'The future has come to meet us'. Ahead of climate strikes started by Greta Thunberg, the FT and the Royal Court collaborate on a short drama exploring inaction on climate change. Actress Nicola Walker, transmitting news from 2050, asks why we 'never really learnt how to talk about this'.
"At a 2°C rise, people will begin to die of what is now considered normal summers. Countries already hit by hurricanes face ever greater storms. Plant growth slows down, then stops. Plants don’t absorb CO2 as efficiently, instead emitting it. The extra carbon sees global warming spiral out of control. In the year 2100 sea levels would rise by a meter displacing 10% of the world's population. In this 2°C future, ecosystems across the globe collapse. A third of all life on earth faces extinction."
What happens if the world warms up by 3°C?
"If global temperature rises by 2°C the chances of avoiding a 3°C increase are slim. At a 3°C increase plants stop absorbing CO2, enough carbon builds in the atmosphere to raise temperatures by another 1.5°C by 2100. The planet is tipped into runaway global warming. Cities and farms around the world will loose their rivers and reservoirs run dry. Saltwater creeps upstream and groundwater is poisoned. This tips food production into a irreversible decline."
What happens if the world warms up by 4°C?
"After the collapse of the amazon and the carbon cycle, stabilising the global temperature to avoiding a 4°C increase may no longer be possible. Coastal cities will either vanish or become islands. A sea level rise of 1m every 20 years is far beyond our capacity to adapt. At this point up to 85% of the amazon rainforest has disappeared. But the most damaging effect of this temperature is an irresistible thawing of permafrost. At least 500bn tonnes of carbon trapped below ground could be released by 2100."
What happens if the world warms up by more than that?
"Above 4°C we are looking at a vastly different world. Rainforests have turned into deserts and rising seas reach see into continents. Migrants force their way into the few habitable places left on earth. Civil wars are the inevitable outcome. To see what the world could look like at 6°C rise, we have to go back 251 million years. 95% of living species were wiped out. At sea everything suffocated. The forests are burning, the rivers are drying up. Continents carved up by toxic oceans and corpses pile up in cities across the planet. A 6°C world is a bleak one."
Carbon is one of the most important elements on earth. This video describes the carbon cycle and why it is important. It was produced for the Interactive Model of Leaf Decomposition (IMOLD) by the University of Toledo's Center for Creative Instruction.
Animated diagram of the Earth's Carbon Cycle and how it has changed over time. Carbon, in various forms including CO2 and organic materials, is continually exchanged between the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere. In the pre-industrial period, these exchanges found a natural equilibrium such that the amount of carbon in each group remained more or less constant. However, human activities have perturbed the carbon cycle. The large amount of carbon added to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has dispersed itself through the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere.
EESC event "Civil Society for rEUnaissance" 21/02/2019
Speech by Greta Thunberg
Tens of thousands of children are school striking for the climate on the streets of Brussels. Hundreds of thousands are doing the same all over the world. We are school striking because we have done our homework. And some of us are here today.
People always tell us that they are so hopeful. They are hopeful that the young people are going to save the world. But we are not. There simply is not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge. Because by the year 2020 we need to have bent the emissions curve steeply downwards.
That is next year.
We know that most politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good. We don’t want to talk to them either.
We want them to talk to the scientists instead. Listen to them. Because we are just repeating what they are saying and have been saying for decades. We want you to follow the Paris Agreement and the IPCC reports. We don’t have any other manifesto or demands. Just unite behind the science; that is our demand.
When many politicians talk about the school strike for the climate, they talk about almost anything except for the climate crisis. Many people are trying to make the school strike a question of whether we are promoting truancy or whether we should go back to school or not. They make up all sorts of conspiracies and call us puppets who cannot think for ourselves. They are desperately trying to remove the focus from the climate crisis and change the subject. They don’t want to talk about it because they know they cannot win this fight. Because they know they haven’t done their homework. But we have.
Once you have done your homework you realise that we need new politics. We need a new economics where everything is based on our rapidly declining extremely limited rapidly declining carbon budget. But that is not enough.
We need a whole new way of thinking.
The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win - to get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other.
We need to cooperate and work together and to share the resources of the planet in a fair way. We need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity, and take a few steps back for the sake of all living species.
We need to protect the biosphere, the air, the oceans, the soil, the forests.
This may sound very naive but if you have done your homework then you know that we don’t have any other choice.
