THE BLOG

Children of the Jet Stream: Parenting in an Age of Climate Change

01/01/2014 17:33 GMT | Updated 03/03/2014 10:59 GMT

My already unhealthy climate change anxiety was pushed to ulcer inducing levels on new years eve 2013 with the news that the minimum warming we can expect is likely double that previously assumed. If ever there was any doubt, this latest news shows that the incredibly warm UK winter of 2013-2014, with its relentless rain, wind and flooding, alongside news of record breaking heat across the globe, is just the beginning of the cataclysmic changes which now define humanity's immediate future. There are many ways in which this realisation saddens me, but the most profoundly difficult aspect is the fear I feel for my children, and my inability to know what is the best thing to do for them. At some level, I still cannot fully believe what is happening, because I would not continue with life as normal. But a small part of me hopes I am wrong, everything is going to be OK, and that they have a future worth planning for. What is the right path to take - what is the best thing I can do for my two sons, as we stand at the precipice of this new dawn?

The endless storms currently battering the UK at the end of 2013 and into 2014 have been traced to an extreme temperature gradient sitting over the US. A very cold weather system abutted a very warm weather system and the contrast generated the extraordinary mild, wet and windy weather systems which have so far defined the UK winter of 2013-2014. As a parent, I too face having to cope with unusual and turbulent conditions, emotional turbulence generated by the sharp contrast between what I fear to be the truth about climate change, and what I say to my children about it.

My situation is perhaps unusual in so much as I earn my living researching climate change policy, so my kids know that this issue is important to me, and something I am engaged with both when working and in what little free time I have. But I have to present to them the positive disposition of someone who believes his efforts are worthwhile, and part of a larger project which will build a secure and fulfilling future for them. However, I know in my heart that were such a future a realistic vision, we would already be well on the path to it by now.

So I wake up on New Years Day 2014 to another day of storms, my family all stuck indoors again because of the weather, and know this isn't just another day, a normal winter storm. This is climate change. Here and now, and affecting our lives, negatively. But how can I talk to my children about this, why burden them with a bleak world view, whilst they have no agency or ability to change the situation? How do I carry on with encouraging them to do homework and plan their future careers, when my gut instinct is that I should be teaching them how to survive in a world of insecure food supplies, and cope with a failed neo-liberal economy no longer able to function in a world wrecked by climate change.

If I stood by my convictions, I would act as though my children had been given months to live. That would mean no school, none of the dreary routines which define success in this economy. It would mean finally living, the kind of living that only the realisation of imminent death can bring. It would mean going down laughing, fighting and being wholly in the un-mediated moment. But it will never happen, because it would mean a conversation that it would simply be impossible to have. And so we will carry on with the same hollow pointless routines, continue the same deluded discussions about the future, and look forward to the latest Xbox release, while outside the rain sodden windows, the world becomes an increasingly dangerous and scary place.