Feeling bad about your contribution to climate change? Don’t.

You’d be forgiven for feeling guilty about your contribution to climate change, but blaming yourself is a recipe for disaster.

11 October 2018

© Dean Miller / Greenpeace

You’ve probably heard a lot about what you can do to reduce your personal carbon footprint in the past few days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be doing your part! We all have to. But did you know that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions globally? And they’re still not really changing a thing.

So don’t feel bad. Feel angry!

The latest report from the United Nations’ top climate scientists (the IPCC) has confirmed our worst fears – the world is nowhere near being on track to prevent catastrophic climate change and time is quickly running out.

Green Electricity Guide 2018 GIF banner

If every country and company doesn’t pull its weight fast, this will make coral reefs a thing of the past, unleash a torrent of extreme weather, threaten food supplies, and displace millions of people from their homes.

So why aren’t the companies who are most responsible for causing this problem changing their ways? Why aren’t governments forcing them to? Why aren’t people forcing their governments to force companies to change? (You might be able to tell I’m starting to express a bit of anger here – I’ve had to go through and delete all of the swear words, but know that they were there!) Ah!

Well, a lot of people are standing up to these companies, and change is happening slowly, but winning slowly on climate change is the same as losing. We need to act collectively.

So, what do we need to do to avert disaster? According to the report:

  • By 2030, we need to reduce global carbon emissions by 45%; and
  • By 2050, we need to reduce global carbon emissions to zero.

It is possible to do this. We just have to stop burning fossil fuels, especially coal. The only thing standing in the way is a few vested interests. And the longer we allow our politicians to delay, the harder and more unfair this transition will be on us fragile humans.

Of course, big polluting companies love it when the responsibility is thrust onto individuals like you and me. It takes the heat off of them and puts it onto us. That’s why they get behind green-washing initiatives focussed on individual action, like picking up litter. It means they can continue on, business as usual, hurtling towards the bitter end – unless we stand firmly in their way.

In fact, research suggests that telling people to take individual action, such as turning the lights off when you leave a room, won’t help at all. Because when someone has taken a step (any step), they feel like they’ve done their part. And they might not take that more impactful step that could help to change the systems that propagate this wicked problem in the first place. We only have so much time and energy. We have to use it carefully.

The science tells us that for there to be a future, there can be no future in fossil fuels. And that transition needs to happen very fast. So, what will these top 100 biggest polluting companies do to maintain their bottom lines when their product can no longer be sold? Turn their oil rigs into theme parks? Sell shell jewellery? I think they’ve had long enough to think about this, don’t you?

It’s time for us to demand actual concrete plans from these companies, and from our governments, to reach zero emissions.

The Marshall Islands presented their transition plan to the world recently and Fiji is set to do the same. If the countries that are the least responsible for climate change can do it, so can wealthy countries like Australia.

So don’t feel guilty about climate change. It’s not your fault. But it is our responsibility to demand better from our governments. They are only in power because we vote for them, after all.

Let’s give ‘em hell.

Add your name to the thousands of people demanding a concrete plan from Scott Morrison now: