Key points on the climate emergency
Climate change has become a serious threat to mankind, and all citizens should be very concerned.
- Human activity has changed the climate.
- The climate damage done is already very serious and is causing gross injustices - the people who are the most affected are the ones who are the least responsible.
- Continued fossil fuel use will result in further cumulative damage and worsen the injustices.
- Time is running out: for rich countries such as the UK, the fair-share CO2 budget for 1.5°C runs out in 2 years.
- Those who are most affected are pleading for action by the rich countries.
- Whether from acting responsibly or from self-interest, there is a clear need to urgently and radically reduce use of fossil fuels.
- This means major changes in lifestyles.
- The current situation could have been avoided - it has come about because of poor decision making across society.
- Well-meaning people should work together to
- improve the decision making
- take the necessary actions that will lead to urgent radical reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, especially in the countries with high emissions per capita.
- Climate change should now be treated as an emergency, i.e. as an overriding priority.
Human activity has changed the climate
- The climate has changed - see document 51
- the world has warmed on average by 1.1°C
- there are more extreme weather events.
- The change in the climate is mostly due to human activity - see document 52.
- The changes to the climate are permanent, cumulative, severe and worsening.
The climate damage done is already very serious and causing gross injustices
- The scale of the harm being done is unacceptable by normal standards e.g. five UK citizens create enough CO2 emissions to cause one climate death - see document 144.
Continued fossil fuel use will result in further cumulative damageMost CO2 released into the atmosphere stays there and persists for centuries. So the level of CO2 steadily builds up, which increases the numbers of deaths and climate refugees, and worsens the environmental damage.
Time is running out
- The UK's share of the global CO2 budget for 1.5°C runs out in 2 years - see document 33.
- The global CO2 budget for 1.5°C runs out in 8 years - see document 54.
Those who are most affected are pleading for actionPromises have been made to children, future generations, and the most vulnerable that efforts would be made to keep global warming to 1.5°C. They are asking that these promises are kept:
How has this happened?
- Although the changes needed have been obvious for decades, they have not been made.
- Decision making has been poor throughout society:
- Most people have not faced up to the changes that are needed, and are in denial.
- governments have promoted use of fossil fuels
- governments have failed to tell the truth - see see document 136
- the media have failed to communicate the problem
- scientists and campaigning groups have failed to communicate the problem and/or advocated inadequate actions.
What needs to be done?Well-meaning people need to
- recognise that governments have failed, and cannot be trusted to make the right decisions
- realise that good decision making in complex areas needs attention to detail - see document 40
- work together to decide on the changes necessary, and to ensure that those changes are made, i.e. urgent radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the countries with high emissions per capita.
Climate change should now be treated as an emergencyThe scientific consensus is that climate change should be treated as an emergency. Being treated as an emergency means that action on climate change takes precedence over other competing priorities.
(The term scientific consensus is being used here to mean the conclusions of people who have engaged in rational collaborative discussions.)
What makes climate change an emergency?
- Despite the problem being understood for decades, global total emissions have continued to rise - the problem is not under control.
- Global CO2 budgets for keeping global warming to 1.5°C are running out, especially in high emission countries.
- The people who are most affected are the least responsible.
- As emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, tipping points in the climate risk catastrophe.
First published: Feb 2019
Last updated: 18 Sep 2023