THE METHANE BOMB

It was probably more hope than expectation, but in the early years of the 21st century, it looked as if atmospheric concentrations of the hyper-greenhouse gas, methane had pretty much stabilised. This was good news as the gas has the capability of sending planetary heating into overdrive. In the short term – say a decade or two – methane is capable of warming the planet up to 86 times more rapidly than carbon dioxide. The gas doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere for much more than ten years or so, but then it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water – both greenhouses – which means that its warming influence continues. Even after 100 years, in fact, the global warming potential of the gas is still more than 30 times that of carbon dioxide.

 

Now, both the hope and expectation seem short-sighted as new research reveals that methane levels in the atmosphere are on the rise again. A new open access paper published by the American Geophysical Union (1) provides evidence for atmospheric methane levels starting to climb once more in 2007 and accelerate significantly for the period 2014 – 17. Such a hike is unexpected and was not factored into the calculations that came up with the emissions reductions framework for the Paris Climate Agreement. Consequently, the probability that global average temperatures will rise far above the 2°C dangerous climate change guard rail is now even greater.

 

A big concern is that it is not clear where the methane is coming from. There seems to have been an especially significant increase in the gas across the tropics and sub-tropics and at northern mid-latitudes, and more intensive farming and the warming of methane-hosting swamps and bogs have been fingered as possible culprits. Far more worrying is the possibility that chemical changes in the atmosphere, as it warms, might make it more difficult to break down methane. If true, this would be very bad news indeed, because it would mean that this extremely potent greenhouse gas would hang around for longer, thereby significantly increasing its global warming potential.

 

And there could be plenty more methane to come. Trapped beneath the vast tracts of permafrost at high latitudes are colossal quantities of the gas. The geographic region of most concern is probably the submarine permafrost that floors the East Siberian Continental Shelf, where an estimated 1400 billion tonnes of carbon, in the form of methane, is lurking beneath a frozen carapace that is thawing rapidly. According to one research team as much as 50 billion tonnes of this is available for sudden release at any time, which would – at a stroke – hike the methane content of the atmosphere 12 times. A discrete methane ‘burp’ on this scale could, it has been estimated, advance global warming by 30 years and cost the global economy USD60 trillion – a figure close to four times the US national debt. The occurrence of such an outburst is far from certain and there are other issues to consider, including how much methane is absorbed by the ocean as it bubbles upwards. Nonetheless, this cataclysmic scenario provides yet another reason – if more were needed – why we must slash our own emissions to zero as soon as we can.

 

(1) Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the four years 2014‐2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018GB006009

 

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

 

 

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IS IT ALREADY TOO LATE?

Despite the fact that ITV once broadcast a fly-on-the-wall documentary about me called Disasterman, I have always had a fairly positive outlook. Staying optimistic in light of the environmental bombshells published this week, however, is not easy. At times like this it is difficult not to wonder if, whatever action we take, we may already be doomed.

The first bombshell exploded at the weekend, when the results of a major new study (1) revealed that the global population of insects of all types was plunging by 2.5 percent a year. Should this rate of decline continue – and there is good reason to think it could even accelerate – then a quarter of all insects alive today will be gone in a decade. Before 2070, half will have vanished and none will survive to the end of the century. It is impossible to play down the scale of this blossoming catastrophe. Without insects we will starve. Full stop! This would be as near as it gets to an extinction event for the human race, and not one that happens in the dim and distant future, but one that will increasingly impact on our children and their children. As ever, this should not really come as a surprise. We know the cause – a conspiracy of climate change and industrial-scale intensive agriculture. The solutions too, are clear; a complete rethink of our diet, how we grow our food and how we manage our world – for the good of all life, not just our own.

On Tuesday, hard on the heels of the insectageddon bombshell came another, this one in the form of a new report by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research (2). This flagged up how the accelerating impacts of climate change and other environmental problems, threatens a collapse of the world’s social and economic systems. Once again, this is hardly news to those of us who have eyes and use them, but the report draws attention to a number of key points; not least the fact that mainstream political and policy debates utterly fail to recognise the problem. It is off the radar and kept there by Brexit, trade wars and comparable issues that pale into insignificance against climate breakdown and environmental degradation. Not only can most policy makers not see the elephant in the room, they are not even in the room.

