The science has got pretty stark on climate change

by Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth

Last Autumn, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us we are now as certain that humans are causing climate change as we are that smoking causes cancer.

This month, they told us that climate change is now occurring across “all continents and all the oceans”. The 309 lead authors of the IPCC report have documented the wounds in our climate system. For the Doubting Thomas among us – and I for one would rather it wasn’t true – we can now say that there was a climate change fingerprint in the severity of the storms we saw this winter. It was a glimpse of the future if we fail to act. 

One of the reasons psychologists believe we find it hard to act on climate change is the frequent disconnect between the enormity of the problem and the easy lists of “10 tips to save the planet”. So I won’t tell you to unplug your phone charger. But I will suggest three things you can do.

The first is talk about it. Help break the climate silence. We need a national conversation about the risks we face and what we can do about them. To do our fair share we’ll need a transformation in our buildings, and in our transport, energy and food systems. Something like that doesn’t happen in well-mannered silence. It happens after, and during, a robust, sometimes raucous, debate about what’s needed. Think about the shifts in attitude and policy to issues like smoking, seat belts, drink-driving or equal rights for LGBTQ citizens.

So at coffee break, in the pub, at the dinner table – dare to make the link between floods and climate change. Ask whether we need those turbines and pylons. Or whether anyone has bought a solar panel or installed insulation and did it cut their bills?

The second thing is to look at the energy use of the buildings you live and work in. We’ve all heard there are home improvement grants available, check them out. A third of our housing stock was built during the boom – and we’re going to have retrofit 99% of it. But our schools and hospitals and our government buildings are, if anything, even worse. In a research report called Cuts that Don’t Hurt, Dublin Friends of the Earth calculated that the Government could save €100 million in a couple of years if they stopped the waste of energy in public buildings.

And finally, your phone is definitely charged by now as you didn’t unplug it.  So make one call. Call one of your local TDs in Leinster House on 01-6183000 (you can find them listed in our handy map). Tell them you’re concerned about climate change and you want them to act. Tell them you know the Government is about to publish a Climate Change Bill. Tell them it’s the equivalent of the banking regulation we should have passed 10 years ago and they need to make it strong enough to work. That means a clear target (not just sweet assuring words like low-carbon) and an independent advisory and monitoring body to make sure politicians can’t sleepwalk us into a climate crash like they did with the economic crash. As the slogan says “Nature doesn’t do bailouts”.

Oisín Coghlan is Director of Friends of the Earth and a member of IMPACT. Follow the latest on climate science and policy at Twitter: @oisincoghlan