A few weeks ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stern warning that without global action on an unprecedented scale the world is heading towards an environmental catastrophe.
Now, from California, we have another warning. So far the California fires, which are still not fully under control, have claimed at least 79 lives. With over a thousand listed as missing this death toll may rise considerably. They are the worst fires in the history of the state. But they are the shape of things to come on an ever increasing scale.
Some people say, ‘But they always have fires in California’. They simply don’t get it. This is exactly what climate change means: that places that regularly suffer from wildfires will do so an ever more intense scale.
It means places that suffer from droughts like sub-Saharan Africa will have worse and longer droughts; that places where temperatures are already very high, such as central Australia, they will soar even higher; and places vulnerable to flooding, such as Bangladesh, or storms from the ocean, like Indonesia and the Philippines, will suffer worse flooding and storms.
In California tens of thousands have lost their homes. They will suffer but they probably won’t starve. If tens of thousands lose their homes in Bangladesh many of them do starve and die on the streets of Dhaka. When there is drought in Africa and crops fail they flee to where there may be food and water ie. they become climate refugees.
In this context it is important and welcome that we are seeing the spread of climate change protests. There were two protests in Ireland on Saturday – 500 or so in Dublin, appropriately at the Dead Zoo, and about 200 in Galway. At the same time Extinction Rebellion held sit downs on five London bridges. A couple of weeks ago 50,000 marched in Montreal.
This needs to grow and grow across the world because nothing short of mass people power and revolution from below will make the ruling elites contemplate anything other than profit driven business as usual.
In Ireland, specifically, it means mobilising and building pressure to support People Before Profit TD, Bríd Smith’s Climate Emergency Bill which will ban all further licenses to search for and extract more fossil fuels.