Cut Carbon Pollution, Show Political Willingness and Take on Corporate Power!
“When we think about climate change, a recurring phrase is that we should ‘do our bit’ to reduce our footprint. Others harangue environmentalists for peddling ‘green guilt.’ Both of those, a positive and a negative, imply complicity: climate change is something we’re all causing through our lifestyles. Things look very different from the perspective of a Ugandan farmer. They don’t have a car, or eat meat every day, or run a house full of appliances. For Constance, climate change is something that is done to her and her community. “It was not until I went to a meeting about climate change that I heard it was not from God, but the rich people in the West who are doing this to us.”
Urgent changes needed to cut risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, says IPCC
The IPCC global warming report spares politicians the worst details
Johan Rockström, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said scientists never previously discussed 1.5C, which was initially seen as a political concession to small island states. But he said opinion had shifted in the past few years along with growing evidence of climate instability and the approach of tipping points that might push the world off a course that could be controlled by emissions reductions.
“Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful,” he told the Guardian. “This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.
The huge loss is a tragedy in itself but also threatens the survival of civilisation, say the world’s leading scientists
“The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,” she told the Guardian. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.” Pașca Palmer is executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – the world body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends.
By obscuring capitalism with a term that is merely one of its symptoms – “consumption” – there is also a risk that blame and responsibility for species loss is disproportionately shifted onto individual lifestyle choices, while the larger and more powerful systems and institutions that are compelling individuals to consume are, worryingly, let off the hook.
Stop obsessing with how personally green you live – and start collectively taking on corporate power
While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.
So grow some carrots and jump on a bike: it will make you happier and healthier. But it is time to stop obsessing with how personally green we live – and start collectively taking on corporate power.
A relatively small number of fossil fuel producers and their investors could hold the key to tackling climate change.
ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.
While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.
Cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible
The Paris climate agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, but also an aspirational target of no more than 1.5°C. That’s because many participating countries – especially island nations particularly vulnerable to sea level rise – felt that even 2°C global warming is too dangerous. But there hadn’t been a lot of research into the climate impacts at 1.5°C vs. 2°C, and so the UN asked the IPCC to publish a special report summarizing what it would take to achieve the 1.5°C limit and what the consequences would be of missing it.
The details in the report are worth understanding, but there’s one simple critical takeaway point: we need to cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible.
The world heating up by even 1.5C would have a brutal impact on future generations
The authoritative new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sets the world a clear target: we must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by the middle of this century to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Every government should read this report and recognise the clear choice we now have.
Accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable growth or suffer the mounting damage from sea level rise, floods and droughts that will severely hinder efforts to tackle poverty, raise living standards and improve prosperity.
The IPCC report concludes that a world with 2°C of global warming will lead to more heat-related deaths, smaller crop yields, worse extreme weather events, slower economic growth, more people in poverty, and increase the population facing water stress by up to 50% compared to a 1.5°C world. And the impacts will get progressively worse if temperatures warm beyond the 2°C limit.
The take-home message is that the faster we cut carbon pollution, the less severe impacts we’ll face. We’re not yet doing nearly enough, although the Paris agreement was an important first step, and countries that withdraw from it should become international pariahs. While it’s important to understand the consequences of missing each temperature target, that bottom line will perpetually hold true. (1)
“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”
The report will be presented to governments at the UN climate conference in Poland at the end of this year. But analysts say there is much work to be done, with even pro-Paris deal nations involved in fossil fuel extraction that runs against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas fracking, Norway with oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal.
At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming. The report authors are refusing to accept defeat, believing the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way. “I hope this can change the world,” said Jiang Kejun of China’s semi-governmental Energy Research Institute, who is one of the authors. (2)
Multiple Sources (The Guardian)