Save-the-Future by Tackling the Perils of Climate Change

       An essay by Michael Bassey

“Blistering heat waves are just the start. Climate breakdown is now inevitable. Only when we accept how bad things are can we start to limit temperature rises, adapt to a changing world and head off global catastrophe.”

Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. (Observer 31 July 2022)





                 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE  


            V   AN END TO FOSSIL FUELS  




In June 2022 in the Guardian John Harris wrote: “a deep malaise envelops Britain - and no one has the cure”. He looked for a “coherent, credible, halfway optimistic story about the future.”

As no doubt did others, I rose to the challenge and emailed this:

“Here are some hopes for the future. Ecological stability has replaced economic growth as government policy. Fossil fuels are no longer burned and so their greenhouse gas emissions no longer cause global heating. House prices are kept low by government control and so young families are able to purchase their homes. People find the pleasure of making their own furniture in local authority-funded workshops. Allotments and vegetable gardens thrive as people grow some of their own food. Government policy diminishes the riches of the well-to-do and enhances the well-being of the poorer members of society.”

It wasn’t published! But looking back through my records, I have had published during the last twenty years 24 letters on “save the world” themes. Some extracts from six of these:


“Consumer societies, based on growth economics and fostering hedonism and greed, inevitably head for social chaos and ecological disaster. …

“Instead, suppose we use our skills to create a sustainable society within Britain (or perhaps Europe), drawing on resources from within. Such a society gets its energy from sun, wind, waves and renewable sources, it engages in fair trade for the essentials that it cannot produce itself and, in return, trades a few goods and services needed for people in other lands.”

13 January 2008 Observer “IT’S THE ECOLOGY, STUPID”

“The Prime Minister is still stuck in the politics of the 20th century. He should be making Britain the first industrial nation to plan to produce all its energy from renewable sources, to grow most of the food it needs, and to strive for quality of life based on its own immense national riches. Why? In the 21st century the rationale for change must be ‘It’s the ecology, stupid’.”

19 January 2010 Guardian NO TO ECONOMIC GROWTH

“Would that Brown’s government would respond to the ‘five giants’ of today- inequality, greed, self-interest, unemployment and indifference. Would that he talked of quality of life and happiness of people rather than the obsession with climbing a social ladder of affluence. Economic growth is not the answer for a developed country like the UK. What is needed is ecological sustainability. This will require more equality, protection for the unemployed, community strength, mutual support, and greater self-sufficiency in food and energy production.”


“Your editorial carries what is probably the most powerful message of the paper’s 194 years. (‘Hunger is coming. The temperature rises and rivers dry up. How can we feed the world?’ 2 March.) Before the meeting in Paris we have a general election … We should be asking candidates what their plans are for the UK in the near future regarding becoming self-sufficient in food production; becoming carbon-free and self-reliant on solar, wind and wave energy sources; and boosting research that can help food production and alleviate water shortage worldwide?”


“Once again the concern is for economic growth (‘Tories splash the cash’ front page headline 12 March). When will rich countries like ours (sixth in the world, judged by total GDP) recognise that growth is damaging the planet and prejudicing the lives of our grandchildren? …

“A rich country? According to the Social Metrics Commission, using government data, there are 14 million people living in poverty in the UK (2017/18 data). On 11 March this paper reported that ‘food banks gave out more than 1.6m parcels last year’. What a national disgrace! It may be claimed that our economy needs to grow in order to support the poor, but there is little evidence that this actually happens.

“What is needed is a redistribution of existing wealth, not a grab for more.”

6 December 2020 Observer COVID & UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

“The Covid crisis gives a powerful opportunity for redistribution by introducing Universal Basic Income as an unconditional, automatic, regular payment to every UK resident and seen as an entitlement of citizenship. It would need to be linked to a revised form of income tax which ensured that only those in need of UBI benefit from it and so would be best administered by the Inland Revenue. It would eliminate much bureaucracy and fairly redistribute some of the nation’s wealth. UBI would ensure that families lacking a wage-earner have sufficient income to live on. Unemployment would no longer be feared.”

                              *    *    *    *    *

So the June 2022 claim of John Harris that there is not a cure for what he sees as “Britain’s malaise” can be challenged. But where he is sadly correct is that neither the present government nor opposition seem to recognise the seriousness of future global overheating, or, if they do, are too wary of tackling it by the kind of ideas put forward here. Doubtless they fear losing their parliamentary seats.

