Although it may not have been obvious with the attention of some media being on other things and the Western, nominally Christian world currently obsessed with the excessive consumption that passes for the preparation for a religious festival, the most important event over the past few days has been the meeting of world leaders in Paris to discuss setting climate change targets.
This weekend, 196 nations agreed on a new global climate change agreement, to come into effect in 2020. The target is to keep global temperature rises to less than two degrees Centigrade and to try to keep the increase to below 1.5 degrees. However, as in any deal of this nature, the targets are only as good as the detailed route to acheiving them and as good as the ability of nations to actually make the cuts.
The RSPB generally welcome the outcome of the talks, but are skeptical about whether targets will be met and in another article, they outline the specific threats climate change poses to Europe's nature. The Huffington Post celebrates that forests will be given full protection as part of the targets. Friends of the Earth are cynical about the outcomes of the international talks but hopeful about the future of the climate change activist movement. More responses can be read here: One World news collates responses from a number of environmental organisations,
Of course a target means nothing by itself: Governments, companies and individuals need to work towards making the targets a reality.
"The Scottish Parliament elections offer political parties the
chance to show how they will invest in new a low carbon Scotland. We
need warm, energy efficient homes. We need a meaningful shift away from
investment in private cars, and towards investment in public transport
and active travel like walking and cycling. And we need the Scottish
Parliament to use its new tax powers to help cut climate emissions,
especially when it comes to Air Passenger Duty. says Stop Climate Chaos in their article.
It's not only national governments that need to act either. Local governments at regional, county and city level need to act too. For example, it may be time to accept that garish tasteless Christmas light displays are no longer appropriate, either at the corporate level or at the household level.
Individuals need to act too. Don't fly; ditch the car, put on a jumper rather than turn the heating on; repair rather than buy new; recycle; buy local products in minimal packaging; buy less in general.
One of the issues on the individual level of course is that often, however noble your intentions, society doesn't allow you to go green.
It's easy to ditch the car if you live in central Edinburgh, with its walkable city centre and mostly excellent public transport infrastructure, far more difficult if you live in a rural area or in a city that has forgotten what the word pedestrian means.
It's tough to repair certain products as these days most things aren't built to last and once many products are more than a few years old, you can't get spare parts for them.
It's not always easy to know how to recycle things (but if you're in Scotland, Changeworks has a brilliant online guide to recycling just about anything.
It is (though this will widely be seenas unpopular) time to make sacrifices (fewer foreign holidays perhaps) and time to turn our backs on hypocrisy (if you recycle all your newspapers that doesn't mean that it's okay to fly to a foreign city for a shopping weekend; if you belong to a Transition group (where people commit to working towards low carbon futures), that doesn't mean it's okay to make a long haul flight every year (unless it's to visit family)).
I really think we live at a point in history where if we don't act now, then it will be too late and we'll be sentencing future generations to a world of increasingly extreme weather, where island nations have disappeared under the sea and where conflict and war have bcome more common as nations fight over resources.
Edited to add: here's an excellent paper from Local Futures about how localisation and system change could combat climate change.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.