These two reports are simply the latest in a near continuous torrent of bad news that acts to sap the will. In the face of this mind-numbing deluge, it would be all too easy to throw in the towel; to turn our backs on the environmental crisis that threatens our survival; to plead that it’s just too hard to tackle. But we can’t afford to do this. It is too late now to prevent dangerous, all-pervasive, climate change that will affect every one of us and make the lives of our children and theirs a real struggle. It is going to be tough anyway – that’s now a certainty – but the longer we delay and the slower we are to take serious action, the worse it will be. This is why Extinction Rebellion is calling for a net zero carbon world by 2025. However bad the news gets, this is still something worth fighting for. What choice do we have?

(1) Worldwide decline of entomofauna: a review of its drivers

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320718313636

(2) This is a crisis: facing up to the age of environmental breakdown

https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/age-of-environmental-breakdown

 

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

ASIA – CLIMATE BREAKDOWN’S NEW FRONT LINE

By Bill McGuire

In my last blog I reported on the unsurvivable heatwaves that lie in wait, later this century, for unsuspecting populations, particularly across Asia. Without serious efforts to slash global carbon emissions now, three quarters of the population of India will be exposed to ‘extremely dangerous’ levels of humid heat, while four hundred million inhabitants of China’s northern plain will be at severe risk of heat death.

This is shocking enough in its own right, but this week brought more bad news for the region that looks, increasingly, as if it will occupy an unenviable position in the front line as our world’s climate continues to break down. The huge populations of nations like India, China and Pakistan are only sustainable while there is a reliable food supply. This, in turn, is critically dependent upon a trustworthy supply of water for irrigation. There have been worries for some time that a failing climate will result in a more sporadic monsoon, or even – on occasion – its failure. The new research, however, brings an even greater threat.

According to the results of a new landmark study1, the glaciers of the 3,500-long Hindu Kush Himalaya mountain chain are in such a precarious state that a business as usual emissions scenario will see two-thirds of them gone by the century’s end. Even if we really pull our fingers out and slash emissions so as to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, one third of the ice will still be gone by 2100.

The reason why this scenario is so potentially cataclysmic is that the great rivers draining the Hindu Kush Himalaya – including the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow – provide the water that irrigates the crops that feed two billion people across a region stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the west to China and Myanmar in the east. Cut off this water supply and the stage is set for a prodigious famine far beyond biblical proportions. The study is the work of more than 200 scientists and peer reviewed by a further 150, so it stands as a formidable work of climate science that cannot and must not be ignored.

With 15 percent of the ice already gone, since the 1970s, problems are already becoming apparent due to more erratic river flow. By the middle of the century, the authors of the report predict, river flow will ramp up as more and more meltwater cascades down from the mountains. Flood events will occur far more frequently, while population centres will also face existential danger from catastrophic deluges arising from the breaching or overtopping of high-altitude meltwater lakes.

The real problems will set in, however, from around the 2060s onwards, as river flows start to drop off in earnest as the source ice fields fade away. Not only will this have a devastating impact on agriculture, it will also ensure that hydro-power dams on the rivers can no longer function, cutting power across the region. The prospects of billions being unable to feed themselves while at the same time having insufficient power to attend to the basics of life, doesn’t bear thinking about. This is a pending human catastrophe on the grandest of scales, and yet another reason why we can’t afford to dither any longer. The honest truth is that, even if we manage to achieve net zero emissions by 2025, this still won’t be enough to stop climate breakdown in its tracks. But failing to do this will doom vast tracts of our world to the heat, dust and despair of Hothouse Earth.

