Earlier this week Environment Minister Michael Gove stated that he was convinced “climate change is a danger”, stating that it “is one of the biggest threats and challenges to biodiversity in the UK”.

By localising the issue to the UK, Gove seeks to belittle the global risk posed by climate change. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief science adviser and founding director of the Potsdam Institute, Professor Schellnhuber was in London speaking at the Royal Society. When I asked him to respond to the Environment Minister’s comments he replied:

Biodiversity is one thing. Climate change, if it doesn’t get stopped and confined to well below 2ºC, is simply a threat to human civilisation on this planet. Even if we stop global warming at 2ºC we will probably have, in the end, 10 metres sea level rise.

This would mean you have to relocate all coastal populations. You have to decide who will survive and which city will persist, or persevere, and which ones will have to be given up.

It is caused by global emissions and it will have global implications.

 

Talking about climate change directly is part of the governments attempt to address the concerns of younger voters in the UK. A new poll by centre right think tank Bright Blue demonstrated that climate change is the main concern for voters between 18 and 28, and for voters under 40 the second most important issue after health.

Gove’s early attempts to change his record on climate change do little more than portray an administration that is out of touch with the scale of the problem and who are very much fixated on the economics of the last century.

This could be no more clearer than when he stated that climate policy will not be created “at the expense of the economic growth that we also need to in order to make sure that our country and other countries are resilient and can deal with the consequences of climate change.”

Professor Schellnhuber who advises the UN, the German Chancellor and is an influential person in forming EU policy on emissions reduction, says that, on the one hand, we should risk economic growth if it means saving millions of lives and cultures:

There are two answers to this. If it would reduce economic growth, so there would be cost incurred, you could still say it is worth it if it is about the survival of entire cultures. Then, ok, lets spend the money.

After making the case for spending money to save lives, Schellnhuber presents a second side of his argument, that the whole premise for a transition to a clean economy will result in a net loss for the economy:

But, actually, this is a false dilemma, because we do believe, and all the calculations show it, that once you get over a certain investment barrier and resistance barrier, we actually can create a much better world with economic progress and social progress in a decarbonised situation.

So I don’t think there is a trade off. It is a false trade off and is used all the time by the incumbent industry, the incumbent political structure. Hey, there is a better world beyond that world, definitely, but it needs an initial investment.

First of all you have to raise the money and for ten years there will probably be net cost but later the benefits will completely overwhelm the initial investment. This is the narrative we have to communicate to everybody.

hugh hunt schellnhuber Professor Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research and Dr Hugh Hunt, University of Cambridge, at the Royal Society

The disparity between what we hear from experts who are working out the true cost of business as usual politics, as espoused by Michael Gove, and the alternative net benefit to society that would come from transitioning to a sustainable clean economy, could not be starker.

This also feeds into two narratives that often divide British people. The first is the narrative of the last century that is held dear by the older generation. This includes the need to keep Europe at an arms length, to push back against immigration and link climate change policy to outdated fears of socialism.

Whilst on the other hand the younger generation are much more fixated on a future where life is lived differently. There is optimism about tackling the worlds problems including global inequality and making the necessary changes to counter the risk of catastrophic climate change.

The main issue now could be that not enough young people are engaging in the politics of today that is going to shape the world of tomorrow. Many of the people who vote for business as usual, and champion the policies of economic growth first; everything else second, will not have to live in the degraded world they are prescribing for the young.

Responding to the need for young people to engage more with this subject and demand a more radical response from policymakers, Schellhuber stated:

Climate change today because of the emissions from coal and so on, costs millions of lives across the planet. Every year already now!

If you factor in all the impacts then it will simply be tens of millions of lives lost every year.

We have to keep this message alive and in particular these younger people you mention will probably want to have children. For the sake of their children they simply have to be part of the solution.

Interview with Professor Schellnhuber conducted by Nick Breeze at the Royal Society, Wednesday 4th October 2017. Listen to the whole interview here:

More posts by Nick Breeze

Earlier this week Environment Minister Michael Gove stated that he was convinced “climate change is a danger”, stating that it “is one of the biggest threats and challenges to biodiversity in the UK”.

By localising the issue to the UK, Gove seeks to belittle the global risk posed by climate change. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief science adviser and founding director of the Potsdam Institute, Professor Schellnhuber was in London speaking at the Royal Society. When I asked him to respond to the Environment Minister’s comments he replied:  

In part 1 of this wide ranging interview, Anton Golub discusses why the world needs Lykke, the truth about financial regulators and why only 1% Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) they assess make it onto the exchange.

Anton Golub: The core vision of Lykke is the vision of Richard Olsen, the founder of Lykke. I am a cofounder. I met him seven years ago when I joined him for an internship.

I sat down to eat my croissant and he sat down next to me and said: “Anton, we have to completely  change the financial system. It totally doesn’t work. Everything is broken inside.”

 

Interview by Nick Breeze with Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov

A new scientific paper published in Nature Communication Journal demonstrates that the mechanisms of destabilisation of subsea permafrost, contrary to previous claims, provide new insights into increased emissions from the worlds largest deposits of methane, that exists in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS).

The subsea permafrost has for thousands of years acted as a seal, restricting the flow of gas through the water column to the atmosphere. This paper clearly shows that permafrost degradation and the occurrence of gas migration pathways are key factors in controlling the emissions.  

 

The lady who ushered in the Paris Agreement now wants to ramp up the pace and ensure the world reaches peak emissions by 2020, leading to total decarbonisation by 2050. The whole campaign hinges on the a new report that cites 2020 as a critical milestone for stemming the effects of climate change.

Christiana Figueres is persuasive and influential but in light of recent world events that include the destabilisation of the EU as a political block, and the openly anti-climate action administration of President Trump, it is very clear that the world has changed since Paris.

READ THE COMMENT: Does Figueres interview give clues as to why we went backwards from Copenhagen to Paris?

 

Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP): 2017 Climate Change Seminar Series

Science, politics, knowledge management, innovation and markets all play a role in climate change action, but what is the role of the University of Cambridge as an ‘anchor institution’ for these? Bringing together speakers spanning the worlds of research and policy, this series of events will explore how the multifaceted aspects of climate change action can come together to help us make the right decisions for the long run.  

The window of opportunity is closing… but the price of failure is still too high!

The rate of ecological destruction is now so bad that the fate of our civilisation literally hangs in the balance. The loss of the Arctic polar ice cap, the melting from above and below of Antarctica, the culling and collapse of forests and dying oceans, failing ecosystems, our atmosphere burdened with hundreds of billions of tonnes of extra greenhouse gases, and still each week scientists report more broken links in the chains of interconnectedness that sustain each one of us, rich and poor, on this planet. Despite all this, the great human enterprise built on a foundation of carbon, rumbles on in search of new fixes.