Even without the other ecological drivers of mass species extinction, natural resource exhaustion and growing human population pressure, human-caused (anthropogenic) climate breakdown alone is enough to wipe out the human species by the end of this century, if governments do not immediately begin to reverse their extractivism and ‘growth’ -based economic policies. This is why I support the international Extinction Rebellion campaign and it is why I am prepared to go to prison for this campaign.
When you repeatedly come across the figure of 2 degrees i.e. limiting global warming to 2 degrees, think of what happens to a human body when it experiences a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees.
Climate Breakdown Bullet Points
-resulting from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks of 2015 in Paris.
• There are no binding enforcement mechanisms for countries to reduce their carbon emissions. In the words of James Hansen (see below) the agreement was ‘just promises’. Although there were very positive aims for governments to keep global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, in reality it is fossil-fuel invested corporations that need to agree emissions reductions, under threat of enforcement if they don’t comply. Otherwise these corps will carry on until we are all dead. In Naomi Klein’s excellent work ‘This Changes Everything’, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org summarises the findings of the London think-tank the Carbon Tracker Initiative, which analysed the reserves of fossil fuels claimed by all the fossil fuel companies combined.
‘What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced…in promises to shareholders, that they are determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb’. (Klein, p148)
We can afford by credible estimates to burn around 565 gigatons of carbon between now and 2050 to keep warming below 2 degrees. The fossil fuel companies combined have pledged to burn 2795 gigatons.
• We are currently at around 405-410 ppm (parts per million) CO2 in the atmosphere. SOURCE.
• Pre-industrial levels of CO2 hovered around 280 ppm. SOURCE
• We need to get back down to 350 ppm to keep warming to ‘safe’ levels under 2 degrees. SOURCE
• We are currently at around 1.2 degrees warming. SOURCE.
This is why the Paris Agreement looks pretty dismal.
• Secondly, Donald Trump has vowed to pull out of the Agreement. America is one of the biggest carbon dioxide emitters, so withdrawal of USA support would make a nonsense of the whole Agreement and could encourage other countries to also withdraw.
• As a point of reference, the so-called Medieval Warm Period circa 950-1250 was mainly limited to the Northern Hemisphere, whereas anthropogenic warming is happening all over.
• Habitat loss is the leading factor in the anthropocene (current mass extinction event), but climate breakdown is increasingly contributing to mass extinction.
• The last 50 years has seen the fastest growth rate for atmospheric carbon dioxide than at any time in the entire geological record for Earth -even faster than the increase that killed the dinosaurs after an asteroid impact 65 million years ago.
• ‘It is reasonable to assume that by 2020 electric vehicles will be eating away at oil demand without creating demand for coal or gas. They are the perfect storage system for renewables, and the synergy created with their widespread deployment may well provide the momentum for a decisive end to the fossil fuel era’ (p143).
For some good news on expansion of the electric vehicle industry in the UK, see here.
However, this is no reason for complacency. In isolation the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen over the past few years. However the recent expansion of Heathrow airport is part of a trend of expansion in the air transport industry worldwide which is likely to result in a global increase in emissions of 4% this year. See here.
As for total global emissions, the 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy that was released in June of 2018 showed a new all-time high for global carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, which were 426 million metric tons higher than in 2016. This was 1.6% higher than carbon dioxide emissions in 2016, and was higher than the 10-year average growth rate of 1.3%.
This is why I urge you to join the international campaign of Extinction Rebellion.
• [support from Flannery for ‘soft’ geoengineering] ‘”third way” technologies recreate, enhance or restore the processes that created the balance of greenhouse gases which existed prior to human interference with the aim of drawing carbon, at scale out of Earth’s atmosphere and/ or oceans. It’s what plants, and a fair few rocks, do.’ (p162)
• ‘climate models are valuable, but only when used with knowledge of their capabilities and limitations’ (p76)
• The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) failed to predict the rapid Arctic ice loss that has occurred over the past few decades.
• ‘Sea level changes to heights at least several metres greater than today’s level occurred in interglacial periods that were at most 1 to 2 degrees celsius warmer than today.’ (p85)
• ‘The gap between public perception and scientific reality is now enormous.’ (p171)
• ‘Developed countries will need to complete…coal phaseout by about 2020. That is a tall order…We have all the ingredients we need to meet this challenge, except leadership.’ (p186)
• ‘Civil resistance may be our best hope’ (p277)