If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a re-framing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required. This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.
As the year draws to a close, Carbon Brief takes a look at 2017’s top climate and energy stories through the medium of numbers…
With daily headlines pivoting from the unparalleled flooding from Harvey in Houston to the devastation caused by Irma in Florida, it might seem like the United States has its hands full just dealing with our own climate emergencies. But meanwhile, multiply the damage from Harvey and Irma a hundredfold and you’ll get a feeling for the climate-related suffering taking place right now in the rest of the world.
Because we have burned so much oil and gas and coal, we have put huge clouds of CO2 and methane in the air; because the structure of those molecules traps heat the planet has warmed; because the planet has warmed we can get heavier rainfalls, stronger winds, drier forests and fields. It’s not mysterious, not in any way. It’s not a run of bad luck. It’s not Donald Trump (though he’s obviously not helping). It’s not hellfire sent to punish us. It’s physics.
For decades, proving the link between human greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on extreme weather events was thought to be near impossible. Now, scientific advancements in extreme weather event attribution are turning this assumption on its head. At the same time, courts around the world are increasingly being asked to consider questions of liability arising from a relationship between the loss and damage caused by an extreme weather event and climate change.
A fast, emergency-scale transition to a post-fossil fuel world is absolutely necessary to address climate change. But this is excluded from consideration by policymakers because it is considered to be too disruptive. The orthodoxy is that there is time for an orderly economic transition within the current short-termist political paradigm. Discussion of what would be safe –– less warming that we presently experience –– is non-existent. And so we have a policy failure of epic proportions.
Climate change is an existential risk that could abruptly end human civilisation because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” by global leaders to understand and act on the science and evidence before them.
Our approach starts with an unequivocal realization: human activity is systematically degrading our planet’s life-support systems. Yet prevailing norms and institutions continue to rely on systems of thought which are not fit for the situation we are now in. Through a new synthesis of contemporary science, economics and the humanities, we aim to reconcile fragmented disciplines and find a path to a world where our relationship with the community of life on Earth becomes mutually enhancing.
Despite the US’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, governors and mayors around the country continue working to mitigate and build resilience to climate change. As both policymakers and the public increasingly recognize the role of food and agriculture in intensifying climate change, many parties seek to address the food-climate connection. Fortunately, local and state policies and practices can do exactly that.
With the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change and reverse many of the prior administration’s climate change policies, it seems that federal action on climate change will be unlikely in the next few years. However, the US system of government gives individual states broad powers to regulate CO2 emissions within their borders, with many states actively moving forward with their own mitigation strategies in absence of federal action.
The first responsibility of a government is to safeguard the people and their future wellbeing. The ability to do so is increasingly threatened by human-induced climate change, the accelerating impacts of which are driving political instability and conflict globally. Climate change poses an existential risk to humanity which, unless addressed as an emergency, will have catastrophic consequences.
Households in the south-west of England are some of the most carbon intensive in Europe, a new study shows. The paper, published this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first to break down the embodied greenhouse gas emissions from household consumption across the EU.