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Climate news and personal actions

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, January 4th, 2021 - 19 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , , , ,

The bad news (in six tweets),

From that last link,

Under the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, virtually all the world’s nations pledged to limit global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and also, if possible, “pursue” efforts to cap warming at 1.5C. At present, the world is not close to being on track to meet either target.

While the growth of global emissions has slowed in recent years, there is a large and growing gap between current commitments and what would be needed to avoid exceeding these global temperature limits.

Here, Carbon Brief provides an analysis of when the world is expected to pass these limits in the absence of large future emissions reductions. This is based on the latest generation of climate models – known as ”CMIP6” (see Carbon Brief’s explainer) – that are being run in the lead up to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report expected in 2021-22.

Our analysis shows that:

  • The world will likely exceed 1.5C between 2026 and 2042 in scenarios where emissions are not rapidly reduced, with a central estimate of between 2030 and 2032.
  • The 2C threshold will likely be exceeded between 2034 and 2052 in the highest emissions scenario, with a median year of 2043.
  • In a scenario of modest mitigation – where emissions remain close to current levels – the 2C threshold would be exceeded between 2038 and 2072, with a median of 2052.

Some good news (but we have to do something): ordinary people can learn how to make fast lifestyle changes of the kind needed for society to reduce GHG emissions now. The Guardian reports on the UK’s Citizens’ Assembly,

At the start of 2020, Sue Peachey could never have predicted how her life would change over the next 12 months. She was one of 108 people to take part in the UK’s first climate assembly earlier in the year, spending four weekends learning about a range of environmental issues before producing a final report of recommendations.

“The first weekend changed me really. I thought, ‘Oh my God, [climate change] is really going to happen,’ she said. “It made me want to learn and to live my life greener.”

Obviously there are problems with this – avoiding eating meat doesn’t change the agricultural industry which will just switch to destructive plant growing instead of CAFO meat. This highlights the limits of personal actions where collective action is the imperative (we need to switch conventional ag to regenerative ag). But personal action is still necessary. Governments can’t generally act against the wishes of their voters. In order for governments to lead on climate action we need a mass movement of citizens who will tolerate that action. Personal change matters.

In its Sixth Carbon Budget, published earlier this month, the government’s statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee, said: “The experience of the UK climate assembly shows that if people understand what’s needed and why, if they have options and can be involved in the decision-making process, they will support the transition to net zero.”

This is most important for older generations, said Peachey, who would not have been taught about the climate crisis in school. For her, the experience has been more transformative than she ever anticipated.

“I’m 57, I probably thought this time last year my days of going to meetings and discussing and debating were over, and here we are a year later, I’ve done the climate assembly and I’m now on the parish council,” she said. “Who knows what’s next? But it’s definitely awakened me.”

If that seems entirely inadequate in the face of global crop failures within 30 years, bear in mind that what we need most now is systemic change. Not fiddling with neoliberalism, but wholesale, all hands to the pump, society wide systemic change. And that requires most of us, you and me included, to be willing to change how we live.

The better news is that the sooner we start this change the more chance we have of a change to something good. For those looking for proactive pathways, the Powerdown engenders hope, a sense of empowerment, and helps individuals and societies adapt to as well mitigate climate change.

19 comments on “Climate news and personal actions ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Governments can’t generally act against the wishes of their voters. In order for governments to lead on climate action we need a mass movement of citizens who will tolerate that action. Personal change matters.

    As I've demonstrated in my other series, the reason for that inexorably rising gap between what needs doing and what is happening is simple … increasing prosperity globally.

    The left needs to make up it's mind, does it stand for reducing poverty and improving standards of living everywhere, or is it asking people to give that up? Well for several decades now the resounding answer is people will not give away the chance of a better life.

    Insisting that they should is just 'doing the same thing over and hoping for a different result'.

    • Pat 1.1

      Thats because you unnecessarily equate 'prosperity' and 'poverty' with consumption.

      'Improved living standards' are not predicated on a consumer society as many life satisfaction studies show

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        The idea you are referring to is an Environmental Kuznets Curve. May or may not be true.

        What is certain however is that below a threshold of about U$15k/GDP per capita there is a strong correlation between life satisfaction and income. Most of the developing world (roughly 90% of the global pop) fall into this category.

