To begin with, an assumption. Surely you have come across a message in the cell phone hall of mirrors this week that sounded like this:
“Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Global warming could soon exceed 1.5 degrees”
“Final report of the IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for immediate action”
“Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Five to twelve was yesterday”
And one more assumption: you didn’t read any further.
They wiped out the headline as if it were the next Whatsapp in the family celebration planning chat, objectively it all seemed important, but subjectively it was also yawningly familiar, and what can I say, you’re right.
My colleague Christoph von Eichhorn has classified here what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarized in its latest report, the sixth. (Spoiler: The goal of a maximum global warming of 1.5 degrees, which we once set ourselves in the Paris climate agreement, is no longer realistic. The two degrees will not be easy either, for this we would have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 decrease percent.)
Scrolling through the years of publication of the reports that have faithfully accompanied us for three decades, a familiar realization sinks deep in the pit of your stomach. There is no lack of knowledge, the facts are there, and not just since the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990, but since the end of the 1970s.
Science lays the factual ground on which, in the best case, every debate is built, its theory and empiricism are the guardrails along which we curve through the years. They’re meant to protect us from the greatest possible impact, but having been lining the streets for so long means you’ve grown accustomed to the sight of them. IPCC, warning, heat, every year again.
So it may be tempting not to go down the news highway at all, but rather to dig into the igloo of not wanting to know. But, third and last assumption, even there one cannot escape from a thing.
Because even those who don’t calculate the details of the carbon footprint, who don’t know what a CO₂ equivalent is or what tipping points mean, who love the combustion engine in their SUV or their wood chips with an eco-label, in short, whoever uses them in any way benefits of the Global North (that is, all of us) who, deep down, know that this is often at the expense of others.
The others are the people in countries that are already suffering more from the climate crisis than we are. These are also the ones who are young enough now to hope for more than a little bit of change.
This shifting onto others is known in the professional world as externalization, and perhaps we are not only shifting the costs of our lifestyle to places where we no longer need to see them, but also our feelings at the same time.
In this text, my colleague Vera Schroeder wrote down why emotions are underestimated in the debate about the climate crisis, and there is little to add, especially the point that politics cannot do it without the individual – because the individuals together now decide the politics.
(This text is from the weekly Newsletter climate friday you here for free can order.)