A paradox of democracy is that when there is an oncoming crisis like climate change in a democratic nation, the actions that a government might take to protect the people, may be resisted by the people on the grounds that they may restrict their liberty of action. Consequently the government might decide not to act.



In December 2015 representatives of countries from across the world signed an international treaty on climate change with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, of pre-industrial levels. To achieve this they agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to submit plans for this by 2020. It was also agreed that developed countries would provide financial assistance for other countries to achieve this.

Critics were concerned that the Agreement did not include either incentives to act nor penalties for not acting.


In recent years Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, has been warning world leaders of the perils of climate change. Speaking to journalists at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in July 2022 he said:

“Of all the crises currently facing the world, the climate crisis is the most vital. … It’s more than the planet, it is the human species that is at risk.”

He castigated those governments that failed to rein in fossil fuels and which were in many cases seeking to increase production of gas, oil, and even coal “the dirtiest of the fossil fuels”. He said that while the UN climate talk, COP26, in Glasgow in November 2021 addressed many important issues:

“The central question of how to reduce emissions was not seriously discussed and continues to be ignored.”

He added:

”We need to do everything we can to make the climate the most important issue again in our collective agenda.”


The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis that tracks governments’ climate actions and measures them against the globally agreed Paris Agreement goal. It is prepared by a collaboration of two organisations, Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute. This analysis has been provided to policymakers since 2009.

It characterises countries around the world as: “critically insufficient”, “highly insufficient”, “insufficient” “almost sufficient”, and “sufficient” to meet the net zero target of the Paris Agreement of 2015. Below is the alarming list published in July 2022. The Climate Action team conclude:

No single country that we analysed has sufficient short-term policies in place to put itself on track to meet the net zero target of the Paris Agreement.

State of climate action in countries around the world in July 2022



Russian Federation




Viet Nam













New Zealand

Saudi Arabia

South Korea




European Union




South Africa




Costa Rica







The Gambia

United Kingdom



So, what have some of these countries done to remove emissions?


The Climate Change Act 2008 committed the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. This target was made more ambitious in 2019 when the UK became the first major economy to commit to a net zero target by requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

In October 2021 Boris Johnson (as UK prime minister) opened the COP26 World Leaders Summit in Glasgow with a rousing speech. He said:

“The clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and turbines and furnaces and engines with which we are pumping carbon into the air faster and faster and quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2 which is raising the temperature of the planet with a speed and an abruptness that is entirely manmade.

“We know what the scientists tell us and we have learned not to ignore them …If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow. Two degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people.”

But a few months later, as Sky News reported on 17 March 2022:

Boris Johnson rips up the climate rulebook as he moves to replace Russian supply of oil and gas. Pressure to guarantee the country's energy security means Boris Johnson is putting aside a key commitment to the planet.”

And he sought to stop protests, as the Guardian announced on

9 May 2022:.


The public order bill will be aimed at quashing tactics employed by protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil”

Then, on 19 May, the Guardian reported:

“The UK has approved several fossil fuel projects since Cop26. About 50 schemes are thought to be in pipeline between now and 2025 despite climate pledges.”

So the UK’s conservative government seems to be ignoring the warnings about global warming. And on 10 July 2022 the Observer reported:


“Prominent backbenchers have been plotting for month to persuade any possible replacement for Boris Johnson to ditch climate commitments in favour of expanding the use of fossil fuels.”

Oh dear!


In contrast, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, recently announced plans to make France “a great environmental nation.” In April 2022 the newsletter Politico reported Macron’s election speech in Marseilles. There would be:

“A minister for energy planning and another for environmental planning who would work on making France the first major country to stop using gas, oil and coal and on ramping up railways, electric cars and public transportation. Macron vowed to reduce air pollution, plant 140 million trees, fight for a European carbon tax and speed up greenhouse gas reductions. … He proposed building 50 offshore wind farms by 2030 and six new nuclear reactors. While defending his track record on the environment, Macron admitted France would need to go “twice as fast” to respect the Paris climate change agreement.”

Macron was re-elected President on 24 April 2022, so there is hope that these promises would be enacted.


