“ Don’t be optimistic about climate change ”


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“Look,” said Jerry Brown Holyrood. “Don’t be optimistic.”

The 83-year-old former governor of California refers to a book, published last year, written by Toby Ord, philosopher and senior researcher at the University of Oxford, happily titled The precipice: the existential risk and the future of humanity.

We have only a one in six chance, Ord suggests, of avoiding extinction in this century.

“There are 79 years left,” says Brown. And if we avoid extinction, warns the veteran politician, we may still face “the irreparable collapse of civilization.”

“Now is the time to be very serious about the big issues,” he says.

Brown addresses Holyrood in his role as global ambassador for the Under2 Coalition, an alliance of state, regional and municipal governments that are committed to limiting the rise in global average temperature to less than two degrees Celsius.

The veteran Democrat was one of the first signatories to the deal in 2015, during his fourth and final term as governor of California.

Others to support this initial commitment included the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany; Baja California in Mexico; Catalonia; Ontario; Vermont and Wales.

Over the next six years, more than 220 governments signed up. Together, they represent more than 1.3 billion people and 43% of the global economy.

Scotland joined him in 2017, when Nicola Sturgeon met Brown on a trip to California.

This year with all eyes on us as COP26 (hopefully) arrives in Glasgow, Scotland is now the European co-chair.

For Brown, the argument for decentralized subnational governments to tackle climate change intensified after the election of Donald Trump.

One of the first acts of the billionaire in power was to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement.
Trump, in his day, described climate change as “mythical” and “a costly hoax” and even “created by and for the Chinese to make American manufacturing uncompetitive.”

Although he later claimed it was a joke.

Brown fired back. “America is not ruled by Donald Trump,” he said at a meeting on climate change at the United Nations General Assembly. “We are a country of diverse power centers and mobilizing those power centers that are not controlled by the president is always a very valid and powerful goal.”

He told Holyrood that the Under2 Coalition was about to find allies, to forge a global movement of these “power centers” to help “transform the world from what is primarily a fossil fuel crop”.

No country or city is too small to make a difference.

“Who is Greta? She’s a kid. If a child can make an impact, so can Scotland! ” he adds.

We speak on the Saturday after the election of Holyrood. During the campaign, the climate emergency was barely taken into account. Or certainly, she didn’t have the look she deserved.

The only real discussion came when Patrick Harvie and Douglas Ross clashed in the STV debate over ending oil and gas production in the North Sea.

The Greens have called for an end to new exploration licenses and subsidies to oil and gas companies over the next decade, while Ross warned it could result in the loss of 100,000 jobs in the northeast and across Scotland.

The conflict between urgency and employment is an issue Brown knows all too well.

How easily does the solution come about? “Politically, not easily. But economically, not easily, let’s face the facts, ”he said.

“We’re already at a one-centigrade increase, heading towards a point five probably in seven or eight, ten years.” The longer we wait, the more expensive it is.

“So when people say, take it easy. What they mean is that their children should pay a huge and unnecessary burden.

“Now what are you doing?” It’s easy for someone who doesn’t work in a coal mine or who doesn’t depend on oil and gas for a job to say, let’s go.

“Well, I think the government needs to provide some form of financial support, subsidy, investment to whatever mechanisms can be created.

“We look forward to tackling climate change in the most aggressive way possible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t compensate, we can’t manage and change the shape of our economy through government intervention.

“I’ve been a politician for 50 years, do I think that’s easy? No. Do I think it could be done right away? Probably not. I think there will be a lot of resistance, as there is in America, but the resistance places a greater burden on us in the years to come. And on the younger generations.

“I am 83 years old. How much more will I suffer in the next ten years? But you who are considerably younger are going to pay an increasing price in disruption, in purely economic terms, in terms of health and in political terms. “

Climate change will lead to droughts, disease, crop failure, he says, leading to large-scale migration. “People will move in the tens of millions.

“So I would say yes, it’s difficult, it takes a lot of imagination, but people of good will should be science-based and then take whatever imaginary and aggressive action they can.” This is the goal.

“Is California doing enough of this?” No, certainly not America. Who is? But that’s the task, and I think that even if we don’t have the courage, the will or the imagination to do everything we need to do, we shouldn’t be wrong in saying that we don’t train. no more problems, real painful suffering for people later. , because we want to protect ourselves now.

“I understand that the impact of climate action falls on different people differently. So it is hypocritical of some green type people to say “hey, let’s go” when they are not paying the price.

“We have to be there together; solidarity, fair distribution of the burden. And that means government commitment, government interference and intervention.

“Well, it’s not that popular, especially if you’re a conservative who believes government should do the minimum, like Margaret Thatcher who believed society doesn’t exist, it’s just individuals. Well, that notion won’t hack it, won’t do the trick for the kind of collective enterprise that climate action requires.

Joe Biden is much more aware of the climate emergency than his predecessor. Brown is hoping the president will help see some form of progress at COP26, but again, politics could get in the way.

“I think [Biden] must forge a very close relationship with Chinese President Xi, ”he said.

“Recognizing of course that in today’s world America and China are experiencing a great deal – what shall we call it? A debate. I’ll use this to put it mildly – there’s a lot of debate going on, but it’s a time for deep collaboration, common recognition, to face reality.

“If Biden and China can unite, then I think they can present a more aggressive stance, challenging the European Union, India, Brazil, South Africa and other countries.”

But just as the new commander-in-chief must cut emissions, he must also convince voters. And once again, we are back to the clash between urgency and employment.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are by no means assured of the success of the midterm elections,” Brown said. “And so, the same problems you would have in Scotland, Ireland and France that you have in America.

“We are divided fifty-fifty in the United States Senate. The country is divided. There are millions, tens of millions of people who don’t even believe in climate change, who don’t even believe Biden was elected, they think it’s a fraud.

“America therefore has a major challenge to be effective in this area. Biden does a lot. Is it sufficient? It’s hard to say because if he mismanaged, if he doesn’t do it right, he will lose the House of Representatives, in which case he will even do less than he talks about.

“Listen, don’t be optimistic. Take a look at the dark side of that, then summon the political will, optimism, and imagination to forge ahead and get as far as those nation states can in Glasgow, and sub-groups. nationals like California, New York and Baden-Württemberg and anyone else.

“Join the effort and keep pushing. This will take more aggressive action. That’s all I have to say, don’t be discouraged by any means, but don’t be complacent.

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