Are we ready for 2015?

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.

The Archivist (Pete Postlethwaite):

We had an unspoken, collective pact: to pretend climate change wasn’t happening, as though, as long as we ignored it hard enough, it wouldn’t be true.

Not absolutely everyone: a few were shouting, “Fire!”

Mark Lynas:

Hello! Come on in.

One of the greatest difficulties with climate change is that the effects of our emissions of today are not actually realised in terms of the temperature for thirty to forty years; so there’s this time-lag in the system, which makes it difficult for us humans to respond because we’re evolutionarily equipped to deal with very immediate threats like advancing armies or dangerous animals. We’re not so well-equipped for dealing rationally with very long-term problems like climate change.

So we have to act now to stop something happening in the future: if we wait until the full temperature effects are already upon us then it’s far too late to stop.

If you remember one single number above all else, make it two degrees. Now, everyone in the world, pretty much, the European Union, big multinational corporations, Greenpeace, political parties: all agree that we have to stabilise global temperatures within two degrees above pre-industrial levels. And the reason for that is because if you cross that threshold, then there are tipping points in the Earth’s system which could drive the warming process essentially out of control. A huge amount of carbon could be coming out of the world’s trees and the soils, methane could be coming out of the permafrost in Siberia; and it’s that extra input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which then leads us up the worst-case scenarios to six or more degrees and the eventual wipe out of most of life on Earth.

So: our emissions have been going up, between, let’s say 1950 and now; they need to level out, stabilise, and then decline just as rapidly to sustainable levels — about an 80% cut — by 2050. But, crucially, to keep the temperature rise within two degrees, this point of stabilisation needs to be at around 2015. So that means, really, the timeline we’ve got — the ticking clock — is that we have to stabilise global emissions within just seven years from now, as we speak, 2008.

And the scale of this task, to achieve a transformation to a low-carbon economy for the entirety of human civilisation, obviously it’s a huge, monumental task: probably the greatest that humanity’s ever faced.

So… What are your new year resolutions?

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in Climate, Communication, Drama, Education, Energy, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, News and politics, People, Phlyarology, Science, Strategy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Are we ready for 2015?

  1. I hesitate to offer a view. Not because I don’t agree with your article, agree totally, but because I’m afraid that I can’t offer any original thoughts. There is a growing awareness of the need to change, even some quasi-political ambitions that the world ‘needs to talk about climate change’, but no sign that we are anywhere close to a global response of emergency proportions.

    Despite being a person with a naturally positive view of life, for reasons I can’t articulate, I have a profound sense of gloom about the New Year. Maybe a result of recently becoming aware of my own mortality. Maybe, an unspoken fear of some huge global catastrophe, natural or otherwise, just around the corner. I hope that I am wrong. Then if I am wrong, it is suggesting that 2015 will be more of the same and, as you so acutely point out, more of the same is the last thing this natural world of ours requires.

    So make of that what you will! (And apologies for rambling on a tad!)

    Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree.. yes wasted years.. and so more wasted years will keep on keeping on….. Why? well its my own opinion dear Penantry, That the world has been here before… and yes we humans have considerably contributed to climate change.. But I feel those within the ‘Know’ of things have used the lever of pollution to create a deeper well for their taxes .. And ultimately it is known through these higher minded rulers that the climate is undergoing its progressive natural changes which no amount of plugging pollution will stop..

    If you read Gregg Bradens Books you will see he can scientifically log in history when the carbon omissions were as high then lowered… .. Did we have cars and aeroplanes way back when?… No but we did have Volcanoes etc You would be surprised at how many active volcanoes are also contributing to this foot-print..

    I like you wish for a cleaner and Healthier planet as I want a planet for my Grandchildren to grow up in…

    Wishing you a great and Happy New Year my friend.. we shall keep on keeping on.. in the hope Change will come..
    Blessings Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Doone Wyborm says:

      Sorry Sue, CO2 from volcanoes contibute less than 1/1000 to emission from humanity. What volcanoes do is reduce temperatures for a few years until the sulphur dioxide and particulates are rained out. No, humans are by far the dominant cause of current catastrophic warming.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you Doone for that correction.. I am a mere observer .. But we have warmed up and cooled down before.. and Whether Mankind survives or not in his Greed .. One thing is for sure.. Mother Nature will always be evolving and changing.. Its up to man to seek ways of changing WITH Nature and not by his presents methods which are destroying it..
        What we fail to realise is that we are ALL of us ONE Organism.. so if we become the irritants and parasites, Then Mother Nature will find a way of ridding herself of Humans..
        Have a Blessed New Year and I hope a Peaceful one..

        Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for the kind thoughts, Sue; I hope that you and yours have a wonderful new year too!

