Sir David King at COP21
“We, the planet’s people, are fighting for our lives and the lives of the future – for our children and grandchildren. We are literally doing that.”
Chief scientific advisor to the government, Sir David King has stated the seriousness of the situation faced by humanity at the ICE-ARC event, at the EU Pavilion at COP21 in Paris. ICE-ARC, which stands for ‘Ice, Climate, Economics - Arctic Research on Change’ is an EU funded international effort to study and understand the dynamics of change that are occurring in the Arctic region, with ramifications all over the world.
Although climate science itself is largely conclusive on the global trends, the relationship between key regions such as the Arctic, are not fully understood. The impacts on economic systems, such as energy production and agriculture are central to the ICE-ARC project.
King answered a question from Gail Whiteman (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), on how to engage key business sectors in the importance of Arctic Change saying:
“The energy across the world is the worlds single biggest industry, $4-6 trillion dollars a year and we are going to see this industry change from a fossil fuel based industry to a fossil fuel free industry within a few decades. It’s already happening… 2014, investment in primary energy sources, just more than 50% was renewable energy for the whole planet.” He concluded saying., “If you want to get into these big markets where science, innovation and wealth creation lies ahead of you, go for it!”
80-90% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground
Professor Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research stated here at the COP21 that “at least 80-90% of all known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are serious about trying to stay below 2ºC!”
Anderson is a strong critic of the political processes that are defining the Paris agreements, pointing out that all current proposals seem to be attempting to “evolve” out of the emissions crisis. He states that tweaking the system is not going to deliver anything like the changes required to stave off serious warming. What we need is a revolution in terms of our energy and emissions policy.
50% of global emissions come from 10% of the global population
Professor Anderson added that recent research now clearly shows that 50% of all global emissions come from 10% of the world’s wealthiest citizens. What this means is that a small percentage of society are in a position to reduce their emissions to a level that is equitable to the global average, thus still maintaining a good quality of life but, importantly reducing significantly.
A “Huge disconnect between the politics and what the science is telling us!”
Speaking from the French National Assembly as part of the British delegation, Caroline Lucas MP said: “There is huge disconnect between what is going on with the politics and then the science and what is actually required. I must admit I find it quite extraordinary when you hear policymakers say ‘we can’t stay below 2 degrees, if we try and do that it is going to stop our economies growing’. There are some scientific realities here, we have a planet of finite resources, we have an atmosphere that can only absorb a certain amount of greenhouse gases, without triggering climate catastrophe.
We have to get our realities realigned and the reality we need to be looking at is the scientific reality and then we work out how we share out in an equitable way, the emissions that that allows us, really keeping in mind as well, that the poorest countries really need to have the most emissions room.”
The summit is nearly over climate change is just beginning
As we prepare for the handshakes and backslaps of a concluded summit here in Paris, it will be worth noting that agreements are set to be non-binding. This means that countries can pick and choose the policy that best suits their economic, political or electoral ambitions. All the while the climate situation is getting much worse right across the planet with extreme weather events increasing in both severity and frequency.
The real change will occur when we, the people, stand up and really demand it. Our leaders are currently off the hook but it is not just climate change that is in the air. Social change too is a positive feedback when outdated politics and economic models fall to pieces.
Professor Anderson quote taken from interview with Nick Breeze at COP21
Caroline Lucas MP quote taken from interview with Nick Breeze at the French National Assembly during the climate talks.
Thorben Hoffmeister, Bundeswehr Geoinformation Center: Geopolitical & Security Consequences of Arctic Change
Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Societal Consequences of Arctic change; regional and global contexts
Anthony Hobley, Carbon Tracker Initiative. Economic Impact of Arctic Change
Professor Jean-Claude Gascard: Scenarios for Arctic Change & Global Consequences
Professor Gail Whiteman: What Is ICE-ARC?
This short interview with professor gail Whiteman was recorded at the ICE ARC General Assembly in Barcelona, in 2014. Professor Whiteman outlines some of the key objectives of the project and how it is connecting the science of Arctic change to global economic models.