Scientists first became aware of climate change in the early 1800s, but for centuries governments either chose to ignore it, pretended it didn’t exist, or, more commonly, acknowledged its existence but failed to do anything about it. This seems to be the case with the UK government. It has recently announced a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, but this is reliant on practically non-existent carbon capturing technologies, and 2050 is likely not soon enough, as recently deduced by scientists. So why is the British Government ignoring scientists, and refusing to take the appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of climate change?
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) claims: ‘Over 100,000 coal jobs have been lost since the mid-1980s [in just the US]’. This statistic exemplifies a trend that is occurring across the globe: transferring to clean energies removes jobs in the fossil fuel industry. This is probably one reason why the British Government is reluctant to take sufficient measures in preventing climate change. Partly as a result of this, if the UK did take appropriate action, it would damage its own economy, and likely fall behind the other economies of other countries that are loath to take action: it is not in the short-term economic interests of a nation to take immediate action against climate change.
It is very difficult to persuade people to change their way of life without providing a pull factor towards change, or a push factor. The simple truth is that people in the UK are unlikely to be imminently adversely affected by climate change. In fact, warming temperatures could potentially benefit the agriculture industry (excluding the real possibility of unforeseen consequences of climate change). This means that it is difficult for the government to persuade the entire population to (for example) switch to electric vehicles, or fly less, or become vegan. If the consequences of climate change remain invisible to people in the UK, it is improbable that change can be quickly and effectively implemented. Moreover, it is difficult for the government to control the private sector; it is likely that if the government approached large private companies and proposed to limit emissions to net zero by, say, 2030, the companies would promptly refuse and demand more time.
I believe that the fundamental problem facing the government in tackling climate change is unwillingness to change. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been reliant on fossil fuels: they account for 64% of energy production, and therefore many massive companies, such as BP, are almost entirely oriented around extraction of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are hugely valuable, and abandoning them for renewable energy sources is a choice. A choice which jeopardises our short-term interests. Making the choice to move away from fossil fuels, to move away from profit, is practically against human nature. After all, why would the British Government elect to leave fossil fuels, when it brings profit, jobs, and energy to Great Britain?
Climate change won’t affect Britain as severely as it will other countries, so the government is not under any obligation to give up fossil fuels. However, moving away from fossil fuels is in the interests of other nations, such as Bangladesh, which has been catastrophically affected by climate change. It is the right thing to do, but a profit-driven, power-hungry CEO will disregard this, as would most governments. These are some of the reasons why the government is not taking appropriate measures to mitigate climate change.
There are solutions, however. Protests put pressure on the government to act, and many people have become more aware of the consequences of climate change and have changed aspects of their lives. To quote Sir David Attenborough: ‘It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.’ We all have to do our part to reduce our impact on the planet for generations to come, and for the huge variety of plants and animals on Earth right now. Governments and businesses alone are not responsible for solving climate change, nor are capable of doing so; everyone is.