The new report of the Interstate Panel on Climate Change offers not only hope, but also practical solutions. Every government now agrees that the climate crisis is driven by the way the world’s rich – which includes much of Britain’s population – currently live, consume and invest. A comprehensive solution for energy needs is to electrify everything we can, from heating buildings to transportation, and power everything using clean renewable energy sources and storage.
Solutions have been proposed
Following recent reports on the causes and consequences of climate change, this one covers solutions – with a summary signed by world governments. The summary is direct and clear, and in many places acknowledges a reality that scientists and activists have known for years, but governments often avoid acknowledging it directly.
First, it is clearly acknowledged that North America and Europe have made the greatest contribution to the crisis we are experiencing, producing the most carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution.
The report shows that the average North American emits 16 tons of carbon dioxide each year from the use of fossil fuels, compared to only 2 tons for the average African. Consumption of the top 10% of households makes up over a third of global greenhouse gases, compared to 15% of gas for 50% of households at the bottom of the list. Every government now agrees that the climate crisis is driven by the way the world’s rich – which includes much of Britain’s population – currently live, consume and invest.
The rich emit the most carbon
This is a big step forward compared to previous reports. The latest IPCC summary of solutions from 2014 marked population growth as “one of the most important drivers of increasing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion”. Such dangerous misunderstandings have now disappeared. Seven years later, these old arguments “blaming the poor” increasingly look like the rest of the past.
The new report is also astonishingly clear on how far governments are from meeting their commitments signed by the 2015 Paris Agreement and reaffirmed in Glasgow late last year. Despite all the stories of the British government about “maintaining 1.5 ° C” in Glasgow, the current climate policy and promises will not achieve the two goals of Paris: to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, or keep it “significantly below” 2 ° C.
Despite the complexity of climate science, our course is frighteningly easy to observe: we are currently on the path to catastrophic 3C warming. In a world where half the population is very vulnerable to the climate crisis, that means disaster. Extreme heat waves, floods and droughts far beyond the normal tolerances of cities and settlements will destroy lives and livelihoods globally. The consequences of crop failure, migration and economic disruption could then overload political institutions and our ability to respond to ongoing events.
If it seems depressing, there is reason for hope. Governments are the owners of this report. They confirmed and signed it. Their citizens can now hold them accountable for the failures listed.
The solution is in electrification
The most encouraging section of the report is on fossil fuel alternatives. A comprehensive solution for our energy needs is to electrify everything we can, from heating buildings to transportation, and power everything using clean renewable energy sources and storage. We are getting a huge helping hand from big leaps forward to clean technology.
The report says that between 2010 and 2019, the price of solar energy fell by 85%, wind energy by 55% and lithium-ion batteries by 85%. These are staggering figures that point to a radically reshaped energy future. With the tsunami of suffering that will soon hit British households due to rising energy costs, caused by the sharp rise in gas prices, everyone in the government must see this message. There is a cheaper, cleaner way.
But the problem of emissions is deeper than the mere failure to invest in low-carbon alternative sources. The world already has enough existing and planned infrastructure that emits high concentrations of carbon to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Retirement of large emitters, such as coal-fired power plants, is needed. In addition, it is necessary to cancel the planned new oil fields and airports that have high emissions.
This report is essentially a manifesto to end the era of fossil fuels. This will help a growing number of people fighting the fossil fuel industry on many fronts – but especially those using official channels, such as lawmakers lobbying the government not to open new oil fields, lawyers and citizens bringing countries or companies to justice. , or those that justify direct action to stop the construction of high – carbon infrastructure. The license for climate action has never been stronger
The report also contains elements that the fossil fuel industry will use to further delay climate action. The main discussion is about the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some believe that we will be able to suck carbon out of the air later this century, so why are we trying to significantly reduce emissions today?
Ending the era of fossil fuels
The answer, the report said, was that carbon sequestration “currently faces technological, economic, institutional, environmental and socio-cultural barriers”. The report says some carbon removal is needed, but that should never be an alternative to current emissions reductions. This clearly shows how unrealistic expectations about the removal of very high amounts of carbon are.
For those who have worked for climate, the full 3,000-page report contains an astonishingly honest assessment of the organized efforts used to thwart climate action, noting: “Opposition to climate action by the carbon-related industry is broad-based, highly organized and paired with extensive lobbying ”. It may seem ironic that this is not part of a much more readable summary, but it may not be surprising. The intertwined relationship between fossil fuels and governments goes deep: last week, for example, we learned that the government will appoint a former head of the British company BP to advocate the transition of Great Britain to a low-carbon economy.
Each passing year adds new reasons to stop using fossil fuels. Last year, it became clear that gas prices would rise sharply, affecting millions of people. This year, we can add that fossil fuels finance the Russian army and its crimes. Urban air pollution can end and hundreds of millions of people suffering from heat waves, droughts and floods can be avoided. And the price? Investing a few estimates of GDP and some new laws.
Climate change can be complex, but the IPCC has worked hard to make it simple. There is still a way to halve emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, which is likely to meet the 1.5C target. It is a message full of hope. Now the task is to make it real.
The author of the analysis is Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change at the University College London and the University of Leeds.
E2 portal (The Guardian)
Source: E2 Portal by www.e2.rs.
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