There is another kind of climate denialism. The Uninhabitable Earth author David Wallace-Wells describes it as a ‘learned posture of powerlessness’. We humans can ratiocinate. Putting out the recycling and flying to Marbella a bit less is not going to make much difference to global warming, is it? So it seems logical to offset our fear and panic with a palliative resignation.
Yet if that psychology takes hold in individuals, it can metastasise to the organisations they work for – amplifying humanity’s inertia. What to do?
Maybe lawyers have the answer. ‘Lawyers can use their typical above-average income and/or their unique set of skills to support, in a tangible way, national and global action,’ one leading climate change activist contacts me to point out. ‘In particular, many younger solicitors might support this cause.’
My interlocutor was prompted to write by Jonathan Goldsmith’s Gazette column. Jonathan argues that a legal struggle of significance to all of us is the attempt to align legal rights with the perils of climate change: ‘The question is this – is there a fundamental human right to a safe and stable environment? And if so, does the government have a duty to preserve it?’
My own snap response is no – is this in the domain of politics rather than law? There is no such right in the ECHR, for example. But as Jonathan relates, lawyers worldwide are involved in litigation to bring man-made climate change within the realm of justiciable activities (while at the same time deploying climate change departments to serve corporate clients accused of being responsible for the problem).
There is certainly a theme developing. In a recent letter to the FT, the eponymous chair of international law firm Hausfeld took the paper to task for not including the law and lawyers within its prescription for tackling climate change.
‘International legal action, highlighting nation states’ own obligations, may now inject the proper urgency into global collective action,’ he argued (see p15).
Lawyers make the world we live in, to a significant degree. Is the onus now on them to save it?