Climate change: King Canute-like response to global 1.5C temperature rise won't save us from growing storms of climate change – Ian Johnston

Climate change is not a plot by a left-wing, anti-growth coalition, as some politicians would have you believe, it’s well-established science

The last time the Earth’s average temperature was close to the historic average was in the late 1970s. Since then, the line on the graph has zig-zagged steadily upwards until, less than 50 years later, it has just gone above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This may not sound like much but 'natural thermometers’ reveal that changes in the Earth’s temperature without human influence have previously occurred at a rate of about one degree every 1,000 years. What is happening now is a shock to life on Earth that some species will not survive.

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For this to have happened, in such a short space of time, should worry anyone with an ounce of sense. We are gambling with the environment that has allowed humanity to thrive for thousands of years.

King Canute was famously unable to hold back the rising tide (Picture: The Print Collector/Getty Images)King Canute was famously unable to hold back the rising tide (Picture: The Print Collector/Getty Images)
King Canute was famously unable to hold back the rising tide (Picture: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, it appears many politicians around the world – from Donald Trump to Rishi Sunak – are intent on turning climate change into a culture-war issue in order to win elections. The idea they are pushing is that they are hard-nosed and pragmatic people, while those warning about the dangers are far-left fools who want to end economic growth.

Equally unfortunately, there really are people who think like that. And because they often shout the loudest about climate change, it is relatively simple to suggest it is they, and they alone, who are sounding the warnings. It’s all-too easy for politicians to dismiss the need to take serious action and exploit the situation for political purposes.

Get ready for dangerous climate change

For those who think this juvenile psychodrama is the be-all and end-all of the debate, it’s important to stress that the warnings are actually emanating from the world’s scientific community – Nasa, the UK Met Office and, I feel confident enough to state, every major scientific organisation in every democracy on the planet. And what they say is being taken seriously by hard-nosed and pragmatic people in the insurance industry and the military, for example. Why? Because it is true.

So while Sunak tries to make capital from ‘maxing out’ North Sea oil and gas and attacking Labour’s green energy plans, the smart money is getting ready for the consequences of dangerous climate change of more than 2C above historic levels – at least.

Climate research first provided the world with an idea about what was going to happen if we continued to pump carbon into the atmosphere in the 1890s. Since the world's average temperature began its unmistakable and sharp rise in the 1980s, modern-day predictions have been borne out by the passage of time.

However, some on the right appear to be developing a form of ‘cultural resistance’ to global warming, to the point where it does not matter what is said, or how much evidence there is, they are going to ignore it, often with a defiant bravado. Conservative MP Lee Anderson recently claimed that only the “odd weirdo in the corner” was concerned about getting to net-zero emissions.

Humans can delude themselves all they want, but the storms, wildfires, droughts and floods of climate change are growing. Just ask the insurance industry. They know because they are paying for the damage. As King Canute discovered, the rising seas are not concerned with human opinions and they go where they will.



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