Why are we afraid of the truth that we are tracking to 4+o C? 

global climate1

Why do we not tell people how it is. Or are we afraid we will scare them away? Isn’t this exactly why there is no action, because we are told there is a solution to our predicament, or at least there will be by century end? Don’t people have the right to know that, were we to leave things unchanged, we are doomed?

We sell insurance and drugs and so on with full descriptions of the risks and the side effects. Why can’t we have the courage to do the same with climate change? Isn’t it our right to be told that we have gone too far and may not make it into the next century?

I am told we must continue to pretend it will be ok so not take away hope. But why not?

This is not a facetious question; I pose it in great seriousness. For 35 years I practiced psychology and found that deep personal change happened most quickly when the full shock of the issue was felt completely, in all its horror and hopelessness. Then people can and do transform. With my family and friends I have not pretended that the future could be ok, that we will miraculously pull the carbon out of the air and cool the seas. And none of them have sunk into despair or hopelessness, and instead have redoubled their efforts as to heal.

We may go some way towards reducing the carbon in the air, but that’s only a tenth of the problem, and the likelihood of restoring the health of the seas and refreezing the icecaps is likely to be utterly beyond us.

Don’t you think we need to understand this, and act as adults? Not pretend it’s going to be better, but acknowledge that deep in our hearts we know it’s not, and that our salad days are behind us.

When we recognise that the truth is supremely important, then we are free of false hope and can realistically prepare for the future. As long as we face the facts we can work together – with a will and with hope – to mitigate the consequences. We need to use the skills and facilities available in the present to build the communities and infrastructure we are going to need very soon.

So, let us not be afraid of the truth. We don’t need to avoid our reality. We know that Gaia is slow moving and that the climate we have today reflects the level of pollution from around the turn of the century. What we have emitted since then will be increasingly expressed in weather and drought and fire in the decades to come.

Where we are now is just a little taste of the future, and is not the full outcome of all that we have done. No, not nearly. We need to know that, and face it.

We don’t know whether we will survive. We may. But if we do, it will be in an utterly different world, with almost no other living creatures to keep us company, poor food, rampant disease and a wildly uncomfortable environment. We owe it to our children to be mature enough to help us all face the truth of what we have done, and together build what is needed to be able to survive in this new world.

Being honest about the risks will help support the will and the power to transform the insane greed that is consuming us, and may instead turn our brilliance towards creating the new and more caring world we are going to need.

John James is an environmental activist


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