Beware the Climate 'But' People...

Beware the Climate 'But' people...

The truth is under attack. Every 'fact' is only one quick Google search away from an opposing view. And thanks to the Donald Trump effect, nothing is sacred any more. The earth is a round globe? Think again. Here's a website - Flat Earth - Frequently Asked Questions - that proves the earth is flat. Seriously.

Vaccinations? Nope, bad. Elvis dead? Chip shop. And so on.

It's all part of something psychologists call 'motivated reasoning', or only believing what we want to believe. It may just seem like harmless fun, until you realise it can cause genuine harm. Children have died because they haven't been vaccinated against the most easily preventable diseases. And with something as important as climate change, the potential is even worse.

We are now moving into the most critical phase of our attempt to tackle climate change. The scientists have told us we only have around a decade to prevent the worst, and so everything we do has crucial importance. Which is why the rise of the 'but' conversation holds so much peril for our future. It goes something like this.


'If we can plant enough trees we have a chance of slowing global warming.'
'Yes, but...'

What follows then is a list of reasons why said idea may not be the best option, or there are better choices, or some scientist in Cardiff says trees are evil...or whatever.

This 'but' refrain pops up time and again in climate conversations. Student strikes are great, but... Slashing our individual emissions is useful, but... Renewable energy is a solid start, but... EVs cut emissions, but...

In each case the 'but' typically leads to a valid and usually well intentioned explanation of why there are other things that could and should be considered first. And in many cases they make complete sense.



The reality is, we're WAY past the time where we can safely rely on any single solution to the crisis we face. Things are now moving so fast we'll never tackle everything with a one size fits all program. We need to do everything, literally everything we can to fight back before it's too late. Planting trees, drastically cutting our personal emissions (and by definition our individual consumption rates), ditching our fossil fueled weekend travel lifestyle. Protesting and lobbying as loudly as we can. These are all desperately needed right now, not tomorrow. And certainly not after we've spent another year evaluating all the pros and cons.

There are no cons on a dying planet.

Well actually that last one may not exactly be true. A huge con in this writer's mind is the idea of seeding the atmosphere with sulphuric acid as some wild eyed geo-engineering scientists have proposed, in order to dim the sun like an erupting volcano. I don't know about you, but the idea of an uncontrolled reduction of our single source of light, heat and photosynthesis, with no way to test it out first, seems like it could be a Very. Bad. Idea. Indeed. But we digress.

So here's a suggestion. Why not, instead of using the word 'but', swap it out for 'great...'. That way we can encourage all the positive and productive options we have to tackle the problem.

You can see the difference right?

Let's use more bio-char to restore our soil health. Great, how can we get this done quickly and cheaply?

You can see the difference right?

To those who say 'but... it will dilute our resources', I say, no it won't. If we can spend $13 billion on a single aircraft carrier, then we don't have a resource problem, we have a commitment problem. Somehow, in some way, we have to collectively wake up and realise that time is really truly running out, and we need to step up and start getting stuff done. Planting, reducing, adapting, protesting or whatever floats your boat. Now!

No ifs, no buts.

Nigel Powell

Climate Action