It’s three o’clock in the morning and your other half rouses you out of your slumber with a tentative nudge.
“I think the house is on fire,” she says.
“No it isn’t,” you reply bluntly and turn over to go back to sleep.
“I really think it it,” she continues. “It’s getting quite warm and I’m sure I heard something crackling downstairs.”
“Lots of things make a crackling noise,” you grumble. “Nothing to worry about.”
But she won’t give up. “I’m really worried now,” she whispers. “I can smell burning and there’s smoke coming under the door.”
“Look, it’s nothing,” you answer reproachfully. “There are all sorts of things that could make it smell like something’s burning. And the smoke coming under the door is probably just steam from the boiler.”
“Can’t you just go downstairs and check everything’s OK?”
“No, so just stop going on about and let me have some peace.”
It just wouldn’t happen, would it? If you had even the slightest inkling that your house was on fire, you’d either go and check or just hustle the family straight out of the nearest exit.
So why, when it comes to the climate – our shared home – do the same principles not apply? Is our climate changing for the worse? Yes, we think so. It is out fault? Probably. Can we be absolutely certain? No, but that shouldn’t stop us doing something about it.
The scientific evidence won’t ever be 100% conclusive, because that’s now how science works. But if there’s even the slightest chance that global warming is here and that we’ve caused it (and let’s face it, the chances here are rather more than ‘slight’), then we should be doing something about it right now.
Yet our political leaders refuse to get on with it. All they seem to do is stand around arguing that it’s a global problem that needs a global response, which we can’t possibly start to think about quite yet. Or even worse, they deny there’s a problem at all.
Let’s be clear, there is a problem. But it’s not a political problem. And it’s not an economic problem. It’s a fundamental scientific problem. And the problem is this: In all probability, we are causing our climate to change in ways that will make our lives, and particularly those of our children, very difficult.
We’re pretty sure our house is on fire. So let’s stop denying there’s a problem and start thinking about how we’re going to put the fire out.