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Politics, Economics and Climate need to come together

Paul Hobcraft , Agility Innovation Specialists
03 Mar, 2020
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Getting increasingly nervous about what we are NOT doing about climate change

In the last few months, I have got increasingly nervous about where we are NOT going on climate change

I have never before published one article on each of my three posting sites. This post I just had to. It is shaping me in how I look at innovation, collaboration, the power of networks, ecosystems and most of all, in our world of energy transition needed to reverse climate warming. So apologies if you see it on three separate sites but I don’t apologize for my real, underlying concern on where we are seemingly heading as a world.

The bush fires of Australia have been shocking, devastating, and crippling. They catalyze the concerns we all should have.

Each of us might or likely will face a shocking, devastating or crippling “event” in our lives in the next ten to twenty years. I feel it is inevitable, irrespective if we stopped all the debates and did the level of investment, we need to reverse the climate warming.

The next ten years of our investments in cutting emissions and refocusing our energy needs must go towards clean energy (renewables). Our ability to make a change will determine if these events recently will become the new norm, as our planet spins even more out of our ability to control climate-warming through greenhouse gases.

So I have to move through this shocking, devastating, and crippling effect but have I have begun to accept  the reality that our world is in a “state of climate alarm,” not just a “climate emergency.”

So my emotions are swirling at the moment.

Shocking and devastating was the size, the velocity, and how the fires caught hold and devasted so much of parts of Australia in land, plant and animal life, as well as the human cost and tragedies. As you read of one fire breaking out after another, you became “in awe” of the firefighters. Lacking decent equipment to fight this scale of the fires, they showed all the “Australia pluck and fortitude” they are known for. What a battle. With the intervention of some significant rains recently most, if not all of the blazes seem to have been extinguished; thankfully

Crippling has been the debate since then, and it is only just started. Australia is caught in the middle of the global and country debate on coal. Our need for it versus the need to stop using it. Asia is so reliant; at present, on coal for its energy, we are caught in a real problem.

Energy security is for everyone, irrespective, but while we have this Asian dependence on coal, we are going to struggle very hard with combating climate warming. The carbon emissions from coal are our equivalent “runaway train.” It needs stopping before the damage is beyond repair to our global planet.

Each time I return to the Australian bushfires, and all this means for them and us, I keep wondering is this the “crippling” debate we are going to have in all parts of the world? Can we afford this? The political pressures for coal to be still central to Australia’s thinking is simply staggering.

Then I heard the comment “politics, economics and climate” and the different perspectives.

Another alarm bell suddenly went off for me. I was listening to a podcast by Giles Parkinson and David Leitch “There is no new normal in climate change” (listen to the first 5 minutes if nothing else) introduced me to David’s “its the difference politics, economics, and climate.” Actually, that sums up nearly each “debate” I am reading, engaged in or listening too in recent months. It is politics, economics, and climate differences are today’s debate.

How much longer can we afford to wrangle over these? Saving our climate should be in most if not all our debates and decisions, politics and economics need to get behind, otherwise, they grow in size and scale.

Can we be so much nearer to some (horrific) tipping points?

In the last few days, I have also been reading on the nine different “tipping points” going on. This is an article from Carbon Brief on their “explainer of the nine tipping points that could be triggered by climate change”.

“ Imagine a child pushing themselves from the top of a playground slide. There is a point beyond which it is too late for the child to stop themselves sliding down. Pass this threshold, and the child continues inevitably towards a different state – at the bottom of the slide rather than the top.”

The persistent march of a warming climate is seen across a multitude of continuous, incremental changes. CO2 levels in the atmosphereOcean heat contentGlobal sea-level rise. Each creeps up year after year, fuelled by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.”

Passing an irreversible tipping point would mean a system would not revert to its original state even if the forcing lessens or reverses, explains Dr. Richard Wood, who leads the Climate, Cryosphere and Oceans group in the Met Office Hadley Centre.

