Monday, 25 November 2019

This graph should terrify you!

30 years ago, we had the chance of a smooth transition to a sustainable and liveable future.  That was when the UK, along with most of the world, signed the convention on climate change.  There was going to be proper progress, we were going to cure climate change!   

Since then there has been 30 years of procrastination, dithering, denial and deflection.  World governments always found something better to do than address the most important issue of our age.

Since committing to “cure” climate change, what the world has actually done is emit more greenhouse gas than in the entire history the human race before 1990.  We are now at a level not experienced for 3 million years (when sea levels were 10 to 20m higher and temperatures 2 to 4 degrees higher).

And this graph illustrates the dire consequence of this failure of governance.

The black line shows the continually upward trend of our greenhouse gas emissions to 2019.  We know that we need to get down to zero by 2050 to stand even a 66% chance of keeping the climate below a damaging increase of 1.5 degrees C.  (Would you get on an aeroplane that had a 66% chance of not crashing!).  Even at 1.5 degrees the world is going to see major damage – we have lost the opportunity of stopping climate change.  The curves show how steeply the decline in emissions now needs to be to hit this vital target – with the slopes getting steeper the longer we leave it.

Had we started in the 1990’s, when we said we would, the change would have been smooth.  Starting in 2000 would have meant change at a rate of about 4% a year – quite manageable.  We have left it so terribly late, however, that we are truly in an emergency.  Major changes will now have to happen very quickly.  This is themessage of the key scientists throughout the world.

Further dithering will make things unimaginably worse.  The later we leave it, the steeper the decline in greenhouse emissions will need to be.  Even if we just emit greenhouse gases at the same rate as we do today, it will mean we will have used up our carbon budget in 9 years; either disaster will be inevitable or, at that point, we will have to switch off greenhouse emissions overnight. 

We are now at a point where disruption is inevitable – indeed we must now demand disruption rather than end up making do with catastrophe.

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