C Shannon

This upcoming Wednesday is Climate Diplomacy Day, which is a day to highlight the challenges of building an effective global accord to combat climate change. An Irish friend of mine working close to this field suggested that this would be a good subject for this week’s entry. Another friend reminded me that I actually know very little about climate change itself. This is true, I’m no expert.

But what is in my wheelhouse is strategic thought: especially in social dimensions.

This is an issue where the EU is leading the world already. I admire the European devotion to green issues. The Climate Diplomacy Day is just a manifestation’s of that devotion.

It occurs to me that we can’t save everyone. Even if we stop any ecological fallout, the necessary reforms to the economy and industry are going to negatively affect the living conditions of everyone.

Logically, the poor are going to be hit hardest by this. Lowering the standard of living of the worst off amongst us is going to breed resentment and possibly extremism. It’s going to give power to people who tell them these reforms are unnecessary and designed to persecute them while the fat cats get fatter.

But here’s the kicker and the raison d’être of the climate diplomacy day. The worst off amongst us, by and large, don’t live in Europe or North America. In fact according to the BBC and the Daily Mail, a meagre income here easily puts you in the top 99% of global wealth (and let’s be fair, because I cited the Daily Mail, let’s just assume those figures have a 5% margin of error, though the article itself looks in line with the BBC’s reporting.) We are relatively rich as societies. Yes, relative poverty is still an issue in our countries, but the real losers from the wealth lost by global environmental reforms are going to be in Asia and Africa and regions that are just starting to claw out of crippling poverty.

This is the real political challenge in undertaking any sort of industrial restructuring to a greener and sustainable means of production. We’ve got to find a way to make these changes without causing the resentment to the reforms to crush them before they can pay dividends. We, as a species, have an instinctual aversion to pain. It’s in our nature to run away from doing things that will cause pain, even if avoiding the problem will only make it worse. We have to steel ourselves against the necessary sacrifices; let’s not kid ourselves that a massive industrial pivot to sustainability won’t have any growing pains. We need to step up and not only do our part, but authorise our governments to take the necessary steps in cooperation with corporate partners. This will involve not only tightening our belts at home, but ensuring that domestic and foreign domestic reactions to the sacrifices we all have to face won’t overturn all the hard work we will have to do to save our planet and ways of life.

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