Fintan O’Toole: If only we could fight climate change like we fight wars

Political systems tackled great threats before – can that resolve be generated without war?

The question that now faces the world is a stark one: can humans concentrate their collective minds without an external enemy? Photograph: Getty

The question that now faces the world is a stark one: can humans concentrate their collective minds without an external enemy? Photograph: Getty

“Depend upon it, sir,” said Samuel Johnson, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”. We do indeed have to depend upon the Cop26 summit proving Johnson right, and that the threat of extinction will concentrate the collective mind. 

There are, at least, some precedents. One of them is, ironically, the origin of the great fear that has now been displaced by climate change: nuclear war.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.