This leads me to an article by Bob Watson. Does it seemingly get worse- oh, yes? In Bob’s “Nature is being eroded at rates unprecedented in human history, but we still have time to stave off mass extinctions.”

He states, “We have all assumed that nature would always be here for us and our children. However, our boundless consumption, shortsighted reliance on fossil fuels and our unsustainable use of nature now seriously threaten our future.

Environmentalists, scientists, and indigenous peoples have been sounding the alarm for decades. Our understanding of the overexploitation of the planet has advanced with grim, sharp clarity over that time.

We have entered an era of rapidly accelerating species extinction, and are facing the irreversible loss of plant and animal species, habitats and vital crops, while coming face to face with the horrific impacts of global climate change”.

Now I do not want to get into a bragging right position, but I have known Bob Watson since our teens. I stand in “awe” of him and all he has achieved in the years. He is now Sir Robert Watson and has been chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has influenced my thinking a lot on all of what matters on climate. How he crystalizes the issues is impressive whenever I have bumped into him or in what I read.

The other part of my past few weeks has been the “sense” the climate debate is shifting.

The message is we must take action”. It needs to be decisive and immediate as it is vital.

We need nature conservation and energy change.

In an article written in May 2019, John Vidal, a former Guardian environmental editor he wrote: “Has the politics of climate change finally reached a tipping point?”

This extracted from the article sums up our need to address and resolve:

“Weaning ourselves off fossil fuels would clear up air pollution rapidly and save billions of pounds a year that the NHS must currently spend dealing with heart attacks, asthma, strokes, and respiratory illnesses. Cities would become more liveable, the countryside more attractive. Instead of being regarded by the government as a costly imposition, action on climate and nature regeneration could be easily recast as visionary politics offering huge public benefits.

But what happens when the voluntary measures run out and the warming is not seen to slow because greenhouse gases are so long-lasting? Really addressing climate and biodiversity collapse means rationing carbon. It means no more free ride for extractive industries such as mining, palm oil and forestry companies who profit from environmental destruction. It means heavy penalties for polluters, the axing of food and aviation subsidies, and taking a torch to vested interests. It means addressing the indirect causes of the crisis, such as population growth and consumerism, even rethinking the whole idea of progress and wealth.”

We are facing a crucial point in time; this decade is our last stand

How do you put together and explain the devastating effects of the Bush fires of Australia and put them into the context of where we live and what climate change will mean for each and every one of us? It is floods, crop failures, deteriorating air, fires, global epidemics, loss of habitat, loss of jobs as we increasingly live in a world of dealing with disruption and dislocation.

“What we’re seeing are the effects of climate change. Sometimes, it’s said that Australia is the canary in the coal mine with the effects of climate change being seen here most severely and earliest… We’re probably looking at what climate change may look like for other parts of the world in the first stages in Australia at the moment,” said Professor Dickman from the Faculty of Science.based in Australia.

If this comment is the reality then what this really will mean in any global action on climate, what will happen if we do pass a tipping point, how much more can we afford to lose in nature, in plants, in animals in our air we breathe before we face something that becomes “catastrophic”?

Do we have any alternatives? Is this too dark for you?

I come back to what made me sit up and realize. Today’s evaluation of anything we do is going to be based on “Politics, Economics and Climate” in what it costs, what it means, and its impact on us.

Which one dominates the others is not the issue; it is we need to make sure all three are of equal importance, yet we need to recognize climate action ‘determines’ the other two in bringing global warming under control. We have nowhere to hid in decades to come and if we do, it is only going to get a whole lot hotter.

I close by quoting Bob Watson “As policymakers around the world grapple with the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, it is essential that they understand the linkages between the two so that their decisions and actions address both.

The world needs to recognize that loss of biodiversity and human-induced climate change are not only environmental issues but development, economic, social, security, equity, and moral issues as well. The future of humanity depends on action now. If we do not act, our children and all future generations will never forgive us.”

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