Temwa co-founder, Jo Hook shares her thoughts on the case for hope in climate change and why it matters
Europe has just experienced its hottest heatwave ever – wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece have meant that thousands of people had to evacuate their homes, and thousands of people have lost their lives due to heat-related causes. Record-breaking temperatures, and the impacts of the wildfires are forcing many people in and around Europe to wake up to the realities of the climate crisis. While the heatwave in Europe saw temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, this year in India and on the African continent, temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees.
While some people may feel hopeless when thinking about the climate crisis, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Emma Pinchbeck, previously Head of Climate Change at WWF, and who is currently CEO for Energy UK (the governing body that oversees the UK energy sector). She has so much hope for the future, and I passionately share this feeling. Here are some of the reasons to be hopeful:
- Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of power – it was not predicted to be the cheapest form of power for another 10 years.
- China is now the world’s largest investor in renewable energy
- Private equity firms are moving their investments away from oil and gas companies and into renewable energy.
- The United States and Germany have signed an agreement to deepen cooperation on shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy in an effort to rein in climate change. The deal will see the two nations develop and deploy technologies to speed up the clean energy transition, particularly in the areas of offshore wind power, zero-emissions vehicles and hydrogen.
- Individual countries have aligned their carbon reduction targets with recommendations from the COP26 summit. Individual country targets are impressive.
- Germany has got an impressive 2035 target to have 100% of its energy from renewable sources by that date.
- Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist who creates observational climate data and future scenario modelling, stated earlier this year: “A decade ago, the world seemed to be on track for a particularly grim climate future: many researchers argued that ‘business as usual’ was likely to lead to temperatures in 2100 being 4 C or 5 C above pre-industrial levels … If countries meet their 2030 NDCs (but do little more), we find a median expected warming of around 2.4C (with a range of 1.8C to 3.4C). Fully meeting net-zero pledges results in 1.9C (1.4C to 2.8C) warming … There is reason for hope on climate change; the energy transition is accelerating and each year we see stronger commitments.”
- It’s predicted that, globally, we will drastically bend the carbon emissions curb in the next decade.
- If you want even more hope, sign up to the Brilliant Not Too Late project with Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua.
Change is coming
In fact, in many ways, change has already come. There has been progress in several areas, such as the renewable energy sector, which has changed rapidly. But the race is now on to see how much we can limit global warming by – naturally, the aim is to keep it as close as possible to 1.5 degrees, but every fraction of a degree counts.
Globally, we need to stop burning fossil fuels – as quickly as possible. I believe that, as a global society, we can rise to this challenge. In the Global North, we are responsible for the vast amount of carbon emissions; therefore, those of us living in this region must take responsibility and take action.
“We need millions of us living in a sustainable way imperfectly, rather than a handful of people living sustainably perfectly.”
I think about the climate crisis every day and I talk about it a lot. One of the reasons I am so passionate about tackling climate change is that I am acutely aware of the impact it is having in Malawi and other countries like it.
Temwa Malawi’s Programme Manager, Kondwani Botha, explains the impact of climate change in Malawi:
“Climate change has greatly contributed to the change in rainfall pattern. Previously, the rains would come at the right time, and farmers would utilise the rains – within the specified 3-4 months of the rainy season – allowing for good productivity. Now, the rains come very late, making it difficult for farmers to strategically plant their crops, which contributes to a poor harvest every growing season, seriously affecting food security.
“Additionally, the rains are now very heavy and are often accompanied by strong winds, causing flooding, and destroying crops, farms and households – rendering people homeless and allowing for very low food production.
“It has also been observed that the heavy rains destroy the already growing crops, making it difficult for farmers to replant and then have a good harvest. Overall, crops are smaller and people have less food – this is a crisis. In fact, 95% of Malawians are now experiencing food shortage“.Kondwani Botha, Temwa Malawi
“Consistent flooding carries away fertile soils that farmers could use for food production. With the soils made less fertile each year, it has become very hard for farmers to grow crops without using inorganic fertiliser. Such fertilisers are very expensive for local farmers, creating even more problems.
