Let’s talk about…Attitudes towards climate change

Apathy over the climate crisis will only allow things to worsen

As the phrase goes, last week ‘bhí an ghrian ag scoilteadh na gcloch’. Temperatures the country over were a far cry from what we would expect of Irish weather (we’ve promptly returned to our normal schedule of rain and overcast now, don’t worry), with Phoenix Park even reaching a record-breaking 33°C on the Monday, the highest recorded temperature in Ireland in the past 135 years.

Naturally enough, we all made the most of the sun-splitting sunshine – flocking to the beach, having a barbeque, etc. And apart from a little post-beach-day litter (for example, the removal of more than 10 tonnes of rubbish from a single Dublin beach), Ireland’s week of sun went off without a hitch.

Unfortunately however, in the case of some of our neighbouring countries, the environmental impact of the recent heatwave far exceeded beach litter. Last week saw a slew of wildfires and house fires hit Europe as a result of the heat, causing extensive environmental and industrial damage. Frontline firefighters in the UK spoke about not being prepared to deal with the fires, with the London Fire Department logging its busiest day since WWII. Evidently, the UK, like many other countries, are simply not equipped with the infrastructure to withstand these more extreme weather events – because until recently, extreme weather events weren’t happening this frequently.

Of course, the disastrous consequences of the recent heatwave haven’t come completely out of left field. We are all well versed enough in knowledge from the climate crisis to know the effects extremely high temperatures can have, just as we know why we’re getting hotter, hotter summers each year. But who wants to hear from the spoilsport who cries ‘climate change’ the instant there’s a bit of sun to enjoy?

Before the heatwave reached its peak in the UK, meteorologist John Hammond appeared on GB News on July 14th, warning that temperatures were trending dangerously high, dubbing the forthcoming heatwave as “potentially lethal weather”. He said he expected it would result in “hundreds, if not thousands, of excess deaths”. However, his stark warning was not met incredibly seriously by one of the programme’s presenters, who responded, “I want us to be happy about the weather. I don’t know whether something’s happened to meteorologists to make you all a little fatalistic and harbingers of doom”.

Given the fall-out that occurred as a result of the extreme heat Hammond forecast in his appearance on the show, the dismissal of his warning feels to be in incredibly poor taste. But in reality, the response he got was not entirely unlike the response that the environmentalism movement has received for years.

We all understand the reality that is climate change, and consequentially, the necessity for action – but we are quite bored of having the conversation about it. ‘Taking care of the planet’ has been a talking point for decades at this point, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing is changing. We haven’t seen the progress that we’ve been told we need to make in order to keep the crisis at bay, and it’s made us apathetic to the entire crisis itself.

Obviously it’s been an unprecedentedly draining couple of years for everyone. People tend to feel more apathetic about the news in general nowadays, and it’s no wonder given the endless stream of depressing news stories that are constantly at our fingertips, especially so in the past few years. To add, it is disillusioning as an average person to think about the climate crisis when you know that the biggest contributors to it are outside of your control. But either way, the problem isn’t going away.

Understandably, climate action got put on the long finger when the pandemic rolled around and nabbed the title of ‘Biggest Global Emergency’. However, as we’ve begun to move away from the pandemic, we’ve yet to see the climate crisis approached with the urgency it requires. It may have been undeniable that urgent action was needed when we first learned how Covid could impact health, but we really cannot afford to keep waiting for disastrous environmental events to happen before we begin tackling the climate crisis with that same urgency.

We have seen how other countries are not equipped to deal with the weather events that are currently happening, and we know that these weather events are only going to get more extreme in the near future. Neglecting our responsibility to tackle the roots of the climate crisis will prove nothing short of disastrous – regardless of how much we want “to be happy about the weather”.