Climate change all over the media
How refreshing that earlier this month we heard and saw Climate Change as the top news story in much of the media for a day or so.
It was because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had just published a report on their estimates of what the impacts of a 1.5o C rise in global average temperature (compared to pre-industrial levels) would be. Previous reports have generally been based on an assumed 2o C rise.
The report stresses that extremely urgent and far reaching action is needed. It says that only 12 years remain in which to prevent the global average surface temperature from increasing by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and we are currently on a course for a 3°C rise. Parts of the world have already warmed by 1.5°C
We are already seeing some of the the impacts of the current average 1o C temperature increase in the form of sea level rise, caused by expansion of the warming oceans and the melting of glaciers and the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica; a reduction in the area of Arctic sea ice and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.
The report makes projections of many likely impacts if the temperature rise is held to 1.5oC. They include:-
- Coral reefs would decline by 70–90%, with almost total destruction at 2o
- Global mean sea level rise (relative to 1986-2005) would be in the range 0.26 to 0.77 m by 2100, approximately 0.1m less than at 2°C. This implies that up to 10 million fewer people living in coastal areas would be exposed to related risks.
- Limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C is projected to prevent the thawing over centuries of a permafrost area in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 million square km, thereby preventing the emissions of vast quantities of the greenhouse gas methane.
It also estimates that in order to keep below the 1.5oC rise, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be reduced by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050 (Net zero means that all greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by an equal or greater quantity of carbon reduction, such as growing forests).
There are no detailed guidelines as to how this can be achieved. However it is noted that the use of electrical energy should be prioritised over direct fossil fuel use, and that this electricity should be produced primarily using renewable sources, but also using carbon capture and storage for fossil fuel sources. Infrastructure should be made more energy efficient.
Agricultural land must be used more efficiently, and its area reduced to allow for the production of more crops for energy production and for forest planting. This suggests a reduction in animal production, and therefore meat production, and an increase in land area producing food directly.
So what can we do about it?
Governments throughout the word must act fast and with great vigour but they won’t do this without encouragement and pressure from the people. This means that we must learn quickly how to lobby politicians effectively while encouraging other members of the electorate to join us in this endeavour. We need to challenge the undue influence of fossil fuel companies on government policy. We need to support existing legal challenges based on the alleged inadequacy of our government’s plans to reduce emissions; for example, Plan B’s opposition to the expansion of Heathrow[i]. We need to press our government and opposition to advocate progressive fiscal policy. This is needed to cut emissions by tackling the injustice of a situation in which the richest have the largest carbon footprints, yet will suffer the least from climate change, while the poorest have the smallest footprints but already suffer the most (see Professor Kevin Andersen’s[ii] and Friederike Otto’s[iii] comments on the IPCC special report). We should press for measures to support a green economy and transition away from one based on fossil fuels. At the same time we need to question our government’s assumption that the pursuit of unconstrained economic growth, which is at the heart of the current economic model, is compatible with solving the Climate Emergency.
Exhorting the rich to cut individual carbon footprints is likely to fall on deaf ears, though it behoves all those involved in action on climate change to do all they can to cut their own. Examples of this abound on the WinACC website.
It might sound as though this is so big that only governments can sort it out. That’s partly true; but there are things we can do to cut our own emissions, such as:-
- Consuming less energy by having a more energy efficient house, and turning the heating down.
- Consuming less energy by travelling less, and when we do travel, trying to avoid flying where possible. Locally, try walking, cycling or using the bus.
- Eating less meat, particularly beef, lamb and pork (perhaps eating this once a week) and dairy products.
- Avoiding food that has probably been carried by air (From outside Europe this means fresh fish, most fresh vegetables, and some fruit – bananas are generally carried by ship).
- Using less water, particularly in the garden.
In addition, we can put pressure on our various levels of government, by writing letters or signing petitions, to encourage, for instance:-
- Construction and retrofitting of more energy efficient buildings.
- Improved public transport.
- More renewable energy production.
- Not to promote flying, eg Heathrow third runway.
- Not to allow fracking.
- Raising fossil fuel taxes.
[iii] “… [W]e are not doomed. We can limit global warming…[I]t is a question of justice and equity.” https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-scientists-discuss-key-findings-of-the-ipccs-special-report-on-1-5c?utm_source=NEW+Weekly+Briefing&utm_campaign=86febf2fdd-Carbon_Brief_Weekly_12_10_2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b6e0a2d2ef-86febf2fdd-303542333&ct=t(Carbon_Brief_Weekly_12_10_2018)&goal=0_b6e0a2d2ef-86febf2fdd-303542333#otto