Rob Davidson

We need Climate Freedom, NOW

As a child of the 80's, the environment was constantly on my mind. We had the hole in the Ozone Layer, letting in the sun's rays and giving people cancer. As a Cub Scout, I helped manually crush drinks cans for the apparently new concept of recycling. There was the growing Greenhouse Effect, of course, and in fevered dreams I imagined a mushroom cloud bloom over Chernobyl. Between the Cold War and Climate Change, youthful thoughts about the future were sometimes bleak to say the least.

For the youth of today, things are far worse. Ignore for a moment the looming Cold War with China, Russia and a new wave of 'illiberal democracies' and take a look at the environment. What we once called Global Warming and then called Climate Change is now the Climate Emergency.

School children and other young people are showing signs of 'climate anxiety'. Mental health is suffering because of this crisis. There is some evidence that climate scientists are suffering from 'despair' and feelings of 'hopelessness' and that, surely, cannot be a good sign.

For some time now, the Climate Crisis has moved from being something that might happen to being something that is already upon us but, it has often seemed far away: in time or in geography. The call for Climate Justice has been noble and good but it has inherently included the idea that there are some people who will suffer and others who won't have it so bad.

We have pointed out that islands, some containing communities of people, have already disappeared beneath the rising seas. It's so bad that a sort of disaster-tourism has emerged, advertising 'islands to visit before it's too late' - including world-renowned pleasure resorts like the Seychelles and Maldives. But can we honestly say that we've seen mass concern in polluter nations like the UK or US for the loss of these distant, exotic, sparsely populated resorts?

That sea level rise is partly due to shrinking ice sheets at the poles - 14mm of sea level rise from Greenland and Antarctica since 2003. The shrinkage is now happening at record rates and ships are now sailing through the arctic without the need for special ice-breaker escorts for the first time... but, can we say that the migration of polar bears into remote Canadian towns has hit home for people in Winchester or Wyoming?

And yet, the Climate Crisis is here, now, affecting all our lives.

In the UK, 1 in 6 homes are at risk of flooding from the rivers or sea. That's an incredibly large number. And storms and floods are increasing in frequency and severity because of the climate crisis. This isn't something that's happening to Pacific Islanders, or remote communities, it's happening to millions of UK residents almost annually. They need freedom from the climate crisis.

In the US and in Australia, bushfire (or wildfire) season is getting longer, more intense, and more dangerous. This is absolutely because of the climate crisis increasing drought and heat and producing the conditions for 'scorched earth' seasons. The people being forced from their homes in the US and Australia need freedom from the climate crisis.

And the recent global pandemic joins a list of animal-to-human disease outbreaks that includes SARS, MERS, Swine Flue, Avian Flu and now COVID19. The UK alone has suffered the tragedy of at least 150,000 deaths from coronavirus during this pandemic but researchers say it is our continual encroachment and destruction of habitats that make the perfect conditions for disease mutation and then cross-species transfer. If we want to avoid another global pandemic with the death rate of COVID19 or worse, we will all need to be free from the damage being done to our environment.

Of course, the climate is growing in importance in the public's mind - including in countries like the UK and US. But the basic facts are that our governments' policies are set to produce 2.9°C of warming; the pledges made as part of the Paris Agreements put us on track for 2.4°C of warming; many scientists are warning that the widely discussed target of 2°C warming is a 'fantasy' based on political soundbites rather than science; and if we don't keep global warming below 1.5°C then 40% of the world's population may find that it's too humid to live where they do today. That last point is getting very close to the 'distant people' talk of 'climate justice' but what sort of migrant crisis and disruption to our food security and way of life do you think we all will have if 3 BILLION people become displaced and have to move north or south to survive?

Let's just say that again: at 1.5°C of warming we could have 3 billion displaced people creating the world's most extreme migrant crisis and yet scientists report that, "If nations do not go beyond their Paris pledges, the world could be on track to use up its 2°C carbon budget as early as 2032."

It's no wonder that young people and climate scientists are suffering from poor mental health, from the crushing weight of 'climate anxiety', when the climate crisis is already here, our goals and targets are too little too late, and our politicians aren't even trying to hit those targets anyway.

Our young people need freedom from that anxiety. They need climate freedom now. The people of Britain, America, Australia and every country of the world need to be free from floods and storms and fires and droughts. We need climate freedom now. Every single one of us needs freedom from pandemic disease. We all need climate freedom now. The course our governments have set means we may destabilise almost half the world within the decade, causing a migrant crisis across the whole world. Tomorrow is too late, we must demand climate freedom now.

The climate crisis is here right now and it's only getting worse. We need climate freedom, now.