“The editorial in The Guardian believes that Rishi Sunak is not committed to meeting green targets.”
This year has experienced the highest temperatures in our documented past, likely surpassing the last 100,000 years. The Northern Hemisphere has seen an increase in “heat domes,” leading to soaring temperatures. Even during winter, the Andes faced heatwaves. There was extreme weather, resulting in unprecedented flooding in Asia. The wildfires that ravaged Canada this summer were the biggest in modern times and contributed more carbon emissions than all other human activities combined in the country. After a large portion of Antarctica failed to refreeze (equivalent to the size of Mexico), UN Secretary General António Guterres declared that the world has entered an era of global warming.
Unfortunately, the fact that the average global surface temperature in 2023 was only 1.48C hotter than the preindustrial period, slightly below the UN’s target of 1.5C, provides little solace. Scientists warn that if temperatures rise above this threshold, but still remain below 2C, the world is at a higher risk of reaching irreversible tipping points. These include the extinction of low-latitude coral reefs, widespread thawing of permafrost leading to the release of greenhouse gases, and the collapse of major ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica. Some people, like an entrepreneur who sees the potential for disaster, are already profiting from this situation by selling glacier ice to bars in the UAE. However, this exploitation of the current circumstances is a major issue.
The developed world relies heavily on fossil fuel machines for production and consumption. These machines emit high levels of carbon, contributing to the planet’s heating. There is a noticeable disparity in emissions, with the top 10% of emitters responsible for almost half of all greenhouse gases while the bottom 50% only produce 12% of the total. However, we have the technology to make a change. This would involve financing, manufacturing, and promoting new, cleaner machines to replace the old ones. Unfortunately, this transition is not happening quickly enough. Though electric cars are seen as a solution, their popularity has yet to catch up with traditional gasoline cars. In fact, it is projected that emissions from road transport will not peak until 2029, despite a decline in shipments of internal combustion passenger vehicles since 2017.
The enormity of the climate crisis means that personal decisions will have minimal impact unless certain group choices are made and implemented. However, British official Rishi Sunak believes that environmental actions can be left to individuals’ own moral judgement. This is why he argued in September that postponing the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars would allow people to decide when to make changes, rather than facing avoidable expenses. The approval of new oil and gas projects demonstrates, as former Conservative cabinet member Alok Sharma stated, that the government is not fully committed to meeting its global climate targets.
Last summer, Mr Sunak’s decision to prioritize politics over science became evident when he supported a campaign against expanding London’s ultra-low emission zone to secure votes for the Tories. It is troubling that the government does not prioritize addressing environmental concerns and disheartening to see Conservative ministers view climate science as a conspiracy. This mindset has led to a focus on driving rather than promoting sustainable modes of transportation like walking and cycling. Some sensible Tories, like Chris Skidmore, have distanced themselves from this approach. In affluent societies, there is a tendency towards complacency, which needs to be actively addressed. We must not let the fear of a dangerous future prevent us from taking action now.