“Malawi has an agri-based economy and as a result of climate change, and its effect on crop production, our economy has been greatly affected. We are producing less of almost all the crops that would help us generate a living, if we could export them. For example, our cotton, maize, rice, vegetables, tea and tobacco production are all down – all are huge sources of revenue for our country.”
We all need to act. What can we do?
- It’s not about ‘giving things up’. Change how you view leading a more environmentally friendly life. You will be gaining so much: peace of mind, improving your wellbeing, a more sustainable life, hope, and the promise of a better future for us and the next generation.
- Write to your MP and keep writing until we get the results we need.
- Join a campaigning organisation. There are so many to choose from – 350.org, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future. Sign every petition you can and go on a demo. Especially support the youth https://fridaysforfuture.org/ as the youth need our support. We need to bring system change through collective action. Change has happened before, with Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, Ghandi, the suffragettes, Nelson Mandela, and it is happening again with the climate change movement. UN Secretary General António Guterres, speaking on the 4 April 2022: “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels … Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
- The most effective way to immediately reduce carbon emissions is to stop flying or dramatically reduce flights. Many people don’t realise how carbon-intensive flying is; but very little else will raise your carbon footprint by so much and so quickly as taking a flight. I struggle with the injustice of people in the Global North flying and producing vast amounts of carbon for a luxurious holiday; while the poorest people in the Global South are struggling to grow enough food and are suffering from acute hunger due to climate change.
Reducing our carbon emissions is vital to avoiding climate breakdown. There are lots of things we can do, like eating less meat, using renewable energy, and driving less. But did you know that just one flight can wipe out all those savings? Living sustainably whilst continuing to fly is impossible.
It will be impossible to eradicate all carbon emissions overnight. However, if you want to balance your household or business emissions, you can use Temwa Carbon Balance (TCB). We have recently partnered with Simon Pyne from Greener Energy Futures (GEF). GEF can provide fully accredited carbon neutral status, using TCB to balance carbon emissions. GEF works with Temwa clients to give a clear assessment of what their emissions are and how they could reduce them. And witnessing business leaders and their teams work out how they can reduce carbon emissions is inspiring.
And talking of inspiration
When thinking about the current climate crisis, one of my favourite quotes is:
“The future is not written – we are writing it now…Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”Rebecca Solnit, 10 ways to confront the climate crisis without losing hope.
Ms Solnit also talks about ‘Grief to action’. Grief is the acceptance that a lot of damage has been done to our planet. When you understand the extent of the climate crisis, you go through a grieving process. But once that has happened, people often then feel an acceptance of our situation. Then comes the action. As a society, we are now living with the acknowledgment that we have to do everything in our power to aim for the best-case scenario given the situation we are in.
We have a moment in time NOW where we can avoid the worst-case scenarios, and we can all make a difference. I encourage you all to engage, talk about the climate crisis, share in hope and – to quote Ghandi: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
- There are many, many more positive environmental stories from 2022 listed here in Euro news.
- If you want to know where the misinformation and confusion has come from around climate change, watch Big Oil V The World on BBC iPlayer. To tackle misinformation and confusion If you want to understand more about the climate crisis and the how we ended up at this moment in time, watch A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough or Breaking Boundaries with David Attenborough, both on Netflix.
- In conversations with friends and family, I often hear, ‘I’m unsure what facts to trust, I don’t know what’s real’. Or they avoid the topic or change the conversation. Others say ‘it’s too late, we’re doomed’. Are you someone who thinks it’s too late? We can’t change things? Climate change is here, so enjoy life while we can? This is called climate doom, which is akin to climate change denial. This blog posts explains climate doom brilliantly.
- Read ‘Less is More – How Degrowth Will Save the World’ by Jason Hickel.
- This linked article gives you six key lifestyle changes to avert the climate crisis.
- Talk about the climate crisis with friends and family and share solutions.
- For the latest developments in tackling climate change, listen to ‘Outrage and optimism’, with Christina Figureres. Here, they explore the stories behind the headlines on climate change, and talk to the change-makers turning challenges into opportunities. They delight in progress, question greenwash and get to grips with the difficult issues.