Climate Change Unravelled: The Scale and the Urgency

2018 has seen the publication of a flurry of high profile international climate reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations and many others – and David Attenborough’s announcement yesterday that we are in a right pickle and need to sort it out rapido. But climate change is a complicated issue. So we’re honoured to be able to present climate change in 5 simple facts, with the help of esteemed climate scientist Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE. And for a bit more detail, please check out Emily’s fantastic scientific update, which she has very kindly agreed to let POW UK re-publish here – thank you Emily. You can read part 1 today.Thousands of pages of detailed scientific analysis by Emily and her colleagues at British Antarctic Survey all very pointedly agree on some key points, summarised here.

  1. It is undeniable that the world is warming, the climate is changing, this has been happening for a while and it is due to humans emitting CO2.
  2. Today’s atmospheric CO2 level is unprecedented in human history, pre-history and far back into geological time. In fact, the last time a carbon dioxide incrase happened so rapidly, it coincided with a mass extinction that nearly wiped out life on Earth. Moreover, the risks are becoming issues.
  3. We are already experiencing physical issues such as wildfires and extreme weather events, and transition risks such as increased coastal flooding will increase. This will have very serious implications for the stability of many human and natural systems. Time is running out.
  4. We are currently on-track for a 3°C temperature rise by 2100, with an increasing risk of triggering non-linear global climate tipping points – also known as 'runaway' mechanisms. Yet, global emissions continue to rise.
  5. The time to act is now – government, businesses, investors and individuals must be part of the solution.
Glacier National Park in 1913 Glacier National Park in 2013

 

The implications of failing to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which are to try to keep the maximum warming to 1.5°C if possible, are quite possibly civilisation ending. In a world which has warmed by 3°C, people would yearn for the idyll that Mad Max represents. The irony of a species that has christened itself the ‘wise one’ presiding over its own extinction is beyond description.

Hard-hitting but fundamental science. So why haven't we all found a solution yet?

From a risk management perspective, climate change is far outside any morally defensible or reasonable societal risk appetite. Why then do we not take action? Why have we accepted this risk, rather than mitigating it?
In summary, we see this as fairly simple:

  • Few, outside the scientific community or specialists, understand and/or accept the climate challenge (ie the outlined points above). Put another way, there is a low level of carbon literacy at all levels of society.
  • Few feel accountable for this global problem, so it is easy not to take action. And with the low levels of carbon literacy, those that do wish to act are often unsure about what to do and what is effective.
  • At Protect Our Winters UK, we see this as completely unacceptable. We would like to be able to look the next generation and indeed ourselves in the eye with integrity and say: “We knew – and we made a decision to do everything in our power to protect our climate, now and for future generations.”

Looking towards solving this mess

POW UK have some ideas. We are a national climate change charity that inspires, unites and empowers the snowsports community and beyond take action to protect our climate, now and for future generations. How then should we and other groups address the challenges posed by low carbon literacy and lack of accountability from large corporations right down to individual action? How do we inspire, unite and empower people to take action to protect our climate, now and for future generations?

We think the answer lies in community action. Most people are tribal at heart and conform to tribal norms – be they skiers, gardeners, football fans, chief risk officers, nurses or parents. So our plan is simple: spread the word and embed carbon literacy into all of the communities within which we interact. Empower action within those communities, and build links between them so they can unite and support each other in taking action. Through this approach, each member of that community can spread the message to others. Combined with offering direction on the actions that can be taken in the face of this emerging dystopia, we have a robust approach to outreach, starting in the heart of the snowsports community and reaching as far as we possibly can. 

Read part one of Dr Emily Schuckburgh's blog piece here. 

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