This article was translated from French and was originally published in D’Ici la Fin du Siècle, a blog to raise awareness on climate change and strengthen the arguments against it. It was written by Julien Rialan, editor of this blog and citizen for change.
*Editor’s note: This is a heavy hitting article, but so is climate change. Not for the faint-hearted.*
You have just read an article on the latest IPCC report. It’s alarming. Like all the previous ones since this institution exists. Progress, where there is progress, is insufficient (on engines for transportation, renewable energy), and other indicators are downright alarming (+ 24% sales of SUV in Europe, renewed investments in coal). We have 12 years to change everything, or the Earth will never be the same again.
Tonight, you have trouble sleeping. You gaze at the ceiling and think about your offspring, which you already had the chance to have or plan to welcome soon. It makes you feel a little ill. You know that the system will hold until around your senior age (around 2050) and that for the next 20 years, you will have enough money set aside to be buried in the countryside with decent air conditioning. Then again, you have already enjoyed life. In fact, you could almost die tomorrow.
But on the other hand, your children and your grandchildren… Their lives will undoubtedly be shitty(er than yours). Starting with sales of SUV in Europe that will last as long as the winters of the Ice Age, autumn and springtime will become increasingly similar. Oh, your children are going to hate you for sure. Recurring climate migrant crisis, wars will be coming soon after…
At this point, an explanation will be necessary. Fear not, however, you may think that it’s too late to act on climate change, but it is not to start finding good reasons to justify why you did nothing at all. This article will give you some tips, but complement this reading with insights from climate-sceptic websites and conspiracy theories to strengthen your argument.
Excuse #1: Ecology was Anti-Poor
Smart argument! Since the poor enjoy, like most, the comfort of modern life, it could be enough to say that tackling global warming meant depriving the poor and the middle classes of their means of subsistence and mobility! In addition to justifying your lack of action, you will show your children that the fate of the most vulnerable is important to you. You’ll kill two birds with one stone!
Of course, deep down, you know that this argument is completely and utterly bogus. That in reality, the bulk of the emissions concern the rich, who travelled 500,000 km/year on business class flights for trips of questionable interest. The rich who were buying Mercedes and Q7, and that the underprivileged classes were the ones who used public transport or bicycles the most, for economic reasons.
Studies, such as that of Oxfam, documented that emissions were largely concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest classes.
You had definitely seen during the summer of 2018 that those who were suffocating during the month of August weren’t your most affluent friends, not your contacts who posted Instagram photos of their houses in the South of France (#summerisamazing). But whatever, this excuse is solid.
Sometimes in life, you have to push the pieces a bit to finish the puzzle, right?
Excuse #2: We were too few, and the Chinese are too many
Absolutely! Honestly, what is France? 1.7% of global emissions, which themselves grew by 2% per year. Europe is only 11%. Nothing can be done, so there is nothing to do. That kid will shut his self-righteous mouth when I throw this one at him!
No, but seriously, what do these young people think? That I had influence over the consumption of China, Bangladesh or Indonesia? Even if us, Europeans, respect our objectives (which we did not do but he won’t have to know), the emissions would have continued to increase because other countries were taking over.
If the kid is old and knowledgeable enough, it is possible that he replies with the fact that the Chinese invested massively in renewable energies, increased their share of decarbonised nuclear, developed the train, introduced quotas of 10% of electric vehicles and especially that their emissions per capita were lower than ours, not to mention the carbon history (the total of emissions for which we are responsible).
Do not bother with these details and dodge the bullet like a politician! Answer that Indians were several billion and that we were only 70 million. Easy.
Excuse #3: As neighbours continued to drive their cars, I saw no reason to make any effort. Had they started first, we could’ve considered it.
To justify yourself, you will probably have to resort to psychological resources that you won’t be too proud of, but it takes what it takes to save your a**.
If your children ask for a little too much explanation, do not hesitate to appeal to their selfishness. No doubt, like all humans, they will be generously endowed.
“You see son, what would you say if I took your toy and the little girl continued to play next door? You would not be happy, now would you? Well, it’s the same for Daddy, he said there was no way they would take his car, especially not before we replaced those with ones which fly.”
