If you and I were told that (variously) our sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews were going to be killed tomorrow, would I be right to suspect that we might sit up and take notice? And if the news was relayed to us by a reputable source, would I be right to suspect we’d immediately fall into a somewhat frantic mental process intended to discover any options that might prevent their deaths? And would I be right to suspect that we’d be relieved if the same source informed us that all we had to do to save all of our younger family members was to immediately stop doing what we were doing?
I mean, you would stop, wouldn’t you?
And if the lives of your family members were tied in with the lives your neighbours, friends and workmates families, and if all of their lives rested on the same course of action, then you’d seek to convince any reluctant friend, neighbour or workmate to join in with the simple act of stopping. Wouldn’t you? I mean, you wouldn’t hold back and continue on with what you were doing and say that you’d only stop if and when everyone else had stopped – not in a situation where the lives of the younger members of your family depended on your action. Because, you know, they’d die if you did that. And that’s not really anything a sane person would consider – is it? - continuing to do something that was going to kill their family? Surely not.
Anyway, I guess we’re going to find out. Because that’s the situation we’re in today. And there are no ‘ifs’ about it. The lives of your children, of your grandchildren, of your nieces and nephews depend entirely on the action you don’t take today. And it’s the same for me and mine.
And I know, I know…at about this point you’re maybe thinking I’m a nutter and taking refuge behind that comforting thought while simultaneously dismissing what I’m saying. So I’ll just admit it right here and now. I’m a nutter. No doubt about it. So there you are. Are you relieved? Good.
Okay – meanwhile, the hard, impersonal scientific facts are that we need to reduce the amount of carbon we expel into the atmosphere from our energy use by 10% this year. And that means that you need to stop doing things that use energy that result in carbon being released into the environment. And I need to do the same. And next year we need to reduce the amount of carbon we put into the environment from our energy use by a further 10%. And we need to keep doing that year on year until, basically, we aren’t putting any carbon from our energy use into the environment.
And if we do that, then we just might (and it is only ‘just might’) hold global mean surface temperatures below 2 degrees C. And that just might save the lives of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It’s a long shot. And it’s a long shot based on very conservative and optimistic projections of available scientific data. Which…well there’s no point complaining about it. It’s the best we’ve got.
And that same conservative science tells us that at the moment we are heading for a 4 degree C increase in global mean surface temperatures by mid-century or thereabouts. That means we are heading for an increase of global mean land surface temperature of 5 or 6 degrees C…and with that, almost certainly tipping points and even higher temperatures. And…yeah, when I say ‘we are heading for’ it’s not as though we’d hang around very long in those conditions.
So 10%. Actually, we need a bit more than that, by not doing tomorrow what it is we are doing today. Do you want to be incremental about it? You want to hang on while you let go? Okay. Let’s explore some options.
Next time you are asked to fly up, down or across the country to attend some business meeting or conference – tell your boss or whoever that you’re not doing it. (every 1g of aviation fuel burned produces 3g of CO2). Next time you jump in your car and put the key in the ignition, ask yourself whether the 150 – 200g of carbon you’ll spew for every single km driven can be justified. Next time you go to crank up the heat in you house, put on an extra layer of clothing instead. Take shorter showers, buy efficient light bulbs, buy local. Do all that stuff and whatever else you can think of.
It won’t be enough.
At some point you’re going to have to bite the bullet, walk away from your job that, lets face it, has a high probability of only existing to make somebody somewhere some money and is of no value, or may even be of negative value to society.
And that still won’t be enough.
Imagine six fully heated houses with one room in each house (under) occupied by persons replicating the same energy guzzling pastime or activity that could just as easily take place in a more communal and less energy consuming setting. That scenario has to be knocked on the head.
And someday you’re going to have to do it. You and your neighbours are going to have to cook for and eat with one another. Every day. Which is okay. Because from the sense of community that inevitably grows around the activity of eating together, you and your neighbours can begin the next steps that are going to be absolutely necessary if there is to be any chance of undershooting that 2 degree C increase in mean global surface temperature.
You’re going to have to radically alter your living arrangements some more. Those six hot water systems continually topping up the temperature in those 100l or whatever hot water cylinders? They have to be replaced by one, maybe larger cylinder that services a much more energy efficient and communal use of hot water. The six TV’s all tuned to the same channel have to become 1 TV in the dedicated TV room that you and your neighbours share. The 7, 8 or 9 cars you collectively own won’t be needed any more seeing as how no-body is commuting to a job any longer. So that’s easy. One car or vehicle, used by you and your neighbours in such a way as to maximise the utility of every journey might be all that‘s required, while you and your wider community establish local infrastructures to provide local needs.
And so it goes on and must go on. Because according to the available scientific information, which is the most accurate and neutral source of any information we have, by 2030 – just 17 years from now - you and I must be living carbon free lives with regards the energy we consume.
And all for merely an outside chance of avoiding a mean global surface temperature increase of 2 degrees C which, if achieved, would mean we salvaged an outside chance of survival for our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and, depending on our current age, ourselves.
Worth organising for? Worth getting together over?
I’d like to think so. More than that, I need to see it happen. What about you?