Global warming is not a complicated issue. The science has been done, the outlook only gets worse. The aim has been established: keep global warming under the 2°C ‘tipping point’ –the point at which it is almost universally agreed (I say almost, because there are crazies in all communities, including scientific ones) that the earth’s climate becomes so de-stabilised that there’s no saving us. Here’s a quick 1:21 on that:
This video was recorded in 2007, since then the figures have been informed by the discovery of startling and terrifying rates of change.
If we cut global emissions by 85% we will have a 50/50 chance of keeping global temperature rise under the 2°C tipping point. Because the UK pollutes more than developing countries, our share of that is greater, we will have to cut roughly 93% of our emissions. Source. HOW we cut the emissions is equally important, a paper published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has determined that that “wherever temperatures peak, that is more or less where they will stay. There is no going back.” Source and the slower we cut, the more emissions we put out, cumulatively speaking.
To deliver a high chance of preventing two degrees of warming, we would need to cut global emissions by something like 10% by the end of next year and 25% by 2012(7). This is a challenge that no government is yet prepared to accept. Source
Global Warming is not a complicated issue. It’s very simple, either we alter our behaviour, or we die. The sooner and greater we act, the better: 2050, that’s the deadline.
What happens if we don’t meet it?
On a meteorological level it means flash floods, coastal flooding, droughts, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes, on a human level it means destroyed homes, water shortages, disease, ruined harvests, ever depleting world food stocks, looting, violence, and the destabilisation of power. At current rates of sea level rise by 5050 almost all of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire will be underwater, as well as a good amount of London.
If you read that and thought ‘I don’t live there, I’ll be OK’ consider the 150 million environmental refugees that would exist by 2050. Consider their destabilising effect on the surviving population. Consider the wars for resources, the land grabs, the drought, the famine and disease that will occur in every country. Can you be sure that of the 80% of the world’s population will have been “wiped out“by 2100, none of them will be of you and yours?
I sat on a hill, high up in Leicestershire a week ago. I sat there with 3 of my good friends, and we just chatted in the sunshine. It was a warm day, not too hot, but the clouds hung down, grey. One of them asked me about climate change, so I pretty much said all of what I just have. They listened. Then they shrugged. ‘We’re all dead then, aren’t we’.
No, we are not.
This is the attitude that worries me most. That horrible fallacy which has been placed into people’s heads by the ease of modern living, a deadening lazy media, and a carefully cultivated cultural apathy; the idea that we have no power. That we cannot change things. Society is built of single units, working together, it works because we give it credence. They have no real control over us, to really control a society there would need to be 3 police officers to hold down every one person. We only give them power because it benefits us to subscribe the system. But the point at which the system threatens you, the point at which the system offers you more harm than protection, is the point at which you rise up, and you change it.
Governments exist to be re-elected, yes they have other aims, but they rarely, and in real terms, look beyond a 4 or 8 year mark. Government is simply not suited to dealing with long term decisions. Democratically elected governments cannot afford to be progressive, they have to be as conservative as the loudest majority. And in society which has been told there is no such thing, the single unit rules. Enter: the NIMBY. Wheelie bins, incandescent light bulbs, wind farms. People operate on the same lines, ‘this effects me right here, right now, my personal rights are far more important than the greater good, because what do I ever see of the greater good? It’s just good, you don’t notice it, right?’
Enter the ‘save money’ approach, monetising sure does make the ‘greater good’ more attractive, huh? Flourescent bulbs will save your £45 per year! Insulating your house properly can save you up to £300 a year! That’s a family holiday to Majorca if you fly Easyjet and shit in a plastic bag! (rather than use the pay-toilets) Wait… didn’t I hear flying is bad?*
I’ll offset the emissions then! What do you mean offsetting is a ‘dangerous distraction’ actually encouraging greater consumption rather than displacing it?
The greatest battle we face on climate change is lifestyle. We could cover 1/3 of the UK in wind and solar farms, combine that with tidal, hot rock, offshore wind power, and nuclear power plants along the whole of our coastline, we would still fall seriously short of our current energy consumption levels Source. Because we’re not just talking about electricity here, we’re talking about heating, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, how and what we eat, gadgets, where consumables and clothes come from, how we throw them away, how we shop, what we expect from our food, our holidays, how we do our jobs. It all uses energy, it all contributes to the 93% that we, as a nation, have to cut.
And that really is down to us.
You can make changes to your own life. Achievable, small changes, that will add up. YES you will be inconvenienced. But it’s a small price to pay. It’s not the greater good, it’s our greater good, let’s fight for it, OK?
Don’t know where to start? Here’s your chance:
This afternoon the team that made the film The Age of Stupid is launching the 10:10 campaign: which aims for a 10% cut in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions during 2010. This seems to be roughly the trajectory needed to deliver a good chance of averting two degrees of warming. By encouraging people and businesses and institutions to sign up, the campaign hopes to shame the UK government into adopting this as its national target. This would give the government the moral leverage to demand immediate sharp cuts from other nations, based on current science rather than political convenience. Source
See http://www.1010uk.org/ or @tentenuk on Twitter. Today, Tuesday the 1st of September 4-7pm at the Tate Modern, there is live music, free champagne and a token, a recycled piece of 747 of your very own, available to the first 1,000 people to sign up to cut their emissions by 10% in a year. Get involved, speak up, because we haven’t got long. Join the rest of the country in shouting out as the world works towards the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Join the Wave, participate.
My current CO2 emissions are roughly 3.53 tonnes per year (I used this calculator) 3.177 is my target. I intend to stick to it.
To put that further in perspective, 40kWhpd is twice the amount that would be generated by, for example, covering the windiest 10% of the UK with wind turbines (delivering 2 W/m2)
ALSO ” Flying creates other greenhouse gases in addition to CO2, such as water and ozone, and indirect greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxides. If you want to estimate your carbon footprint in tons of CO2– equivalent, then you should take the actual CO2 emissions of your flights and bump them up two- or three-fold.” Source
Yes flying is bad. I’m sorry.
†Kilowatt hours are “one unit” on electricity bills, about 10p in the UK in 2008 – one 40 W (incandescent) lightbulb, kept switched on all the time, uses one kilowatt-hour per day. Source