by Andy Worthington
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Andy Worthington’s website, Mar. 22, 2023
March 25, 2023
On Monday, the frenetic gossipy world of nonsense and distraction that, rather sadly and shamefully, constitutes most of what passes for news and culture these days paused for a moment to reflect upon the publication of the most significant document that will be published this year — the latest climate change report prepared by the climate scientists of the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the United Nations body founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide “regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
This latest report — rather functionally known as the ‘AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023’ — is the final outcome of the IPCC’s sixth reporting period, which began in 2017, and which synthesises the findings of three working group reports, published in 2021 and 2022, as well as three special reports, published in 2018 and 2019.
The IPCC’s latest report establishes, as its ‘Headline Statements’ summary states, that “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health”, and that “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
The report also points out — even though it really shouldn’t still be necessary — that it is “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases”, that “have unequivocally caused global warming”, and that the global surface temperature, in the second decade of the 21st century, was 1.1°C above what it was in the second half of the 19th century.
As the report also explains, “Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase”, based on “unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change”, and on “lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.”
As a result, keeping global warming to an acceptable limit will involve “rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade.”
These are stark words, even with the necessary caveats: that the scientists responsible for sounding a message of imminent doom managed to do so despite efforts by representatives of the most fossil fuel-loving countries out of the 195 countries involved in the IPCC to water down their message, as they have been doing since the IPCC issued its first report back in 1992.
As usual, an all too brief flurry of media interest
The responsible mainstream media (i.e. the main broadcasters and those few newspapers that aren’t owned by fossil fuel-loving billionaires) duly highlighted the report’s stark message. The Guardian’s headline was ‘Scientists deliver “final warning” on climate crisis: act now or it’s too late’, with the tagline “IPCC report says only swift and drastic action can avert irrevocable damage to world”, and it was featured in the newspaper’s first two pages. It was also the lead report on Channel 4 News.
But, given the severity of the crisis, what the Guardian should surely have done was to give over its entire issue to the IPCC report, as should Channel 4 News with their entire hour-long show, following up with the crisis as front-page news and the lead report on an ongoing basis — perhaps, I might suggest, as they did for many months solidly last year when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Instead, the news cycle rolled on, the corruption of the Metropolitan Police became the top headline, and the opportunity to change the narrative was, yet again, lost — and more damagingly now than at any time in recent years, because the IPCC’s sixth reporting period has come to an end, and its seventh won’t reach this same point again until 2030, when those rapid, deep and immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors (to 50% of current levels) are supposed to have happened. And yet right now, as the IPCC report notes, global emissions continue to rise.
The media need to “tell the truth” relentlessly
The media’s inability stay focused on the severity of the climate crisis is a situation that those of us who care about the unprecedented scale of the climate crisis — and the unprecedented notion of what “urgency” actually means — have seen repeated over and over again, and it is profoundly dispiriting because it means that absolutely no one in the mainstream media is prepared to recognise that an unprecedented crisis — and there really is no bigger crisis than the scientifically-established reality of an unliveable planet within the lifetimes of billions of people alive today, unless we cease our current way of living as swiftly as possible — calls for an unprecedented response.
The inertia is, shamefully, far worse now, ironically, than it was when the IPCC’s ‘Global Warming of 1.5ºC’ report was published in October 2018, which warned that we had just 12 years left to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly in an effort to prevent a global temperature rise of 1.5ºC since the advent of mass industrialisation in the 19th century, beyond which the earth would start to become uninhabitable.
It was the Guardian’s headline based on that particular report — ‘We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN’ — that shocked me into a sudden awareness that our collective lifestyles globally, and particular in the West, of course, constituted a ticking environmental time-bomb, and I was not alone in my sudden apprehension of what climate scientists has been warning about for years. Coinciding with the report, Greta Thunberg began her hugely influential ’School Strikes for Climate’ in Sweden, and, in London, the protest group Extinction Rebellion began a campaign of civil disruption, to urge governments to ‘Tell the Truth.’
Within months, politicians were queuing up to declare ‘climate emergencies’, but that, it turned out, was just virtue signalling, and no politician anywhere on earth was prepared to actually follow up with concrete measures designed to, for example, cut all new oil, gas and coal exploitation, and to reduce emissions across every sector of society by a minimum of seven percent a year on an ongoing basis; in other words, seven percent cuts every year in all transport emissions, in construction emissions, in the emissions from animal farming, in the production of the vast range of consumer goods that use fossil fuels, and so on.
