It’s rather jarring to see an expert like Tim Garrett, whose work I have followed for many years, come out and say so bluntly that we will not do the steps needed to save ourselves. And the reason is very simple…
People will raise hell if their right to pollute and consume is severely curtailed. We see this today with people’s refusal to simply wear a damn mask and do what’s for the greater good in a global pandemic. Now can you imagine the outrage when they are told they have to drastically reduce their living standards to prevent catastrophic climate change, a threat we cannot see but which will nevertheless destroy us in the long run? The reality that humans are causing the climate to warm, with catastrophic consequences, demands radical government intervention in the market as well as collective action on an unprecedented scale. This has been known for decades and those catastrophic consequences are now coming to fruition, yet we remain a carbon-based, growth-oriented civilization.
The later the “peak” the harder the reductions, bearing in mind that it is the area under the lines (cumulative emissions) which ensures a 2°C outcome. The 2020 peak (above) indicates the “unprecedented” 10% reductions trajectory giving only a 50/50 chance of staying under 2°C.
Prof Kevin Anderson says there is no longer a non radical option, and for developed economies to play an equitable role in holding warming to 2°C (with 66% probability) emissions compared to 1990 levels would require at least a 40% reduction by 2018, 70% reduction by 2024, and 90% by 2030. This would require “in effect a Marshall plan for energy supply”. Low-carbon supply technologies cannot deliver the necessary rate of emission reductions, and they need to be complemented with rapid, deep and early reductions in energy consumption, what Anderson calls a radical emission reduction strategy. All this suggests that even holding warming to a too high 2°C limit now requires an emergency approach. Emergency action has proven fair and necessary for great social and economic challenges we have faced before. Call it the great disruption, the war economy, emergency mode, or what you like; the story is still the same, and it is now the only remaining viable path.
~ David Spratt, The Myth of Burnable Carbon, Climate Code Red, 2014.
Not only do we need to halt future CO2 emissions, but we need to magically extract CO2 already in the atmosphere with technology that does not exist. Quoting Prof Anderson from last month:
…in 2020 such technologies remain highly speculative, with a few very small laboratory/pilot schemes now operating, with other proposed technologies still in the imagination of academics and tech-entrepreneurs. This faith in utopian technology reflects a deep and systemic bias that has hugely undermined the real scale of the mitigation challenge and misinformed policy makers for many years.
Our fate is sealed.