Climate: mixed feeling prevails

04 November 2022


Mixed feelings prevail: paddling in the North Sea at the end of October, or picnicking in the park, at 25 degrees. We find it pleasant, but at the same time we make the reservation: this is not normal. Even though the war in Ukraine and the expensive life may give us the most headaches today, the ongoing global warming remains the biggest threat to humans, according to insurer Axa in a global study into safety risks. But there is hope.

The war in Ukraine and expensive life have dominated the agenda of citizens, entrepreneurs and policymakers for months. And will continue to do so well into the new year. But we will survive these crises. Periods of economic recession, skyrocketing inflation, closures of companies and even entire sectors, with associated unemployment, are unpleasant but part of our existence. Wars and world wars sometimes cause millions of innocent victims and leave deep marks, but are part of our collective history. But global warming, climate change and the far-reaching impact on our lives and work are unprecedented in the history of the modern man.

And that awareness has penetrated very deeply, as recent worldwide research by Kantar shows. Global warming currently scores as the 3rd top priority among the population, after the war in Ukraine and inflation. The hot summer of 2022 is certainly no stranger to that. And contrary to what is often claimed, that awareness is equally present among all generations: from young to old. Some recent studies even indicate that concern about the climate is greater among baby boomers than among millennials.

But there is hope. Even though a majority of Flemish people see the future of the planet bleakly, we are convinced that we can still save the earth, according to a recent large-scale survey of more than 2,500 people commissioned by De Zondag. They also indicate that they are willing to pay more for sustainable food, clothing or household products. Only today there is a gap between attitude and actual behaviour as a result of the economic crisis. A large group of consumers are forced to opt for cheaper, often less sustainable products.

But every disadvantage also has its advantage. As a result of the war and the price increases, Belgians already used 10 percent less electricity in October. That is good for the wallet and for the climate.

In his latest - sometimes somewhat inaccessible - book 'Shifts', the Flemish star author Stefaan Hertmans calls climate change the most comprehensive theme of our time. After all, it's not just about the condition of life on the planet, but climate change is dragging along in its wake other core problems (including pandemics, migration flows and famine), and even causing them.

When the war is over, and prices stabilize, climate change, with all its consequences, will turn out to be the biggest 'shift' of this century. It's never too late to do something about it.