On September 24th many a soul around the world participate in a Global Climate Strike. Here I participate with some thoughts I wish to share. The only feasible solution to the Climate Crisis, is not a scientific one, but through policy. It is upto the ones in power - both in industry, finance and politics to make the right call, uproot the system and plant it anew. Why? I am glad you asked. Let me explain…

Do not despair, let’s face it together

When it comes attitudes on facing Climate Change, there are three kinds of people. They may choose to:

  1. ignore or downplay dangers of Climate Change
  2. recognize the dangers that await us, but tackle them objectively rather than emotionally by making lifestyle choices
  3. take it as a personal crusade, making emotionally attached to the crisis – which it is – and succumbing to negativity or anger

Which one is the right attitude? I would say all three are flawed behaviours. My reasons are as follows:

  1. ignoring the dangers are what got us into the mess in the first place
  2. taking personal responsibility is not enough to make a dent the system (more on this later)
  3. protests do works in energising the people around you, but if it has a detrimental effect if the result is nothing more than be the change you want to see in the world and then grieving over it

At this point I should make it clear that the solutions that we should focus on is a systemic, economic, industrial and political one. The science has been clear for far too long. Waiting for a engineering marvel to save us all is a foolish dream (i.e. it may not happen as soon as we want it).

Taking personal responsibility - does it work?

I recall a conversation between graduate students in Earth sciences commenting that it is uncomfortable when they go for a one-off mission on a research vessel to the Arctic, because it is powered by diesel. Some things are unavoidable, but some are not. You are not alone. At some point in life I used to believe so that if I make the right choices towards reducing my carbon footprint would fix everything. Less plastic. Less waste. Less cars. Less electricity.

Less is more, but not enough.

Today, I am inclined to say that this is not enough as a society. Sure, small gestures do help, but it always end up in the minority who try to fix things. The cumulative effect as a society remains virtually unchanged. Even if we all choose not to fly, go vegetarian / vegan, consume less and basically bide time – as most of us have done during Covid-19 pandemic – the emissions continued to pile up to new record levels. Why did it happen? It is a systemic issue. A vicious cycle which keeps the industry (particularly the oil and gas, but also food, transport, energy, construction and basically everything) functioning as it always had. Market forces such as fossil-fuel subsidies (which still exists!) would delay the move to a clean, sustainable society.

Did you know that the concept of carbon footprint was an invention of an oil company originally intended to shift the blame onto powerless individuals. Neither did I. At least now that is used to keep tabs on corporations! This video essay by Kurzgesagt also discusses this issue at length.

How much time do we have left?

Scientists have conservatively estimated that at around 2030 we will reach the tipping point of 1.5 degrees warming.

How close are we to reaching a global warming of 1.5˚C?
How close are we to reaching a global warming of 1.5˚C? (Generated using Copernicus Climate Change Service information [2021]. click to go to the web app and see for yourselves)

By now you should be convinced that this is an urgent matter. If not have a look at web app above or this infographic (Note: it plays some sombre music when you click) or see the one below. Share your thoughts with your friends and family. Talk about it. Make sure our voices are heard and our votes count. We have little time left to act.

Ashwin Vishnu Mohanan

About the author

Ashwin Vishnu Mohanan, Ph.D. in Fluid mechanics