What is wrong with the Climate Change message


The reality today is that even the truth must be sold. Especially a truth that will and is affecting everyone and to change it everyone must pull together in the same direction. First the truth – We are on the way to becoming toast. I mean that rather literally. And everyone is everyone. Just look out of your window to see everyone. Look in the mirror to see the one who you will not see when you look out of the window. Everyone is everyone.

I sincerely hope that I am wrong. But as I said, for most people, and I mean the vast majority, they don’t understand Climate Change & Global Warming (CC&GW), don’t see the urgency, and don’t have any idea about what do to about it. The fact of the matter is that all real effective changes must necessarily come from world leaders changing policy and enforcing the change. That’s not happening and, in a world, that’s divided between dictators and democratic leaders on 4/5-year lifelines, also called terms, what hope is there for unpopular decisions to be taken and enforced? Furthermore, for this enforcement to be effective, if it happens, it must be done globally and instantaneously. Not gradually over decades. We are well past the luxury of gradual change. When a house is on fire you need a firehose, not a garden hose, if you are serious about putting out the fire. This means that not only will the owners and shareholders of companies which are contributing to CC&GW lose business but all those who work in those areas will lose jobs, miss mortgage payments, not be able to pay for health insurance, school bills, even food. Which government can survive that?

Just to give you a taste of what is in store, self-driving electric vehicles are the talk of the town. What that will mean in real-time, when and if it happens is that 3.5 million truck drivers will be out of jobs in the US. And many if not all the 8.4 million people who are in trucking related activities will also be affected. They won’t have jobs, but they have votes. Which political party or leader is willing to risk that? The issue is not technology but people. We seem to think that technology can solve everything. It can’t. Certainly not this one. This is a people problem, and we can’t factor people out of it. Indeed, which society can live through such a catastrophe? Do you see that happening? I don’t. Not until we hit catastrophe and then whatever will happen will happen.

Now for some home truths which many in the English speaking and reading world seem to ignore. Let me list them for you. Please add to the list.

  1. The language of Climate Change & Global Warming is a classic example of the yawning gulf between the haves and the have-nots. It is spoken by the inner circle for the inner circle in a language that only the inner circle understands, and which shuts out those who are not in that inner circle. In any society these are the elites who live in ivory towers, not troubled by how or even whether the GUM (Great Unwashed Multitude) lives. By ‘inner circle’, I mean English speakers with a university education of a particular nature. If you don’t believe me, make a presentation on CC&GW at your child’s school PTA meeting, or at any social gathering and watch how soon you lose your audience. I will give you all of five minutes. But we still see/hear/read the same language which no normal tea drinking human being understands.
  2. There is no sense of urgency about this truth which is as urgent as a house on fire. Once again, the result of the language. If you say to the average Joe watching Superbowl that because of his lifestyle i.e., his truck in the driveway, centrally heated and air conditioned house, the beef burger he is eating (change the meat to anything else with the same result), the plane that he is planning to fly to Toronto on in the morning – I can add many more but this will suffice – all add to GW and will result in an increase in temperature of the world by one degree which can result in the melting of the icecap and glaciers in the Arctic Circle (which he can’t find on a map) and thereby an increase in sea levels by one inch, you will have to help him off the floor where he would have fallen because he laughed so much. Travel to India or Africa and try saying that to the woman (in her language of course) who is cooking for her family on an open fire which she lighted using tree branches which she cut from the forest (which is illegal of course) and she will not even laugh because you are so foreign to her that she treats you like someone from outer space.
  3. The solution to Global Warming is to completely change our lifestyles. Stop eating meat, stop using firewood and coal, stop using oil and all fossil fuels, stop all carbon emissions and so on, right now. Once again, a long list which is not necessary to complete to make the point. The point is that this is not something which can be done unless people have viable alternatives which are cost effective. And those we need now. Not ten years from now. The fact is that we don’t have them, and we are not even close to having them.
  4. Changes that will positively impact Climate Change must be made globally. No matter how desirable it may be for an individual or a group of people to turn off lights, ride bicycles instead of cars, eat broccoli instead of chicken, use Zoom instead of flying, disconnect the air-conditioning (what are you supposed to do about heating?) and so on, it will not create any measurable impact. For a measurable impact it needs global policy change and implementation and even enforcement of the new climate friendly policy, if necessary. That means that those who are making billions and trillions in profit from fossil fuels, plastics, armaments, airlines, automobiles, you-name-it, and who rule the world because we have a world that is ruled by the 1% for the benefit of the 1% to which we all contribute willingly while suffering in silence, must be willing to kiss goodbye to those profits. How likely that is, I will leave you to decide. Especially when you know that the solution that the billionaires have for themselves, is a choice between going to Mars or living in underground bunkers guarded by private armies who of course live in the world outside. How intelligent that is and why they believe that someone whose own family will be exposed to the toxicity of the world will be willing to sacrifice his family to keep his boss and his family safe, don’t ask me. But if you expect them to think of your interests, then get a brain transplant.
  5. How likely is it that all oil companies, airlines, animal farms, armaments companies, automobile companies including electric vehicles because the batteries don’t grow on trees but are the result of carbon generating processes – once again the list is endless – will simply shut shop and go home? For measurable impact, it needs huge change, or I should really say, a total revolution in our way of life. History is witness that this kind of change has never happened voluntarily with the human race.
  6. While we may speak and read English, those who need to take decisions to stop global warming don’t. It is not about language but about the economic disparity between us and them. In one word it is about having alternatives or not. Slash and burn agriculture, cutting trees to light stoves, using wood or coal to heat homes, all contribute massively to global warming. All are done by the poor of the world who must choose between cooking food today and a warmer world tomorrow.
  7. Another random thought to reflect on when we talk about the world going vegetarian or vegan, even better. What will happen to the billions of cattle, sheep, and poultry that are alive on farms today? There are more farmed cattle than all wild animals in the world combined and more chickens than all wild birds combined. What should be done with them and what will be the effect of that on CC&GW? And what about the jobs and lives of all those who work on those farms and ancillary industries?
  8. The truth is that we are looking at catastrophe in the eye. After it happens, those who remain will have to pick up the pieces and implement changes, which will then be easier because people won’t need convincing.

The bottom line is that if we want action on Climate Change & Global Warming, we must device language that makes sense to ordinary people, creates a sense of urgency in them, shows them how their individual actions can have global impact and most importantly give them viable alternatives to replace what they are doing/using at present. Without that, prepare to become toast.

Meanwhile I live in a place where I don’t need air conditioning, travel to the wild places which are still left, take photos, and write articles and books, so that when it’s all over, those who come after can marvel at what used to be and wonder how we let it all go up in flames.

Mirza Yawar Baig is the founder and President of Yawar Baig & Associates; an international leadership consulting organization. He can be reached at [email protected]


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