We need to focus every inch of our being on climate achange, because if we fail to do so, then all of our progress and achievements have been for nothing. And all that will remain of our political leaders’ legacy will be the greatest failure of human history. And they will be remembered as the greatest villains of all time because they have chosen not to listen and not to act.
But this does not have to be. There is still time.
According to the IPCC report, we are at about 11 years away from being in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. To avoid that, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have to taken place within the coming decade, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least if 50% by the year 2030.
And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris Agreement work on a global scale.
Nor do they include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing arctic permafrost.
They do however include negative emission techniques on a huge planetary scale that is yet to be invented and that many scientists fear will never be ready in time and will anyway be impossible to deliver at the scale assumed.
We have been told that the EU intends to improve its emissions reduction target. In the new target the EU is proposing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below the 1990 level by 2030. Some people say that is good or that is ambitious But this target is not enough to keep global warming below 1.5°C. It is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today.
If the EU is to make its fair contribution to staying within the carbon budget for the 2°C limit then it means a minimum of 80% reduction by 2030 ... and that includes aviation and shipping - so, around twice as ambitious as the current proposal.
The actions required are beyond manifestos or any party politics. Once again they sweep the mess under the carpet for our generation to clean up and solve.
Some people say that we are fighting for our future. But that is not true. We are not fighting for our future; we are fighting for everyone’s future.
And if you think we should be in school instead then we suggest that you take our place in the streets, striking from your work, or better yet, join us so that we can speed up the process.
And, I am sorry, but saying that everything will be all right while continuing to do nothing at all is just not helpful to us. In fact, it is the opposite of hope. And yet this is exactly what you keep doing. You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come. Then you are acting like spoiled irresponsible children. You don’t seem to understand that hope is something you have to earn.
And if you still say we are wasting valuable lesson time, then let me remind you that our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction.
And since our time is running out we have decided to take action. We have started to clean up your mess and we will not stop until we are done.
Overconsumption is wrecking the planet, not just for future generations, but also for our contemporaries and other species. We will consider how climate injustice affects those least responsible for it and least able to afford the action required to deal with it. I will ask what kind of social change is needed to help us value and preserve things in life that really matter, like breathable air and a beautiful sunset, and how we might transform the economy to facilitate this end.
Shahrar Ali entered green politics after working as a researcher in the European Parliament on the risk of GM foods. He has a PhD in philosophy from UCL, in which he tackled the morality of lying and deception. Shahrar edited Why Vote Green 2015, an impassioned call for environmental action in the 21st century
"You say you love your children above everything else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes."
A wake-up call to world leaders at the climate change conference in Poland last week. 15-year old Greta Thunberg tells them that they are not mature enough to be brave and do the only sensible thing - pull the emergency brake.
Jon Fuller is an independent environmental campaigner who is deeply concerned about the climate crisis which the planet is facing. He is also worried that so many people seem to be unaware of the severity of the situation, and he holds the media and particularly the BBC partly to blame for this. After Ofcom became the official regulator for the BBC early last year, Jon's taken the BBC complaints procedure through its various stages, and he's now delivered a 14-page dossier, backed up by dozens of pages of documents, to Ofcom. He's asking them to investigate the BBC's coverage of climate issues over the period that they've been the official regulator and is hoping for a ruling with steps the BBC must take to improve. Ofcom has already admonished the BBC over an interview with Nigel Lawson broadcast by R4 Today in which various inaccuracies were aired without challenge. Mr Fuller cites various major climate-related summits, speeches, and declarations which the BBC gave little or no coverage to. He also questions the false balance where climate deniers are pitted against mainstream scientific views, but no time is given to the ever-growing number of highly regarded climate scientists who go much further in suggesting we're reaching tipping points and that runaway climate change may have already begun. He highlights too the total lack of economic scrutiny regarding the cost of climate change. This omission provides a heavy bias in favour of fossil fuel industries.
The interview took place at a small protest outside the BBC on Friday morning during which visitors to the BBC were leafletted. Several staff stopped and talked with the protesters including Head of News Fran Unsworth who angrily pointed to recent wide coverage of a UN report. But another news editor agreed that the BBC was not doing enough and told protesters that the BBC would not change until its own vast pension funds divested away from City of London and fossil fuel interests.
Jon's dossier was delivered to Ofcom on the 10th October - if you want to help you can write to them and support his call for a thorough investigation and ruling on the BBC.