“The forces of action have now aligned. Now is our time.”
~ Michael Mann, American author and scientist
Voices for Greta
Welcome to the climatesafety clubhouse – our ‘carbon clearance tunnel’ where we focus on carbon clarity, story change and a green recovery.
Are we ready to shift our mindset and choose a different future?
I am. If you are too, let’s meet. And I don’t mean physically, for now, but in The Tunnel – the digital tunnel.
We have a members’ area on climatesafety.info which is growing little by little. Its a space for figuring out how we can act as individuals and as a community in a climate emergency.
The choices we make right now matter. Words matter. Have a positive think about how you will step in and become part of a regenerative and transformative renewal. It’s all happening in ‘The Tunnel’. What we need to do, is get ready for the action, once we come out on the other side.
~ Mik Aidt
“Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”
~ Pete Seeger, American singer