BORIS JOHNSON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, looking ahead to the United Nations Climate Change summit in Glasgow on 1-12 November, said that “it is time for humanity to grow up” and show that it is capable of learning, maturing and taking responsibility for the destruction it is inflicting on the planet and itself. The world is not an indestructible toy or bouncy, plaster romper room in which people can hurl themselves to their heart’s content. If the global average temperature rises by 2.7°C by the end of the century, then the world will see rising sea levels, desertification, drought, crop failures and unprecedented mass migration. “Our grandchildren will know that we are the culprits… and they will ask what kind of people we were to be so selfish and so short-sighted,” he said.
It is not too late to restrain the rise in the global average temperature to 1.5°C if the world achieves carbon neutrality by the middle of the century, he said. But to do so, countries must commit in Glasgow to very substantial reductions in carbon emissions by 2030 and that can be done through commitments in four areas — “coal, cars, cash and trees”. Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that the way to fix the problem is through science, innovation and breakthroughs made possible by capitalism and free markets.
He detailed the United Kingdom’s progress in reducing its carbon emissions, noting that he is thinking of changing his name to “Boreas Johnson”, in honour of the god of the north winds which drive its offshore wind turbines. He thanked the President of China for ending its international financing of coal and hoped that China will also phase out the domestic use of coal. The loss of trees and biodiversity must also be reversed, he said, noting that the United Kingdom — having been the first to send “great puffs of acrid smoke into the heavens” as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution — is currently planting millions of trees to beautify its landscape and stop erosion.
Despite financial pressures caused by the pandemic, the United Kingdom is keeping its promise to provide £11.6 billion to help the rest of the world tackle climate change, he continued. Contributions by other States will bring the $100 billion pledged to developing countries within touching distance. Trillions of dollars in private sector investments will also enable developing nations to undertake change, creating millions of well-paid, skilled jobs and reducing consumer costs, while also helping to save the planet. He concluded by saying that Kermit the Frog was wrong when he sang “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” (“He was also unnecessarily rude to Miss Piggy.”) and that Sophocles is often quoted as saying that nothing in the world is more terrifying than mankind. What Sophocles actually said is that man is deinos, or awesome, with the power to change things and save humanity. “In the next 40 days, we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be,” he said.