The recent 3594 page UN IPCC report did not hold back its scathing review on human activity and the irreversible damage it has caused to Earth. But who is really to blame, and will the ensuing blame game solve the problem?
The UN Chief coined this report ‘a code red for humanity’ – we are inching towards a catastrophe that we knowingly contribute to every single day. While this sentiment is not new, it must be revisited. How much do we truly contribute, as individuals, to the breakdown of our planet?
Seventy percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the previous two decades are attributable to just 100 fossil fuel producers. It seems factually clear that the demise of our planet can be credited to these fossil fuel producers – but to conclude there will be inadequate. Companies only work because they remain in demand. But that too seems to shift the blame on individuals – how dare we demand services when we are fully aware that doing so would exacerbate climate change? It, however, is not that simple. We have been conditioned to believe our consumerism is microscopic, so insignificant that it cannot possibly have long term repercussions. But when all 7.7 billion of us begin to think that way then it would be overtly naïve to rid the blame off ourselves.
This issue, however, is not ours.
Big energy firms have created this dependency culture with their cost-effective production (albeit at the cost of the planet). We have become so enamored by the cost-effectiveness and quality of unsustainable products that the alternative is simply inaccessible.
Unsurprisingly government officials refuse to engage with any discourse on who is to blame – with their response to the question usually ending in a witty remark on the futility of playing the blame game. While their response might seem mature and levelheaded on the face of it, it stems from a place of absolute neglect. Government officials have perpetuated this, paradoxical, narrative that we, as individuals, can fix climate change by taking the bus rather than our cars, or by switching off the tap while we brush our teeth. Not only does this do absolutely nothing to stop us from facing the repercussions of climate change, it also falsely convinces us that our individual decisions can largely impact climate change. It seems to put us in a tight spot where our actions either don’t matter – from a consumer point of view – or where our actions define the future of the next generation. This paradox is intentional – it is meant to confuse us into, both, living vicariously but also feeling extreme guilt when we do so.
But increasing awareness and discussion on this topic has, perhaps, opened our eyes to the insignificance of our individual revolts against climate change. But while governments have, finally, opened their eyes and realized that something must be done with new initiatives and alliances, the cost of fixing their mistake is too large.
Shifting to net zero carbon emissions will be incredible, but it comes at an incredible cost. It means shifting from the unsustainable consumer trends that we have become so used to. It means inherently changing the way we live our lives. The impending cost – every non-climate change believer’s nightmare – will only grow by the day.
It is a matter of weighing the costs. Does the long-term cost of letting our Earth deteriorate exceed the short-term cost of changing our unsustainable practices? It would seem that when faced with this decision, the cost of saving the Earth would be a bargain.