1The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-92288- 1

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

COMING SOON – THE HEAT THAT KILLS IN HOURS

By Bill McGuire (ex-IPCC scientist writing exclusively for XR Blog)

Here in the UK, with snow drifting down and the papers full of warnings of the imminent arrival of ‘the beast from the east’ – the bitterly cold weather pattern that brings the worst of winter weather – it is hard to imagine that elsewhere on the planet temperatures are soaring to dangerous levels. A world away from the frost and icy wind, Australia is in the grip of an unprecedented heatwave. Last week, temperatures across much of the country topped 40°C and, in many places breached 45°C. A few days ago, at Port Augusta in South Australia, the temperature peaked at a record-shattering 48.9°C. Probably most astonishing is the record overnight temperature, which – at Noona in New South Wales – fell to just 35.9°C; an all-time record for the country. I have always thought of Australia as essentially a desert with a few green bits around the outside. The prospects for the country on Hothouse Earth are bleak, so it is particularly ironic that successive governments have proved to be some of the least climate-friendly on the planet.

The scorching temperatures down under are likely to be just the advance guard of what may well be Planet Earth’s hottest year ever. With a new El Niño looking to build across the Pacific – a phenomenon that acts to boost global temperatures as well as supercharge extreme weather – 2019 is widely predicted to be hotter than each of the last three years which, themselves, make up the three hottest on record. As a consequence, heatwaves are likely to be widespread – as they were in 2018. Last year saw unprecedented heat across four continents, especially in July, when more than 3,000 daily high temperature records and 55 all-time highs were shattered.

It hardly takes an Einstein to appreciate that heatwaves will become one of the most damaging, disruptive and lethal hazards as the world continues to heat up. According to the University of Hawaii’s Camilo Mora, one of the authors of a study published last year in Nature Climate Change, when it comes to future heatwaves ‘our options are now between bad and terrible.’ What this means is that, even if we slash greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, by the end of the century nearly half the world will experience deadly heatwaves. If we take no effective action, then three-quarters of our planet’s population will be under threat.

Furthermore, the nature of the worst future heatwaves will be very different from those currently baking Australia and that scorched much of the world in 2018, and their impact potentially catastrophic. As global temperatures continue to ramp up, a deadly conspiracy of heat and humidity, measured by the so-called ‘wet-bulb’ temperature, will bring about murderous heatwaves from which there can be no relief and no escape. When the wet-bulb temperature reaches 35°C, the combination of heat and humidity is such that losing heat through sweating is impossible for the human body. In such circumstances anyone without access to air conditioning – however young or fit – has only six or so hours to live, whether sheltering in the shade or not. Research (1,2) reveals that as the century progresses – and under a business as usual scenario – more and more of the planet will come under severe threat from such devastating heat, in particular the Middle East, South and South East Asia and China. Ground zero looks like being China’s northern plain where – today – four hundred million people toil in the country’s agricultural heartland. By the second half of the century, fatal humid heatwaves are forecast to strike the region repeatedly, effectively making China’s breadbasket uninhabitable.

No human has yet had to experience such heat-death conditions, but it can only be a matter of time. In Bandar Mahshahr (Iran) temperatures of 46°C combined with 50 percent humidity, brought conditions, in July 2015, to the very limit of survivability. Perhaps 2019 will be the year the threshold is breached, bringing a first taste of what it will be like when parts of the world that brought forth and moulded our species finally become off limits to us.

(1) http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/8/e1603322

(2) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05252-y

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Going Under

By Bill McGuire

If your children or grand children live within sight of the sea, then be afraid. Very afraid. Sea-level rise is set to be one of the most devastating and disruptive consequences of climate breakdown and the prospect of the oceans drowning coastal communities by the end of the century is growing by the day. The prevailing view sees perhaps a metre or so of sea-level rise by the century’s end – enough in its own right to doom low-lying islands and coastlines – but the true picture may be far worse. A number of studies suggest that sea levels by 2100 could be two or three metres up on today; perhaps as much as five metres. A truly terrifying scenario.

uk_sealevel_rise

How the UK would look on an ice-free Earth

Global sea levels rose by around 20cm during the 20th century and are climbing now at close to half a centimetre a year. Much of this is due to the expansion of the oceans as they warm, but melting ice is playing an ever more important role in hiking the rate of the rise. The problem is that the Earth is not heating up uniformly, and the bad news for us is that temperatures across the polar regions are climbing far more rapidly than anywhere else. Of course, this is where the vast majority of our world’s ice resides; in total, a staggering 24 billion cubic kilometres of it – close to seventy per cent of all the fresh water on Earth. The great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have been bastions of stability since the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. During the second half of the 20th century, however, and especially in the last few decades, they have started to crumble, shedding vast quantities of freshwater into the oceans.