        Once above that threshold, as in the developed world, I agree the relationship is much weaker. Interestingly this may well have a lot to do with aging demographics as much as anything else.

        • Pat

          No I am not referring to the Kuznets curve…im refering to the gross stupidity and waste of the consumer society that you promote as equating to "improved standard of living"

          Some years ago I built boats and it never ceased to amaze us when after a year or three many of these vessels would come back for additions/modifications with less than 100 hours on the motors….WTF is the point, apart from ego?

          On the same basis we could all have Lear jets or Helicopters if the powers that be decided it would be good for employment…what a waste of resources to no useful purpose…that is your consumer society, not improved well being that Kuznet fails to measure with his GDP per capita BS

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.2

      "Insisting that they should [give away the chance of a better life] is just 'doing the same thing over and hoping for a different result'."

      Encouraging us to do better by spaceship Earth (and so ourselves) is such a lottery.

      In 2008, Helen Clark’s Labour-led Government, supported by the Green Party, triggered a tipping point through their sustainable development agenda. The measures they announced to improve energy efficiency and water conservation – which included banning incandescent light bulbs and regulating shower heads – led to complaints that they were interfering too much in people’s lives.

      The accusations that they had turned into a ‘nanny-state’ government became widespread and contributed to their election defeat.
      https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-opinion/tipping-points-changing-fortunes-parties-and-elections [4 Sept 2020]

      Carrots and sticks: Procrastination fix?
      Make no mistake: I’m all for paying people what they’re worth. And I’m opposed to schemes that compensate people the same regardless of their performance. But whether you’re at a bank in Bogota or a school in Schenectady, relying on “if-then” rewards to encourage great work is like guzzling six cups of coffee and downing three Snickers bars for lunch. It’ll give you a burst of energy – but the effects won’t last. For the long-term, human beings need a very different kind of nourishment.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    Are there examples anywhere of groups of people making voluntary sacrifices to their standard of living in order to avert greater harm to themselves and people from other parts/groups?

    • weka 2.1

      good question. Plenty of individuals doing this. Transition Towns? What about during the world wars?

    • Phillip ure 2.2

      not so much a 'sacrifice' as an improvement..

      but in part sharing those outcomes of improvement for all/the planet..


      • Robert Guyton 2.2.1

        What do vegans give up for the betterment of all humans? (I get that they better the animal world and perhaps the lives of meat-workers are improved…)

        • Phillip ure

          are you seriously asking that..?

          are you in some doubt as to the value of the vegan diet for the health of the planet..?.

          as opposed to the flesh- eating diet…and the environmental carnage wreaked by that..

          that smaller environmental footprint…for the 'betterment of all'..

          sheesh..!..you of all people..

          • Robert Guyton

            No, I'm asking what do vegans give up, sacrifice against their desire, to make the world a better place? We'e talking about wanting people to give up doing stuff they like, sacrificing something, in order to help everyone else (animals included) through. So, what do vegans give up?

            • Phillip ure

              many of them struggle to give up eating animals/cheese etc..

              and what have the smug 'green' flesh-eaters ever given up..?

              when they can't even stop hurting animals/eating flesh..

              what have they/you given up 'for the betterment of all'..?

              I'm picking you/they will be scratching to find anything..meaningful..

              in fact your question answers itself..

              with a big fat s.f.a…

              it really fucks me up how so many can ‘green’ for so long…and still being ok with hurting animals..and eating them..

              • The Al1en

                Out of respect to the author, I'm not sure this is the place to reply in, but you seem to have a large disconnect when it comes to greens who eat meat – The two aren't mutually exclusive.

                Eating local, organic and free range doesn't negate efforts to cut emissions, otherwise veges and vogons wouldn't partake in imported food with large carbon footprints.

                People sacrifice in many ways, from using led bulbs, switching off appliances and not leaving them on stand by, to installing double glazing, insulation and other heat loss methods in order to reduce energy consumption.

                Some people drive small engine cars with low fuel consumption instead of driving monster trucks and crossovers. Others recycle and re-purpose to make things go further, not forgetting those who make compost, save water and grow their own food with next to zero world pollutants.

                I don't believe you speak for the green movement because of your anti meat bent, any more than those right wingers who criticise green mps for getting on planes are for saving the planet.

                I get the agenda, just don't understand how you have the front to keep repeating nonsense, ignorant of compelling arguments against it.

