Paris Palmano expresses how his fear for the future is motivating his fight against climate change.
What comes to mind when you throw your imagination one hundred years into the future?
Do you see a utopic global civilisation at social, political and economic equilibrium, as rich in diversity as it is in acceptance and understanding – a civilisation where technology has superseded the need for waste, want and war and the futile and treacherous pursuit of growth has been abandoned in the wake of human fulfilment?
Or have you been flung into an opposite realm of thought – a world experienced by most in a short and brutal fashion: suffering the legacy of great social upheaval, where tyranny is gospel?
At what point in your ponderings, if at all, did you imagine a world without civilisation – a planet nearly devoid of the necessary topsoil to harbour the vast majority of edible vegetation, catalysing a cascade of hunger, starvation and extinction. A world with weather so hostile that humanity is forced to bundle into pockets of solace, so remote and disparate that civilisation is confined to a futile dream? When I think of the future, this is what I see.
Our world is collapsing around us while we stare blankly into oblivion. With chaos at our doorstep, we distract ourselves with mindless and meaningless obsessions. Our elected officials pout and pander, demonstrating a total reluctance to offer recourse from the global climate abuse in which they are complicit.
To address this, I and eleven other concerned citizens of the United Kingdom have united under the flag of Plan B Earth, a charitable organisation dedicated to combating climate change through strategic legal action.
We champion the pursuit of climate litigation: the act of suing a government and holding it to account for its lack of mitigating action on climate change. We argue that our government’s lack of action demonstrates a serious failure to fulfil their fiduciary duty to uphold intergenerational equity and our fundamental human rights.
I am neither a scientist nor a lawyer. I do, however, hold power within the democratic system. As do we all.
We do this on behalf of all life on earth. For young and old, rich and poor, alive and those yet to be born. We do this for our children, our grandchildren and for all generations to come. For those too young to hold such existential concern.
We do this as a method of last resort. Protest has proven insufficient; stern letters stagnate in MPs’ pigeonholes, and every politically contentious action that has hitherto been tried has met little more than a flash of coverage on the evening news.
So, it seems that the only place capable of implementing the necessary change to save our kind from impending climate catastrophe, is the courtroom.
We constitute but one spotted black tile in a domino effect of international climate litigation. We follow the pioneering spirit of those so daring as Urgenda in the Netherlands, Our Children’s Trust in the United States and Dejusticia in Colombia.
Whether or not the case succeeds, no one government, no matter how stable or strong, can solely divert the colossal Cacus of climate change. ‘Fortunately’, long historical hegemony has bestowed upon the United Kingdom lasting influence in the passing of policy.
Our comrades, ex-colonies and Commonwealth alike relish the ease of British-born policy appropriation. If we can force our government – a most considerable contributor of climatic harms – to adopt a progressive attitude, it could prove highly influential in the reification of Climate Change Acts across the world.
Climate change does not abide by linear progression. We are at grave risk of triggering countless catastrophic positive feedback loops – runaway climate change. As the ice caps melt and shrink, a larger portion of the sun’s rays that would have been reflected by the white ice are absorbed by the dark ocean, thus accelerating atmospheric warming and triggering further feedback loops. As permafrost thaws, massive deposits of methane escape and escalate the cycle of warming.
At a certain stage, the Amazon, which is evolutionarily predisposed to a humid environment, will dry to the point that a spark could start the most destructive forest fire in modern history. The entire Amazon, Earth’s largest land-based carbon sink, will disappear. Scorched earth will annex the once splendid verdure, igniting the mile of peat that lies below, causing a devastating fog of carbon to propel Earth’s atmosphere into a nightmarish blaze.
If we imagine runaway climate change as a cliff edge, the UK Climate Change Act was created to locate that cliff edge (2°C), and work backwards, ensuring the UK makes an equitable contribution to stopping short of it.
In 2015 at the Paris Conference of Parties, the scientific consensus on climate change discovered that the cliff edge was far closer than expected (1.5°C), yet the British Government has not amended its trajectory. The outdated targets that were designed to protect us are in fact leading us towards Armageddon.
At every stage in our correspondence, the government and their body of experts, the Committee on Climate Change, has presented almost comically contradictory and bizarre arguments. We simply cannot leave a matter of such grievous consequence in irresponsible hands. We must protect our rights to life when our government will not.
This challenge is not, however, a battle of the few. It is an imperative that we must all share if we hope to hand down to our children a safe and hospitable planet, free from total environmental destruction and the subsequent collapse of our economy, international security, and the onslaught of mass human displacement and suffering.
We stand at the dawning acme of grassroots mobilisation. A call to bypass the inertia and vested interests of establishment politics. To engage and empower our young to defend their liberties and protect their future.
We must strive to engender a paradigm shift away from consumerist guilt and towards political agency. We must surpass the individual and futile narrative that opposes climate change today, combine our struggles against systemic oppression and unite under a collective, effective push for political change.
To avoid climate catastrophe, we must transcend the days of political hobbyism and embrace a common purpose. Our telos must endure. In the words of Tim Crosland, director of Plan B Earth, “It’s not about doing our best, it’s about doing what’s necessary”.