You can’t help but have noticed the growing trend of using highly coloured boats to block major cities in the UK as the Climate Extinction Rebellion movement grows.
The movement is trying to raise awareness of the urgent need for all of us to change things to stop harming the only planet we have to sustain life.
It’s also caused anger and consternation amongst political commentators and others who think these people are just anarchists trying to overthrow our modern way of living.
Why should they be allowed to disrupt ‘normal’ life and stop people going about their daily business, runs the argument.
If we don’t do something in the next year or two, it may simply be too late
The need for immediacy
TV presenter George Clarke has written about a similar reaction to climate change campaigner, Greta Thunberg.
In his latest article for The Hub, he writes:
“Huge oil corporations accuse green campaigners of misleading people with unscientific arguments. Thunberg’s argument is that immediate pollution issues need to be tackled before all economic questions can be fully answered. The global economy, so massively dependent on the sale of fossil fuels simply cannot get its head around this.”
Thunberg has come to global prominence in the last year for leading school strikes on a Friday and this has now grown to a worldwide phenomenon which is simply not going to go away.
She is now calling for adults to join in with ‘general strikes’ on September the 20th and 27th.
The time is now
Both the schoolchildren striking each Friday and the activists dragging boats into the centre of our cities are reacting to the idea that we have just 11 years left to fix the problems of global warming.
But that supposes that we have resolved all of the complex geo-political issues around climate change which requires co-operation on a global scale never seen before.
That is why 2020 is seen as a pivotal year in the struggle to mitigate the harm that we are doing to our planet.
If we don’t put measures in place within the next year or two, it may simply be too late to reverse the damaging effects we have already inflicted on the earth.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, has published a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, which demonstrates the dangers of ignoring this damaging issue in terms of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
So maybe the Climate Extinction Rebellion protestors and the children standing outside their schools each Friday have a point. We need to act and we need to act now!
So, what is being done?
At the end of next year, the UK is set to host a critical global summit on the climate crisis, at which the world’s 190 nations must commit to deep cuts in emissions.
This is being hailed as the most significant UN climate summit since the Paris deal in 2015, which saw countries make pledges to curb emissions. However, even meeting these pledges only limits global heating to a 3C rise, which would still result in extreme weather around the globe.
The summit next year is therefore seen as the deadline by which our global leaders have to fully adopt the Paris climate change deal and explain the detailed action plans they will bring forward to keep the global temperature rise to as close to 1.5C as possible.
To put this in context, this will require a halving of global emissions in the next decade and the move to zero emissions within only a few decades later.
So Theresa May’s parting shot of announcing zero carbon targets is a welcome move, but as George Clarke asks in another Hub post, is it enough?
Is there anything you can do?
If you are a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, this can all sound a bit hopeless and it is easy to think that nothing can be done and, effectively bury your head in the sand.
But a quick look at just how far we have come in the last decade shows the potential for us to actually get things right and come up with solutions that will make a difference.
A recent blog by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit shows how renewable power is getting cheaper, faster than expected, comparing the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) predictions on price from 2008, compared with where we now are.
The article states: “the fall in price for offshore and onshore wind clearly exceeded the CCC’s expectations when it first advised the government on long term emissions targets in 2008.”
The piece also states that: “it’s clear that decarbonising the UK economy has cost far less than expected” … and … “the lesson of the last decade is that costs fall when there is a concerted effort to act.”
But the Unit also makes it clear that we need a major ramp up to get the country on to the zero carbon track.
Small changes make a difference
Bringing this all back to you for a moment, every little step you take or decision you make can and will make a difference.
Although there is so much more that needs to be done with waste, just look at the impact we have collectively had on plastics. There is power in being a consumer and in choosing what you do and do not consume.
The same can be said for your own diet. As I’ve written about before, cutting down on your own consumption of meat will help to make a difference.
And looking at your own behaviour at work and at home is also something you can do.
Do you still work in a building where you have radiators and air conditioning? And are there times of the year when they are both on an competing with each other, thereby wasting precious energy?
And at home, if you have an old heating system, is it time to consider joining the future and looking at replacing carbon-intensive gas or oil with a renewable system?
So it isn’t all hopeless, and there are things we can all do on an individual level that will help turn around this climate crisis.
Whether you join a climate strike; add a heat pump; cut down on meat, or simply make sure you recycle more, the question for each and every one of us, is how are we going to make a difference?
Russell Jones is content and communications manager for Mitsubishi Electric Living Environment Systems in the UK