The Intergovermental Panel for Climate Change report published on Monday made for sobering reading: a scientific consensus warning that we have just 12 years to prevent a global rise in temperatures of 2oC that could result catastrophic heat waves, flooding, starvation and poverty for millions as well as the destruction of wildlife and habitats including all coral reefs. To stop this requires (globally) trillions of dollars, immediate and urgent policy changes and unprecedented political will. With the US administration pulling out of the Paris climate accord, fracking underway in UK and Germany, and indications that Brazil is about to elect a presidential candidate that promises to open up the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness – the signs aren’t good.
Personal responses to climate change
Down on the ground it is hard not be personally overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem – one of a number of factors that psychologists describe as a barrier to action. As the American Psychological Association described many people are “ unaware of the problem [of climate change], unsure of the facts or what to do, do not trust experts or believe their conclusions, think the problem is elsewhere, are fixed in their ways, believe that others should act, or believe that their actions will make no difference or are unimportant compared to those of others.”
Campaigners have long known that a sense of powerlessness is the nemisis of action and so this week, in response the IPCC report, organisations such as Friends of the Earth have been careful to describe five positive steps that individuals can take to help mitigate climate change. These include 1. switching your energy provider, 2. eating less/no meat 3. ditching the car 4.flying less 5.getting political/talking about climate change.
Important of food and farming to preventing global rise in temperatures
In terms of food, the way we eat, shop and farm globally and nationally has an enormous impact on the climate whether that is the carbon emissions generated by food flown thousands of miles around the world, food grown in hothouses or the new analysis that shows that globally, meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories whilst using 83% of farmland and producing 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to switch to more plant based diets as well as committing to local, seasonal eating. Most importantly of all we need to support and protect those UK farmers using environmentally friendly growing practices (and find more people to farm fruit and veg).
Igniting political will to change food and farming policy in the UK
The IPCC report also comes at a time where the UK finds itself at a political juncture: Brexit has forced a reconsideration of how the UK government will fund farming. It’s critical that the UK government commits to an agricultural bill that promotes mostly plant based diets and supports and sustains more UK farmers to grow climate friendly food (for more on the agricultural bill check out the excellent work being done by Sustain)
This Sunday 14th October, thousands are set to convene in parliament square, London, for the ‘Good Food March’ – calling for an Agricultural Bill that guarantees good food and farming for the UK and for the global environment. So if you are one of the many feeling overwhelmed by climate change and unsure where to start: try joining the march. You will not be alone.