Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Moral of the Climate Story; A Mother’s Version

I started to focus on climate action in earnest because I became afraid for my children. What world would they face if we don’t act?  I’ve done everything I can for them, facing scary medical issues, up long and repeated nights, working long days, chauffeuring and doing homework. How can I not also act to preserve a livable world for them too?

So I have immersed myself in climate science and policy. I’ve worked to cut my own emissions, methodically and in a way that supports others doing the same. I’ve developed a network of friends and allies that are doing the same. We support each other. I keep my kids lightly informed, not wanting to overwhelm them with what I know. All the while, raising them the best I can, as they make plans for lives of their own. 

And I encounter people who lightly and dismissively say it is “too late.”

Too late for what?

Too late to avoid warming?  Of course it is. We’ve already warmed 1C over preindustrial times. 

Too late to avoid 1.5C?  Yup. That’s locked in. 

Too late to avoid 2C?  Perhaps. But no one is sure of that yet. It might still be possible. 

Too late to avoid 2.5C? 3C? 3.5C? 6C?  Well, no. It’s not too late to avoid that. . 

What does “too late” mean?  

It’s easy to feel defeated. Year after year, we talk about climate change. We talk about projected impacts and what we must do to avoid them. And then we see them come to pass anyway. 

It’s daunting. 

But “too late” isn’t meaningful. And it most certainly isn’t action-engaging. 

It is essential that we understand how bad things are. And we prepare to adjust to the coming onslaught of change. 

But we also must recognize that our actions still matter. The pace at which we emit carbon over the next 30 years will impact generations. Faster means much faster and harsher impacts. Slower means more time to adjust, more opportunity to act with compassion with each other and less suffering. 

We must still fight for what we know is right. 

Thankfully, we are seeing avenues for action working.  Market disruptions are seeing the rise of solar and wind, married to battery storage and EVs, public transport and city planning that supports pedestrian and cycling. Coal is dying. Oil and gas are next, with the World Bank just announcing it will no longer invest in oil and gas, just as it did with coal some years ago. 

China is churning out solar panels and pricing carbon. India is looking to be a renewable maven. 

Things are hardly rosy. But we cannot fool ourselves into doom. We must focus on mitigating the damage, reducing suffering and increasing opportunities for compassion.

If we truly care about our children, then we are called upon to do the most difficult task of all. We must operate on the belief that love and compassion matter above all else.  

Even more than fear that it is for naught. 

After all my immersion in climate change, I’ve learned there is no “fixing” climate change. My initial journey to save the world for my kids has led me to a harder place that demands more of me. 

Like with a child with a serious illness, all we can do is hold our child and reassure them “it will be alright.”  And do our damndest to make it as alright as we can. All the while reducing their suffering by loving them. And loving them by reducing their suffering. 

In the end, we mourn what we’ve lost. But we rejoice in what we are blessed to have. 

Walk that difficult path. It’s the right thing to do. 


  1. Very well said Claire. And from the most human of perspectives. You are saying very much what I would if l had the time to blog.
    We are of course attempting to change an entire cultural paradigm, which has had more than a century to establish, mature and become almost inextricably linked with a defined social kudos and approbation. And that is that, under advanced neo-liberalism as practicised in westernised societies, work is valued for its own sake as a means to survive in a competitive culture, regardless of whether that work is meaningful or dangerous to our planet. Allied with that, is the exhortations in every media and at every turn, to be blind consumers of everything, in order to grow the currently in favour economic model.

    The deaths, the destruction, the blighted and destroyed lives and enriched lives and satisfaction, all are sacrificed on the altar of uncaring economic" growth". Not only is it unsustainable, but the unfairness, dissatisfaction and blind unreasoning anger that it generates produces civil unrest and anti social behaviour on a continuum ranging from angry outbursts to international mass terrorism.
    I could rant on, but I will just say that not only is it vital for our children's lives that we respond, not only is it the right thing to do, but we MUST do it to maintain some social cohesion on the planet. If we don't do it ourselves, we will increasingly see totalitarian regimes fill the void for us - and in extremely quick time.

    len botterill.

    1. Thanks, Len. Yes. Much of what we have remaining power over is the governing of ourselves as climate chaos descends. Will it be autocratically or democratically and consistent with the principles of the Enlightenment?