Northern England flooded. More than 150,000 displaced by flooding in South America. New York recording temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius on Christmas Eve. Countries like Malawi running out of food due to previous drought. Record heat in Australia. What a December we had. Records seem to be falling all the time.
But this is not unpredictable or a surprise. This is what it looks like to live in a world which we have warmed by about 1 degree Celsius. We need to recognise that we now live in the era of climate disruption. The stable climate in which human civilisation developed is over. Today’s children are the children of the era of climate disruption. Their normal will not be what we experienced as children.
We need to be honest about this. We cannot change the past but how we respond to this realisation is up to us. We can change the future. The climate disruption we are experiencing demands that we change how we live. We need to prepare and protect ourselves from the threats our disrupted climate poses but we also urgently need to stop making things worse. This will need social change on an almost unimaginable scale but this is our opportunity to make our lives so much better. It’s not like there aren’t many other problems with how we live now. The scale of change is such that if we do it right we can make everyone’s lives healthier and happier. We can make the places we live in nicer places to live in. We can improve how we get around. We can make the air we breathe clean. We can make our societies fairer. We can make it easier to connect and care about each other. We can make sure everyone has good food to eat. A zero carbon world could be an awesome place to live in if we do this right.
But to do this we have to get on with things. We need to accept that we will be leading lives of change. We need to learn how to change and help those around us do the same. We need to recognise where our institutions are acting as barriers to this change and change them so they don’t slow things down.
Without realising it I grew up in a time of climate change. My children are growing up in a time of climate disruption. It’s up to us to ensure our grandchildren don’t have to live in a time of climate chaos.
I would value your thoughts on whether this framing of climate change as a term for the past, climate disruption as a term for the present, and climate chaos as a term for an undesired future is useful.