Why is climate change always referred to in future tense?

JANUARY 2019

As it stands, it is not the case that climate change will be a future threat to our Planet. This ‘threat’ is already happening and will continue to do so in many unimaginable ways. A point I think should be emphasised is that climate change is always referred to in future tense. For example: “it will cause…”, “It’s going to be…”, “in 100 years’ time…”. Let’s stop for a second…What about the unusual hurricane activity of 2017? What about the devastating heatwaves of summer 2018? What about Bangladash where climate refugees are already a reality? There is no doubt that we are in the midst of  ‘extreme weather’, but whether or not people believe this is the second issue we face.

The truth is that:

  1. A majority of people don’t want to accept that climate change is already causing devastation.
  2. Many people don’t even believe in climate change, the president of the second biggest polluting country being one (Donald Trump of course).

I believe that humanity is shielded by these two beliefs and it is hindering any progression we have in climate resilience, mitigation and adaptation. There is a lot of money going into various large and small-scale climate change projects, as well as political effort such as the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement; however I dont trust that this is changing people’s perceptions of it. Believe it or not, humanity has the power to be resilient, mitigate and adapt, but without knowing about the effects of climate change, how will the climate issue ever be solved?

We need to shift the conversation away from the climate debate of  “is it real or not?”, which too often becomes politicised; we need to focus on the climate-related risks we are facing and how to prepare for them. I stand by the fact that it is too late to slow climate change down, but we can manage the effects through adaptation and mitigation and this has to be done with multilateral cooperation. Whilst some say that recycling, less driving and planting more trees will make a difference (this won’t make a single dent), I say tackle it from the top and this means politically. By changing climate policy globally instead of locally, people would have a better perception of climate change and more inclined to reciprocate.

Multilateralism will help countries protect the wellbeing of those outside their borders. It was this spirit that motivated the breakthrough of the Paris Climate Agreement- to contain the increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels (below 2 degrees Celsius). And this spirit underlies ongoing efforts to implement and strengthen that agreement, which requires a shift to a zero-carbon economy over the next few decades.

The responses I get when I ask people what they know about climate change is quite tragic, it’s either: “the world will get hotter” or “the ice caps are melting”. Is this naivety or do people have no idea what’s going on? I assume a bit of both.  It is therefore vital that we know the truth about climate change. This is probably easier said than done as there is so much contradicting evidence. The only thing certain is that the global climate we see today will become extreme, so extreme that we will forget what ‘normal’ is.

I think that 2018 was the year when climate reality hit. This is the moment when I realised that climate change is not a problem for the future, but for us now. It should have been a wake up call that delay is not an option. Climate change has created a new reality and multilateral cooperation is essential to solve the climate issue.

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