Of courseI didn’t do this terrible harm. I didn’t do it. Nor did you (unless you’re the CEO of a fossil fuel giant!). This isn’t like punching someone in the face, shoving them into the rising sea. But it’s happening because of the way we live now, in rich countries like the UK. It’s all our problem.
Lives are being ruined by the oil and gas giants we buy from – the same ones that, if you have a pension fund, it’s probably invested in. Children will get malaria and encephalitis because of planes in the sky, car-clogged roads, the high-meat diets of people they’ve never met. The most severe and fastest suffering is for those who are already victims of injustices over generations. Slavery, colonialism and racism are all part of the problem.
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And what about the governments we represent? Consider the numbers on fossil fuel subsidies ($180 Billion globally in 2020), according to the International Energy Agency), and you get an idea of how seriously they’re taking this.
The question of the heating planet has been made a political issue. Climate change has been described as a scientific challenge, or even more sinister, as an issue of scientific scientific inquiry. Debate. That’s ridiculous.
The credible, peer-reviewed science that supports this conclusion is unambiguous. It has been for many years. This is happening, it’s terrible, and some people are causing it. (That’s some, NotAllThe richest 10% emitted 52% of global greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2015. The richest 1 per centThey produce more than the poorest 50% of the world’s population.
And there’s no ‘technofixing’ our way out, whatever big finance and big corporations would like us to believe. This is about something deeper: How do we treat one another as human beings whose lives matter? It’s about how global elites have failed to do that. It’s about how that failure has been institutionalised, made routine, so we don’t see it as the moral atrocity it is.
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As individuals, we’re not powerless, however it may feel. We can all work together. Doing the ‘right thing’ now isn’t just about not flying or eating beef (though that matters too – if you want to know why, see my new book, Climate Justice: What Does It Mean?). It’s about being part of a vast and growing campaign for basic Justice. It’s about taking inspiration from the suffragette and civil rights movements.
All of us need to be active in a collective crisis. Write to your MP. Phone them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Engage in civil disobedience. Vote as though the future – and other people – really matters.
Elizabeth Cripps works as a philosopher at University of Edinburgh. Her book, What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care, is out on February 3 (Bloomsbury, £12.99). @ebcripps
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