are causing climate change with our greenhouse gases. As a very
rough estimate, climate change will probably kill a billion future
people over the next century or two (more).
Those future people will die of hunger or disease, or in conflicts over
diminishing resources, or in conflicts involving enormous numbers of
climate refugees, or in extreme weather events.
Many of the people who will die in this way are already with us today.
They are children in developing countries. Children in industrial
countries are unlikely to die as a result of climate change, but their
quality of life will be severely affected. They will be preoccupied for
most of their lives with the omnipresent consequences of climate change.
That raises the question of whether we love our children. That may seem
like an outrageous thing to ask, but it follows logically from the
previous paragraphs. How can we claim to love our children and
simultaneously participate in the gradual destruction of their future?
Parents who love their children want them to be happy and healthy, both
now and in the future. It has always been so. Parents want their kids
to grow up and have successful careers and relationships, to do great
things, to have families of their own.
What does it mean to love
According to a slightly kitschy song, "Love is many-splendored thing".
Love is really about many
things. It is not only
about positive feelings toward others, and it is not only about doing
good things for others. It is not only about respect for the other
person, knowledge about the other person, genuine interest in the
concerns of the other person, taking responsibility for the other
person. It is not only about caring for another person as much as one
cares about oneself.
Love is also about telling the truth, even if it hurts. Beyond that,
love is about acting in accordance with the truth - as far as it is
possible to establish the truth.
relationship is one in which the truth is not
respected. Things happen repeatedly
that are definitely not ok, and they continue to happen because the
participants in the relationship fail to talk openly and honestly about
them. They are in denial. The solution is for the participants to look
for the truth, often
in a therapeutic session, and to find ways of saying the truth that
allow the problem to be solved. This is often a long, slow process, but
the rewards are great. In short, it is the best way to get the love
back into the relationship.
Many songs are about how love never stops. We love each other day and
night, in the springtime, summer, fall and winter (more).
But most of all,
love songs are about loving someone forever. Never mind that romantic
love seldom lasts forever - we really love to claim that it will do so.
Love for children is different. In most cases, it really does last
forever. Parents love their children as long as they (the parents) are
Children often turn their back on their parents for a while but then
come back. But that is a normal part of development, and it is also
normal for parents to wait. Love between parents and children does not
have a use-by
That being so, it is really very remarkable that most parents are
ignoring climate change. Well - "remarkable" is a bit of an
understatement. It is truly shocking.
At this point many parents will explain why they are ignoring climate
change. They are not sure if it is happening, and if it is happening
they are not sure what is causing it. There are so many conflicting
opinions in the media.
These are good questions, but they are also lame excuses, because good
answers to these questions are easy to find. And it is worth spending a
few minutes (!) looking for answers to these questions in the internet,
because this may be the
most important question we could possibly ask about
anything. Even if we are not sure what is happening, one
clear: the future of our children is at risk. Their whole world is at
risk. We have to find out what it going on, and urgently. Moreover,
this is about truth, truth is about love. If we love our
children, we have to find out the truth, and act accordingly. This
principle applies to just about any aspect of a loving relationship. If
we ignore it, we are dysfunctional.
Climate science for
The best authority on climate change is the global community of climate
scientists. For those who are unsure if that is true, perhaps because
of all the nonsense that climate deniers are spreading about this
topic, let me explain
the broader context.
Today, most academic disciplines are represented
by global communities of researchers or scholars. As a rule, those
researchers or scholars have similar expertise, are asking similar
questions, and are constantly checking the quality of each others' work
in peer-review procedures. For that reason, each academic discipline is
the most reliable source of information about the topic of their
research. In this regard, climate science is no different from any
other academic discipline.
For practical reasons, it is generally not realistically possible to
challenge the mainstream knowledge as established by an established
academic discipline. Occasionally, someone from outside a discipline
has a brilliant idea that is later shown to be true by people within
the discipline. But in a discipline as complex as climate science, this
is unlikely to happen, and I know of no such case. There is a lot of
climate denial going on, but from the point of view of the experts, who
are constantly criticizing and challenging the details of their own
discipline, the opinions of the deniers are mainly nonsense and not
even worth reading.
