‘When I’m older, I’m going to buy a houseboat with 10 floors where the whole family can live. And where we can have guests. We’ll keep our supplies in the cellar. On the roof we’ll have a vegetable garden, solar panels and a place to sit and relax. From there, we’ll be able to see the water rising and the world go to pot.’ It was my 12-year-old son who said this when we were walking the dog along the banks of the River Waal. It touched me. Where did he get that from?
He had seen the water levels in the Waal rise and fall in recent weeks and told me he’d heard on the news about the IPCC report of the UN Panel for Climate Change. Extreme weather conditions would become more common and the lives of millions of people were in danger. And while my son continued to fantasise about the design of his future houseboat, my thoughts wandered.
I’d read a summary of the report and reactions to it and could well imagine that the media coverage had affected my son. As it had affected me – even though it didn’t reveal anything new. In fact, it was more like a summary of everything we’d heard for years. But the fact that António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, called the report a ‘code red for humanity’, came as a bit of a shock.
Is the end of our (comfortable) life on this planet really in sight? Not necessarily. All scenarios assume that the earth’s temperature will continue to rise in the next 30 years. But the question is – by how much? It’s possible to keep the rise in temperature below 1.5 degrees if we end the fossil fuel industry, do all we can to reduce our emissions, and if we succeed in truly cooperating internationally.
So there’s still a glimmer of hope – provided we swing into action. And we can. My timeline on social media virtually exploded when reactions came in from people who give it their all every single day. People who know what needs to be done – reduce emissions by half by 2030 and net zero emissions in 2050. They can contribute to this through climate-neutral homes and houseboats, plant-based dairy and meat substitutes, forest protection programmes, regenerative agriculture, alternatives for plastic, and a revolution in the fashion industry. Thousands of start-ups, scholars and NGOs and millions of consumers embraced these solutions years ago, or are eager to start dedicating themselves to combatting climate change.
They don’t need a wake-up call, as Boris Johnson called the IPCC report. They heard the alarm bells ringing decades ago, when the Brundtland report Our Common Future was published in 1987. What they do need are bold politicians and courageous companies that give priority to the survival of man on this planet and tailor their policies accordingly. Climate change is no longer something that will take us unawares. We don’t have to watch the world go to pot from the roof of our floating home. It has become a conscious choice.
Asceline Groot is an entrepreneur at hetkanWEL (itCANbedone), author of ‘Het Nieuwe Groen’ (The New Green), Content Coordinator at The Crowd Versus and PhD candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen. In her columns, she writes about social enterprises and start-ups and about trends and developments in sustainability.