The Big Challenge: Thinking of the bigger picture

President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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I’m writing this in the days after a climate denier was inaugurated as President of the country seen as the most powerful on Earth.

When an oil baron becomes Secretary of State, and someone who’s spent their life suing it becomes head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the world is pretty messed up.

There are concerns that plans for fracking can be pushed through by an existing power.

There are concerns that plans for fracking can be pushed through by an existing power.

Meanwhile the waters of Venice freeze, in the latest example of the crazy weather our disruption of the atmosphere is causing. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century - yes, the century that, so far, has had 16 years.

It’s interesting that despite what’s happening in the US, India and China are still staying firmly on track with the Paris Agreement. And cities and states around the US are acting as the real civic leaders there on climate, while most global businesses are clear that the future will be low carbon, and they want to be part of it. Jim Hansen, former NASA climate scientist, reminds us that the US EPA cannot solve climate change: it is a political issue. He thinks that a carbon tax on fossil fuel extraction, paid back as a dividend to ordinary people, could unlock the politics and shift the economy.

Here at Sheffield Climate Alliance (SCA), we’re keeping the bigger picture in mind. Climate change is a symptom of our deeply unfair and consumption-obsessed world, and tackling it is an important part of building a safe and fair global future. The consensus on this reaches far and wide, and deep into Sheffield. We are part of the Climate Coalition, which includes not just environmental groups like Greenpeace and RSPB, but faith groups, trade unions, the WI, the National Trust, and aid agencies such as Oxfam, Tear Fund and Islamic Relief. Around Valentine’s Day we will be joining these organisations to ‘Show the Love’ – celebrating all that we love that is threatened by climate change.

SCA are also excited to be linking up with a conference on Climate Refugees, taking place in London on February 11. We are inviting organisations working with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Sheffield to join us at this conference to think about the 300 million environmental refugees whom the UN says may be affected in the coming decades.

The danger is no longer from climate deniers, but ‘climate ignorers

Here in Sheffield and the UK, the danger is no longer from climate-deniers, but ‘climate-ignorers’ – among our leaders, but also it can be any of us. Many pressing issues confront us – austerity, low pay, privatisation, trade deals, war, racism, homophobia and misogyny, for example – but we don’t always make the link with how to make our climate safe for the younger generation (e.g. current students and our friends’ children). The threat is of an unstable climate is as close as that - so we need to grasp the opportunities now to build a world driven by human needs not greed, based on the ‘win-win-win’ of good work using clean energy creating healthy environments and fair societies, globally.

We will be collaborating throughout 2017 with many different organisations who are part of this puzzle – from CAFOD who are holding an important conference about Laudato Si’ (the Pope’s message on environment and justice), to Friends of Edward Carpenter who have invited us to create an anti-fracking anthem as part of LGBT+ History Month. From Anarchist Bookfair who are hosting an evening of theatre and music with us, to Go Fossil Free who are linking this event into Global Divestment Day.

We will keep lobbying Sheffield City Council, and the City Region and Local Enterprise Partnership, and local MPs, to make their priorities compatible with global warming of not more than 1.5°C.

We think this means investing in warm homes, renewable energy, clean transport and an economy that can deliver the things we need, from steel to social care, using less and less carbon, and more and more thought and care. When the ideas on the table don’t match up to this – such as fracking, or building a road tunnel under the Peaks – we will not be afraid to say so. We wish you all a happy 2017 - and invite you to join us.

Snake Pass in the High Peak (for archive). Picture Scott Merrylees

Snake Pass in the High Peak (for archive). Picture Scott Merrylees

n Visit Sheffield Climate Alliance for details.