The Big Picture
The Paris Agreement of 2015 and its swift entry into force represent a bold statement of the determination of the international community under the United Nations to transform the global economy so as to limit the impact that our power generation, production methods, agriculture, and consumption patterns have on the climate system. The Agreement is in itself a global strategy for the longer term that is defined by the three aims enshrined in its Article:
First, limit the average global temperature rise to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C.
Second, increase the ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and foster climate-resilient and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.
Third, make financial flows consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
These three aims provide a single and clear direction of travel to state and nonstate ‘actors’ for the longer term, given the link between economic activity, greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts of climate change. According to the latest available science, achieving the long-term temperature goal would require global greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2020 and subsequently be reduced to zero before the end of the century. To limit warming to 1.5°C, this reduction to zero must take place around 2050.
In a BBC briefing on UK Energy, published in December 2019 (*1), the researchers stated “The UK’s energy goals are now also driven by the scientific consensus on climate change”
They go on to summarise the issue of climate change as;
Almost all scientists agree that the data shows the earth is warming, and that the larger part of the increase is because of human activity.
They identify a significant increase in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity as the cause of rising temperatures.
The main greenhouse gasses are: Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur flourides and water vapour.
Scientists predict that if the increase continues, it is likely to have a devastating effect on many parts of the planet, including rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.
The scientific consensus has forced the majority of governments, including the UK’s, to agree international treaties and policies to limit global warming – mainly by reducing their use of energy sources which produce greenhouse gases, and to adapt to the inevitable heating to come.
The issue of Energy supply, for Manufacturing, Homes, Transport et al, is matched by a clear imperative to save energy and to become more efficient with it’s use wherever possible. Many respected voices have agreed we must reduce waste of any kind and we must find or develop the technology to decarbonize our society.
Add to this a growing realization by the general public that the issue of ‘global warming’ is not something that can be tackled ‘later’ alongside the legal campaign by the Polly Higgins' Stop Ecocide Campaign and there is unprecedented pressure for change now.
This is not an easy task, with the unpopular but accurate assessment that the UK, and the World, will have a need to use Hydro Carbon sources of energy at the same levels as today for 20 – 30 years to come. Helping to de-carbonise the worst offenders is the ‘elephant in the room’.
There are signs that the political landscape is changing. There are influential calls to stimulate a ‘green’ recovery of an economy hit hard by the current Coronavirus crisis by harnessing economic recovery plans to boost low-carbon industries. International organisations such as the UN are warning that the issue of Climate Change cannot be ignored in the face of the World Wide economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
But a reality check, the UK is responsible for just 1% of global warming emissions and the biggest offenders in the World, including the US and China are, to all intents and purposes, ignoring the data in favour of maintaining and stimulating their economies, and more so in the present circumstances.
(*1) BBC News 6th May 2020 – Climate Change: Could the Coronavirus crisis spur a green recovery?