Likewise Germany was taking substantial measures to combat global warming, as reported by its Federal Government

“Germany is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent of the 1990 levels by 2030. The German government has enshrined this commitment in the Climate Action Act (Klimaschutzgesetz).

“The extensive Climate Action Programme includes many measures to ensure efficient implementation. They include higher carbon prices, climate-friendly electric mobility, and the use of renewable energy. Climate action also pays off when houses are modernised to enhance energy efficiency. Since the start of 2020, a government scheme has rewarded property owners replacing older oil-fired central heating.”


In the United States in 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency produced the Clean Power Plan which targeted greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, requiring each state to make a plan to cut emissions and submit it to the federal government. Several states and private groups challenged this and sadly, in June 2022,

the US Supreme Court stripped the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution, including greenhouse gases, with these words:

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day’ … But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.

The BBC reported this on 30 June 2022:


“The case against the EPA was brought by West Virginia on behalf of 18 other mostly Republican-led states and some of the nation's largest coal companies.These 19 states were worried their power sectors would be forced to move away from using coal, at a severe economic cost.

“President Biden said: ‘this decision risks damaging our nation's ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change’.”

And then, on 28 July came a change, as reported by the BBC:

“Senator Joe Manchin suddenly backs Biden climate and tax bill.

“The Senate Democratic leader, Mr Schumer said.’By a wide margin, this legislation will be the greatest pro-climate legislation that has ever been passed by Congress.’ ”


China is currently the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide and is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world's overall greenhouse gas emissions.

“Far from shutting down coal-fired power stations, China is currently building new ones at more than 60 locations across the country, with many sites having more than one plant. China argues it has a right to do what Western countries have done in the past, releasing carbon dioxide in the process of developing its economy and reducing poverty.

“Tsinghua University researchers say 90% of power should come from nuclear and renewables by 2050. In moving towards that goal, China's lead in the manufacture of green technology, such as solar panels and large-scale batteries, may be a big help”.{BBC News 20 October 2021}

As Professor David Tyfield of the Lancaster Environment Centre has said:

"Unless China decarbonises, we're not going to beat climate change.” (Idem)

The BBC news report ends with a cri-de-coeur:

“The world needs China to succeed.”


In July 2019 a report “Evaluating the significance of Australia’s global fossil fuel carbon footprint” was published. It gave a worrying account, as these extracts show.

“Australia's global carbon footprint is very significant, with exported fossil fuel emissions currently representing around 3.6% of global emissions.

“Australia is one of the highest per capita CO2 emitters in the world. On a per capita basis, Australia’s carbon footprint, including exports, surpasses China by a factor of 9, the US by a factor of 4 and India by a factor of 37.

“The expansion in the exploitation of fossil fuel resources that Australia is planning goes against the global efforts to combat climate change and is not consistent with the global energy transition required to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The majority of the existing global fossil fuel reserves should remain on the ground.”

However, in the general election of May 2022, the Labor Party won. It promised to reduce emissions targets by 43% by 2030, based on 2005 figures. There was consternation reported in some sections of the business community.


In June 2022 the Royal Society (of UK) published a report on the potential effect of temperature rise on the Amazon basin in Brazil There has been a loss of about a fifth of its original forests and scientists warn that growing deforestation under Brazil's far-

right President Jair Bolsonaro is pushing the rainforest towards a tipping point at which the jungle is likely to dry out and become savanna, accelerating climate change impacts including species extinctions. Many of Brazil's unique creatures, from a minuscule orange frog to the collared titi monkey, could face a bleak future if global warming surpasses temperature targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, scientists have warned. The report notes that emissions continue to rise.

President Bolsonaro, who took office at the beginning of 2019, believes that economic development is at odds with environmental protection and that considerations about the planet should not be allowed to inhibit industry, particularly Brazil’s huge agricultural sector.

Jeff Goodell, a journalist writing in Rolling Stone, says: “Bolsonaro is the most dangerous climate denier in the world. In his two years as president, he has presided over the destruction of about 10,000 square miles of the Brazilian rainforest, one of the most precious ecosystems on the planet.


A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (in October 2018) warned of disastrous consequences if current trends of global warming are not reversed immediately. Aayushi Awasthy from the University of East Anglia's Energy and Resources Institute explained why this has particular consequences for India and South Asia.

