Why an intergenerational apology for climate change?

It is difficult for us, as individuals, to know what meaningful action to take in the face of the existential threat of climate change. It seems to render meaningless those actions that are within our power. At the same time, it demands that we change our behaviour, which is inconvenient and rubs against the principles we’ve been raised on – economic growth and individual choice. And so we hand over our responsibility to technology, our governments, other countries and companies.

However, anthropogenic climate change requires a complex, multidimensional response. Every part of our global system has to contribute according to its role. Individuals play an essential role in this – without our individual consumption, there would be no endless growth that has caused anthropogenic climate change.

How and where do I start believing that my actions matter?

With the younger people in my life – my kids, my nieces and nephews, friends’ kids, younger colleagues.

The intergenerational apology is conceived as an intervention to encourage individuals to adopt climate friendly behaviours in order to make amends for the harm that we have done to the younger and future generations in our families and social networks. Together, we’ve got this – we can do our part in the complex response to climate change.

The intergenerational apology for climate change draws on:

  • research into what emotions support climate-friendly behaviour.
  • the long tradition of apologies in redressing harm at the personal and political level.
  • the principles of restorative justice.
  • principles of stoicism.
  • good, old-fashioned principles espoused by my Mum – “count your blessings” & “everything in moderation”.

The blog explores these ideas in more detail, referencing relevant books and research.

Climate change unleashes many injustices. The intergenerational apology as an intervention addresses only two of these. The first is carbon inequality, whereby the greater your income, the greater your consumption, resulting in a larger carbon footprint. The second is that climate change is already affecting our young people and they will carry a disproportionate burden of the consequences of our actions. This website is aimed at those of us with enough money to consume unsustainably who are concerned about the future facing our young people.