The Road to Glasgow - 10 Days and Counting
COP26 opens in Glasgow on October 31.
The real story, however, may lie in what happens over the next ten days. That's when we'll see how the big players align on the idea of dramatically slashing greenhouse gas emissions on an incredibly narrow timetable.
The target is 50 per cent by 2030 and the remaining 50 per cent by 2050. Net zero or carbon neutral by 2050. Is it feasible? Perhaps. We just have to get past the "ifs and buts."
Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, cites the example of America on entering WWII as an example of what can be done.Fatalism creeps across our movements like rust. In conversations with scientists and activists, I hear the same words, over and again: “We’re screwed.” Government plans are too little, too late. They are unlikely to prevent the Earth’s systems from flipping into new states hostile to humans and many other species.
What we need, to stand a high chance of stabilising our life support systems, is not slow and incremental change but sudden and drastic action. And this is widely considered impossible. There’s no money; governments are powerless; people won’t tolerate anything more ambitious than the tepid measures they have proposed. Or so we are told. It’s a stark illustration of a general rule: political failure is, at heart, a failure of imagination.
...General Motors began turning out tanks, aircraft engines, fighter planes, cannons and machine guns. Oldsmobile started making artillery shells; Pontiac produced anti-aircraft guns. By 1944, Ford was completing a long-range bomber plane almost every hour. During its three years of war, the US manufactured 87,000 naval vessels, including 27 aircraft carriers, 300,000 planes, 100,000 tanks and armoured cars and 44bn rounds of ammunition. Roosevelt described it as a “miracle of production”. But it wasn’t a miracle. It was the realisation of a well-laid plan.
The US war effort mobilised tens of millions of people. Between 1940 and the end of the war, the number of American troops rose 26-fold, while the civilian labour force increased by 10 million. Many of the new workers were women.
...So what stops the world from responding with the same decisive force to the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced? It’s not a lack of money or capacity or technology. If anything, digitisation would make such a transformation quicker and easier. It’s a problem that Roosevelt faced until Pearl Harbor: a lack of political will. Now, just as then, public hostility and indifference, encouraged by legacy industries (today, above all, fossil fuel, transport, infrastructure, meat and media), outweighs the demand for intervention.
The difference between 1941 and 2021 is that now the mobilisation needs to come first. We need to build popular movements so big that governments have no choice but to respond to them, if they wish to remain in office. We need to make politicians understand that the survival of life on Earth is more important than their ideological commitment to limited government. Preventing Earth’s systems from flipping means flipping our political systems.