Monday, March 11, 2013

Action needed NOW as CO2 emissions take off

Hopes of holding the global rise in temperatures to 2˚C, an increase that would be disastrous in itself, have vanished after figures just released show that 2012 saw the second biggest ever annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.  

The US government observatory at Mauna Loa in Hawaii measures the amount of CO2 present in the northern hemisphere and they have found this rose by 2.67 parts per million (ppm) in 2012, reaching a total of 395ppm.

Just to recall the historic figures illustrated by the famous "hockey stick graph", atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by almost 40% since pre-industrial times, from approximately 280ppm in the 18th century to 390ppm in 2010. As we see from the Mauna Loa reports, in the last two years there has been a further 5ppm increase and no sign of any slowing.

And this is not surprising since far from taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, governments and corporations are burning more fossil fuel than ever. Bringing coal tar sands into production, building new pipelines, extracting oil from deep-water sources and a leap in the use of coal to generate energy have combined to create this disaster.

To have a 50% chance of keeping global warming below 2°C , CO2 needs to stabilise at below 450ppm. To be sure of it, requires stabilising at 400ppm. As these latest figures show 400ppm will be reached in 2014 at current rates of GHG emissions, and 450ppm by around 2030 if "business as usual" is permitted to continue. A 2˚C increase in global temperatures would lead to:
  • complete destruction of the world’s coral reefs
  • 26 million people displaced by rising sea levels, hurricanes and cyclones
  • 300 million people at risk of hunger due to failing crops
  • 2.8 billion people without access to clean water
  • spread of diseases such as malaria and Dengue Fever to new areas
  • mass extinctions in the Arctic with only 42% of the Arctic tundra stable.
  • the Greenland ice cap melted
  • loss of the majority of the remaining major forests of China, Europe and America.

Temperature measurements published by the National Climatic Data Centre (NOAA) show we are already on the road to these kinds of disastrous outcomes. Particularly significant is the global split between areas of unprecedented heat and others of rain.  

Governments have demonstrated that they will not act; we must find ways to replace them with democratic assemblies of the world’s peoples who will act to protect the eco-system of which they are a part.

This cannot be postponed.  The Bolivian government should reconvene the World People's Conference on Climate Change, as an online crowd sourcing project. This should aim to create a global assembly of People's Assemblies in order to plan how to take forward the Cochabamba Accord, the declaration of Mother Earth Rights.

This rightly declared: “Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are.”

Sharing our efforts across the planet would allow us to connect the spirit of the Arab Spring, Occupy and other forms of resistance whilst going beyond protesting and demanding governments act, which they will not. Instead we can start to plan out the social, political and economic changes we ourselves will implement.  

Priority Actions for People’s Assemblies in Britain
  • Consult widely on an energy transition plan, moving rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewables with a focus on energy saving 
  • End fuel poverty by bringing energy companies into common ownership under democratic control; introduce a sliding scale for energy payments  
  • Fund community-based local energy programmes, with insulation grants for households and small businesses, small-scale renewable energy, regulation of industrial and commercial energy use  
  • Bring rail and bus networks into not-for-profit ownership, slashing fares and working with transport planners to create an integrated transport system  
  • Reinstate rail and bus services in rural, semi-rural areas
  • Create public transport/cycle-only boxes in the centre of cities
  • discourage car use in cities by providing park and ride and better public transport    
  • Support local car pools and car-sharing projects  
  • Set upper limits on total flight miles in and out of Britain and distribute them fairly through an air miles system; halt airport expansion
  • Halt plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations and clean up and safely store existing waste.
Penny Cole
Environment editort

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