Opinion | Put the climate crisis first

The consequences of climate change are already serious with a warming of ‘only’ 1ºC. Climate scientists can’t say it louder and clearer than in the latest IPCC report. And yet the message doesn’t get through. Because if there is a threat of a gas shortage, politicians and policymakers immediately jump back into the fossil fuel reflex. The coal-fired power stations are reopening. This is not possible. The climate crisis must be number one.

The aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit warming to well below 2ºC, preferably 1.5ºC, compared to the start of the industrial revolution 150 years ago. We negotiated it for thirty years and now this goal provides guidance and it creates time for transitions. But it also creates sluggishness and laxity: “as long as it’s not even one and a half to two degrees warmer, we still have time”.

heat waves

And so we keep putting the climate crisis ahead of us every time. There is always something else that takes precedence. First it was the financial crisis, then the corona crisis and now possible gas shortages due to the war in Ukraine. But the future predicted by climate scientists is already much closer than we think, even earlier than predicted.

This spring, southern Europe was ravaged by early and extreme heat waves. Last year Canada experienced extreme temperatures that came many years earlier than expected. We have not forgotten the floods in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands of last year. In East Africa, millions of people are in acute food shortage caused by climate change. For island nations in the Pacific, sea level rise is already an unsolvable problem. And all this with a warming that is now ‘only’ 1ºC.

There is always another crisis that takes precedence

With every ton of CO2 that we emit, the consequences get worse, inequality in the world widens and the costs of adapting rise exponentially. To keep the world livable, we must stop emitting now. And this is possible, also according to the IPCC. Among other things, by accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources, investing exorbitant oil and gas profits previously made in insulating homes and buildings and adapting our means of transport. But it must be done immediately and without delay.

Delusion of the day

Precisely because many do not yet perceive climate change as the crisis it already is, it is high time we made it official. Declare a climate crisis, appoint a climate commissioner who can defuse the crisis by legal means, so that we are not dependent on the political delusions of the day. That would do justice to the real urgency of the climate crisis and only then might we get rid of our fossil fuel addiction soon enough.

Also read: The climate crisis demands an equally rapid response from the world

During the corona crisis we were able to switch quickly, so why not now? The reality is that the climate crisis is the overarching crisis. Put the climate crisis first and adjust the rest accordingly. So if there is a gas shortage, look for alternative ways to save energy and gas. Close certain industries that are not vitally important and give them financial compensation, as we were able to do during the corona crisis. Announce a car-free Sunday. In the context of the EU, consider preserving existing nuclear energy for the time being. Let’s think about these kinds of measures. But under no circumstances should you reflexively drill for gas under the North Sea and absolutely do not restart coal-fired power stations.

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