Climate change: Superman won’t save us

Our little planet, our only home, has just had its hottest year on record. Climate change is gathering momentum. So what? Nobody cares. You don’t care. I don’t care. None of us care. Not really. Not enough to adjust our modern fuel-gobbling society in any real, tangible way.

Sure, we buy a few eco-friendly light bulbs or we recycle a bit of plastic and think we’ve done our bit, but at the end of the day we still want new roads, cheaper flights, bigger TVs and fat steaks.

Climate change is like the impending heart attack that we don’t truly believe will ever hurt us. It’s just too hard to put the brakes on. Our way of life is too well entrenched and no one wants to be the first to unpick it.

Fixing climate change is bad for business. It seems unlikely that world leaders will agree on effective, co-ordinated action any time soon.

This is where we need Superman to swoop in and take charge, kind of like he did in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Yes, that’s a terrible film and I’m sorry to remind you about it. All you need to know is that it’s the one where Superman says to the world, “Enough is enough, I am taking all of your nuclear bombs and throwing them into the sun.

We need Superman to turn up and say, “Okay humans, enough is enough. It’s time to turn this climate catastrophe around.” Then maybe he will suck up the extraneous greenhouse gas with his super breath and spit it all into space.

But there is no Superman. We are on our own. And we have no clear plan to save ourselves other than a vague idea that, somehow, somewhere, carbon emissions need to be reduced.

I want to know what it would look like if the global community took proper action to curb climate change. If humanity actually got deadly serious about it, what would each country need to do and how would it affect our everyday lives?

It is no longer good enough to hope that we will each do our best as well-meaning individuals. We need much stronger leadership from the top. Nations should all be working together toward a specific goal. It’s like we need a reverse telethon for carbon emissions.

Let’s turn this into a science-fiction thought experiment. What would New Zealand look like if we were truly determined to make climate change our highest priority? Which industries might need to shut down? In what ways would our transportation systems need to adjust? How would it impact the distribution of goods and services? How would our eating habits change?

Uncomfortable questions, but I’m bored with hearing about how the world has to urgently reduce carbon emissions. It’s like the human race is a room of overweight people discussing our desperate need to stop drinking Coke, yet no one has the courage to stand up and say, “What would happen if we actually put down our sugary drinks and went for a walk?”

Here, then, is my plan to save the world.

First, we make a really tough, honest assessment about what needs to be done. Then we do it.

Everyone will hate it, but our grandchildren are toast if we keep putting our wallets ahead of the future of the planet. We need to give our leaders permission to make some tough calls.

Or, if we really don’t like the tough plan of action and we opt for climate change instead, then I suppose at least we will have been proactive about choosing our fate.

Make a plan and do it, even if it hurts. That’s my idea to save the world. If you have a better idea please share. Superman is not coming.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 23 January 2015. Reproduced with permission.