“The report says that the impact of a 1.5C increase in global temperatures will ‘disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable populations through food insecurity, higher food prices, income losses, lost livelihood opportunities, adverse health impacts, and population displacements’.

“India stands to be one of the nations most significantly affected, given its huge population and levels of inequality and poverty.If exposed to the kind of destabilisation the report talks

about, the impact on India could be devastating - not just socially but also politically.

“Sea level rise will have a disastrous impact on the country, given its large coastline, and the number of people who live close to and depend on the sea for their livelihoods. At the same time, deadly heatwaves - similar to one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India and Pakistan - could soon become the norm.”


Norway is listed by Climate Change Tracker as “almost sufficient to meet net zero target”. In 2018 the Storting (Norway’s parliament) passed a Climate Change Act -

“with the purpose of ‘promoting the implementation of Norway's climate targets as part of its process of transformation to a low-emission society by 2050’.

“Section 3: The target is for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by at least 50-55 % by 2030 from the level in the reference year 1990.

“Section 4 The target is to achieve reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of the order of 90-95 % by 2050”.


Russia currently emits about 4% of the world’s greenhouse gases. In October 2021 it set out a long-term strategy for climate including a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2060 and an intermediate target of 80% reduction (based on 1990 levels) by 2050.

However in the same year an “Energy Strategy to 2035” focussed on the extraction, consumption and export of fossil fuels!

Wikipedia shows why Russia should take urgent action.

“Climate change has serious effects on Russia’s climate, including average temperatures and precipitation, as well as permafrost melting, more frequent wildfires, flooding and heatwaves.”


The Climate Action Tracker puts Turkey in the “Critically Insufficient” group.

“Turkey’s climate policies and commitments reflect minimal to no action and are not at all consistent with the Paris Agreement. Under Turkey’s current targets and policies, emissions will continue to rise and are consistent with more than 4°C warming. Turkey continues to rely on fossil fuels.

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In a trenchant article on the “truth crisis” in the Guardian on 31 March 2022, George Monbiot referred to the “preposterous belief” that:

“Economic growth can and should continue indefinitely on a finite planet.”

And on 3 June 2022 he expressed clearly the magnitude of the changes needed if climate crisis is to be alleviated.

“We should change our energy system: our need to travel, our modes of transport, the fuel economy of our homes and the means by which we heat them.”

But politicians are reluctant to act, fearing that the electorate will reject them at the next election.

In the UK the government’s chief scientific adviser spoke to 70 members of Parliament in July 2022 forthrightly:

“We have had two and a half years of a global crisis in the form of a pandemic. We face 50 years of really big problems relating to climate, and the nature of that threat around the world means this has to be one of the things that has to be on every government’s agenda.

“To give three facts: the world is warmer than it was, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have ever been, and extreme weather events are more common than before all this happened. That’s what we face.”

So, the problem is clear: economic growth. But how can it be stopped? If there are ways, who would dare implement them?

Undoubtedly Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, recognises that the world faces a climate crisis. Shortly after speaking in Lisbon, as reported at the beginning of this section, he was in Berlin and said:

“Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.,

“We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

On 20 July 2022, the Guardian carried a banner headline:


This was recorded in Lincolnshire, just a few miles from my home - where I experienced the hottest day I ever recall.

Under the above heading the article included a statement by Sam Fankhouser, professor of climate change economics at the University of Oxford:

“The heat is a stark reminder of … the urgent need to decrease global carbon emissions.”

As I finished this section the Observer, on 31 July 2022 published a ‘Focus” article entitled:


It features Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. His judgement (which I have used at the start of this paper) is:

“Blistering heat waves are just the start. Climate breakdown is now inevitable. Only when we accept how bad things are can we start to limit temperature rises, adapt to a changing world and head off global catastrophe.”

He ends with a stirring message:

“This is a call to arms. So if you feel the need to glue yourself to a motorway or blockade an oil refinery, do it. Drive an electric car or, even better use public transport, walk or cycle. Switch to a green energy tariff; eat less meat. Stop flying; lobby your elected representatives at both local and national level; and use your vote wisely to put in power a government that walks the talk on the climate emergency.”



Economic growth, pursued relentlessly by the industrial countries of the world, powered largely by combustion of fossil fuels, increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, acting as a blanket around the Earth, is causing the planet to become dangerously hotter. Heat-induced climatic disasters are occurring around the world.

