The environmental problem
Emissions of carbon dioxide, mostly from oil, gas and coal are rapidly raising the temperature and changing the weather. This is happening faster than at virtually any time in the Earth’s history. Most scientists, and even governments, agree that if we keep to business-as-usual then people, society in general and the ecosystems we all rely on for food and water will not be able to adapt to such rapid changes.
The scale of the problem is mind-boggling: the new report from the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change says that if we continue with rapidly increasing fossil-fuel use, global average temperatures may rise by 6 degrees Celsius. The last time this happened was 251 million years ago and some 99% of all living beings died. We must rapidly and radically reduce oil, gas and coal use.
The social problem
Almost everything we do produces carbon dioxide emissions: work, travel, housing. To cut emissions, as many scientists suggest, by 90%, means serious changes need to happen.
Who is going to solve climate change?
The usual answer is either governments and changes in regulations, or individuals influencing companies by changing the products and services we buy.
This is not going to work for one simple reason: the world is geared towards the extraction of profit, and increasing economic growth, and not lives of dignity for all. Just ask any of the 800 million people who will go hungry today. Profits come first. With this reality in mind, it’s easy to understand why only the rhetoric changes. And emissions keep rising.
We, so-called ordinary people, will have to solve the world's problems, largely in spite of the actions of governments and corporations.
The logic of economic growth above all else - is not new. The solution - widespread grassroots action - is also not new. There is just a new urgency. Climate change is effectively a referendum on what kind of world we want. A lot is going to change, whether we like it or not. So we'd better be involved in the creation of something much better than the world as it is now.
To do this we must search for solutions that both reduce emissions and make our lives better.
Too big a problem? Too small a person? There are many things we can do. If we work together in our communities we can build real solutions to climate change and in the process of it also improve our lives.
We don't know yet what a new sustainable word will look like, but we do know that the only way to find out is to stop relying on governments and business to sort it out for us. It's up to all of us to take responsibility for our lives. The time to act is now.
We have to: