Climate change

Global warming and the threat of catastrophic climate change

There is no disagreement among climate scientists: global warming is happening, it is man-made, and if we do not change our CO2 emissions then catastrophic climate change will result. In June 2005, the science academies of 11 leading industrial nations (including the National Academies of Sciences from the US) released a joint statement saying :

“Carbon Dioxide levels have increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) in 1750 to over 375 ppm today – higher than any previous levels that can be reliably measured (i.e. in the last 420,000 years). Increasing greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise.” Source UCSUSA (Union of Concerned Scientists USA) website

For a good basic introduction on the science and the scientific consensus see here.. (pictures from a powerpoint presentation given in jersey his year by A Rocha’s UK Director Dave Bookless)

For what we are doing to the planet see this account of the evidence given at the trial of the Kingsnorth 6 by world-famous expert James Hansen (they were acquitted of the charge of crtiminal damage) here

For a nicely done animation that takes you all the way into a scary future see here.

And for the clearest explanation of the science, how we must change, policies for the UK to follow, keeping in mind equity both in this country and across the world, click here.

The effects of a 2% rise in temperature above pre-industrial levels include:

• 2 to 3 billion people suffering the risk of water shortages
• Salt water pollution of the water supply to some of the world’s biggest cities, including Shanghai, Mumbai, Djakarta, Lagos, Buenos Aires.
• Extreme weather events becoming more frequent
• 97% of the world’s coral reefs would bleach and are likely to die
• All the sea ice in the Arctic would melt destroying much of the ecosystem including the polar bears
• The interior of the Amazon basin would become void of vegetation and the Amazon instead of absorbing CO2 starts to emit CO2

Data from different scientific studies, cited in George Monbiot’s book “Heat” Chapter 1, published by Penguin in 2007

To stave off the worst of climate change, Monbiot claims that a massive cut of 90% in our carbon emissions is essential, from 9.5 tonnes of CO2 per person to 0.95 tonnes (UK figures). Note that Bangladesh’s emissions were 0.24 tonnes per head in 2003.

This can only be done by a) concerted government action to cut carbon b) concerted action by all of us to cut carbon and c) the attitude changes to go with it. For the sort of policy framework we will need see the Centre for Alternative Technology study referenced above. And we have got to start straight away. (For my policies go to the page on environment policies.)

“If you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going, and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job. But here’s an extremely salient point – we have been chosen, by fate or providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is.”

Bill Bryson
p.572 ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’

Strict government action is necessary because any solution has to be seen to be fair. As George Orwell wrote in 1940 during the war:

“The lady in the Rolls Royce is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Goering’s bombing planes”

All of us have to be under the same constraints. People are more willing to act if they perceive that everyone else is acting.  And in this situation we all have to get on with it. The good news is that our consumption of fossil fuels going down does not mean that our quality of life goes down in the same way, if at all. See sections 2,3 and 4 of my submission to Imagine Jersey 2035 .

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