Instead, Covid came along, and, when we’d all experienced a glimpse of the peace and cleanliness of accidental ‘degrowth’ — an extraordinary by-product of the lockdowns — the giddy rush to return to ‘business as usual’ began in earnest, even though most of us had by now, however fleetingly, accepted how ruinous it was.
The skies are once more full of extraordinarily polluting planes, taking us on the holidays that none of us want to play a part in forswearing for our own survival, cruise ships pollute the seas once more, toxic building sites are everywhere, and our streets are once more choked with polluting vehicles. We also continue to eat too much meat, and to unquestioningly ‘treat’ ourselves by buying products whose environmental impact we wilfully ignore. Nowhere are seven percent cuts a year in evidence, and those with the power to do anything about it — the media and our politicians — have, fundamentally, abdicated all responsibility.
Seven percent emissions cuts across all sectors of the economy now
We need seven percent cuts a year across all sectors now, and it’s time for the mainstream media to start focusing on this obligation with the urgency it requires, and on politicians to start educating the public about how ‘peak everything’ is over, because it is killing us, and we will all have to adapt to less.
It’s not even as though most of this will be arduous. Fossil fuels are filthy, while renewable energy is not, and although so many of us have become sick with a gluttony for the spoils of the over-exploitation of our miraculous planet, most of us weren’t like this a generation ago, and can unlearn our ecocidal impulses.
But if we’re to do this, the responsible mainstream media needs to focus relentlessly on the climate crisis, shepherding the public towards an understanding of why we need ‘degrowth’ across all sectors of society that rely on fossil fuel extraction, and how that can be achieved.
Hammering home the message that emissions need to be cut by 7% a year would be a good start, I think, and, if broadcasters were also prepared to give a significant amount of time to those with solutions — regarding sustainable energy, for example, as opposed to new and continuing fossil fuel extraction — it’s just imaginable that, eventually, growing recognition of the scale of the problem, the urgent need to tackle it, and, crucially, the absolute non-viability of any more evasionary tactics whatsoever, might prompt the government to take it seriously, and to recognise that cutting emissions by 50% will require leadership, a massive programme of education, and, if that is not sufficiently successful, legislation.
Progress has already been achieved in the media, as their obsession with ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ — always interviewing people from both sides of any argument — seems to have been quietly done away with when it comes to climate change. This is as it should be, of course, because, when the scientific consensus regarding the man-made nature of the climate crisis, and its ever more alarming manifestations, is almost 100%, indulging in this so-called ‘balance’ would be fundamentally, even criminally irresponsible.
Tackling conspiracy theories
I also think that the mainstream media need to much more robustly tackle the growing tide of misinformation emanating from the opaquely-funded ‘think-tanks’ (lobbying groups) clustered in and around Tufton Street, and to stop allowing their representatives to be interviewed on mainstream news programmes as part of their commitment to ’balance’ and ‘objectivity’, and, perhaps more importantly, to delve as deeply as possible into the world of conspiracy theories, which has grown alarmingly since Covid, obsessed with notions of global state control, and clearly driven by shadowy right-wing sources tied to the fossil fuel industry.
In amongst all the paranoia about ‘The Great Reset’, these dark forces continue to push climate change denial messages, as can be seen in their troublingly successful efforts to portray ’15 Minute Cities’, LDNs and the expansion of Ulez as a kind of green fascism, aimed at curbing what is promoted as the ultimate human right — for people to continue driving as much as they want, whenever they want, and, more broadly, to do whatever they want, whenever they want, even though these notions of ‘liberty’ serve only to sustain the fossil fuel industry, and other corporations whose profits depend on consumer compliance.
I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t practical problems with LTNs and the Ulez expansion — but certainly not with the notion of ’15 Minute Cities’, an eminently sensible suggestion that has, nevertheless, been interpreted as the first post-Covid implementation of what we might call the notion of ‘prison cities.’ Overall, however, it is deeply troubling that a significant proportion of the population is being shepherded towards a fabricated form of insurrectionary outrage by the same dark forces that promoted the rise of Donald Trump, that promoted Brexit, and that began with astonishingly risible claims of a Democratic paedophile ring in the US.
