Critics of government spending argue that when one generation pays for current expenditure on health, welfare and education by borrowing, we are shifting the cost to the next generation. Our children and grandchildren will have to pay off the national credit card.
Leaving aside the politics of this debate about debt, taxation and prosperity, and who bears the costs for maintaining the living standards of today’s electors, we pay little attention to the greenhouse gas emissions “debt” that we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. As I have argued here before, we have procrastinated, hoping that others will reduce their emissions while continuing with business as usual. Hope is cheap and enables us to continue, more or less, with business as usual. As Dyke, Watson and Knorr warn, this helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.
Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, reports that the rate at which fossil-fuel emissions grow each year has slowed from 3% on average in the 2000s to 0.5% in the past decade, largely due to increasing fuel efficiency. Our generation of business leaders, scientists, engineers and lawmakers have made some progress. However, atmospheric CO2 reached 417.51 ppm in November, up form 415.01 ppm on November 2021. As Catherine Brahic points out the expected increase in carbon dioxide emitted worldwide by burning fossil fuels in 2022 is 1%. “Most of the increase came from the continued rebound in post-covid air travel.”
- 95% are concerned about climate change
- 5% of UK children say climate change will affect their rights
- 89% feel not enough is being done
- 81% feel young people are not being listened to
A UK YouGov poll reported in September that
- 73% of young UK respondents feel politicians are not doing enough to address the issues of climate change and related food shortages.
- Almost 90% of the UK public, including 85% who identified as Conservative party voters, are concerned about the impact of climate change on global hunger.
- 71% of young (18-24 year old) UK respondents believe countries around the world, including the UK, should help prevent a famine in East Africa through means like funding and political action.
The UK Office for National Statistics reported in Novermber on people’s concern about the impacts of climate change.
The Bathtub Model “The Earth’s atmosphere is like a bathtub. There is a faucet (manmade and natural processes) putting water (greenhouse gases) into the bathtub (the atmosphere). There is also a drain (natural processes) removing the water. Currently, mankind’s activities are putting more water in the bathtub than the drain can handle, thus filling the bathtub.”
We are leaving for our children a much more hostile natural environment, they can cancel or restructure the national debt. Once in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are much more difficult to reduce.
The greenhouse gas emissions we continue to pump into our, and their atmosphere is a much bigger problem for our children and grandchildren.
This is not just an issue for lawmakers and politicians – it is an issue too for the travel and tourism industry.