The Urgency of Climate Action

February 2016 saw an unprecedented leap in global temperatures

February 2016 saw an unprecedented leap in global temperatures

February 2016 was the warmest month on record. Global temperature records keep being broken, but last month’s increase was exceptional. The Paris Agreement talked about limiting temperature rise to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius, but this peaking of global temperatures was envisaged to take place decades in the future. In February we reached 1.35 degrees. At this rate the Paris limits could be broken in a few years, or possibly a few months, rather than decades. The implications could be catastrophic. Climate scientists like James Hansen, David Wasdell and Peter Cox have written about the possibilities of sudden dramatic shifts in climate. Rapid sea level rise could result in billions of climate refugees and possibly in timescales our political system simply could not deal with.

As I repeatedly stress, in these blogs, in talks and classes I give and in my lobbying of politicians, technologically and philosophically there is much that could be done, but tragically the political will has been the missing element. I have met my local MP’s and MEP’s, I gave a talk in a committee room at the House of Commons and have been to listen to and question ministers. Overwhelmingly the impression I get is that the vast majority of our politicians are hopelessly disinterested in either Climate Change or in the opportunities to do anything meaningful about it. The degree of technological illiteracy of our politicians I find staggering, especially in relation to the very technologies that might be most useful in helping us rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

Since my childhood in the 1960’s and 70’s I’ve been banging on about Climate Change and the myriad other ways we are damaging this unique and fragile planet. Of course the planet will survive and other species will evolve to fill the ecological vacuum left by the mass extinction of species as we and countless other species go extinct. It is not so much the planet as humanity and other complex life forms that are in peril. We, like all mammals, require very specific oxygen levels in the atmosphere, ocean chemistry and climatic stability in order to flourish. We are jeopardizing our future by our collective actions, and lack of actions.

So much of the last 50 years has been wasted in arguing and fighting over trivial issues, like whether capitalism or communism is a better system, whether Britain should be in the European Union or whether Scotland should be an independent country. Our survival now will be determined by our abilities as a species to cooperate to live in a way that provides for all humanities needs and does so in a way that does not jeopardize future generations. Theoretically this is achievable, politically it seems improbable. We as a species may not have long to change the way we manage our affairs.

February temperature media coverage here and here

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