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20 July 2022

40°C and wildfires in London. What happens next?

Humanity is at a dangerous juncture. Are we capable of real change?

By Philippa Nuttall and Phil Clarke Hill

“We have got almost everything wrong,” said the journalist, writer and environmentalist George Monbiot when I interviewed him recently. It is difficult to argue with such logic as temperatures in mainland Europe reached 46°C this week, parts of the UK sweltered at 40°C for the first time ever and wildfires broke out across the country, including in London. 

Climate scientists have been warning for years that such apocalyptic scenes would happen if greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise. Despite plenty of political pledges, carbon dioxide and methane emissions surge and action lags behind promises. In countries including the UK and the US, fossil fuel lobbyists and right-wing politicians push for slow solutions that preserve the status quo instead of the radical change that is needed if humanity is to have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. 

“The most dangerous moment is now,” warned the former Greenpeace CEO John Sauven in an interview with India Bourke in May. “We’re approaching the most dangerous point in human history,” the American professor Noam Chomsky told George Eaton

Climate change is not the only concern. Over exploitation of nature and land to produce food and fuel, and the risk of nuclear war are also cited by these éminences grises; they threaten, in Chomsky’s words, the future of “organised human life”.

What happens next is up to all of us. The political, economic and technological solutions are largely known and ready for deployment. Whether we choose to take this summer’s heatwaves as the trigger to act or we continue on path of what António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, calls “collective suicide” remains to be seen.

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[See also: Calm down about the heatwave? The right-wing press takes us for fools]

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