Director’s Dispatch: Stop looking for hope on the climate crisis. Try this instead

If we want to save our world — and ourselves — it’s time for an attitude shift, TNH Director Heba Aly argues, as COP25 talks unfold.

Students take part in a demonstration of the Fridays for Future movement for climate protection in Athens, on 29 November 2019. (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP)

But glossing over the inevitable outcome is not only patronising, it’s also counter-productive, because it allows us to find solace in abstract or idealistic hope, while imagining that someone else will get us there.

It’s refreshing to be honest about that. As author Jonathan Franzen wrote in The New Yorker: “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.”

Accepting the ‘new planet’

Earlier this year, the Australian think tank Breakthrough sketched out a 2050 climate scenario that focuses on possibilities rather than probabilities (like many, it argues that much of the scientific knowledge produced for climate policymaking is misleadingly conservative).

Finding the courage

The good news is, I’m seeing more and more people — policymakers and regular citizens alike — show courage in the face of this impending doom.

But courage means making difficult choices — and sacrifices — in our own lives now before we are forced to do so later.

B&L évolution, a French consultancy that advises companies and local governments about how to grow sustainably, is honest about the scale of transformation that will be required for us to survive as a species. Its recommended list of measures needed for France to limit its emissions in line with 1.5 degrees of warming includes banning the sale of new cars, quotas on imported goods, and a national lottery that parcels out 500,000 flights per year to citizens.

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