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What Does The Future Hold?

Written by on September 1, 2021

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving life or easing pain.” The words of poet William Blake have been used on many occasions but have perhaps never been more relevant or appropriate than at this very moment in time, in reference to global warming and our response to it.

Looking back at past actions and decisions can help us to avoid making the same mistakes and errors of judgement over again; it is a part of growing up, a way of learning. And that’s fine, provided the outcome of those actions have minor implications but when they lead to far more serious, lasting outcomes, those mistakes and errors must be avoided at all cost – wherever possible. Knowing the outcome before taking the action, provides the opportunity to follow a different path.

Whilst the ability to see into the future has been claimed by many in the past, it unfortunately remains an elusive superpower for most, if not all of us. That means we must rely on a rather more scientific approach when trying to predict what the future might hold. Foresight is about judging correctly what is going to happen in the future, using the best evidence available, and then planning actions based on that knowledge, preferably to ensure a beneficial outcome.

In the case of global warming, it has become more and more apparent, that it has been caused by human activity over the last hundred years or so, which in turn has led to changes in our climate. The climate changes we are seeing today were predicted many years ago, based on a relentless increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Hindsight tells us that if we had stopped burning fossil fuels in the 1980’s, there is a high probability that we would not be worrying about global warming and climate change today. If, in the 1980s, we had acted on the foresight of those who predicted climatic change, we would already be seeing benefits from their impact and not be facing a climate crisis. Hindsight shows us what could have been but foresight shows us what could be!

If we are to successfully limit the impact of climate change on our way of life we must trust in the foresight of our scientists and implement the climate action plans they tell us are required. In the next few months two important events will take place. First, in October Harrogate will host a Climate Action Festival (CAFé), organised by the Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition, which will provide an opportunity for residents and businesses in the district to find out more about the actions required to address climate change locally and to show their support for local action. Second, in November the UK will host COP26, the twenty-sixth UN climate summit, in Glasgow, where world leaders will gather to hopefully agree a unified plan of action, to reduce carbon emissions in time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. The outcome of this conference may well determine what the future holds for all of us. 

The future always seems too far away to worry about. It can often be difficult to make plans for the week ahead, let alone years into the future but that is exactly what we need to do. We need to make our own plans to reduce our carbon emissions and implement them as quickly as we can, if we are to limit global warming and its impact on our lives and those of future generations.

As children and many young adults prepare to start or continue their journey through formal education, at schools, colleges and universities, we can perhaps take a moment to ask, what does the future hold for them? Some already have dreams for the future but for most their futures will remain blank canvases for years to come, relying on others to guide their studies, aspirations and career directions. Whether helping them to make their dreams come true or guiding them towards the opportunities that await them, their futures lie in our hands, as much as their own.

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