For three decades, world leaders at international conferences have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions and greener energy sources have been developed, yet emissions have continued to rise (World still ‘on brink of climate catastrophe’ after Cop27 deal, 20 November). Even as previously extreme weather events become normal and millions of people are displaced by weather-related events, there is still no sign of electorates in richer countries being willing to vote for rationing or much higher prices for car use, air travel, meat consumption and other particularly damaging activities.
Clearly, we urgently need a new strategy. The world’s biggest economies or the UN need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps funded by a financial transaction tax, on carbon scrubbing and ocean seeding to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; solar radiation management to reduce warming; and the purchase and protection of land such as rainforest to prevent its destruction.
The primary cause of the climate crisis and damage that the world is facing, and the growth in the problem if we fail to curb emissions, comes from the global fossil fuel industry treating the atmosphere as a free sewer for emissions from their products. It is obvious where the money for a “loss and damage” fund should come from – the fossil fuel industry (A deal on loss and damage, but a blow to 1.5C – what will be Cop27’s legacy?, 20 November).
A surcharge of, say, 5% of the market value on all movements of fossil fuels from mines, to be paid by the producer, would not only ensure a copious flow of cash but would also provide a strong incentive for the market to adopt climate friendly technologies. The fund should also be accessible to alleviate the suffering of poor people wherever they may live.
The climate issue is first an economic one. There can be no human prosperity on a climate-wrecked planet where people drop dead in the streets from the heat, everything we build gets blown away, flooded or burned to the ground, and we can no longer produce food to nourish ourselves. Faced with such events, there will be a demand for a return to a safe climate, not just some money to try to fix the damage. The historic agreement we need is one on how to adjust the way the market works so it rewards activities that nourish the future rather than emissions-based ones that destroy it.
Damian Carrington is right (The 1.5C climate goal died at Cop27 – but hope must not, 20 November), but his analysis overlooks the tragedy of the commons. There is a limit to the pain that governments are willing to ask their citizens to accept for the long-term good of the world, unless enough other countries can be trusted to do the same. Do we seriously believe that most polluting countries will take urgent actions that harm their national interests for the good of the world? On what evidence could we justify such beliefs?
Irrational hope is not an acceptable basis for national security; it’s time for realism. Alongside taking our strongest actions to slow down climate heating, we should accept that it will continue to increase for decades and that this will cause serious famines, droughts, floods and loss of habitable land. We need to prepare for the consequences, which seem likely to include mass migration and wars to defend or gain access to vital resources.
As a nation, we cannot prevent the catastrophe alone, but we can start to discuss what will happen and how soon, and how this should affect where we build, what defenses we shall need, and how we will sustain access to food and other vital resources. To fail to plan would be the utmost irresponsibility.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
The dismal failure of Cop27 and the government’s “deliberate amnesia” over Covid (They said we would ‘build back better’ after Covid. What breathtaking deceit, 20 November) are not separate issues. They are parts of the trinity of existential risk – the third is the ever-lurking nuclear weapons danger. We need to recognize how these are interrelated. The same vested interests, the same short-term vision, the same political mystifications prevent us from tackling these global threats and the poverty and inequality underpinning them that have been documented for decades.
If we are to have a chance, and it is a slim one, our analysis has to go deeper and understand why the warning signals were consistently missed. And the various campaigns and protests need to agree that they are facing a single challenge that must be faced jointly, with a long-term vision of an entirely different world.