Minor lifestyle changes are all well and good, but combating climate catastrophe requires a sea change in our approach
Everyone making minor lifestyle changes over the last 30-40 years might have helped but I suspect matters are now rather late (“Tiny changes in our lives might seem trivial. But they are how we save the planet”, Comment). Even if human activities became greenhouse-gas neutral overnight, gas escapes from once-frozen deposits would continue to boost levels, while fires and dying vegetation worsen matters further. Geo-engineering is risky but may soon become necessary.
Some years ago, environmentalists reckoned three to four fully utilised planets would be needed for everyone to have western lifestyles and the jobs to afford them. Add in rising human numbers plus the potential need to rehome climate refugees and this could increase significantly. Yet how are politicians reacting? There have been no signs of petrol rationing, population policies, cutting cash-crop production, grounding flights, curbing consumerism or even a cattle cull. Such changes would need tax hikes and would trigger howls of outrage that governments have no business behaving like that in liberal democracies. Yet liberal democracies may not last long if action isn’t taken. If major global disruption of food supplies occurred, for example, Britain’s naive view that food can always be imported could fail badly. Nobody will want the job or the bill for such changes but the alternatives could be far worse.