It has to stop. People need to stop putting carbon dioxide into the air from the combustion of coal, oil, gas and wood because the consequent global heating already causes life-threatening storms and droughts in some parts of the world and, if not arrested, will dangerously threaten us all.

As Ann Pettifor says in “The Case for the Green New Deal” (2020):

“The Earth’s complex life support systems of atmosphere, oceans, land surface and life forms are at the point of breakdown, according to the world’s top scientists”.

Graphs of world GDP per capita, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, and global temperature over the last 200 years all have the same “hockey stick” shape, rising steeply in recent years. There is no doubt that these are intimately linked and that the burning of fossil fuels to support economic growth is releasing the atmospheric carbon dioxide that, through the greenhouse effect, is dangerously heating the Earth.

Economic growth is steadily destroying our ecological heritage. It consumes precious raw materials, concretes over the land, kills wild life, and pollutes land, sea and air. It has become a cancer on the Earth.

We do not need our economy to grow.. We already have abundant wealth, but it is grossly unevenly shared. It needs to be redistributed more fairly. This is the task governments should tackle. Above all, governments must understand, and then explain to all, that economic growth requires immediate and drastic cut back.

We need to create sustainable economic systems that eschew growth, world-wide of course, that will ensure our grandchildren, and theirs, will live safely.

A caveat: poorer nations need economic growth. Growth is needed to reach some form of maturity but thereafter growth is cancerous, it destroys its host.

If economists talked to ecologists they would realise that survival of life on Earth requires the major economies to shrink, not grow.

Economic growth should give way to cultural growth so that we learn how to value and enjoy what we have without damaging the planet.

Richer members of humankind must reach an understanding that eschews the pursuit of more wealth and instead seeks for quality of life for all. We should celebrate the cultural heritages of peoples around the word, ensure social justice, and focus technology on achieving sustainability of life on Earth.

Community by community, and industrial nation by nation, we should discuss and urgently act on the need for and consequences of zero growth. How can poor families be lifted from poverty if there is no growth? How can motorised traffic be reduced? How can more food be grown locally? How can every home be well insulated and heated by solar or wind power? How can people realise that such radical steps are needed?


The climate emergency requires extreme measures. We must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in order to slow down and eventually stop the heating up of Earth - its lands, oceans and atmosphere. Governments throughout the world need, through taxation and legislation, rapidly to find ways of abandoning fossil fuels. Since fossil fuels power most industrial economies, it follow that abandoning these will result in economies contracting.

The idea of reduction of the economy is difficult for politicians, manufacturers, industrialists, and shoppers - which means nearly everybody! It is an unprecedented task for governments. But it is needed to avoid the mortal perils of an overheated Earth.

The way in which people around the world accepted the necessity of lockdown in the face of the covid-19 pandemic suggests a preparedness to respond to this other grave danger once it is explained to them.

An end to growth based on eliminating fossil fuels will mean fewer jobs and shorter working hours because many industries depend on these fuels and the electricity which may be generated by solar, wind and wave sources may not be sufficient or appropriate to replace these fuels.

Government should support the start-up of firms engaged in putting solar panels on roofs (currently only 1 million of 29 million homes in the UK have them); developing cheap batteries for domestic storage of roof-generated electricity; improving insulation of homes; developing ways of converting vehicles from petrol/diesel to electric; and promoting local sourcing of food through allotments and orchards.

Government could set up workshops throughout the country to remove petrol and diesel engines and fuel tanks from vehicles and replace them with electric motors and batteries (if that is feasible), and establish workshops to support the installation of domestic solar panels, batteries and air-source heating systems so that fossil fuels can be eliminated from domestic premises.

These measures will go a little way to reducing unemployment, but still leave many families in dire financial straits unless the government takes action to support them.


It is easy to write, as I have at the start of this section:

“People need to stop putting carbon dioxide into the air”

But how can this happen ? How can governments try to cause this to happen without finding themselves thrown out of office by an indignant population ? Ways of attempting this are set out in a later section, but first government must ensure that political action to “stop putting carbon dioxide into the air” does not impoverish families who may find their breadwinner unemployed.

To that end Universal Basic Income, as described in the next section, seems the best answer.

Only when the potentially unemployed are protected, can government consider outlawing fossil fuels.


