Climate emergency ten-point action plan
1. Decide on the overall aim and priority: Limit global warming to 1.5°C - and make it the highest priority for civilised societies
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, warned in 2022 that government action on the climate emergency is inadequate and called for "a grassroots movement that cannot be ignored" (see document 136):
- "Some government and business leaders are saying one thing - but doing another. Simply put, they are lying"
- "We owe a debt to young people, civil society and indigenous communities for sounding the alarm and holding leaders accountable. We need to build on their work to create a grassroots movement that cannot be ignored."
This document sets out a ten-point plan that such a grassroots movement should take up.
It is based on
- international commitments - see document 113
- advice on policy making.
1. Decide on the overall aim: Limit global warming to 1.5°CThe reasons why determined efforts are being made to limit global warming to 1.5°C
- It is what was promised to young people and vulnerable communities around the world in the Paris Agreement - this specifies "well below 2°C" and pursuing "efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C".
- It is a question of justice vesus injustice.
- Outcomes steadily worsen as tempertures rise.
- As temperatures rise, there is an increasing risk of tipping points.
It is understandable that young people want a safe climate that is similar to what adults have enjoyed (see document 61), not a world ravaged by droughts, storms, floods and rising sea levels, with more and more people forced to leave their homes and become climate refugees. The case for limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C is overwhelming. Global warming has already reached 1.1°C, so the situation has become an emergency.
2. Decide on the global strategy: Limit further CO2 emissions to 400 billion tonnes
- Stop focussing on net zero dates
- Instead, the world must plan to live within the calculated limit on future emissions (the CO2 or carbon budget)
3. Decide how to allocate the residual CO2 budget between nations: On the basis of equityThe only justifiable way is on the basis of equity. This is specified in the Paris Agreement, which also specifies that developed countries will cut emissions faster than developing countries - see document 122. The global total of 400 billion tonnes works out at 50 tonnes CO2 per person on the planet - see document 54.
4. Assess progress so far: MinimalIt has been known for decades that burning fossil fuels is dangerous for the climate and needs to cease. But:
- the global total use of fossil fuels has increased - see document 67
- declines in high-polluting countries have been inadequate, e.g. just 11% in the UK since 1990 - although the UK Government claims that it is more (see document 111).
5. Identify the reasons for lack of progress: Poor decision making throughout society
- Decision making has been systematically poor
- All sections of society are failing - see document 37
- It is a system failure in decision making rather than a failure of individuals
- Decision making is fragmented, with numerous groups not talking to each other, and each thinking that they know best
- Lack of knowledge, overconfidence, herd mentality (groupthink), other cognitive biases, flawed reasoning, denial, adversarial discussion and malpractice dominate opinions and decision making - leading to numerous interlinked fallacies being widely believed
- Scientists and NGOs have been self-censoring about the severity and urgency of the climate emergency , which is delaying the necessary actions.
6. Improve decision makingThe process of decision making must be improved. Some essential components are
- complete honesty
- collaborative working
- take steps to avoid overconfidence, groupthink and denial
- being open to challenge
7. Plan the necessary actions: Radical cuts in emissions in rich countriesAnnual cuts in emissions of over 10% in high-polluting countries are needed to meet their commitments in the Paris Agreement. This inevitably means major changes in lifestyles for many, especially the rich, e.g. flying is not affordable within a lifetime carbon budget of 50 tonnes per person, and the nature of international travel will have to change until sustainable solutions are developed.
The IPCC said in 2018 that "rapid and far-reaching transitions" were needed in all parts of society. There has been dither and delay by governments since then, and so the situation has become even more urgent.
Ensure the poorest are protected. The poorest countries need help with their development and adaptation to climate change. Within each country, the poorest individuals must be protected e.g. carbon tax income is used to improve public transport, and to give targetted help with home insulation.
8. Take personal action: Radical cuts in emissions if personally high-pollutingIndividuals should
- aim to reduce their own carbon footprints by at least 10% per year - see document 24
- avoid denial and inadvertent repeatition of fallacies
- consider signing the "Science Oath for the Climate" , or making a similar commitment.
9. Ensure good decision making: Challenge fallacies, denial, incompetence and misconductDecision making needs to be scrutinised and supervised so that competent plans are drawn up and implemented on schedule.
- Decision making must be transparent
- Statutory scrutiny processes must function properly
- There must be zero tolerance for dishonesty.
- Citizens must insist that politicians and officials make good decisions, using engagement, publicity, legal cases, protest and civil disobedience as appropriate.
10. Answer genuine objections
- Explanations need to be given about how all the alternatives to radical action are worse
- Ignore climate change, or choose a different limit e.g. 2°C? This is too dangerous and too expensive
- Try to take more than a fair share of the residual CO2 budget? It will be noticed and copied
- Turn a blind eye to politicians' incompetence and malpractice? People knowingly allowing it to happen and continue are complicit in the harm done.
- Genuine objections need to be answered
- The website https://skepticalscience.com aims to explain climate change science and rebut global warming misinformation.
|Turning delusion into climate action - Prof Kevin Anderson, an interview (2020) Scientists for Global Responsibility https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/turning-delusion-climate-action-prof-kevin-anderson-interview
First published: Mar 2019
Last updated: 22 Jan 2024