I thought we had more time. We don’t. Or at least the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) doesn’t think we do.
I came across their special report on “Global Warming of 1.5 deg C” from 2 years ago the other day. I’m not going to quote them on their predictions for what a world that has warmed above 1.5 deg C will look like. You already know; the weather will be completely awful, much more frequently, for almost everyone. Nothing new there.
What is new is that I thought we had more time to explore innovative solutions to all this. I thought we had more time so slowly adapt our habits.
But according to these latest predictions, we actually have:
- 10 years (2030) to reduce our net carbon emissions by 45% (to avoid even temporarily overshooting 1.5 deg C)
- 40 years (2050) to reduce our net carbon emissions by 100%
40 years! Ah ok nothing to worry about then … actual sorry hold on, go back a bit…
We have 10 years (2030) to reduce our carbon emissions by 45%.
Oh. 45% in 10 years. That’s quite a lot in not very much time at all.
Actually though, it’s a pretty great goal to aim for.
I know, I know, but where do we even start?
You know where to start. Everyone does. It’s the same stuff we’ve heard before. Take fewer flights! Eat less red meat! Switch to renewable energy providers!
So why hasn’t everyone done that? For years the long-term benefits of doing so have been made clear. I think that one of the biggest reasons, among others, is this:
For the first time in human history, we are asking people to intentionally make their lives more difficult.
Sure, you could take the train to go abroad but it requires more changes, takes longer and costs more. It’s one of the reasons we invented planes! They make life easier. Humans are wired to look for ways to make their life easier.
This is why I see the climate crisis both as a problem of science and global cooperation, but biggest of all, as a problem of psychology.
Maybe you already care deeply about solving the climate crisis. But let’s face it; at the end of the day you have a life to lead and other problems to solve. And yes; you should have other problems to solve. I’m currently working on the challenges of building up my career, buying a house and learning to sight-sing. These are all hard problems. These are all tough goals to reach; goals that I think are worth reaching for.
You might expect me at this point to ask you to put your own goals and challenges to one side for a moment and consider the bigger picture; how your actions impact the wider world and all that. I’m not. I’m asking you instead to consider whether the climate crisis matters to you, and why.
I’m asking you to be selfish
What does the climate crisis matter to me? Well, I want my own place to live but I also don’t want to be stuck inside it because it’s too hot, stormy or smoggy to go outside. I also want to be able to sing from a piece of sheet music from the first glance, but I don’t want that to be my only option because a major storm has downed the power lines that my music speakers need to play David Bowie. This is my motivation for working to solve the climate crisis.
Accepting that we all have our own self-determined motivation for taking on any hard challenge is in my view the best approach to solving this climate challenge. And in the process accepting that we are not going to solve this problem by pooling our collective motivations into one vague, homogenous blob. We have to start with our own motivation. We have to start by being selfish.
I don’t care if you read this message and do nothing about it. Neither should anyone else. I want the only person that cares to be you. Maybe some of your intrinsic motivation centres around others; giving your children a better future, or relieving less economically developed countries of the consequences of global warming. That’s also fine. This is also part of my motivation. They didn’t ask you to fight their cause. You chose to. This is your motivation. This is very different to caring about the welfare of others just because you feel or are told you should.
This might make you feel uneasy but we’re dealing with motivation here; what is it that matters to you so much that you’re willing to take on the challenge and the hard choices you’ll have to make along the way?
Up until now the message has been one of guilt. ‘How can you let this crisis persist, knowing how it affects developing countries today, how it’ll affect future generations, and how it’ll affect biodiversity?’
I know that we’re better than this. We’re better than to keep trying to saturate each other from all sides with all manner of panic-inducing arguments that we know from decades of evident inaction don’t work. Each of us is much more capable than perhaps we think we are. But each of us has to care for our own reasons, not someone else’s.
It’s clear that solving the climate crisis is going to be complex, both in the short and long-term. I don’t think any one person has the whole set of solutions fully formed on their mind (and if you do, please speak up!). Which is why we need as many ideas shared by and with as many people as possible.
I decided to write this not because I have a miraculous plan or a simple checklist for everyone to follow. I don’t have the solutions. I don’t know right now what I’m going to do. What I do have is the intrinsic motivation, and I hope this post helps you find yours.
If I find something or try something new that looks promising and is worth sharing, I’ll share it. And if you find it useful, please try it and share it too. If, that is, it aligns with your own motivation.
I hope I’m wrong
I hope that in 10 years time we’ll look back and see that this work was all unnecessary; that the solutions we needed today were just around the corner.
I hope that the IPCC’s maths is wrong; that we have more time than we think. I can’t help but ask myself though; by how much could they be wrong? We’re well aware that continuing down this current path is unwise. If it doesn’t hit us in 10 years, then maybe it will in 20, or 100 years. The point is that it will, at some point.
How much does the climate crisis mean to you today? And if it isn’t high up on your list right now, do you consider that a problem? Could you change that? Why would you change that?
Sure, we could keep our fingers crossed for more time. But 45% in 10 years sounds like a good goal to me.