Until recently, attention has been focused on accelerating melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which are the most sensitive to rising temperatures. The last 20 years or so has seen a huge increase in the melting rate of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is now shedding close to 400 billion tonnes of ice every year. Even more worryingly, the melting rate is increasing exponentially, which means it will continue to accelerate rapidly.

The news from West Antarctica is not good either. In the five years from 2012 to 2017, ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet shot up threefold, from 76 billion tonnes annually, to a colossal 219 billion tonnes. In total, more than 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice has melted in the last quarter century, adding three-quarters of a centimetre to global sea level. At the new rate, the contribution over the next 25 years would be 1.5cm. Not really too much to worry about. If, however, the rate of increase is maintained over this period, then the annual rise by the mid-2040s – barely more than 20 years away – would be close toa catastrophic five centimetres a year. And this is without the growing contribution from Greenland and from the increasing expansion of sea water as the oceans continue to warm. It is not known how the melt rate will change in coming decades, but it is a sobering thought that even if the rate of increase stays as it is, low-lying lands and all coastal population centres would be threatened with permanent inundation by the century’s end.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, new research from East Antarctica paints an even more disturbing picture. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet dwarfs those of both Greenland and West Antarctica. Complete melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would raise global sea levels by around seven metres, while melting of all the ice in West Antarctica would add another five or so. If East Antarctica lost its ice, however, it would push up sea levels by a staggering fifty metres or more. Until recently, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was regarded as largely stable, and some studies even suggested that it might have been growing. The new study (1) reveals, however, that this is now changing, and changing with a vengeance. What was a sleeping giant is now beginning to wake up.

Satellite data reveals that a cluster of colossal glaciers, which together make up about an eighth of the coastline of East Antarctica, are starting to melt as the surrounding ocean gets progressively warmer. The loss of the giant (It’s about the size of Spain!) Totten Glacier – just one of the cluster – would, on its own, raise global sea levels by more than three metres. The new data show that it and its companions are now moving increasingly rapidly seawards and thinning as they do so, meaning that even the worst predictions for rising sea levels may be optimistic. As with the many other indicators that flag the remorseless breakdown of the stable climate that fostered the growth of our civilisation, the collapse of the polar ice sheets sends us the message that time has run out. Prevarication is no longer an option. Only serious and determined action now will give us any chance of avoiding a climate calamity that will swamp the world’s coastlines and displace hundreds of millions – if not billions – of people.

(1) https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/more-glaciers-in-antarctica-are-waking-up

 

Bill   McGuire   is  Professor   Emeritus   of  Geophysical   &   Climate Hazards   at  UCL   and   author  of   Waking   the  Giant:   How   a  Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was   a   contributor  to   the   IPCC  2012   report   on  Climate   Change   &Extreme Events and Disasters.

 

Forward To The Past

By Bill McGuire

The trouble with blogging about climate change is that the bad news comes so thick and fast these days that it is difficult to know what to flag up next. The findings of at least three pieces of research were published in the last week or so, each of which added further support to the case that we are going to hell in a hand cart. It took a deal of humming and harring before deciding which to address here, but in the end I determined to take a look at what past climate change can tell us about where we are headed. For now, the melting glaciers of East Greenland and evidence for an upcoming acceleration of planetary warming will just have to wait.

The idea that the past is the key to the present is a tenet worth much in the fields of Earth Science and geophysics, and it makes perfect sense. In the same way that observing natural processes happening today can help us interpret events within the geological record, so what happened thousands or millions of years can tell us what we to expect on 21st century Earth.

