Hope in an overheated climate

This piece belongs to my blog series at where I discuss the seminars I attended hosted by the University of Edinburgh. The first blog entry can be found at: Why All students, from All years, from All subjects should attend Seminars.

Title of the Talk: Hope in an overheated climate

Speaker: Professor Kevin Anderson

An Inspiring Speaker

Prof. Anderson is the Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. In his talk he discussed the implications of the recent United Nations IPCC climate report and Scotland’s responsibility in tackling climate change. He revealed how since the 1980s big corporations and various governments knew about Climate Change and its future impact on the world. However due to political expedience they chose to ignore the problem, hoping the next generation with new technology will solve the problem. That did not happen, taking us to the problems of today.

Man made Climate Change

This century’s largest threat to mankind’s existence will be climate change. Our fossil fuels industry on which our economies are extremely reliant on, produce more CO2 than the planet can cope with absorbing. Same is true for our agriculture as our reliance on beef caused astronomical amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. The Oceans are absorbing CO2 at record rates at least in the past 10,000 years. The rising acidity and temperature levels of the oceans are killing off the coral reefs. The overall outlook of the livability of the planet’s climate is not good.

The current projection is putting our worlds path on a 3-4 degrees warming, unless we put our greenhouse gas emissions under control.

The ambitious challenge

Why current measures are a Sham

Despite all the conferences, all the press releases and the promises of new technology, the growth of global CO2 hasn’t stopped. Worse, the general consensus among companies became that we can use future technologies that have not been invented yet or untested to reduce the future CO2 emissions. Worse, a lot of plans see poor countries doing most of work. The same is true for the classes in rich nations. The upper class doesn’t want to change in its lifestyle so they want to introduce extra taxes on the working classes and demand them to give up everything from their cars to their communities.

However the biggest problem globally is the lack of coordination between nations. While the Paris Agreement exists, it is voluntary and full of legal loopholes. Some countries use this as an excuse not to introduce any policies fighting climate change, blaming the lack of action on the other side. As a response to concerns about climate change, governments of the world and the UN have been talking about climate change since the late 80s.  However much action has not been taken as most are expecting some future quick solution (It just became a trend like everything else, to show that people ‘care’).

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

What can we really do to fix it?

The current plans on fighting climate change are inadequate as they are designed to kick the can down the road. The Paris agreement aims to have the yearly growth of global temperatures be at about 2 C degrees. Yet the IPCC report clearly states that if we want to avoid most of the damage we should aim bellow 1.5 C degrees. The problem should be tackled the way the United States tackled the Great Depression and post-world war Europe, a Green New Deal and a Green Marshal Plan. There should be a 3 phase strategy: Immediate and near term, where we change behaviour and corporate practices. Near to Medium, where we concentrate on increasing energy efficiency and offer green new jobs. Medium to longer term, Marshal style reconstruction with CO2 storage and major electrification projects. Overall we need a zero CO2 industrial strategy.

What happens if we don’t?

If we can’t reign in our greenhouse gas emissions or we leave the poor countries to pick up the pieces, our global civilisation is in massive trouble. Crop yields will keep on shrinking. The seas won’t yield any life. Summers will be too hot to survive and winters will bring in heavy storms. It would mean total collapse of our current civilisation.

The wide impacts of a rapidly warming world on Europe

What will probably make change happen?

In the current system, nothing much. Wealthy countries will keep avoiding the problem, playing around with numbers. Creative accounting will keep the technical emissions low while real emissions will be sky high. As poor countries are effected first, the populations in wealthier ones will ignore the problem further. The situation might get so drawn out, it wold generate a popular uprising in many countries. Real change will happen when we either radically reform the current Neo-liberal systems or see how can the rich pick up more responsibilities in solving the problems of climate change.

The different points of views on the Problems and Solutions

I find the intersection of politics and science very interesting. A large chunk of Global science is sponsored by the public purse. Therefore research aims and methods are somewhat under the influences of the ones with capital. Public pressure is important as well. If research projects are seen as unethical or purposeless, action groups put a lot of pressures on Government and Business to shut them down. This introduces biases into the research method and interpretation of data. Scientists are human beings with social circles who are reliant on owning and earning capital. Therefore when they present information to the public they try as hard as possible to please the public and the entities that fund them. This phenomena can be observed with Climate Change research. Some profit by denying it, most try to stick to the truth as much as possible and some exaggerate to get attention. When we look at Climate Change data and look through the possible solutions to climate change, we need to keep this in mind.

Further Reading

IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways