Our Research Manager, James Gresty, took part in a Climate Change documentary conducted by Mohamed Abdihakim at the University of East London. In the interview, he discusses the importance of the public to help combat climate change and explains his personal optimism of overcoming the global issue. The documentary is yet to be released, so in the meantime you can find out a little bit of what James had to say here…
Why is the climate change discussion so important to have today and what does it mean for the average person?
The average person in the developed world probably sees the progress around them more than the problem. Electric cars, smart grids, provisions to encourage cycling, all-renewable energy suppliers… We are making some real progress but we need to be prepared for the effects of climate change. We also want to avoid further complacency, which has plagued meaningful action on climate change since scientists first started to draw attention to it. Because of the way climate change works, with a changing atmospheric composition and delayed effects, it’s very important that we don’t lose momentum.
The exposure given to island nations and others who are feeling the first effects of climate change in the most recent global conferences was a great step in reminding us why it’s so important. Although we are starting to change the way we think and act, there is still a lot of progress to be made, and even when we do take measures to reduce our environmental footprint, we need to do something about the effects we’ve already had in terms of emissions and habitat damage. The success of both will require the cooperation of individuals and communities.
How important is communicating the message to addressing climate change?
There are a multitude of groups and actors in the climate change arena. Some of the best environmental initiatives are coming from local and city governments (e.g. sustainable transport) and private technological advances (e.g. the ocean cleanup). However, successful efforts to reduce climate change will require fundamental changes to the way individuals view the impacts of their lifestyles and act accordingly. Without communities changing their attitudes to waste and taking steps to improve their lifestyle sustainability, for instance, we will still be left with problems regardless of technology advances, and public pressure is one of the best, sure-fire ways of pressuring both the private and public sectors into doing more.
Is it too late to reverse climate change?
The biosphere is incredibly resilient. It’s survived large systemic changes in the past and has arguably regulated habitable conditions on Earth despite significant changes in solar output over the last 4 billion years. It’s probably the main reason why Earth doesn’t look like Mars or Venus, with runaway climatic change.
On the other hand, the atmosphere’s composition has arguably now been changed to the extent that no amount of corporate sustainability measures will prevent significant climate change effects, due to the lag time in the system, however it is absolutely not too late. A concerted effort to restore the health and resilience of our biosphere would have the combined effect of protecting and enhancing biodiversity, building resilience and thus defence against shocks to the system, and would provide a greater carbon sink to start undoing some of our damage.
My personal optimism stems from the fact that a mass effort to restore forests, for example, would allow us to tackle climate change from both sides, reverting the co2 ppm to a more healthy level whilst we can work on making our lives more carbon neutral. Even the most pessimistic person who believes we are on a sinking ship can’t ignore the fact that restoring our ecosystems will give us the best chance of bouncing back.
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