You will probably be a bit ashamed to develop this type of bad spirit in your child, but at the same time, is it not better than if he doesn’t come to see you when you’re alone in a retirement home?
Excuse #4: I did not do anything because at that time, Daddy was working hard on a study of the utmost importance on the impact of data on sales in the cosmetics industry.
This argument is implacable. Even at age 6, your kid will be able to understand the importance of this topic for the world. No need to dwell. In fact, if he is not able to understand it, it is because he is too focused on himself, and he doesn’t understand the way business works!
Extra tip: Can also be used if you work in shopping mall development, auditing or accounting.
Excuse #5: You know, your mother / your father and I already did a lot. You grew up in organic diapers that cost an arm and a leg and you took short showers from an early age.
He may answer that this type of argument could be heard in the 1990s, but 30 years later, you knew perfectly well that these kinds of “small steps” would not solve the issue and that we had to go much further and faster in advocating and committing to transforming the system. Here’s what you can say: tell him that no, it was not so clear then (this is completely false but plead ignorance) and that you followed recommendations you were given to make maximum savings.
Rest assured, at the end of every dirty war, some collaborators get away with the honours by relieving themselves of their responsibility on intermediate bodies. Some even end up becoming high-ranking politicians!
Excuse #6: The elections were every X years. When I started to really become aware of the danger in 20XX, it was necessary to wait X more years to really weigh in on the presidential election.
This argument is clear, sound and democratically beyond suspicion. In a democracy, the elections are still the moment to weigh on the march of the country. When you realized something was wrong, you thought it was useless (and a gross attempt to change your country’s democratical course of action by authoritarian street politics) to move outside the electoral campaign.
After that came a real crisis. The subject became too central to care about trees. And then after, it was too late. In short, the timing was really not that great to act on climate change.
After all, he will not be able to blame you for respecting the institutions.
Excuse #7: I did not know what to do, where to start.
This argument may be a little more difficult to pass, as initiatives began to multiply:
- “Real life” groups with committees in all regions and abroad; there is something for those who like to write reports, use shared economy outlets rather of supermarkets, be active on social networks or give time or skills to organisations that were ahead of the curve. That one’s easy: tell him that NGOs were “green sects” (avoid finding yourself in the situation where you have to explain exactly what the term means).
- Political parties: there were of course better parties than others for the environment, but all of them were endowed an ecological commission and positioned themselves on the subject. Even the parties you hated profoundly posed interesting questions, like that one on the far right who questioned free trade. You might get stuck with this. Simply declare that political engagement was not your thing and you were disgusted with politics (it still works and if you are particularly cynical, say that you were just disgusted because the parties were not doing anything about the climate, that’s downright genius).
- Your professional circle: you were a manager and you suffered to get there. You had even more power to start changing things on your scale: to encourage people to prefer videoconferences to transatlantic flights, to refuse the 4 hours missions in Sydney, to work on the food waste during the events, to evaluate the carbon scale of your team and take actions. Lie on your true level of responsibility, better to be a loser than a coward, right?
- Your personal circle: It was still difficult to do less than already trying to raise awareness about the subject. This is the least that could be expected of you. And even that you did not do… It’s best to have a gentlemen’s agreement with your friends and loved ones, where everyone will agree on a general story to hold to their children and those of others. You will tell stories to your best friend’s son, and they will return the favour by repeating the same thing to yours. There is no reason for your friends not to follow you on this. You’re safe.
In any case, rest assured, it is likely that quite a few people will find themselves in the same predicament as yourself. We expect a sudden movement of climate denial on a global scale to the tune of “knew nothing about it.” As often, the bulk of the actions that will not have been collectively taken will be ignored.
With these 7 easy-to-use justifications, you can rest easy. “We got your ass covered” as the Americans say!
Cover picture courtesy of Climate Inaction.
Nathan is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Plan A. A specialist of cultural and social narratives, he holds two Masters from the Sorbonne and the IEDES and a BA (Hons) in Politics and International Relations. He has previously worked as a reporter in France and Brazil, as well as in development and management departments in educative institutions.