Reality check

by | April 30, 2021

This week I’m just going to share excerpts from some important articles I read recently. To be honest, I don’t care much for their titles, but the articles themselves are all worth reading.

And then I’ll share some brief thoughts.

“Big Words, And Little Action”: Greta Thunberg’s Must-Read Letter To The World

“Of course, we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions. And these targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the tiny fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes. Such as leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass, manipulating baseline data, excluding most feedback loops and tipping points, ignoring the crucial global aspect of equity and historic emissions, and making these targets completely reliant on fantasy or barely existing carbon-capturing technologies. But I don’t have time to go into all that now.

The point is that we can keep using creative carbon accounting and cheat in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But we must not forget that while we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there, whether we choose to count them or not.

…When leaders now present these pledges, they admit that they surrender on the 1.5°C target. They are surrendering on their promises and on our futures. I don’t know about you, but I sure am not ready to give up. Not in a million years. We will keep fighting for a safe future. Every fraction of a degree matters and will always matter.

…Our emperors are naked – let’s call them out.”

Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap

By James Dyke, Robert Watson, and Wolfgang Knorr

“Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.”

“The idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar.”

“humanity has gambled civilization on no more than promises of future solutions…”

“We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was “of course important for climate justice but unworkable” and “a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible”. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.

Instead of confront our doubts, we scientists decided to construct ever more elaborate fantasy worlds in which we would be safe. The price to pay for our cowardice: having to keep our mouths shut about the ever growing absurdity of the required planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal.”

“In private, scientists express significant scepticism about the Paris Agreement, BECCS, offsetting, geoengineering and net zero. Apart from some notable exceptions, in public we quietly go about our work, apply for funding, publish papers and teach. The path to disastrous climate change is paved with feasibility studies and impact assessments.”

“The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.”

America is making climate promises again. Should anyone care?

By David Roberts

“History will judge Biden not by how much he cares or what he says, but by which policies and investments his administration and Democrats in Congress put in place, how they are implemented and enforced, the emission reductions they produce, and whether they lead to further policy.

There’s a better-than-average chance that Democrats will lose the House in the 2022 midterm elections, and with it the ability to legislate. They may have nothing but the next 18 months in which to make their mark on the country’s near future. There is precious little time to spend on symbolism.”

There’s been a lot of good developments and momentum for climate action recently, which is fantastic.

But may I gently remind you of a few things:

  • Some studies say that we only have a 5% chance of limiting warming to 2°C. And less than 1% chance for 1.5°C.
  • The UN Emissions Gap Report says we need to increase our efforts by 5x to limit warming to 1.5°C.
  • The rallying cry for the island nations of the world is “1.5 to stay alive”.
  • And the warming of a little more than 1°C today is already wreaking havoc around the world.

So now is not the time for complacency. It’s the time to keep pushing hard for policy and investment decisions that are science-based and actually match the scale of the problem we face.

We must organize and push at every level of society – wherever you live or work.

Because we are still light-years from where we need to be.

We have a small window of opportunity in the next year or so to make some huge strides.

Let’s make the most of it.

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