Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Guardian is distressed the UN code red climate emergency declaration has disappeared from the front pages of most news outlets.
It’s now or never: Scientists warn time of reckoning has come for the planet
Sun 15 Aug 2021 17.00 AEST
The IPCC is unequivocal: we must take urgent action to curb global heating and prevent catastrophe. Will our policymakers and the Cop26 conference be up to the task?
Heatwaves and the heavy rains that cause flooding have become more intense and more frequent since the 1950s in most parts of the world, and climate change is now affecting all inhabited regions of the planet. Drought is increasing in many places and it is more than 66% likely that numbers of major hurricanes and typhoons have risen since the 1970s. “If there was still a need for a proof that climate changes is caused by human activities, then this is the report that provides it,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia.
Indeed, by the end of the century they could become threatening to civilisation if emissions are allowed to continue at their present rate. “That might seem like a long way away but there are millions of children already born who should be alive well into the 22nd century,” added Prof Jonathan Bamber of Bristol University, another report author.
That will not be an easy task, however. As Nick Starkey, director of policy at the Royal Academy of Engineering, pointed out last week. “The UK is not on track to meet existing carbon targets and our goal of 78% emissions reduction by 2035 will not be reached without deep energy efficiency measures,” he said.
“The climate story was all over the front pages on Tuesday but by Friday, three days later, it was hardly mentioned,” added Prof Martin Siegert of Imperial College, London. “Yet this is the most important thing that humanity needs to do in the next 30 years. It is going to change our lives, it is going to change the way we regard ourselves on the planet. And if we don’t, we are going to stoke up huge problems for our children. But after three days we seemed to be forgotten despite the fact this is something that needs decades of consistent, persistent work.”
Siegert added that it had been estimated that investment levels equivalent to 1% of GDP are needed to ensure the country’s transition to net-zero status. “However, we are currently spending about 0.01%… a 100th of that estimated price tag. And this is also well below what the government is spending on things that will actually add to our emissions, such as airport expansion plans and the tens of billions it has pledged on new road schemes, which will only make it easier to drive around and burn more fossil fuel.”
Stories like this give me hope, climate activists flailing about, all but admitting the challenge they have set themselves is unattainable.
Most people perceive Britain as solidly onboard the climate train – even their Conservatives talk like deep greens. But as Prof Martin Siegert pointed out, the reality is the British government is spending a fortune on road networks and airport expansions, which does not exactly match up with all their climate rhetoric.
If you ask people in Britain, most people immediately agree there is a need to do something. But doing something almost always seems to be someone elses job – hardly anybody I met in Britain seems to think it is their personal responsibility to address the alleged climate crisis, or that there is any obligation to endure significant personal hardship to save the planet, like using more pubic transport or reducing use of home heating in winter.
And why would anyone think any differently? After all, part of the reason Britons support renewables, is the British have repeatedly been told that switching to renewables will reduce energy bills and save money.