The latest news from deep time is not good. In fact it is terrifying. Around 252 million years ago, the geological period known as the Permian was brought to an abrupt end by the greatest mass extinction event in the history of our world. Known as the Great Dying, it saw almost all marine species wiped out, along with two-thirds of all life on land. What caused this cataclysmic dieback has been a matter of debate and controversy in geological circles for many years. Now, though, it looks as if the culprit has been fingered – climate change. 

The results of a new study published earlier this month1 by scientists from Stanford University and the University of Washington provide robust evidence for a huge spike in warming at this time, with global average temperatures climbing as much as 10°C in as little as a few hundred years. As a result, the warmer oceans may have lost up to four fifths of their oxygen, leading to the obliteration of 96 percent of all marine species. On land, the extreme temperatures wiped everything – from lizards and insects to early plants and bacteria – from the face of the planet. The cause of the temperature spike is not certain, but up there as the favourite is a massive outburst of greenhouse gases triggered by elevated levels of volcanic activity.

Substitute the repeated annual injection into the atmosphere of more than 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, for volcanic activity, and the situation begins to look horribly familiar. But surely, you might say, even the worst case scenarios don’t predict a 10°C rise in global temperatures, do they? Well, on the basis of current trends, the best we can hope for is a global average temperature hike of 3°C by 2100; nearer 4 or 5°C – or even more – should feedback loops really start to kick in as expected. That is already half way to the Great Dying, and would see countless species wiped out in a continuation of the ongoing, human-induced, sixth great extinction. Even worse, if we burn most (not even all!)known fossil fuel reserves, it has been calculated that our world could end up a staggering 16°C warmer than during pre-industrial times2. At the moment, the average temperature of Planet Earth is a little over 14°C. This would take it to more than 30°C. The result would be a mass extinction to put the Great Dying in the shade, and one that the human race would struggle to survive. Under these furnace conditions, most of the planet would simply be too hot for human physiologies to function, so the best prognosis for our race would be the survival of a few pockets clinging on in the slightly cooler polar regions.

So, it is perfectly clear. We now know exactly what trajectory we will be on if we continue to burn fossil fuels and swamp the atmosphere with carbon.  Not back to the future, but forward to the past. We can’t let it happen.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Sources:

(1) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6419/eaat1327 

(2) https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20140017102.pdf 

Inspiring your audience – How to ‘Sell’ Climate Change Action

By Kate Goldstone

 

The battle against runaway climate change is one that every one of us faces. Our children face it too. But across the world climate campaigners are struggling – and often failing – to capture the public imagination, to persuade their audiences to act, to get things moving. As an ex-marketer I think it’s important to explore why it’s sometimes such a challenge to wake our audiences up, and how we can work more effectively to bring millions more protestors into the fold.

The history of climate change

The history of the scientific discovery of climate change (1) kicked off in the early 1800s, when the natural greenhouse effect was first pinpointed. By the 1960s the warming effect of CO2 was clearer, but some scientists began wondering whether human generated atmospheric aerosols might have a cooling effect on the planet.

The ’70s saw the warming powers of CO2 confirmed, and by 1990 both computer modelling and simple observations confirmed greenhouse gases were deeply involved in climate change. Worse still, human-caused emissions were bringing about noticeable global warming. Now we understand a lot more about the causal relations between our CO2 habits and climate change, and there’s no doubt that the human race is at fault. It’s definitively a human thing.

What’s been done so far?

Five decades on from those first indications, it can feel like not a lot has changed. People are still burning fossil fuels, driving everywhere, still flying like there’s no tomorrow, even though our tomorrows are going to be seriously limited if we carry on. Governments are still sitting on their hands, entire nations are sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending everything’s OK. Wildfires are raging, coastlines are flooding, extreme weather is on the up… but nothing much seems to be happening, or at least nothing on the grand scale we need at this point.

Why so little real climate change action?

