Post-Paris: Sketching a new approach
Philip will argue that it is time to take stock of where the world has got to on climate action and to revise our strategy on the basis of where we are now.
In 2015 a report was completed for the UNFCCC secretariat which concluded that 2 degrees is too dangerous to be used as a climate cap or guardrail. And yet, atmospheric CO2 levels are now so high and growing so fast that within 3 years, in the absence of any additional measures, a clean energy, zero emission economy will lead to rapid warming to 2 degrees because of the elimination of the cooling aerosol pollution from coal-fired power stations. Meanwhile, governments’ commitments accumulating in the lead up to the Paris climate conference look like they will produce a warming of somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees. And this is the result of 23 years of negotiations.
And then looking a short way into the future, by 2030, the earth system will undergo some critical transformations, for example the Southern Ocean is expected to cross the point in winters where marine organisms with external calcareous shells or structures will no longer be able to form them due to ocean acidification, and the global surface temperature will have reached +1.5ºC which is the point at which the whole of the Arctic land-based permafrost is likely to be melting, leading irreversibly to the conversion of these massive carbon stores to CO2 and methane.
So the gap between what needs to be done and what looks feasible is getting wider and wider, and the time left for effective action is getting shorter and shorter.
Philip will set out in this seminar an approach, developed in his just-published paper (StrikingTargets), that he believes can enable societies to rise to the climate challenge as it confronts us in 2015. His strategy addresses the scale and speed of change needed if, at the 11th hour, we provide the maximum possible protection for the world's people, species and ecosystems.
Philip argues that there is much that can be learned from the massive economic mobilisations of the first and second world wars. These economic mobilisations show that human society has the practical capacity to provide the needed protection in time. However, the unique challenge of the climate issue is how to generate the necessary intensity of motivation and unifying clarity of purpose that will enable internally diverse societies to take the needed action. Philip will sketch out how this might be done.
A key contributor to the required motivation will be as solid as possible a scientific understanding of what the climate conditions and impacts will be by 2030 and what their flow on effects will be over the longer term. Philip will invite interested people to contribute to the 2030 impacts study.