The first truth about climate that we need to acknowledge as parents is
that mainstream climate science, as represented by reputable global
organisations such as the IPCC,
is the best source of information that
we have about climate. If we are not prepared to believe that, then we
might as well close the universities. We might as well go back to the
Middle Ages, before the scientific revolution and enlightenment.
Moreover, I want
to make the point that we have a responsibility
as parents to recognize
that. If we don't do so, we are betraying our children.
The next truth that loving parents should recognize is that the future
of our children is in grave danger, because that is what the best
climate scientists are predicting. We have to be honest about that,
too. Anything else would be dysfunctional.
Having acknowledged that truth, the next step is to act on it, as we
would act on any other truth in a relationship. Ignoring a truth that
has important implications for participants in a relationship is
In this regard, most families today are evidently dysfunctional. Of all
parents with a good education - by which I mean something like high
school leaving or university entrance - most know that our greenhouse
gases are changing the climate and that the consequences for our
children will be nothing short of disastrous. But most of those
well-informed parents are proceeding as if there is no such problem -
as if there will be no such consequences for children in general, and
for their own children in particular. As if climate change is all a big
Can I protect the rights
of our children without offending you?
Writing this text is very difficult, because I don't know how to
express how bad this situation is without offending people. If I offend
people, this test could have the opposite effect of the effect from
what I am intending. So let me try to be as objective as possible about
One way to be objective is to imagine how a third party
would view the situation from afar. Imagine you are a visitor from
another planet and you have come to earth to study its inhabitants. You
see that those inhabitants have a very advanced scientific culture, and
advanced climate science. Those humans have enormous amounts of data
climate of the earth, and they know just about as well as one could
know how their greenhouse emissions are affecting the climate and how
that will change their climate in the future. They know that they are
effectively destroying the climate for their children, but they are
somehow incapable of solving the problem. You, that visitor from
another planet, are delighted to have found another form of
intelligence in the universe, but you are also puzzled. What kind of
intelligence is this? How can these people be so smart in some ways and
so dumb in other ways?
The plain truth is that we are extremely hypocritical. We think and
claim that we are good parents, because we care for our children every
day, send them to good schools, make sure they are eating the right
food, do our best to keep them out of harm's way, listen to their
concerns. We even make regular donations to UNICEF and similar
charities in the hope that life will improve for children in developing
countries. But at the same time we drive cars and fly in aeroplanes, in
the sure knowledge that this behavior is destroying the future of our
children. We vote for political parties that don't care at all about
climate change, or for parties who say they care but when it comes to
making important decisions they just give
in to big business, and the
result is little more than hot air.
The bottom line
We are being very quiet about climate change. We should be out on
the streets demonstrating. We should be asking all of our friends what
we are going to do about it, making it clear that it is the future of
OUR CHILDREN that we are talking about. We should be starting new
initiatives, lobbying politicians, supporting alternative energy
projects, planting trees.
Logically speaking, anyone with a reasonable education who reads
newspapers and is NOT doing things of this kind cannot
honestly claim to love their children. If you are reading this and
disagree with me, please send me an email and we can discuss it. You
might help me to improve this text. But that is surely not the main
point. The main point is that we should be acting in the interests of
our children right now, if we really want to claim that we are caring,
loving parents. As the children's organisation "Plant for the Planet"
says, we should stop
talking and start planting.
The only alternative to action of this kind, as I see it, is to admit
openly that we
do not love our children. Tell them the truth that we are destroying
their world, and wish them luck after we die. They will need it.
I write this knowing full well that most people who read it will ignore
it. That includes some of my best friends.
The opinions expressed on
this page are the
Suggestions for improving or extending the content are
welcome at email@example.com.
Back to Richard Parncutt's homepage