The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet, 9 August) paints a grim picture, with global temperature rises of 1.5C degrees or more beyond pre-industrial levels predicted unless urgent action is taken in the next few decades. The report contains a lot of detail about what this would look like, but it is summarised by Prof Tim Palmer as “hell on earth”.
With such serious danger to be avoided, you would expect that our government would be taking appropriate action to prevent this. Some of the actions it is taking are promising, but its “jet zero” strategy for flying is madness. Its own Climate Change Committee recommends managing passenger numbers in some way to allow only slow growth of about 0.7% per year from 2018 to 2050, as well as investing in aircraft and fuel technology. The jet zero strategy throws away this carefully planned advice, choosing instead to allow airports and airlines to expand as much as they like and hoping for miraculous improvements in technology.
I will be delighted if all the technological fixes proposed become a reality and we can enjoy air travel without damaging our planet, but until those fixes are in place, why are we gambling with our children’s future by allowing passenger numbers to grow unchecked? Why would any government propose something so irresponsible and dangerous? The answer is because it thinks that is what the people, its voters, want. I therefore urge readers to engage with the consultation on the jet zero strategy, which is open until 8 September at www.gov.uk, and say that you value protecting human lives over the unlimited opportunity to travel by air.
The 2015 Paris agreement set a warming limit of 1.5C, but failed to put a price on carbon globally. The result was that coal-rich nations started burning their coal reserves as fast as possible, before carbon taxes become prohibitively expensive. In addition, gas extraction and meat production have contributed to rapidly rising levels of atmospheric methane. This combination pushed world temperatures above 1.2C in 2020.
The World Meteorological Organization has predicted a 90% chance of breaching 1.5C in at least one year between now and 2025. Business as usual means that the underlying trend will reach 1.5C by 2030. But the problem does not stop there, as temperature changes are not evenly distributed. Over Europe, the increase is already 2C, and over the Arctic, temperatures have risen by more than 3C since 1900. This is why the Arctic is destabilising, and also the reason why Greenland is melting faster than predicted by the IPCC.
Unless a mechanism for putting a price on carbon globally is agreed at Cop26 in November, there is no possibility of preventing global heating from becoming irreversible and unstoppable.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Founder, Help Rescue the Planet
Surely one immediate action that this government should take is that all new housing should have solar panels, heat pumps and electric charging points fitted as standard. Air travel should be limited for all, and rather than continue spending billions on high-speed rail and ripping out yet more ancient woodlands, upgrade and improve existing rail lines. As a country we spend far too much time and money on living in the past and we need to live for the future. As to those damned flags, utter nonsense.
Governments keep pledging to act on climate change in the future because they fear the electoral consequences of implementing changes now. But we need urgent action, and there are policies that would be both effective and popular. First, close tax loopholes and clamp down on tax havens to pay for carbon scrubbing and reforestation. Second, greatly increase taxation on carbon-intensive activities and return that revenue equally to us all as a “green dividend”. Third, leave more money for public services by cancelling all planned new roads and airport expansions.
It is only too easy to castigate China as perhaps the most powerful carbon emitter that is about to open up new coal mines. Why is it in this position? Because it has created the most efficient global market, cheaper than most others. And who buys all its goods, and whose insatiable appetite for even more means that China has to find more and more energy to supply these needs? Why, you and me of course. We have simply transferred the problem from our own backyard to China’s. It is time that we take personal responsibility and recognise the full implications of our actions.
I take great issue with the IPCC report where it blames human activity for the catastrophe facing humanity. The world’s population is approximately six billion. OECD reports have shown that over 74% of global GDP is accumulated by 18% of the world’s population. The issue is the overproduction of fossil fuels by the major global powers, not by the poor and vast majority of the world’s citizens. This must stop.
The IPCC report makes clear that we need to face societal changes on a scale not seen since the second world war. To make sure that everyone does their bit, we should introduce carbon rationing. Every person should have the same annual carbon allowance and every time they make a carbon transaction (booking a flight, buying a steak or filling a petrol tank and so on), the carbon cost is deducted from their ration. Those with leaner lifestyles, not running a car for instance, can sell their excess ration to others via an official trading site. Each year the ration is reduced, taking us all on a pathway to net zero.
Seaford, East Sussex
In the run-up to Cop26, it is alarming to constantly find the mantra “electric cars” being offered as a universal panacea. Information easily sourced from UK government websites shows that electricity accounts for only 20% of our total energy demand, while, averaged over the year, only about 33% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. Put together, these two figures mean that just 7% of our total energy demand is derived from sources that do not produce CO2. If we are serious about achieving net zero and halting climate change we need to do much more than just buy a shiny new car. In fact we need to make immediate, wide-ranging and dramatic changes to our lifestyle. I suggest that there is “net zero” chance of that.
If humans don’t reduce their population size, Mother Nature will do it for us, with a vengeance.
Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire