The major climate summit in Glasgow has ended today (November 2021). As expected, the result was very weak. The conditions for politicians to be able to implement the measures that would need to be taken do not exist because there is no genuine will on the part of us citizens to make the sacrifices that would be needed. We revert to the fact that it is someone else’s fault and someone else who is going to fix the problems. Below I have added three articles I have previously written on this topic and which try to explain why we do not do what almost everyone agrees should be done. The articles have previously been published in Swedish on this webbsite (2017, 2018, 2019).

Climate and fear

(13 Dec, 2017)

In today’s Aftonbladet (a Swedish news magazine) can we read that almost nine out of ten Swedes think climate change is serious problem and that 59 percent are concerned about how climate change will affect us in Sweden. The fact that we’re so worried is seen as a positive. We’re beginning to understand the threat and we’re taking it seriously. But what does this really mean? It is easy to say in a study that we are concerned about the consequences of climate change, and we may be are, but we are hardly so worried that we have actually changed our behaviour in a way that leads to an improvement in the climate. The concern must lead to change, which in this case means sacrifices things we value highly today, which means drastic changes in the way we live. We need to drastically reduce our car travel and no more holidays to Thailand, for example. We must also drastically reduce our consumption of goods and products. In order to influence the climate, we have to live in a completely different way. It is not enough to sort garbage or to buy an environmentally friendly car. Until the day we have found a completely non-environmental impact type of energy, we, especially those of the Western world, must change the way we live. However, this is basically not what anyone wants. For most people, environmental impact is something that lies in the future and will probably be solved by the scientists. We as individual individuals can then always find ways to ignore our own influence – “my small emissions do not matter”, “we have to get to the big environmental villains”, “the plane to Thailand would have left regardless of whether I had gone with or not” and “I do my part by sorting and driving an environmentally friendly car, using environmentally friendly detergent” and so on.

I think we as individuals will only consider changing our behaviour if something happens personally in the present. For example, we or our children get sick from emissions, as in China. Then maybe we can imagine changing our lives. But just maybe. If we have money, I think we will continue to excuse ourselves by saying that our part in it is so small that we may as well continue to live as before. I think it must go a long way before the 90 percent of the people of Sweden who are worried about climate change will actually change their lives in accordance with this said fear.

The climate threat and the individual

(22 Dec, 2018)

The major climate summit in Katowice, Poland, is now over (december 2018). With some success according to some, wasted time according to others. My question is whether this type of climate meeting with its watered-down agreements on something diffuse that should be achieved well into the future matters to the climate. Almost everyone agrees that action needs to be taken to reduce our climate impact and that if we do nothing, the consequences will be great and serious for virtually all people on earth in the future, that is to say for our children, grandchildren, etc. Nevertheless, the actual incentive to act in a way that really affects the problem is very small. I believe that depends on two things; it is about a distant future and that the impact cannot be directly linked to our personal actions. The environmental impact of each individual is negligible. This should be weighed against the fact that we all live here and now. It is now me and my children need food, it is now I want to enjoy life and maybe go to Thailand when I have the money to do this.

It is about us as individuals wanting to maximise our ‘benefit’ with the money we have and this trumps environmental considerations. If environmental considerations and economics go hand in hand or if sacrifice is small, it is not difficult to be environmentally conscious. Sorting garbage, pawning bottles, driving the car on a more environmentally friendly option when this is even cheaper than petrol is not so difficult, but as soon as it starts to cost something or affect our lives in some significant way, our environmental awareness tends to disappear. And we often get away with this in front of ourselves and others by putting our individual share of environmental impact in relation to a larger whole. My share is vanishingly small, it does not matter if I contribute to a negative environmental impact through my behaviour, this in itself affects the environment so marginally that it is not even noticeable and vice versa, if I make a great sacrifice, this will not be noticed either. We can then also rationalise our environmentally damaging behaviour on a more aggregated level through various reasoning, such as that Sweden’s share of the emissions is marginal in relation to, for example, China and the US, or that the costs of fixing our emissions become unreasonably expensive in relation to the benefits this results in or that the competitiveness of Swedish companies would be affected because other countries do not implement equivalent environmental measures which would eventually be unreasonably expensive in relation to the benefits this results in or that the competitiveness of Swedish companies would be affected because other countries do not implement equivalent environmental measures which would eventually be  negatively impact the Swedish economy and unemployment.

This way of looking at emissions and environmental impacts, that we and everyone else on earth puts our individual share of impact in relation to a much larger whole makes me pessimistic that it is possible to do something that drastically reduces the environmental impact. Any attempt to implement political changes that could have a radical effect but which have a dramatic and negative impact on the individual’s life will lead to that politicians representing this type of policy quickly are voted out in countries with democratic systems or cause riots and revolts. Such measures are therefore unlikely to be proposed.

The only way to save the world, temporarily, I think is if we can develop technology that allows us to continue our lives as today with consumption, travel and more but with drastically reduced environmental impact. Then I think we can postpone the disaster. It will probably come anyway, sooner or later, because we are consuming the earth’s resources at an ever-increasing rate. We will drive the world to the bottom end sooner or later, and from this humanity will then have to build a new world out of the ashes.

Environmental policy

(13 Oct, 2019)

In the debate on what measures should be taken to reduce the climate impact of man and who is responsible for taking these measures, we individuals often shift responsibility to politicians, states, authorities and companies.

We do this because we as individuals do not want to change the way we live. We do not want to take the measures that would drastically affect our lives in a negative way, according to most people. Instead, to deafen a nagging conscience, we take a number of pseudo-measures such as sorting rubbish, eating a little less meat, riding a little less with the car, buying an environmentally friendly car if we can afford it, perhaps flying a little less, etc. What is common to these measures is that they do not really cost us anything but can give us a good conscience so that we can continue to live our lives basically unchanged. Instead, these measures cement our way of life and therefore our emissions. Even if we reduce our flying, we still keep flying when we think we need it, we keep driving and complain about petrol prices, we continue to eat ourselves stuffed – often with meat and vegetables from other countries.

We citizens have no desire to change and therefore we vote for the parties that represent a moderately restrictive environmental policy and who have priority on issues that are seen more  important and is about our welfare today – the economy and the labour market. The party in Sweden that wants to change this order of priority – the Green Party –got few votes.

But we still blame politicians. They’re the ones who are going to solve the problem. This is a convenient setting. But the politicians in a democracy represent their citizens and cannot and should not have a policy that does not represent the will of the citizens. If they come up with something else, they will also be voted out at the next election or otherwise deposed.

It is about us individual citizens and changes in our lives it´s all about. It´s through being prepared to sacrifice something for us valuablely and by instructing our politicians to make extremely uncomfortable decisions for us that will affect the climate change in afundamental way.

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