Ross Clark Ross Clark

The irresponsibility of ‘two years to save the planet’

Credit: Getty images

Hurrah, we can all relax. We have been granted an extra two years to save the planet. So suggested Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a speech at Chatham House yesterday. Some people might say that calling a speech ‘two years to save the planet’ might be a bit melodramatic, he added. But not at all. It is nice to have the luxury of all that extra time, given that I thought we were supposed to have had it already. That, at any rate, was the logic behind warnings such as that by the WWF in 2007 that we then had five years to save the planet. By my maths that means we became doomed a dozen years ago, so I was resigned to sitting back and waiting calmly for the end, like the elderly couple who sat in deckchairs on the Titanic holding hands as the ship went down.

The UN, and all the other NGOs who regularly pump out this sort of hyperbole, might think they are helping to spur the world into action against climate change. But there is a hefty price to pay for this sort of scaremongering by the world’s great and good. Those of us who are old enough and wise enough to have heard it all before can shrug it off as a load of old nonsense, but it is a very different story with impressionable youth.

An international survey of 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25 by the University of Bath in 2021 showed just how damaging this kind of language is. It found that 45 per cent of people in this age group were so worried about climate change that it was affecting their day to day life, while 56 per cent said that they thought humanity was doomed and 40 per cent said they were hesitant to have children because they would be bringing them up in an uninhabitable world. No reasoned interpretation of the evidence would say that humanity is doomed by a changing climate, even if some climatic trends are inconvenient for human societies. But for some reason it has become acceptable for public officials and world leaders to spin narratives of doom.

It is easy to condemn young climate protesters for their incoherent ramblings. Yet they have been traumatised by UN officials and the like who have lost all objectivity on the subject of climate and have become engaged in a battle to outdo each other for the apocalyptic language. In constantly setting false deadlines, they are not only making themselves look ridiculous – they are causing serious harm to impressionable people.

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