THE UBI DEBATE 1797 to 2022

In 1797 Thomas Paine argued for a form of income for everyone in his pamphlet Agrarian Justice. At a time when an able-bodied man would earn about £23 for working throughout the year, Paine advocated a pension of £10 per year for everyone over 50, a single payment of £15 to every man and woman on reaching 21, and small sums annually for the lame and the blind. It would be financed by an inheritance tax. Government ignored his ideas!

J M Keynes in his essay ‘Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren’ (1930) predicted that by the 21st century we in the west would have ‘enough’ and so growth of income would stop, people would work shorter hours and the increased leisure would enhance quality of life for all - a state that became known as ‘Bliss’. It hasn’t happened yet!

The economic historian Robert Skidelsky, with his son Edward, in 2012 wrote ‘How Much is Enough?’ In it they argue for a ‘basic income’, one paid by the state to every citizen irrespective of ‘whether he or she wishes to engage in paid employment, or is rich or poor’. It would lift everybody above the poverty line. It would be paid for by increased taxation of the well-to-do and replace most of the bureaucratic processes of benefit provision. Like Paine’s proposal of two hundred years earlier, government dismissed the idea.

It is often claimed that growth is needed to overcome the poverty of some of our fellow citizens. But it doesn’t! What is needed is to adopt the proposal of Paine, the Skidelskys and many others and introduce universal basic income (UBI).

The economist Guy Standing, in his book Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen, defines it as “a modest amount of money paid unconditionally to individuals on a regular basis; intended to be paid to all, regardless of age, gender, marital status, work status and work history”.

We may be moving towards it in the UK. In June 2022 the library of the House of Commons published a 34 page paper entitled “Potential merits of a universal basic income.” However it noted that in June 2021 the Work and Pensions Committee had said::

A Universal Basic Income would be extremely expensive, and would not target support at people who need it most. … We are not convinced that it would be the right way forward for social security in the UK.

The paper lists ten arguments in favour and a similar number against UBI. Prominent among the former is the notion that:

A basic income should be a right of citizenship, providing material and psychological security throughout life.

The major opposing argument is the cost. The report says:

A Basic Income of £100 a week for each person over the age of 16 in the UK, and £50 a week for each child, would cost around £316 billion a year. To put this in context, total spending on benefits, state pensions and tax credits in the UK was forecast to be around £250 billion in 2022-23.

Another argument suggests that UBI could undermine the role work plays in society.


There is a simple logic linking the ending of fossil fuel consumption to the need for universal basic income. Outlawing fossil fuels will lead, at least initially, to widespread unemployment. UBI will give some support to those who lose their jobs.

UBI (at an appropriate rate) should ensure that families lacking a wage-earner have just sufficient income to live on. Unemployment would no longer be feared.

Poverty should disappear with the introduction of universal basic income. Paid for by a progressive tax on incomes (designed so that only the needy benefit from UBI) and perhaps a wealth tax, it would protect those who, usually through no fault of their own, find great difficulty in supporting their families and themselves. It would replace many of the benefits currently available and avoid the bureaucracy that they entail. It would be best administered by the Inland Revenue.

UBI would also mean that government need not strive for full employment. We should remember that until late in the twentieth century out a third of the population of working age were not engaged in wage-earning work (ie women who, many asserted, worked harder at home than their husbands in paid employ).

Where there is an absence of paid work communities could be organised to create valuable unpaid work. Reeves could be appointed (initially government funded) as a twenty-first century version of mediaeval community management. Their function would be to promote self-sustaining communities which, in vegetable plots grow some of their own food, with solar panels generate some of their own energy, in their own homes are responsible for routine maintenance, and also provide support for members of the community who are sick, infirm or otherwise need help. This should be a concomitant of UBI proposals.


The Earth is heating up. We know why and we know how to slow and eventual stop it.

For the sake of our grandchildren, and those that will be theirs, we need our government to implement ecological and social change now, and by example persuade other industrial nations to follow the same path.



On 12 October 2020 the Guardian published a remarkable letter addressed to world leaders and headed:


It came from Nemonte Nenquimo, a Waorani woman who is leader of a people living in the Amazon rainforest.

I am writing you this letter because the fires are raging still. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronaviris, while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love – our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth – and it’s time that you listened to us.

The forest is my teacher. And I have learned enough … to know that you have lost your way, and that you are in trouble (though you don’t fully understand it yet) and that your trouble is a threat to every form of life on Earth.

