DON’T PANIC: Responding to our Climate Emergency – The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

Just when we reach for it, we realise The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can only be found on the Fiction shelves. F – not SF – with barely a hint of science warped to suggest credibility. But, oh, how we chuckled at the patently preposterous existential crisis for a planet Earth where no-one had bothered to read the planning notices.

But today our self-inflicted existential crisis is no comedic platform. Novelists prefer the dystopian where borders blurred by reality are fading into climatic irrelevance. COP26 (or COPout26 as some insist) reduced COP President, Alok ‘down, but not out’ Sharma, to tears and moved manipulative mindsets to imagine novel ways of avoiding reality. But, as Jason Hickel writes, “If we accept the facts of climate change, we also have to accept the radical changes necessary to address it.”

Jason Hickel’s paper, published this post-COP week by Current Affairs, simply asks, “What would it look like if we treated the climate crisis like an actual emergency?” This is a very good question. It demands that readers acknowledge they are not yet fully awake to the full urgency of our planet’s life prospects.

The single most important intervention is the one that so far, no government has been willing to touch: cap fossil fuel use and scale it down, on a binding annual schedule, until the industry is mostly dismantled by the middle of the century. That’s it. This is the only fail-safe way to stop climate breakdown. If we want real action, this should be at the very top of our agenda.

Facing reality is not easy but ‘the game’ is up. We need not panic but we absolutely must insist on having a clear plan. Political leadership on issues as painful as the adjustments we now must make, will need far more than a Hitchhiker’s Guide. We can no longer pretend that we’ve not seen the planning notices. We know where we are heading and the scale of course correction needed. Jason Hickel’s message rises above the vast COP26 media coverage and hand-wringing politics. It deserves to be read aloud in every community, in every institution, in every corporation, every church, on every media channel, and at every convention. We might even revive the role of Town Criers to proclaim the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

* David Brunnen is media liaison officer for Fareham Liberal Democrats. He writes on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

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  • Steve Trevethan 19th Nov '21 - 4:41pm

    Thank you for an interesting article on a most important matter!

    “The central banks of the wealthiest countries engaged in $25tn of quantitative easing in the last13 years. Of that $9tn, was spent in the last 18months to fight the pandemic. Had we used that $25tn to finance the energy transition, we would now be reaching that 1.5 degrees limit that is so vital to us.” (Mia Amour Mottley: Prime Minister of Barbados)

    Might our Party publicise and work for “Climate Quantitave Easing”?

  • Steve Trevethan 19th Nov '21 - 5:00pm
  • Climate change science has been totally politicised. Hickel is known for his Marxist anti-capitalist views and so it looks as though the continued politicisation of climate change is alive and well.

  • What is the possible meaning of being known for Marxist anti-capitalist views? I realise that it is always easier to attack a person rather than deal rationally with the views they put forward.
    We have to recognise that we need to be searching for a means of having rational discussion and decision making to plan for the future. We might then recognise that we have changed every eco-system on the planet. Are problems might be helped by substantially improving our decision making processes – and I believe we should start with our own country. We must also recognise the reality of what is happening on our planet, and the real impact of the present dominant western economic system.

  • Peter 19th Nov ’21 – 6:19pm,,,,,,,,,,,Climate change science has been totally politicised……….

    I don’t disagee..Although the real politicalisation is from those countries whose politicians have been ‘bought’ by the fossil fuel industry..It was no coincidence that over 500 representatives of that industry attended and that the organisation of CoP26 itself tapped Boston Consulting Group (and other services) for “strategy implementation” despite the fact that the firm also claims to advise 19 of the world’s 25 biggest oil companies (according to a report from Channel 4 News)..

    Despite the positive spin, the conference achieved almost nothing in concrete terms; for instance, even the modest “phase-out” of coal was watered down to a meaningless “phase-down”.
    The average lifetime of a coal powered plant is 29 years (although their design life is 40 to 50 years). However, considering that the average age of India’s coal-fired plants is under 13 years (with no planned closures), there won’t be much “phase-down” let alone “phase-out”..

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Nov '21 - 11:15am

    “even if the corrective remedies are uncomfortable or politically offensive.”

    I fail to see how burnig 11% less fossil fuel each year for the next 9 years could be politically offensive – well maybe offensive to the fossil fuel companies. Or uncomfortable, really. We have the technology and the money to move to zero carbon in the next 9 years – let’s just get on with it.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Nov '21 - 12:42pm

    @Jenny Barnes “I fail to see how burnig 11% less fossil fuel each year for the next 9 years could be politically offensive – well maybe offensive to the fossil fuel companies. Or uncomfortable, really.”
    David appeared to be suggesting that some potential remedies could be politically offensive, not the principle of reducing fossil fuel usage.
    I imagine that from a liberal/Liberal perspective, a high degree of compulsion and big/nanny/authoritarian state intervention could be considered politically offensive. Fortunately, the Harm principle often seems to be a convenient get-out-of-jail-free card for a little bit of illiberalism! 🙂

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