"Heatwave causes glacier melt", "CapeTown experiences worst drought in 100 years" "Container ships cross ice-free Antarctic". These snippets taken in a short space of time from various regions of the world are far more than just unrelated news. The common thread that binds them together is climate change: they are separate elements of the same bigger picture, different episodes of a shared story.
Climate change has become a grand narrative, possibly the first grand narrative of the 21st century. Its originsstretch back to the early days of industrialisation,if not to the beginnings of agriculture and forestry. At the same time, the phenomenon is intrinsically related to the politics and history of the new millennium, the consequences of globalisation, free trade and neoliberalism, and the impact of the 2007/2008 financial and economic crisis.
In spite of the fact that most of today’s news and developments are relate to climate change, for many years the phenomenon remained a relatively minor issue for the population in Germany. It seemed like an abstract issue, a collection of prognoses and possible outcomes spatout by computer models, far away from people’s everyday lives. Only once people began to feel the direct effects – heavy rains in the summer of 2017, drought and heat waves in 2018 – did climate change become more tangible to those living in the Global North, at least for a brief period. It remains to be seen whether the sense of urgency will persist once the extreme weather has abated. In the Global South, though, the situation is different. Years of social movement protests and actions show that people there are already facing the consequences of climate change: in these places, climate change has never been a question of science and probabilities; it is a question of justice and politics. In Germany too, this perspective will gradually gain momentum over time. Recent years have seen palpable changes in temperature and precipitation levels, a sharp rise in extreme weather events, more frequent hurricanes and tropical storms – climate change has caught up with us faster than expected, and can no longer be ignored. In January 2018, a group of research institutes published a study stating that even in Europe hundreds of thousands could be affected by flooding should global temperaturescontinue to rise.
There have been a number of shifts in the climate change debate: questions concerning the accuracy of forecasts and prognoses or the identification of the exact causes have become largely redundant. The majority of forecasts have turned out to be true; any lingering doubt regarding calculations remains almost non-existent. In the future, the question most likely to be asked will be: if the scientific community can predict the impacts of climate change – and the options we have for halting its progress – with such astonishing accuracy, why do we seem incapable of taking effective action? Why do so many people continue to question the reliability of the forecasts or remain adamant that the Earth’s temperature is not rising?
This analysis offers an introduction to the climate change debate and features basic information to help readers understand recent developments in climate 4 change and climate policy. The first partexamines the latest scientific research:what do we currently know about climate change? What is fact and what is myth? The second part introduces current climate policy: what steps have been taken so far? What has been effective? What changes are outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement? In the final part, the analysis focuses on the movements that have emerged around the question of climate change and examines the alternatives they propose and the questions they raise.