Climate Change is not an event. Although it’s sign-posted by geologic history, and human history, it doesn’t have a fixed start-and-end-date. Although it’s measured by C02 increase over the pre-industrial period, there’s no bright red line we cross to say, ‘this is Climate Change.’ We’re so used to signifying by numbers and events: 1.5 degrees Cº, 440 ppm, the upcoming 26th UNIPCC, 350.org, 2025, 2035, 2050, 2080, 2100… as if there’s some critical threshold at which the whole world is going to shift into a radically new and totally unexpected state, an ultimate, cataclysmic event.
Ending Climate Change is not an event. There won’t be a time, a moment, a day, a year, an era that we can print in the history books to say, “this X threshold, finally, was the end of cataclysmic climate change.” That X-moment is never going to happen. Ending Climate Change is not an event, but an evolutionary, ever-continuing and never-ending total transformation of our cultures, world views and ways of life.
Hundreds of years from now, the Future Ones will look back on the 20th and 21st centuries and find it remarkable that we tolerated so much dirty air, toxic water, loss of arable land and deforestation, so much plastic pollution, so much fire, flood and drought, the wholesale slaughter of every living species including our own, so much starvation, disease and war—just for the ‘right’ to fly in a plane or drive a car, just for the ‘right’ to make a profit off cheap nature.
Those Future Ones may not even have enough silicon to make solar panels, enough lithium to make batteries for electric cars, or enough palladium to make smart phones and laptops. They will be living ways of life vastly different than we do now, and perhaps better lives. Because they will be living continuously in tune with nature, with the climate, with the planet, with every other living being, with every living person, now and into their future. They will understand how every action they take affects all of life at every scale, for generations to come. They will have a mindset, a culture, a world view that is a thousand light years beyond where we are now.
They will not even understand how we think. It will be like looking back on the ruins of the Roman Empire and wondering “how did those people survive back then?”
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, recently gave a talk on the mindset of a Climate Scientist. Her Tedx Talk is about how Climate Science won’t convince us, and technology won’t save us.
This may not seem like seem like very much, yet I am quite convinced that before I die, we will recycle everything. That before I die, we will no longer eat animals and that we will breath pure air in the heart of our cities. And this will be thanks to you.” —Prof. Le Quéré.
Only a deep transformation in the mindset, cultures and world views of billions of people will ‘end climate change’. But that cultural transformation has no final moment of ‘Yes, we did it! We stopped Climate Change!’ That cultural transformation will be ongoing, continuous, evolutionary, irreversible and never-ending. Reversing, mitigating, and adapting to cataclysmic Climate Change will continue on for thousands of years into the unforeseeable future.
There is no end date. There is no time, moment, date, year, when we will ‘end’ Climate Change. There is no time when Climate Change will stop changing. And we, the human species, will never stop changing with Climate Change.