It is not necessary to be as creative as Flann O’Brien to imagine that great swathes of us will quickly turn away from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, which was published in Geneva yesterday. It, like every report on climate collapse, is not comforting. It again documents the turn-out-the-lights threat climate collapse holds for all of humanity — no matter how rich you are.
There is not, nor has there been, an issue so far beyond the influence of individuals determined to try to avert the catastrophe now recognised as ever more probable by science.
Despite that, there is not, nor has there been, an issue facing humanity that demands more urgent, deeper, transformative action. Yet, we prevaricate as if the iceberg will crumble before the great liner and we will eventually, and happily reach the sunny uplands of our choice.
Some of those who turn away will be, incomprehensibly, indifferent. Others, as yet unconvinced by the irrefutable evidence will thumb their nose and carry on unreformed, unreachable and destructive. Still more of us, maybe the majority, will be just overwhelmed and tacitly replace the optimism that defined humanity’s ascent with the fatalism that ensures its destruction.
The report, unsurprisingly, will not lift the mood of any of the beef farmers picketing meat plants. It warns accelerating climate shocks, land abuses and “unprecedented” over-exploitation of water resources threatens humanity’s capacity to feed an ever-growing population.
Prepared by 108 scientists from 52 countries, it reiterates the urgency of a shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets. This can only add to the air of gloom, if not fatalism, hanging over a struggling sector that has watched its share of the retail price of beef relentlessly pared back by processors and too-big-to-boss supermarkets.
The cruel, unemotional market combines with relentless climate predictions to make a very difficult situation even more difficult for farmers.
It is wrong to single out farming, we are all culpable. Too many of us regard unnecessarily powerful cars — or OTT 4x4s on the school run — as a badge of achievement rather than an expression of something unattractive, something that will come under pressure when we have fewer options left to tackle climate change.
We have, within a generation or two, also come to regard that most polluting practice — air travel — as a human right. If we confined ourselves to just one international journey a year that would have an immediate impact but no, we seem unable to make the link between our behaviour and the dystopian future predicted yesterday.
Maybe, as O’Brien wrote in The Third Policeman, “I am completely half afraid to think” ... of what the future might hold if we do not get to grips with the greatest known known that ever threatened our survival. It really is that serious.