You forced your civilisation upon us and now look where we are: global pandemic, climate crisis, species extinction and, driving it all, widespread spiritual poverty.

Anyone who keeps abreast of world news will recognise the awful truth of what she said. Yes, our civilisation is killing the world.

It is atmospheric carbon dioxide, liberated by burning fossil fuels, in industry, in our homes and by travel, that is the major cause of destabilising our global ecosystems. It acts as a blanket, under which the Earth gets warmer.

As global temperature rises, warmer seas give more energy to power destructive hurricanes, polar ice melts and the consequent rising sea levels displace populations living in low-lying lands. Simultaneously, heat stroke kills the vulnerable, insect-born diseases such as malaria attack wider populations, and droughts turn temperate lands into arid wastes and so agriculture becomes unviable.


Notwithstanding the consequent hardships, we must stop using fossil fuels and instead make the best use we can of solar energy, wave and hydraulic power.

Inevitably this will reduce our economy. We will have to consume less, buy fewer goods, put less heat into our homes, transport goods less, and reduce our travel. Otherwise, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will continue to rise, global temperatures will soar, climate will go on deteriorating, and lives today, and certainly of our descendants, put in peril.

Inevitably reducing our economy will lead to unemployment and so, measures must be taken to protect those who lose their jobs. Universal basic income is the simplest answer, coupled with a revised system of income tax which ensures that only those who need this handout of “basic income” benefit from it.

Also inevitably, many people will be spending more time at home and, if less heat is to be put into warming homes, there will be discomfort in houses which are insufficiently insulated against the cold of winter. Measures to improve sub-standard homes must be taken urgently.

Again inevitably, because the measures to replace the loss of fossil fuels suggested will need government support, it will be necessary to increase taxation.

So, abandoning fossil fuels is going to be unpopular and unless vigorous steps are taken by government to keep the general population “on side” it will suffer defeat and hopes for avoiding a catastrophic global heating will be lost.

Humanity has reached a turning point. Continuing as at present needs to be recognised as the road to disaster. Survival of future generations depends upon cutting back on some of today’s living standards. That requires massive rethinking by us all, based on recognition of the extreme dangers of increased global heating.


ONE  Government ministers and the other members of parliament should quickly come to recognise the seriousness and causes of global heating. They should prepare to pass laws which will end the combustion of fossil fuels.

TWO  Government must initiate and fund a massive campaign to explain to the national population the grave future dangers of global heating and to prepare for legislation which will ban fossil fuels. This is the most vital stage in the whole process.

THREE  Government should propose and parliament legislate for a system of universal basic income which will ensure that everybody, and in particular all who become unemployed, can meet the cost of living of themselves and their families.

FOUR  Government should ensure that extensive research and development centres are in place and adequately financed in order to support the changes described here.

FIVE Government should take rapid steps to improve the thermal insulation of sub-standard housing so that less domestic fuel is needed to keep warm.

Government should also take steps to encourage the replacement of fossil fuel domestic heating by electrical installations, including solar electricity-generating panels, throughout the country.

SIX Government should actively support a change in all forms of transport from being powered by fossil fuels to electricity/battery systems. Deadlines should be determined for the total prohibition of petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads and for the replacement of diesel engines on the railways. Airlines may be permitted to use fossil fuels until if and when alternatives are developed.

SEVEN Once the above have been done, and hopefully quite quickly, parliament should legislate for the rapid ending of all forms of fossil fuel combustion. It may require a stage by stage process, such as personal transport before freight transport, and domestic property before commercial offices. The aim should be to complete this by 2030

Stage by stage, the UK should proselytise progress internationally in order to encourage other industrial countries to do likewise.

                                     *   *   *   *   *

The above seven stages represents an attempt to think through what the phrase “end fossil fuel combustion” entails. It is an alarming prospect and almost impossible to imagine that our present government could act in this way.

But it has long been recognised that the prime duty of government is to protect the people and once the grave perils of oncoming climate change are properly recognised government will be in dereliction of duty to the people, if the “end to fossil fuels” does not happen.

To those who oppose these measures we must ask what alternative ways are there for ensuring that the generations of our grandchildren, and theirs, avoid the perils of heat and the potential of death?

MB 30 July 2022