      On the other matters in your comment: carbon emissions from human activities are about 30 billion tonnes per year, which is, as Doone has already said, a thousand times more than emissions from volcanic activity. While I’m not familiar with Gregg Braden, I am familiar with the fact that there have been periods in the Earth’s history in which the CO2 in the atmosphere was as high, and higher, than it is now. However, the last time that there was ~400ppm CO2 was at least three million years ago. Humans were still apes, then. So, yes, the Earth has been here before — but we most certainly have not. From the point of view of human civilisation, it’s worth cogitating on the fact that ours has arisen in the last 10,000 years; a period of unusual climatic stability. It couldn’t last forever, but homo fatuus brutus is proving its foolishness by hastening the exit from the holocene.

      I think that this image provides some useful perspective:

      Liked by 2 people

      • I thank you for that graph, seems my response has evoked some activity of its own. :-)
        Yes we humans have not been here before.. But the Earth has.. we are ending yet another cycle within its evolution.. so the next few decades will prove very interesting..
        We have seen nothing yet as how quickly the planet can change.. But we are getting glimpses in the form of all the floods seen around the world this last couple of years..
        There is always a consequence for every action.. We will soon be seeing the Reactions as our weather will alter dramatically … I feel the chain reaction is beyond repairing.
        So as with your post you said we are wasting these years.. I say lets make the most of what years we have left.. And I hope as a species we will see that all our petty squabbles are nothing when it may come down to our survival on planet earth.

        Have a Blessed New Year.. and keep waving your much needed flag about climate change .. I am with you 100% .. as I try in my own small ways to recycle, and live in a more Eco friendly way.. But its we the consumers who have to change our habits when you think its our demand for goods.most of which are supercilious to our needs, that create the use of energy and its resulting pollution..
        So at the end of the day if we were each to change our ways.. we would add to creating a better climate.. At least we would like to think so… At the end of the day.. All I can do is change my self and my own habits which contribute to the problem..

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mikestasse says:

    Yep, scares the shit out of me…….. as we are about to start from scratch again in Tasmania, I just hope next year doesn’t fall apart on me early leaving me stranded with all my plans shot to bits!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. rabiddoomsayer says:

    I doubt two degrees is safe and isn’t two degrees already blown? There are some huge lags in the climate system, there are feedbacks underway that have some time to play out (Arctic Sea ice loss and the resultant albedo effect, methane from the permafrost).

    We here comparisons with the Eemian as to where we are headed, but we are committed to a clime well beyond an Eemian climate. We are headed to the mid Pliocene, perhaps not that bad really, but we are getting there at a rate large sections of the biosphere will not be able to cope with.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. There is a lot of angsiety about the climate and the environment.
    What can we do about it?
    A start was made when you linked, Marcus Brigstock, vidio On Religon in your comment to Sue Dreamwalkers post post.
    That was the most sensible bit of humor I have heard in years.
    Regardless of the nature of the impending catastrophes predicted.
    We need to take every word of this humorous vidio seriously.
    We must rethink those out dated myths and change our commercial throw-away system.
    Look at a our own faults and try to correct them.
    You can wish or pray in one hand and piss in the other and see which gets full first.
    Like Paul I did not intend to ramble, all I wanted to say was thanks to all you caring bloggers.
    Also thanks for leading me to great links.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pendantry says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment; I for one appreciate it very much when others indicate that time spent blogging is not a futile waste of effort! And there’s certainly no need to apologise for rambling — Wibble itself is just one big ramble :)

      I think Marcus Brigstocke deserves far more praise for his work; it’s not just that it’s highly perceptive, it’s also presented in a palatable way. I don’t think that there is really any other way than using humour to present memes that are commonly the subject of cognitive dissonance. I admit, however, that I am struggling a bit with whether such presentations fall foul of some of the problems John Cook outlines in the Debunking Handbook, especially what he call the ‘Familiarity Backfire Effect’ (attempts to debunk myths can reinforce them).

      I agree with you completely about looking at our own faults — this is the root of my efforts to promote the idea that our species ought to be renamed (as ‘homo fatuus brutus’), because while we continue to think of ourselves as rational and smart, it’s difficult to even contemplate a reality in which we aren’t.

      Oh dear, I’m rambling again. And using far too many big words. There’s only one thing for it:


      • Do not be concerned with the big words.
        It will improve my modest vocabulary.
        I am learning all the time it is good to exercise my brain at my age.
        I think I will get a real workout with your blog and comments and I do appreciate this. May the Force be with you. _/\_


        • pendantry says:

          On big words: um. I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to cast aspersions on you personally. I was actually thinking about something I read the other day (I forget where, now — no, wait: found it!) which emphasises something I’ve long known: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Since then, I’ve been trying to be more careful with my word choice. And, sadly, failing… thank you for your kind words, and may the farce be with you, too! :)


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