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Humans already have the tools to combat climate change but we lack leadership

Humans already have the tools to combat climate change but we lack leadership

In this extract, top atmospheric scientist Dave Lowe explains why despite political inaction he believes we can build a sustainable future

When it comes to the political will and leadership needed to drive the world towards a sustainable future, I’m a pessimist. Time and time again, I’ve heard rhetoric from politicians focusing on short-term goals at the expense of planning for the future. In 2021, the mainstream media promote responsible journalism and take a hard line with climate deniers. Many journalists hold governments to account over climate change goals. However, hard scientific data is often still manipulated and cherrypicked by politicians. I’ve spoken to many and liken the experience to walking through treacle.

Does their bland decision-making have to do with the structure of democracy itself, with its short electoral terms and lack of incentives for incumbent politicians to make hard and binding decisions for the decades ahead?

As I look around and see New Zealand’s highways, jammed with huge diesel trucks and ever-increasing numbers of petrol-powered SUVs and cars, I feel dread. It doesn’t have to be this way. What is it about living on a finite planet that humans either don’t or won’t understand, after all the studies and warnings show that continuing in this way leads to the inevitable collapse of the planet’s ecosystems?

When you look at the true cost of the damage to the atmosphere, politicians’ claims that action on carbon reduction is too expensive become bizarre. When we burn fossil fuels, we’ve never factored in the ultimate cost of the damage to the atmosphere caused by excess CO2.

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