Graph (hand-drawn in 2008) showing that carbon emissions must peak by 2015 to keep global warming to the internationally agreed upper limit of 2°C (the point beyond which we risk runaway climate change).
I’m not sorry for sounding somewhat melodramatic, here: what we face is nothing less than the archetypical existential threat. You may well dismiss me as ‘alarmist': but if you were in a crowded theatre and you were to hear me shout “FIRE!” — what would you do then?
When, in late 2009, I first saw The Age of Stupid, I was struck by one scene in which ‘a man in a shed’ stated, quite categorically, that humanity’s carbon emissions had to peak by around 2015 in order for us to avoid the risks of passing beyond 2°C above the average pre-industrial global temperature. Almost everyone agrees that two degrees centigrade of warming is the threshold beyond which we will face serious risk of uncontrollable planet-wide climate change effects of potentially catastrophic proportions. And I do mean ‘civilisation-ending’.
This is not histrionics; it’s based upon very solid science. The ‘man in the shed’ is Mark Lynas, whose book ‘Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet’ won the Royal Society’s science book of the year award in 2008. In the short video clip below he speaks from that same year, and his message is blunt: he says we have “seven years” to stabilise global carbon emissions to avoid the risk of climate change accelerating beyond our ability to control it.
The problem is that 2008 + 7 = 2015. Those seven years are up: we’ve squandered them.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention — perhaps you’re more focused upon the fortunes of your favourite football team, or the latest antics on ‘Strictly’ or Eastenders; maybe your mind is firmly on your house or job move, or where your children are going to school next year, or any one of the myriad of (relative) trivia such as the ‘immigrant problem’, or the ‘war on terror’ — so in case you’re not familiar with the current situation:
Global carbon emissions are not slowing towards a peak in this coming year. On the contrary, emissions are soaring beyond anything humans have ever previously managed. I’m talking BIG numbers. Yay, us: we’re beating all records.
So… What are your new year resolutions?