The ‘blah, blah, blah’ blame game

Campaigner Greta Thunberg speaking in New York. PHOTO: REUTERS
Campaigner Greta Thunberg speaking in New York. PHOTO: REUTERS
Greta Thunberg has a way of getting to the heart of the matter without too much mucking about.

The 18-year-old Swedish climate-change activist has been a magnet for many hundreds of young people protesting in Glasgow and around the world during the past two weeks.

They have been striving to make their voices heard amidst the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the global United Nations summit at which politicians, environmentalists, non-governmental organisations and businesses have been discussing the urgency of climate-change mitigation to minimise all sorts of impending doom for us and the planet.

Drag your thinking away, if you can, from the not inconsiderable problems of a global pandemic and back to the number one issue facing humanity and our world. It is not an easy thing to do, but we mustn’t for a moment lose sight of the fact a warming Earth is going to have much bigger repercussions on all of us and the generations to come than the coronavirus.

‘‘Blah, blah, blah’’ may well not be the most erudite quote of the modern era. But as irritating as Ms Thunberg may be to some older decision-makers, it manages to sum up their lack of progress, and apparent half-heartedness, towards making a real difference in stemming rising average temperatures.

What Ms Thunberg actually said at the Youth4Climate summit in Italy ahead of COP26 was: ‘‘Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.’’

Harsh words, but actually pretty apposite ones. It certainly feels like there has been an awful lot of hot air being emitted at these meetings in past decades.

There was a great deal of excited celebration after COP21 in Paris in December 2015 resulted in a legally binding international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the global temperature increase to well below 2degC, preferably 1.5degC or lower, above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

However, despite the hoopla, the world is still warming rapidly and, depending on which statistics you find, is already on track to reach the 1.5degC threshold.

Ms Thunberg’s approach can appear negative, in that she is constantly haranguing those who are attempting to make a difference in a monstrously complex natural system.

But if her activism spurs on others to reduce emissions and change behaviours, who in turn then pass on that message further, she is certainly doing her bit to change the world.

When world leaders turn up for crucial climate-change talks in private jets and helicopters, and United States President Joe Biden heads for the venue in a ludicrously long motorcade of more than 20 vehicles (it’s highly unlikely any of them were electric), the gravy train seems well entrenched.

It’s easy to understand why there is so much scepticism from many about whether such gargantuan climate-change conferences are in fact the best way to tackle the exploding problems of our time.