I don't do much by way of the counter-factual exercises that are so beloved of historians for obvious reasons. So what follows is unusual.
The question is: what would we (those focused on thinking about sustainability) be concerned about if there were no climate change? This requires that there be no global warming, and no rise in greenhouse gases, so it really is counter-factual. I've no idea where this will lead.
But maybe ...
- we would not be worried about rising sea levels, melting glaciers, vanishing sea ice or permafrost thawing
- we'd think that local weather variations were just that, or part of natural cycles.
- we'd not be obsessing about oil and gas use as much as we do, and would still be flying much as we used to.
- not so many coal mines would have been closed.
- we'd not be thinking about carbon capture and storage.
- there'd be no IPCC, Paris Agreement, or net-zero by 2050.
- we'd have no Climate COPs, and the biodiversity COPs might have greater prominence.
- Extinction Rebellion (and many another NGO) would have changed focus.
- climate change deniers would be denying something else.
- the Americans would still have gas-guzzling cars.
- we'd not be so worried about poor people across the planet suddenly finding themselves with the money for Western life-styles; indeed, we might be encouraging them.
- there would be no carbon footprints, although eco footprints and handprints would remain, perhaps with more prominence.
- youngsters would not have climate anxiety, although they might well still be anxious.
Except that ...
- we'd probably still have passed peak oil and be aware that we'd be needing alternatives sometime soon. And coal would still be as dirty and polluting as ever leading to air quality pressures (particularly on the car industry).
- people would still be dying prematurely from dirty air. So there would be pressures on industry to become cleaner and greener.
- the clean agenda would be as urgent as it is today. The green one would be focused (as it used to be) around biodiversity and natural systems.
- the trend to greater veganism would still exist for both ethical and food-efficiency reasons.
It all sounds a better world to live in.
So what would be the same?
- we'd still have needed the Montreal Protocol.
- the Earth Summits would have led their meandering path to the SDGs.
- industrial agriculture with its artificial fertiliser and pesticides would still have wrecked natural systems and biodivesity.
- sewage would still be being dumped in rivers and the sea because we allow it. there'd still be anxiety about over-use of natural resources (so the Circular Economy would still have emerged).
- fish stocks would still be under threat.
- we'd still have huge plastics problems.
- those concerned about nuclear power would likely still be.
- the global poor would still be immiserated.
- infant deaths round the world would continue to improve.
- pressure for ethical sourcing and corporate social responsibility would remain, as would concerns about greenwashing.
- the slogan "System Change not Climate Change" would still be with us in an edited form.
- the anti-Capitalist agenda would remain.
- woke trends would be unaffected.
- misogyny would retain its malign grip.
In educational terms, much of the global learning / developmental education agenda would likely remain intact. Environmental education, however, would revert to what it was before climate change elbowed the rest out of the way, and the ecological crisis would shift nearer to centre stage where it belongs.
Thank you for a very good exercise in asking what might happen without climate alarmism to push along a political 'green agenda.' You might next ask, why we are so alarmist about Climate Catastrophe and which powers that be claim to have the solutions, and if these solutions would even begin to address any the issues in the latter part of this post?