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climate_change

Climate Change

[some rough notes]

Climate change is real

Why do we have a problem?

  • There are now about 7.7 billion people (predictions are for 11 billion in 2100 but we need to act way before that).
  • On average we consume a lot more year-on-year
  • The earth has a finite carrying capacity

It's like being in a car driving towards a brick wall. We haven't hit it yet so it seems fine to accelerate.

We all love the Thneeds from the Truffala trees.

Our economic system is broken w.r.t. Climate Change

Our political system is broken w.r.t Climate Change

  • Individuals vote for personal interests within the time scale of elections
  • Short term individual, constituency and country interests are best served by exploitation of others
  • Climate change is a global problem, there is no World Government to look after global issues
  • Politicians aren't trusted, we have Fake News and Project Fear

We need to act but have failed to do so

It is likely that global dimming has happened, that is the pollution we have teased into the air has reflected more sunlight than is natural. When we clean up our pollution, as we must, then we get more sun and so more warming without releasing more CO2. Roughly our warming would and will be twice as much without the associated pollution https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cleaning-up-air-pollution-may-strengthen-global-warming/

EDIT: Things are changing! https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48122911

Personal expenditure is a reasonable proxy for damage done

What we spend goes on raw materials (finite), fuel (emissions) and people (who spend on raw materials and fuel).

Over the last few decades we've got used to “a higher standard of living” and this has come at the cost of climate change. We have to rewind a couple of decades to before “low cost airlines” for holiday travel as they are only low cost because we've ignored their emissions. Lots of our food comes with high emissions as well, meat is often singled out but we use fuel to heat greenhouses to give us year-round vegetables as well and fly avocados half way around the world. We also have a use-one “low cost” fashion industry.

Action is hard

This is a complex problem that will radically change peoples lives:

We need a plan that is acceptable to all:

  • Most people think that they are hard done by already, so won't take more hardship
  • Some pain now is better than wars later

There is no quick fix

Renewables aren't the answer:

  • We are not moving fast enough in switching to renewable energy
  • Our demand for energy is growing, it has to stop growing or shrink as all renewables emit some CO2 in construction
  • Renewables only work when the wind blows/sun shines - that means we need a massive energy store

Planting trees isn't the answer:

What you can do

Calculate your own carbon footprint so that you can see how big your personal problem is https://www.carbonfootprint.com.

These might get you part of the way there:

  • Switch off stuff you don't use. It's as easy as pulling a plug.
  • Switch to a 100% green energy supplier. You know you get ripped off if you don't change every few years, so change now and it's likely to save money.
  • Eliminate personal food waste - if you've chosen to spend the CO2 to get it to your house then eat it
  • Turn down the thermostat. There's nothing wrong in wearing warm clothes (including thermals) in winter.
  • Avoid food that needed aeroplanes to get it to you (stuff that's come from a long way away with a short expiry date - if anyone has a list let me know)
  • Eat near-vegan or semi-vegetarian. This is not about being kind to animals, so kill them in moderation if that makes you feel good, it's about our survival. Watch Cowspiracy
  • Reduce fuel usage - e.g. car and especially non-essential plane flights, such as holidays
  • Spend/consume less. Like a lot less. If you spend only half your disposable income you'll be able to retire much much earlier! (e.g. Mr Money Mustache)

On average a UK person is responsible for 10 tonnes CO2e each, we have to get that down to under 2 tonnes.

Entrepreneurial ideas

  • Green bank account: Classify all expenditure, auto calculate C02e, pay offsets.
  • Push for “don't spend now” (invest in green/donate to reduce inequality/save for the mess to come)
  • Push for extending GAYE to donations to verified Climate Change organisations

Don't believe that it will be easy to halt global warming, (e.g. 100 solutions to reverse global warming) - not only have we made no progress in reducing emissions so far, we are continually making things worse. We've failed so far and don't even have a good plan for efficient action before it's too late. Go back to this calculator and see if you can personally hit the target.

If you think I've been overly pessimistic, remember that halting global warming is the easy problem. Getting to carbon neutrality does nothing about the poisons we've already released. The warming that has already happened could release a lot more greenhouse gasses from melting tundra, the loss of the Arctic ice cap will result in more warming because snow reflects sunlight well, and the carbon dioxide that has entered our oceans is causing acidification and killing coral reefs. Even if we could go way beyond carbon neutrality to a magical zero emissions we have to tackle the significant problems we've already created. These could easily add as much global warming as we've already seen (e.g https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cleaning-up-air-pollution-may-strengthen-global-warming/) so it could well be too late to avoid catastrophe - that doesn't mean we shouldn't act now.

The popular message is that climate change is a very serious threat, but there are easy things we can do now to avoid the terrible consequences (e.g. we'd all be okay if we stopped eating meat). I don't think that that the easy things are enough, we can't expect to maintain our standard of living as the risk of hitting an unforseen tipping point is so high we need drastic action now.

To end, here is a big question: Is global warming and individual or institutional responsibility?

  • Individual: It's up to every individual to consume very much less and eat a near-vegan diet - we can do this now and so we only have ourselves to blame.
  • Institutional: We'd be fine consuming at the level we do if only our governments invested in green energy, our companies worked on the tech fixes and capitalism wasn't broken.

To do - add in a section on tipping points

climate_change.txt · Last modified: 2019/05/02 06:54 by admin