“I don’t want to give up hope…I don’t want to live that way”, said fashion model Cameron Russell to her mother Robin Chase, on the inspiring Huffington Post series ‘Talk to Me’, where children interview their parents. The subject was the conflicted feelings associated with bringing a child into a world under the existential threat of climate change. Greenland’s glacier melt has started two months early this year, and we have set new temperature records in each of the last 11 months, with March 2016 being the largest anomaly ever recorded…just beating out February. The notion that we are going to leave the world a better place for our children seems farfetched indeed.
Like Robin, I didn’t really have to confront this issue beforehand, as my ‘climate epiphany’ came in the spring of 1988 when my first child, my daughter Layla, was about two months old. I had just sat all day listening to someone I had hired to unpack this ‘climate change’ thing for me, distilling the latest science and the projections for what was likely coming. I remember downloading what I had learned to my wife and a friend in the car on the way home, and I didn’t get very far into it before all of us were in tears – except for the burbling infant in the car seat, blissfully unaware of what a mess we all have made about the world she is now in the process of inheriting. None of us in that beat up old Toyota will ever forget that day, or that conversation – in my daughter’s case because she’s sick of us telling the story.
But last week in New York, more than 170 nations signed the Paris Agreement, for the first time acknowledging what needs to be done – 25 years late, but not too late…we believe. There are many positive signals: Elon Musk’s record breaking launch of the Tesla 3; decadal low fossil fuel prices have had no appreciable effect on the growth of wind and solar; coal companies going broke; the Financial Stability Board’s pronouncements on the climate related risks to the global financial system; the growing divestment from fossil fuels by institutional investors; and of course, the rapidly growing installation levels and record low prices of both wind and solar power.