Monday, October 15, 2018

Mary Robinson on Climate Change: ‘Feeling “This Is Too Big for Me” Is No Use to Anybody’

The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat.

‘Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. (Photograph Credit: Johnny Savage/Guardian) Click to Enlarge.
On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre.  She wears black shoes, black trousers, and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin.
“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to:  that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business.  “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe.  It’s beyond safe.  Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees.  I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs.  “We’re in a bumpy time.  We’re in a bad political cycle, particularly because the United States is not only not giving leadership, but is being disruptive of multilateralism and is encouraging populism in other countries.”

This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there.  But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat.  Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commission for human rights, is hopeful. 

She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week.  It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

“I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it.  Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

Read more at Mary Robinson on Climate Change:  ‘Feeling “This Is Too Big for Me” Is No Use to Anybody’

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