On Friday 30th September, at a meeting of ministers in Brussels, agreement was reached on all 28 members of the EU ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement. Also this week India and Canada are likely to ratify. Sixty-one countries, including USA and China, have already ratified. For the Paris agreement to become effective it was agreed that at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of emissions, would need to ratify. It looks like that threshold will be passed this week, meaning that the agreement comes into effect 30 days later. This is cause for some slight celebration.
The Paris agreement aimed to keep global temperature rise to below 2.0C, and aspires to keep it below 1.5C. In a new report by Oil Change International, using the oil industry’s own figures, the implications of this are spelt out loud and clear. Already operating mines and wells will push us past even the higher of these limits. This means that all planned new coal mines, oil fields and gas wells must be cancelled. Humanity as a species simply has to leave the fossil fuels in the ground. To carry on with business as usual will mean a climate utterly unsuitable for human civilization, and in a shorter time frame than any of our politicians seem to understand. This disjunction between the scientific reality and political policy is well developed in articles by George Monbiot and Bill McKibben.
Humanity needs to take concerted action on an unprecedented scale. The nearest comparison would be to war time mobilization, except in this case all countries in the world have to understand that climate change and a number of inter-related macro ecological challenges is the enemy, and only swift and concerted action will give humanity a hope. There is much that can be done, as I keep stressing in these blogs. Here is a short list. Humanity needs to:-
Stop developing all new coal mines, oil and gas wells and fracking, immediately and globally.
Stop investment in all new fossil fuel dependent infrastructure, be it new roads or car factories, airport expansion or shipping. Start planning the managed contraction of these industries, and the redeployment of millions of people into the new Cleantec sector.
As Amory Lovins and others have long argued we could and should use all forms of energy very much more efficiently than we do. Improvements are of course already occurring, but need to be ramped up. It is high time for a revolution in energy efficiency.
There is already a revolution in renewable energy technologies underway. Solar will eventually replace oil as the main form of energy, but this needs to be hastened by all means at humanity’s disposal.
As well as all of the above it would be wise to develop carbon capture and utilization. This will involve a multitude of actions from planting billions of trees to changing agricultural practices to maximise soil based carbon storage. It will also involve things like carbon negative cements and major changes to plastics industry.
It is my belief that theoretically and technologically humanity could provide a secure and comfortable lifestyle for everyone on Earth, and we could do this in ways that did not jeopardize the climate. Very few politicians seem to have much understanding of the scale and speed of change required. My local MP is Jesse Norman who recently became a junior minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A few days ago I e-mailed him to ask if he would be prepared to debate these issues with me in public, in any forum he chooses, here in Hereford, in London, on TV or radio. I’ve not heard back yet.