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The Climate Crisis

This page started as thinking-out-loud on tackling the Climate Crisis (orignal notes below). There is now enough press coverage for everyone to know that we must go carbon neutral, the only question left is when. Here are the options:

Zero Carbon Sooner discusses target dates in detail. None of the options are easy. Early dates imply more short-term discomfort and fewer people dying in the long term. Our main enemy is inaction, we've known about the problem for many decades, yet if we continue to consume as we are doing we will exhaust our 1.5°C budget and far more severe consequences will be inevitable.


[some rough notes started in 2018]

Climate change is real

and here's a link for all those people that say we've always had climate cycles and this one is natural: https://xkcd.com/1732

Why do we have a problem?

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

It's like being in a car driving towards a brick wall. We won't hit it in the lifetime of the current government or the next and acceleration wins votes.

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

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 emissions and global heating. We have to some how 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. All of this has to go if we want the human race to be sustainable.

Saying that we must consume less is an unpopular message, one way of wrapping it up is to say that we must work a nine hour week and then leave it to the reader to work out that means living on only a quarter of present income.

Todo: add a section on the analysis of expenditure. You emit between 1 and 2 kgCO2e/£ whatever you spend on, the important thing is not what you buy but how much you buy.

Related, in transport it's not how you travel (assuming it's powered) but how far you travel https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17260-train-can-be-worse-for-climate-than-plane/

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

Guardian article

There is no quick fix

For a comprehensive review of all possible fixes see drawdown.org.

For our current mix of renewables and fossil fuels see G.B. National Grid Status

Climate geoengineering isn't the answer

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 complete answer:

Fundamentally we have to get to net zero emissions. Trees and the oceans can mop up a small fraction, unless we get to very near zero we'll kill them off as well.

If you fancy having a go at setting an energy policy, have a look at the DECC calculator.

TODO: Rewrite this to include Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future and Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen. https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/energy/short-guide-carbon-offsets

Entrepreneurial ideas

  • Green bank account: The idea is to make individuals responsible for their actitions. All expenditure would be auto-classsifed and C02e calculated - maybe even automatic debits to certified CO2 sinks.
  • 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

On average a UK person is responsible for 10 tonnes CO2e each, we have to get that down to under 2 tonnes. Put simply, we all have to aim to consume only 20% of what we currently do, so cutting out meat and flying is the really easy bit - the rest will be much harder.

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.

Climate change and global inequality

https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/escaping-extinction-through-paradigm-shift-83e33d4cb548

What we can do

Calculate our own carbon footprint so that we can see how big our personal problem is.

Some ideas, roughly easiest first:

  • Switch off stuff that's not in 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 you money as well.
  • Plant a few trees. Growing trees is fun and there are many good tree planting organisations like Trees for Life, The National Forest and Carbon Footprint.
  • Eliminate personal food waste - if you've chosen to spend the CO2 to get it to your house then eat it
  • Better insulate your house. Old loft insulation or replacing drafty windows with double glazing can be quick wins, but there's only so much that is practical.
  • Walk or cycle to work if you can. Even a small amount of exercise every day improves life expectancy
  • Turn down the thermostat. Jumpers and thermals work well 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
  • Talk about the problem. Whether with friends, family or at work, the biggest danger is inaction.
  • Join the Green Party, Extinction Rebellion or whatever you feel comfortable with.
  • Campain for aviation fuel tax, E10 fuel for cars, a general carbon tax on everything.
  • Spend some time rewilding, e.g. at Trees for Life
  • 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 and FIRE)
  • Set a personal target of (say) two tonnes CO2e/year and offset much more than your emissions (we've got to recover some how)

Other similar lists have been compiled and are well worth reading:

On a governmental/global level these are worth reading:

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

And a section on national policy

climate_crisis.txt · Last modified: 2019/10/25 17:35 by admin