From an individual perspective, is there anything more scary that the planet you live on, the place that keeps you alive, turning against you? The thing about climate change is, it’s massive. It’s everywhere. It affects every human, plant and animal on the planet, of every kind, in multiple ways, very few of them positive.

Climate change means bad weather. Really bad, unpredictable weather. It means the wholesale destruction of property and crops. It means water wars and mass migrations. It means widespread economic difficulties and it might even destroy whole societies, entire nations. Countries on the Equator will probably become uninhabitable through the heat and lack of rain. People will starve. Because vast swathes of land will no longer be suitable for them, countless precious members of the animal kingdom will die off and become extinct.

From a government perspective, climate change is a really tricky fix. Because governments are only in power for a short time, their viewpoint is a short-term one. They’re not comfortable bringing in unpopular climate change measures that restrict their constituents, cost them money or make their lives less pleasant, and that – as we know – is fatal. It means most of them are doing absolutely nothing, or very little, to mitigate climate change. And it leaves the public, you and I, with very little wriggle room.

If, like me, you’ve stopped flying altogether, barely ever use a car, have fitted energy-efficient light bulbs and other kit to your home and gone veggie or vegan, there’s not a lot else you can do. It’s incredibly frustrating watching governments fiddle while Rome burns. But no wonder it’s so hard to get most people off their backsides and into protest mode, when the problem feels so big, so hard to surmount, so horrifying to even contemplate. It’s very discouraging seeing our leaders doing bugger-all about it, and it’s saddening to see so relatively few ordinary people putting their neck on the block as well.

The remarkable power of optimism

According to an article in New Scientist magazine (2) decades of environmental doom-mongering have fallen on deaf ears. It says that a ‘new environmental campaign with a message of hope’ is what we need, a fresh way to campaign called ‘Earth Optimism’.

Fans of Earth Optimism say the successes we’ve experienced in protecting individual species like the scimitar oryx and Togo slippery frog, the overall decline in Amazon rainforest destruction, and our brilliant work on renewable energies are worthy of celebration. They all reveal the power we have at our fingertips as individuals.

Yes, the movement is accused of naivety, of wearing rose-tinted specs. But at the same time they’re not claiming that everything’s lovely. Rather, they believe we can’t expect people to rise to a challenge like this without inspirational examples of success.

Do environmental campaigners come across as too doom-mongering? Do we come across as ‘guilt-tripping party poopers’ as the article suggests? If you’re in need of a boost, you can follow Earth Optimism’s Tweets here (https://twitter.com/earthoptimism?lang=e)

Taking a marketing perspective

You could say we need to create the marketing campaign to end all marketing campaigns. And marketing is usually about optimism. A positive marketing message is always more powerful and influential than a negative one, which is why we tend to get so frustrated with party political promotion, which focuses a lot harder on negative information about competing parties than positive messages about their own policies.

The more we moan and weep and tear our hair out, the more we’re putting people off. The more dreadful facts and terrifying revelations we put out there, the more we drive people to bury their heads in the sand and keep them there. Do we in fact need fresh, new messages and an Obama-esque ‘yes, we can’ mindset? Do we need to shift the narrative to inspire people? What do you think?

Can we do it? Yes, we can!

If you doubt we can do it, think plastic. You have more influence than you think. Just look at what we’ve done about plastic pollution in the short time between David Attenborough’s epic Blue Planet series, which highlighted the issue, and now. All over the world ordinary people are using less plastic, handing back plastic packaging to the supermarkets it came from, changing their shopping habits, turning up en-masse to clean the world’s beaches and rescue plastic-stricken sea creatures.

Give us a cause and we’ll follow it. Give us a job and we’ll do it. But when we’re left to stew in our own juices as our politicians prevaricate, we’re completely disempowered. Maybe we need to break the task into bite-sized chunks. After all, none of us can save an entire planet’s climate on our own.

Can you think of a way to translate an enormous, unwieldy problem into something people can get their teeth into, get behind, get sorted? Can you think of an optimistic way to express an issue that we need people to focus on? How would you sell climate change action?

Sources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science

(2) https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631473-200-reasons-to-be-cheerful/