The Big One: April 21 in London
While I’m very serious about the need for as public a discussion as possible about the urgent requirement for the mainstream media to prioritise the climate crisis above all other news, and to focus on it relentlessly, I also remain committed to public pressure, and I encourage everyone in the UK who cares about the extent of the crisis to come to Parliament Square from Friday April 21 to Monday April 24 for what Extinction Rebellion are calling ‘The Big One’, a proposed 100,000-strong gathering that could, if enough people believe in it, be the most powerful demonstration of collective people power in our lifetimes.
Just two days ago, I was delighted to see a tweet from XR announcing that nearly 50 organisations have already signed up to support the action, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, EarthDay.org, the PCS Union, War on Want, CND, Global Justice Now, the Quakers, CAFOD and the National Education Union’s Climate Change Network.
So please, come along on April 21, and bring as many people you know with you as well. With the government cynically legislating to make protest illegal, overwhelming the police with numbers seems like the most intelligent way forward. Who knows? It could even be a ‘velvet revolution’ movement, but, even if it isn’t, it’s a hugely important opportunity for those of us who grasp the unprecedented enormity of the challenges we face — and the need for urgent action to dismantle capitalism in its current form — to insist that profound and significant change needs to begin now, and cannot, on the grounds of “pragmatism” or denial, be endlessly deferred.
For the first time in our lives, we — humanity as a whole — face an existential threat that cannot be ducked, ignored, or walked away from. The longer we delay, the worse the outcomes will be — and not in some far distant future, but within years.
The time for action is now!
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.
IPCC report: Political influence minimizes climate change threats, by David Spratt
From the archives:
Ralph Nader and Dahr Jamail: We Are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth
Behind California’s Extreme Weather Emergency, by Scott Scheffer
Jodi Dean: A Proposal to Save the Climate: Decommodify, Decolonize and Decarbonize the Country
Kill Capitalism Before It Kills Us, by Paul Street
Doing Nothing While the World Burns and Extinction Looms, by Andy Worthington
Heat Waves Tied To Big Energy Capitalism, by Scott Scheffer
Our Climate Crisis Paralysis: How, in the Face of Unprecedented Signs of Climate Collapse, We’re Still Being Failed by Politicians, the Media and Ourselves, by Andy Worthington
Another Global Warming Worry: Parts of Earth Could Become Uninhabitable, by Pete Dolack + A Dire Warning About the End of Human Civilization
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Thank you for this article, which I have reposted on Twitter.
Thank you for sharing on Twitter, Justin. Cheers!
The media are stuck with the NATO narrative. Having worked in broadcasting for several decades the current headlines will not change. The only media where it had a story was on RT and CGTN. In fact CGTN and the China Daily has articles and videos challenging the world. Here’s one of many from CGTN: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2023-03-23/VHJhbnNjcmlwdDcxMTg0/index.html
Why is the word “fracking” not in this article, given that NASA discovered fracking may be the number one contributor to greenhouse gases in the last 20 years? The fracking boom started in 2000. Methane traps 80x more greenhouse gases than CO2, and NASA satellites have been detecting massive plumes of methane emanating from major fracking zones in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Considering that the WEF and world governments seem to be focusing little on shutting down fracking if at all, this lends credence to the “theorists” claims that the crisis is being used by the un-elected WEF as a means to transfer national sovereignties to itself and herd people into its complete surveillance, with the ability to “punish” people for going outside their zones by shutting down their CBDC accounts and/or disabling their digital passports.
Of course, drastically reducing the use of cars, which are an extremely inefficient way to get around, is important to reducing greenhouse gases. However 15 minute cities wouldn’t be necessary if governments simply invested in better electric mass transit systems to all places people are living now. Maglev trains could be completely powered by wind and solar.
Looking at all the options for freedom and climate responsibility co-existing, there is strong evidence to suggest that the WEF, being a non-transparent, unelected body that seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting crises a year or two before they happen and then leveraging those crises to transfer vast wealth to its members while clamping down its control through charters signed by governments and corporations, definitely prioritizes complete dominance of the global population over its freedom and diversity of expression. Klaus Schwab even said that China was a role model for how civilization should be run – and its surveillance and controls are widely recognized as being Orwellian and draconian.
The people of Earth could still engage in climate responsibility, if governments were actually investing in the right projects, without having to cede all sovereignty on the planet to the WEF and WHO.