Members of Energy Alton recently debated the need for urgent and far-reaching action on climate change, highlighted by an alarming report from the United Nations (UN) published in October 2018.
The UN Paris Agreement in 2016 recommended that the rise in global temperature be kept “substantially below 2 degrees Celsius”. The recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on contributions from 3,000 scientists, demonstrates that a 2 degree rise would be dramatically worse than a 1.5 degree rise – and that a 1.5 degrees of global warming could well be reached by 2030, just twelve years from now.
What is new in the UN report is the sense of urgency. Energy Alton members thought that people need more information about the serious threats posed by climate change. There has already been a 1 degree rise and even now we are seeing big impacts. The changes are accelerating. Beyond 1.5 degrees of global warming, catastrophes such as melting of the polar ice caps and the permafrost, droughts, floods and forest fires (such as those in California recently), will become dramatically worse across the globe. Agriculture and fisheries will suffer massive losses affecting food supplies and potentially leading to mass population displacement.
We know how to cut down greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has made good progress with producing electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, but much less progress with low-carbon transport, afforestation and low-carbon food supply.
There is not much time. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 and come down to zero by 2050. It could be done – we know how to do it. As individuals there are two things we can do. One is to reduce our own carbon footprints by eating less meat, flying less, making our homes energy-efficient and generally consuming less “stuff”. Just as importantly, we need to talk about climate change. Politicians cannot legislate without support and we, as a population, need to make it very clear that we support effective climate policies.
John Hubbard, chair of Energy Alton, said – “The UN report demonstrates beyond doubt that we have a climate emergency. This is about the future of our children and grandchildren – we must take action in Alton and we must urge government to develop clear goals, ambitious strategy and well-designed policies. And as a wealthy nation we can’t leave action to others – we need to show leadership and responsibility.”
Energy Alton offers advice to individuals about energy efficiency in their homes and commercial buildings, and promotes awareness and discussion on environmental issues. Together with The Alton Society and the Alton Local Food Initiative, they are screening the wonderfully inspiring film “Tomorrow” at the Alton Maltings on Friday 22 March, a film which shows through visits to community-based projects that it is possible to live better and live sustainably. A date for your diary!