                • Phillip ure

                  I answered a question asked by robert..

                  I do not wish to engage with you on any level…about anything..

                  at any time..


                  • The Al1en

                    “Once you've decided that something's absolutely true, you've closed your mind on it, and a closed mind doesn't go anywhere. Question everything. That's what education's all about.”

                    David Eddings

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    Tiny housing is an obvious transition possibility. They can greatly reduce the individual's space and resource footprint – looking at one myself.

    Effectual leadership or action seems to be too much to ask of government as usual.

    Nascent industries like our laggard aquaculture sector are poised to find out things the hard way about the effect of temperature on oxygen saturation and ammonia toxicity in shallow water salmonid cage farms. You just can't tell some people.

    • weka 3.1

      Tourism likewise apparently can't be told.

      Tiny homes are a great Just Transition tool. Make them accessible for the people that do well with them, frees up other housing for the people that need more space. Reuse materials from housing demolition. Lots of wins here. The building industry still needs a bloody good shake up though.

  4. Drowsy M. Kram 4

    "And that requires most of us, you and me included, to be willing to change how we live."

    Great post, and a salient observation. Most in the developed world are either OK with how they live now or are focussed on how they and theirs can 'get ahead', and won't willingly vote for changes that could compromise current or near-future lifestyles.

    Sarah Darwin, great-great granddaughter of the naturalist, said the current standard of living for many people is too high, adding that no politician wanted to admit this to the public.
    In response to threats facing the planet, such as climate change, she said people needed to use “our great brains” to find a sustainable way of living.

    Spending through the Paymark electronic card network at 2pm showed Kiwi consumers had already spent more than $166 million on Christmas Eve.
    Chief executive Maxine Elliott says shoppers also set a new record for transactions, which peaked today at 204 transactions per second, up from 188 previously.

    Recycling we will do (as long as it's not too arduous), supporting renewable energy projects we will do (there's a biggish (for NZ) wind farm under construction near Palmy North), but taking actions that significantly decrease environmental degradation and consumption of materials and energy, e.g. switching to public or human-powered transport, and maybe buying fewer gadgets, we won't do that in significant numbers.

    While some democratic governments sold (rightly IMHO) compulsion as a means of keeping COVID in check, that's harder to sell as a way of minimising more serious but less ‘in your face‘ crises such as anthropogenic global warming. Incrementalism from both governments (rhetoric aside) and a largish (but probably not a majority) segment of the general public is likely the best we can hope for, i.e. a brief respite.

    COVID-19 taught us an essential lesson. For all its technological advances, humanity is not immune to the impacts of overusing natural ecosystems, damaging wildlife, and compromising the biosphere. We are not separate from nature – we cannot be healthy on an unhealthy planet. Neither are we separate from one another. We are one biology on one Earth.

    Some suggest that civilisation's salvation lies in a magical dissolution of its dependence on the natural world and (presumably ultimately) on spaceship Earth itself. Others are leading, learning and teaching, but they're up against it.

    Unfortunately, humans have proved to be inefficient water users. (The average hamburger takes 2,400 liters, or 630 gallons, of water to produce, and many water-intensive crops, such as cotton, are grown in arid regions.)

    According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world's population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change. The challenge we now face as we head into the future is how to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have.

    "We need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it." Whatever form the post-collapse iteration of human civilisation takes, it will necessarily have fewer people and a lower average per capita energy/material consumption. Which of 'our' achievements, I wonder, will be admired and/or missed the most?

    According to the research Cappellin carried out for his film, the ingredients for societal collapse are already present in societies across the globe.

    Whole countries will be deserted, and that won’t be the end of humanity.

    Although advocates of this concept believe that society as we know it will collapse, they do not necessarily have a negative outlook on the world. Rather than continuing to live in a society that they know will not be around much longer, they often remove themselves from it in order to live a more sustainable life.

    Collapsology is about accepting the idea that collapse will happen and accepting what is being lost, all so that you can work on saving what can still be saved.

  5. Grafton Gully 5

    Personal actions and group action.

    "The first obligation of every citizen must be to productively work mentally or physically. The activity of individual may not clash with the interests of the whole, but must proceed within the framework of the whole for the benefit for the general good."


    I can't see this programme being implemented in NZ, so personal actions are required.

    Walk, plant, trash power tools, demolish fences, stop killing, open prisons.

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