Extinction or business as usual? Hmm – that’s a difficult choice.

Bill McGuire’s Climate Bombshells

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.

Well, it is if you are the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond. Dead and buried PM, Theresa May seems keen to sign up to the government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommendation, which advocates a zero-carbon UK by 2050 – so as to leave something of a legacy other than a cocked-up Brexit. Her chancellor, however, has other ideas. In a speech a couple of weeks ago, he warned that achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century would cost ‘well in excess’ of £1 trillion; a vast sum of money that would take funding away from essentials such as schools, hospitals and the police and make our economy uncompetitive. Extraordinarily, the point he seemed to be making was that we couldn’t afford to cut emissions to zero. What an astonishing point of view – even for a Tory minister. Does he not understand that there is no choice here? It is something we can’t afford not to do. Without transitioning as fast as we can to become carbon-free, there won’t be any schools or hospitals, or an economy or society to speak of – for that matter.

His figures are a nonsense too. According to the CCC, the cost of a net zero 2050 target would be nothing like £1 trillion. In fact, the cost would fall within existing spending plans. There is no arguing with the fact that such a change will cost money, but – in addition to slashing emissions – it will be beneficial in all sorts of other ways. A wholesale switch to electric cars powered by renewable electricity, and a refocus on clean public transport, cycling and walking, would clean up our air and massively reduce the health impacts associated with atmospheric pollution and sedentary lifestyles. A mass programme to insulate new buildings and retrofit existing ones, would help older and vulnerable people stay warm and cut their energy bills. Such initiatives would be part of a Green New Deal aimed at transforming economy and society. Rather than making the UK economy uncompetitive, such a deal would drive the economy forward through investing in the low-carbon technologies and skills of the future. The result would be an economy that is sustainable and which improves society rather than destroys it. A Green New Deal is so beneficial, in fact, that there is simply no excuse for not launching it now – today. If we start now, then there is no reason why we can’t achieve net-zero emissions well before 2050, and the latest news on carbon levels in the atmosphere show why we need to do this.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere last month reached a whisker below 415 parts per million(ppm); a rise of 3.5ppm on the previous May. At this rate, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will break through the 450ppm barrier in May 2029 – a little less than a decade hence. Why is this important? Because keeping carbon dioxides levels below this figure provides our only chance of keeping the global average temperature rise (since pre-industrial times)below 2°C, above which all-pervasive catastrophic climate change will prevail. And even then, it is possible – perhaps even likely – that feedback effects will still result in the 2°C guardrail being smashed.

These new data throw a spanner in the works of the idea that we can still keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C. They also mean that net zero emissions by 2050 – in the UK and, in fact, right across the planet – is simply not sufficient to prevent devastating climate breakdown. We need massive emissions cuts far sooner, which is why Extinction Rebellion is still calling for net zero emissions in 2025. We can do it – we can’t afford not to.

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Students, Sunrise and Rebels unite to defy extinction

Originally posted here: https://theelders.org/news/students-sunrise-and-rebels-unite-defy-extinction

On 15 March students from around the world will join a global Youth Strike for Climate, leaving school and college to demand that their leaders urgently take climate action. In this guest blog Farhana Yamin, CEO at Track 0 and Extinction Rebellion Activist and Jake Woodier, an organiser of #YouthStrike4Climate explain why.

Politicians beware. Young people are demanding answers from governments to some tough questions.

  • Why have scientific warnings about the climate and ecological crisis been ignored for so long?
  • What emergency actions can now be put in place to stop the extinction of life on Earth?

Tired of the apathy and denialist campaigns funded by vested interests, young people are taking to the streets and joining new social movements that are demanding solutions be put in place in 10 years or less.

That timeframe more or less matches the 12 year deadline given by the United Nation’s chief scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In October 2018, the IPCC spelt out the consequences of what a hotter more disruptive climate would look like. Unless we cut global greenhouse gases emissions by 50% in the next 11 years, billions of people would be exposed to increased storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, acidified oceans and sea level rise which would result in water and food shortages and mass migration.

Students strike for climate in London in February 2019. (Photo: Socialist Appeal/Flickr)

Fearing for their future and acting out of solidarity with their fellow global citizens, this week hundreds of thousands of young people are expected to walk out of schools and colleges to join the school strike movement. They are inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg, who in August 2018 stopped going to school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament and demand climate action. Since then, thousands of young people around the world have joined the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement with campaigns now active in around 71 countries. In Belgium, around 50,000 children and young people take to the streets every Friday. The UK’s student movement is gathering momentum. The first national strike resulted in 15,000 students and young people ditching classrooms to demonstrate a need for radical and urgent action to achieve climate justice for current and future generations. 

Anna Taylor, 17, co-founder or the UK Student Climate Network which is coordinating the mobilizations explains:

“The burden of holding powerful actors to account over their climate records has unfortunately fallen on the young. We’ve been betrayed by the climate inaction of previous generations. We’re having to rise up and fight for those around the world already suffering the devastating effects of climate change, and for our very futures.”

The youth led Sunrise Movement rally in San Francisco in December 2018. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr)

Long held attitudes of moderation are now woefully insufficient given the global climate emergency we all face. From the “Green New Deal’s 10 year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in ways that generate clean jobs, supported by the youth-led Sunrise movement and championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the Extinction Rebellion’s campaign of mass civil disobedience to dismantle the toxic systems that are putting all life on Earth at risk, it is clear that the desire to build a more inclusive society based on respecting nature’s boundaries is beginning to reshape politics.

No-one knows what will happen and no-one can say for sure whether or not fundamental ecological tipping points have already been breached. The good news is that there are millions of people – old and young – who are mobilising around the world to stop humanity from falling off a cliff.   

Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus, London in November 2018 (Photo: David Holt / Flickr)

We can and must succeed in catalysing a peaceful revolution to end the era of fossil fuels and economic systems based on the extraction and extinction of nature. Life on Earth literally depends on it.

That is why we will be supporting students on strike and all those working to defend life on Earth. As citizens around the world join together to courageously speak truth to power, we hope you will give your full support to strikers and rebels where ever you are.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.